Ethiopian American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, known for his powerful and personal depictions of the immigrant experience and perspectives on the American dream, will be the keynote speaker for Vanderbilt University’s 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative event in partnership with Chancellor’s Lecture Series.
Chancellor Daniel Diermeier will host the virtual event, “At Home in the World: Place, Identity and the American Dream,” which is scheduled from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. CT on Monday, Jan. 18, and is open to the Vanderbilt community. The discussion will be moderated by Karla M. McKanders, clinical professor of law and associate director of the Legal Clinic at Vanderbilt University.
Mengestu is the author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, How to Read the Air and All Our Names. He has received numerous awards for his novels, which explore issues of cultural identity and dislocation. Honors include the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Award and recognition as a “Top 20 Under 40” writer by The New Yorker.
Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978 and immigrated in 1980 to the United States, where his family settled in Illinois. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction, he was the recipient of the 2006 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and received a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award.
MLK candlelight vigil
Prior to the keynote event, a virtual candlelight vigil will be held to honor the legacy of late civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The vigil will begin at the start of the event at 5:15 p.m. and last approximately 15 minutes.
The 2021 MLK Commemorative Interfaith Vigil is organized this year by Professor Stephanie Budwey and Assistant Dean Amy E. Steele of Vanderbilt Divinity School. It will feature countertenor Patrick Dailey and lutenist Francis Perry, who will perform “Early Music City.” Students will offer a welcome, prayers of peace, and original music.
There are several additional community events to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Information can be found on the MLK Commemorative Series website.
Starting in 2021, the university has designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid staff holiday to further align with the university’s increased efforts to strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion across the university community.
Vanderbilt launched its annual MLK Commemorative Series in 1985 to honor King’s legacy through programs, lectures, interactive teach-ins and community service.