Civil rights icon Bernard Lafayette to keynote 2021 MLK Reflections Breakfast

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Bernard Lafayette Jr.
Bernard Lafayette Jr.

Civil Rights Movement activist, minister and educator Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. will serve as the keynote speaker for Auburn University at Montgomery’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Reflections Breakfast on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The event, which begins at 9 a.m., is open to community members as well as AUM students and employees. In the interest of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program will be delivered virtually via Zoom. Attendees can submit online RSVPs in order to access the event.

AUM students and employees are invited to pick up a grab-and-go breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. on the morning of the event in Taylor Center 221-223.

Lafayette, who serves as Chairman of the Board for the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation, is an expert on the strategy of nonviolent social change. During the 1960s, he led the Nashville and Selma Movements and risked his safety as a participant in the Freedom Rides alongside fellow civil rights icons, including the late John Lewis. He directed the Alabama Voter Registration Project in 1962 and served as the National Program Administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was appointed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to serve as national coordinator of the Poor Peoples’ campaign in 1968.

For more than a decade, AUM has introduced members of the River Region community to civil rights and social justice leaders through the MLK Reflections Breakfast. Recent speakers have included Cyntoia Brown-Long, whose fight for clemency inspired introduction of state legislation aimed at protecting minors who are the victims of sex trafficking, and Xernona Clayton, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement and eventually became an executive in the broadcast industry.

“Dr. Lafayette was chosen because of his close work with Dr. King, as well as his own leadership efforts in the Civil Rights Movement and his subsequent work since that time,” said AUM Interim Chief Diversity Officer Brooke Burks, who also serves as Chair and Associate Professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction & Technology. “There are still lessons to learn from Dr. King’s mission and his influence on countless others. We hope that attendees will leave with a renewed drive and enthusiasm for working for unity, equality, and justice.”

A native of Tampa, Florida, Lafayette earned a bachelor’s degree from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn., and master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. His background as an educator includes service as a faculty member at Columbia Theological Seminary and as a former dean of Alabama State University’s Graduate School. He also served as a teaching fellow at Harvard and as a principal at Tuskegee Institute High School. He has published extensively on such topics as campus ministries and social change, nonviolent community leadership training.

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