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Speakers announced for 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration week

  • two headshots: April Reign and Bree Newsome

Posted on November 20, 2017

Two women who started national movements against acts of oppression will visit campus as keynote speakers during Grand Valley's 2018 commemoration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, is slated as the speaker on Monday, January 15; and Bree Newsome, who climbed a flagpole in South Carolina in 2015 to remove a Confederate flag, is the  speaker for Wednesday, January 17. 

The theme of the week is #WhereDoWeGoFromHere?

Reign is an attorney and writer who lives in Washington, D.C. In 2015, she sent a tweet critical of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony and lack of people of color nominated in major acting and directing categories. Her #OscarsSoWhite tweet went viral and was a catalyst for a social media movement and caused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to change its membership policies and voting rules.

Reign now has a social media following of more than 100,000, and is listed among the top 15 accounts on #BlackTwitter by the National Journal. She regularly appears at academic institutions, entertainment networks and studios to speak about diversity and inclusion. As part of a collaborative effort among Grand Valley, Grand Rapids Community College and Davenport University, Reign will also give presentations at GRCC, Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids and Davenport's campus during her two-day stay in West Michigan.

Newsome is a filmmaker and artist who was in the national spotlight in 2015 when the climbed a flagpole in Columbia, South Carolina — the state's capital — to lower its Confederate flag. Her action came shortly after the mass shooting of nine African American parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. She was arrested along with another activist and soon #FreeBree was a Twitter trend and $100,000 raised for her $3,000 jail fine.

Her actions stirred the political pot in many communities. The Confederate flag was permanently removed from the statehouse by then-Gov. Nikki Haley and discussion moved across the country considering flags and monuments.

Newsome lives in North Carolina and works as an artist and community organizer. She earned the 2016 NAACP Image Award and was named to the Ebony 100, recognizing her commitment to civil rights.

Grand Valley's 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week will run January 15-20; visit gvsu.edu/mlk for updates.