National speakers highlight GVSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. week

Kevin Powell, author and president of BK Nation

By Michele Coffill

Grand Valley State University


Two nationally known speakers will highlight Grand Valley State University’s commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Kevin Powell is an activist, author and president of BK Nation, a national organization based in New York City centered on grassroots activism, pop culture, technology, and social media to spark projects and campaigns. He has written 12 books, the most recent is “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood.”


Powell will be the keynote speaker on Monday, Jan. 16, at 1:30 p.m. in the Fieldhouse Arena on the Allendale Campus.


Kimberlé Crenshaw is a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia law schools. She coined two terms — critical race theory and intersectionality — that have proved foundational in many areas of study. She is a leading voice in calling for a gender-inclusive approach to racial justice interventions, having spearheaded the Why We Can’t Wait Campaign and co-authored “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected,” and “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.”


Crenshaw will be the keynote speaker on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 4:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room, Allendale Campus. This presentation will be simulcast to an audience in the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium, on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. 


Both events are free and open to the public.


Many free events are planned on the Allendale Campus for Jan. 16, which marks the fifth year that classes have been canceled on the national King holiday, allowing more students, faculty and staff members to participate in events. Visit for details.


Commemoration events continue Tuesday, Jan. 17, when the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies will host “Race and the American Dream” at 7 p.m. in the Eberhard Center. Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, will join Jason Riley, columnist and editorial board member at the Wall Street Journal, for a dialogue on the progress that has been made since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the challenges that continue to exist. It is free and open to the public; RSVP online at


Grand Valley will close its week of events on Saturday, Jan. 21, when hundreds of students will volunteer their time in the community by working at different locations.