Community MLK Celebration to Feature White House Correspondent April Ryan

April Ryan, the only black female reporter covering urban issues as a White House correspondent, will speak Jan. 30.

The University of Virginia and the local community will commemorate the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with events planned from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1 under the theme “Women in the Movement.” 

April Ryan, the only black female reporter covering urban issues as a White House correspondent, will be the keynote speaker. She will give her address Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater; a reception begins at 5:30.

Tickets are free and require reservation at the Paramount Box Office.

The “Women in the Movement” theme encourages exploration of the roles women have played, and are playing, in social movements throughout history.

“Women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement,” Coretta Scott King observed in a 1966 interview. Women played pivotal roles in the fight for civil rights during the 1950s and ’60s, yet they are sometimes overlooked in history books and conversations about these crucial events.

At present, women have founded and assumed leadership roles in significant social movements, including Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.

Having served as a White House correspondent since the Clinton administration, Ryan has a unique vantage point. On behalf of the American Urban Radio Networks, and through her “Fabric of America” news blog, she reaches millions of listeners over nearly 300 radio affiliates. Her position as a White House correspondent has afforded her unusual insight into the racial sensitivities, issues and attendant political struggles of our nation’s most recent presidents.

A member of the National Press Club, Ryan can be seen almost daily on CNN as a political analyst. She has been featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines, among other media outlets. She is one of only three African-Americans to serve on the White House Correspondents Association’s board in the association’s 100-year-plus history.

In 2015, Ryan was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work as a debut author for her first book, “The Presidency in Black and White,” published in 2015. She is also the author of “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White” (December 2016) and her latest, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House” (September 2018).

A Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate, Ryan aims to give back by serving as a mentor to aspiring journalists and assisting up-and-coming broadcasters. She has two daughters.

Ryan’s visit is sponsored by the UVA Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity & Equity, in partnership with UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Lifetime Learning program in the Office of Engagement.

The Community MLK Celebration planning committee comprises more than 40 people representing various schools, units, UVA student organizations and community organizations.

Other Events

A full list of events, which is still being added to, can be viewed at Community MLK Celebration. Here are several highlights:

• 2019 President’s Speaker for the Arts: Leslie Odom Jr.
Jan. 19, 3 p.m., John Paul Jones Arena

Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr., who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway megahit “Hamilton,” is coming to the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena as the 2019 UVA President’s Speaker for the Arts.

The multi-talented entertainer will discuss his life and career and the impact of the arts on education and on the world during a brief address, followed by a moderated conversation with UVA President Jim Ryan.

The event is free and open to the public. Details regarding the distribution of general admission tickets will be released within the next two weeks.

• 34th Annual MLK Community Celebration
Jan. 20, 5 p.m., Charlottesville High School MLK Jr. Performing Arts Center

• “Race and Place in Charlottesville”
Jan. 21, 6 p.m., Wilson Hall, room 402

Preview a video tour of African-American history interpreted through the streets, buildings, monuments and spaces of Charlottesville’s university and downtown communities. This tour is led by Professor of Architectural History and Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Louis P. Nelson and features interviews with local experts, public historians and residents.

• “Race in the Decade Since Obama”
Jan. 22, 4 p.m., Newcomb Hall Theater

It’s been a decade since President Barack Obama’s inauguration. In those 10 years, how have things changed – or not changed – for people of color in the United States? Hear the Miller Center’s Melody Barnes (a former official in the Obama White House); UVA Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice Kevin Gaines; and New York Times reporter Lauretta Charlton explore race in America today. (Register here.)

• “Factuality: A 90 Minute Crash Course on Structural Inequality in America”
Jan. 23, 5 p.m., Rouss & Robertson Hall, 3rd floor art gallery

The board game “Factuality” enables participants to join in a facilitated dialogue that simulates real-life stories in America and learn new ways to advocate for inclusivity. Check the MLK website for registration information.

• “Voices for Change: Mixing Hip Hop and Environmental Justice”
Jan. 25, 6:30 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

Mustafa Santiago Ali is the senior vice president of climate, environmental justice and community revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus, a national, non-profit and non-partisan organization that connects the hip hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. His talk will focus on the power of hip-hop to connect people to issues of environmental justice and will feature music, dialogue, community conversation and a free plant-based dinner. At 8 p.m., head over to IX Art Park for an after-party with area performers. (RSVP required.)

Art: Fannie Lou Hamer poster CAPTION: Fannie Lou Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement, a women’s rights activist and community organizer.

• “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story”
Jan. 26, 7 p.m., Old Cabell Hall auditorium 

In this one-woman show, Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye channels activist Fannie Lou Hamer for a riveting 60-minute journey with 11 inspiring songs and a video montage of the civil rights movement. Tickets are free and are available through the UVA Arts Box Office.

• “The Hard Work of Social Justice: A Conversation With Women of Aug. 11 and 12”
Jan. 31, 4 p.m., School of Law, room to be announced.

Media Contact

Meghan Faulkner

Assistant to the Vice President Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity