Emmy Award-winning journalist and author Byron Pitts, co-host of ABC’s Nightline, will be the keynote speaker for Vanderbilt University’s 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative event. The event will take place from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. CST on Monday, January 16 at Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall, and is free and open to the public.
This year’s topic is “It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems.” Dr. André Churchwell, vice chancellor for outreach, inclusion and belonging and chief diversity officer, will kick off the event, which also will be livestreamed. Register at vu.edu/mlk to attend the event in person, or to watch the virtual event via Zoom.
Pitts is known for covering high-profile international news stories over the span of a decades-long career, including investigations related to this year’s MLK theme of transforming unjust systems. He became one of CBS News’ lead reporters during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and won an Emmy Award for his breaking news coverage.
As a war correspondent embedded with U.S. troops, he covered the Iraq War, including coverage of the fall of the Saddam Hussein statue in 2003. In the early 2000s, he also reported from the front lines of Hurricane Katrina, the war in Afghanistan, the military buildup in Kuwait, the Elián González case, the 2000 Florida presidential vote recount and the refugee crisis in Kosovo.
Pitts earned a national Emmy Award for news coverage of a Chicago train wreck in 1999. He was recognized for his work by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2002, and he has received numerous Associated Press awards and six regional Emmy Awards.
Pitts is the author of “Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges,” which chronicles his life from struggling with illiteracy in childhood to becoming a top news anchor.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series was established in 1985 at Vanderbilt University. Commemorating King’s life and legacy. The university designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid staff holiday in 2021 to further align with the university’s increased efforts to strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion across the university community.
Their university community gathers annually on this national holiday for a series of programs, including participation in the city-wide march, community service, educational forums and lectures. In honoring King, Vanderbilt University affirms its own commitment to the goals of peace and racial justice to which King dedicated his life.
The January 16 event is just one of the events to honor Martin Luther King Jr. across the Vanderbilt campus and in collaboration with Nashville community partners. The annual MLK Joint Day of Service brings together hundreds of student volunteers from Nashville-area colleges and universities to continue the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through service. This year’s event will be on Saturday, Jan. 14, beginning at 11 a.m. at Meharry Medical College, 1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd. in Nashville. After the opening program, volunteers will go to various service sites.