Black History Month Events At MTSU

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(L-R Top) Angela Rye, Nicola Buccola, Yanika Smith-Bartley, (Bottom Row) Dr. Sekou Franklin, and Dr. Leah Lyons

(MURFREESBORO) The struggle to obtain, maintain and promote the right to vote will be the focus of MTSU's 2020 celebration of Black History Month.

"African Americans and the Vote" will be the election-year theme characterizing a month full of events celebrating hard-fought battles in the quest for African American enfranchisement.

Unity Luncheon Is Feb. 20, 2020

Unity Luncheon tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for students and $350 for a table of 10 people. To make reservations, go to The deadline is Monday, Feb. 3.


"Where There is Unity, There is Strength" is the theme of the 2020 Unity Luncheon, which is slated for 11:30AM to 1:00PM Thursday, Feb. 20, in the ballroom of the Student Union, 1768 MTSU Blvd. Yanika Smith-Bartley, vice president and special counsel at Nashville-based Asurion LLC, will deliver the keynote address.

For more information about the Unity Luncheon, contact Daniel Green, director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs at MTSU and chair of the MTSU Black History Month Committee, at 615-898-5812 or


Black History Month Events

The kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, in the first floor atrium of the Student Union. Members of the Black History Month Committee will share cake and refreshments and inform the public about the lineup of events. A voter registration table also will be available for those wishing to participate in the March 3 Super Tuesday primary voting. Monday is the last day to register to be eligible.

Some of the highlighted events for the month include:

  • Angela Rye, chief executive officer of Washington, D.C.-based political advocacy firm IMPACT Strategies, will deliver the Black History Month keynote address at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

In addition to her lobbying work, Rye is a political commentator for Cable News Network and political analyst for National Public Radio. She serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee and the Women in Empowerment Network.

  • "Always in Season," an award-winning documentary about the historical relevance of lynching in America, will be shown at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building. The film's producer, Jacqueline Olive, will be on hand for a question-and-answer session after the viewing.
  • Sekou Franklin, an associate professor of political science and international affairs, will speak about "Election Protection and Voting Rights in the 2020 Election" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, in Room S118 of the Business and Aerospace Building.
  • Franklin also will facilitate "Healing Justice and Legal Redress with the Free Hearts Organization: A Fee Waiver Clinic to Resolve Fees, Debts, and Fines for Formerly Incarcerated Persons," an all-day event, Thursday, Feb. 27, at Walnut House, 116 N. Walnut St. in Murfreesboro.
  • Wanda Lloyd, founding executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute and veteran newspaper executive, will speak at 2:20 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in the Parliamentary Room of the Student Union. Her talk, titled "From Jim Crow to Journalism," is sponsored by MTSU's John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.
  • Nicola Buccola, founding director of the Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, will lecture on "Frederick Douglass' Plea for Free Speech and Open Inquiry" at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.
  • The traditional Unity Luncheon, a celebration of "unsung heroes" in the local African American community, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Student Union Ballroom. Yanika Smith-Bartley, vice president and special counsel of Nashville-based Asurion, a privately held insurance company, will deliver the address.
  • Leah Lyons, interim associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a professor of French, will be honored with the annual John Pleas Faculty Award at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, in the Sam H. Ingram Building, 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd. in Murfreesboro.

The John Pleas Faculty Award is presented annual to a black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service. It was established in 1997 to honor John Pleas, a professor emeritus of psychology.

All events are open to the public. With the exception of the Unity Luncheon, all events are free of charge. For a complete list of Black History Month events at MTSU, go to

For more information, contact Daniel Green, director of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs and chair of the MTSU Black History Month Committee, at 615-898-5812 or

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