Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week

January 16-22, 2022

Keynote Speaker: Cheryl Brown Henderson

Cheryl Brown Henderson has advocated for equity in education her entire life, continuing her family's legacy as one of the plaintiffs in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.

Brown spoke January 17 to a virtual GVSU audience and, later that day, during the virtual 36th annual Grand Rapids community celebration, hosted by Davenport University.

Henderson was one of three daughters of the late Rev. Oliver L. Brown, who in the fall of 1950 along with 12 other parents in Topeka, Kansas, led by attorneys for the NAACP, filed suit on behalf of their children against the local Board of Education. Her sister, Linda, was at the center of case that rejected racial segregation in American schools.

Henderson is the founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and owner of Brown & Associates, an educational consulting firm. She has extensive background in education, business and civic leadership, having served on and chaired various local, state and national boards. In addition, she has two decades of experience in political advocacy, public policy implementation and federal legislative development. 

She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Baker University, master's degree in guidance and counseling from Emporia State University and honorary doctorates from Washburn University and the University of South Florida. 

Since its establishment, the Brown Foundation has provided scholarships to students of color, established libraries for children in underserved communities, developed curriculum on Brown for educators across the country, and sponsored programs on diversity and educational issues.

Headshot: Cheryl Brown Henderson

Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and owner of Brown & Associates

A Conversation with Jamillah Ali-Joyce

WGVU Public Media presented Jamillah Ali-Joyce, daughter of famed boxer and activist Muhammad Ali, in conversation with Louis Moore, GVSU associate professor of history. The event premiered on January 18; the conversation explored questions about Muhammad Ali, his life and family, his Islamic faith and activism. 

Jamillah Ali-Joyce is a job counselor for the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Personnel. She earned a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Ali-Joyce lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. They are active members of local Chicago charities that provide food and toiletries to the homeless community. She helps raise funds for the ALS Foundation, St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Foundation and Leo Boxing Program for Youth.

Louis Moore joined Grand Valley's faculty in 2008. He is the author of two books, "I Fight for a Living: Boxing and the Battle for Black Manhood, 1880-1915" and "We Will Win the Day: The Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Equality," and has an audible lecture for The Great Courses, "African American Athletes Who Made History," on Amazon. He is currently working a book about the Black quarterback. He is also the co-host of the Black Athlete Podcast.

headshot of Jamillah Ali

 Jamillah Ali-Joyce

headshot Louis Moore

Louis Moore, GVSU professor of history

Keynote Speaker: Littisha A. Bates, ’04

Littisha Bates serves the University of Cincinnati as the inaugural associate dean for inclusive excellence and community partnerships and an associate professor of sociology, with affiliation with the Africana Studies Department. Bates earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from GVSU in 2004 and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in 2009. Bates uses her sociological training coupled with her background as a marginalized citizen as a teaching tool to empower those she mentors to not let systematic inequity consume them.

Bates gave a hybrid presentation on January 19, speaking virtually and in the Kirkhof Center.

During her time at Grand Valley, Bates participated as a TRIO McNair Scholar, a program that prepares students for post-graduate studies. Bates attributed a great deal of her professional success to the McNair experience. She was also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. As a faculty member, she engages students in real-world examples of sociological thought, evident in her innovative teaching of such classes as "Fierce Sociology: Studying Beyoncé." Her research focuses on the intersection of race/ethnicity and poverty on educational outcomes.

She is a member of the 2018 YWCA Rising STARS cohort and was most recently named a 2020 Cincinnati Business Courier "Forty under Forty."

As part of GVSU's commemoration week, this event is free and open to the public. Please visit for the campus COVID-19 policy.

headshot Littisha Bates

Littisha A. Bates, University of Cincinnati
Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnerships, Associate Professor of Sociology

Keynote Speaker: Elijah Anderson

The Hauenstein Center, together with Grand Valley's Division of Equity and Inclusion, welcomed Elijah Anderson, author and Sterling professor of sociology at Yale. Publishers Weekly called Anderson's book, Black in White Space: The Enduring Impact of Color in Everyday Life, a "penetrating ethnographic study" and argued that "symbolic racism" connects people of color to crime and poverty in the American psyche, regardless of social status or economic position.

The MLK Commemoration Week event, "Black in White Space," was held January 20.

Powerful stereotypes of "the ghetto," long-entrenched in generations of Americans' psyche, continue to permeate. Today, routine activities, like birdwatching in Central Park or jogging in a Brunswick neighborhood, elicit jarring and sometimes even fatal responses that involve police and citizens. With increased attention from the national media on these incidents, we must ask ourselves, "what about these events stands out, and why?" For Anderson, the answer couldn't be more evident. 



headshot Elijah Anderson

Elijah Anderson, Yale University
Sterling Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies

Page last modified February 1, 2022