With an eye on midterm elections, 2022 Kelly Miller Smith Symposium Sept. 15 to focus on voting

Valerie Jarrett
Valerie Jarrett

The third annual Kelly Miller Smith Symposium will discuss equal access to and full participation in the electoral process. This year’s featured speaker is Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Barack Obama Foundation and former senior advisor to President Barack Obama.

The upcoming virtual symposium featuring noted speakers and held in celebration of the civil rights accomplishments of Kelly Miller Smith Sr., Vanderbilt University’s first African American administrator, will discuss voter access and civic participation in light of this year’s midterm elections.

The Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School will join the Kelly Miller Smith Family Foundation in hosting its third annual symposium, “Critical Vote Theory: A Moral Mandate for Voting Rights,” on Thursday, Sept. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT. The symposium will provide a plan of action for increasing voter participation and addressing voter suppression within communities. Smith became pastor of the influential First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, in 1951. He also served as assistant dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School from 1969 until his death in 1984. Smith Hall in Moore College on the Vanderbilt campus pays tribute to his civil rights legacy.

Register for the symposium here. >>

The keynote conversation will be moderated by Karen Grigsby Bates, senior correspondent for NPR’s Code Switch, a podcast that reports on race and ethnicity. A veteran NPR reporter, Bates covered race for the network for several years before becoming a founding member of the Code Switch team. She is especially interested in stories about the hidden history of race in America—and in the intersection of race and culture.

The conversation will feature Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. Jarrett is now the CEO of the Barack Obama Foundation and a senior distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.

She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward. She serves as board chairman of Civic Nation and co-chair of The United State of Women. Jarrett serves on the boards of Walgreens Boot Alliance, Inc., Ralph Lauren Corporation, Lyft, Inc., Sweetgreen, Ariel Investments, The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Sesame Street Workshop and the Economic Club of Chicago. She also serves on the Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women Advisory Board.

The event’s panel discussion will be moderated by Opio Dupree, vice president of government and public affairs for Macy’s and a fellow at CEO Action for Racial Equity. The panelists are Nsé Ufot, former CEO of the New Georgia Project (NGP) and its affiliate, New Georgia Project Action Fund (NGP AF); and Deirdra Reed, the policy and advocacy partner at The New Teacher Project.

In addition to the Kelly Miller Smith Foundation, Vanderbilt University Divinity School and the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies, the symposium is sponsored by First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, CEO Action for Racial Equity, the Vanderbilt University Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Vanderbilt University James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements.

Registration is required for the Kelly Miller Smith Foundation Symposium, which is free and open to the public.

For more information, email Sha’Tika Brown.