MTSU LGBT+ College Conference to examine 'all identities' April 7-9

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Martin Luther King III

A man who took up his father's mission of working to ensure equal rights for all Americans will headline MTSU's 2016 LGBT+ College Conference, which is slated for April 7-9. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Martin Luther King III will deliver the awards dinner keynote presentation under the conference theme of all identities" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

Tickets are $50 each or $500 for a reserved table and may be purchased at http://tinyurl.com/hbbm42a.

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King, the second oldest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was elected to the Fulton County Commission in Georgia in 1987 and served until 1993.

He also was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which his father co-founded, from 1997 to 2004, and founder in 2008 of Realizing the Dream Inc., a nonprofit organization that merged with the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in 2010.

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King III made history last year by paying tribute to openly gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin during the Logo television network's "Trailblazer Honors" program. Some movement leaders urged King's father to marginalize Rustin, the chief organizer and strategist for the 1963 March on Washington, because of his sexual orientation.

The conference is a combination of research presentations, strategy sessions and lectures with topics pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies.

Some topics include breaking down barriers among identity groups, stemming the tide of LGBT+ youth homelessness and creating a culture of respect in the workplace.

"A corporate culture that embraces gender equality policies and procedures is critical to attract and retain talented individuals," said conference advisory board co-chair Greg Cason, senior buyer for Nissan North America, a corporate sponsor of the conference.

Conference advisory board co-chair Ron Snitker of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP will deliver the official opening address at 9 a.m. Friday, April 8, in the Student Union.

"Historically, laws have helped move along workplace norms that may be embedded in our American business culture," said Snitker. "We are already seeing laws popping up in various states to help close the gender equity gap."

Other highlights include:

  • A film festival featuring short films submitted by attendees and community members, 6 p.m. Thursday, April 7, Keathley University Center Theater;
  • Director Yoruba Richen presenting her film "The New Black," a documentary about African-American churches' perspectives on same-sex marriage, followed by a moderated discussion, 11 a.m. Friday, April 8, Student Union;
  • An evening with singer-songwriter and LGBT+ activist Ryan Cassata, 6 p.m. Friday, April 8, Keathley University Center Theater.

Since its inception in 2014, the conference has attracted students, faculty and staff from colleges and universities from around the state who want to improve the campus climate for the LGBT+ community.

"Our goal is to get all the schools together and share tips and tricks to make their campuses more welcoming places," said William Langston, a professor of psychology and faculty adviser to MTSU's student LGBT+ organization Lambda.

In addition to Nissan North America and Waller, conference support comes from the MTSU College of Behavioral and Health Sciences; Deloitte; Cracker Barrel; the MTSU Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance; Dell; the United States Secret Service; the Distinguished Lecture Fund; MTSU's National Women's History Month Committee; the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students; the Department of Psychology; MTSU Intercultural and Diversity Affairs and student activity fees.

Conference registration and check-in will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building. To register online, go to http://tinyurl.com/j8wm96d.

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