Bucknell MLK Week to Feature Actor Gbenga Akinnagbe ’00 as Keynote

January 3, 2024

by Mike Ferlazzo

MLK Week keynote speaker Gbenga Akinnagbe ’00. Photo by Brendan Wixted

Actor, producer, writer and activist Gbenga Akinnagbe '00 — best known for his roles as Chris Partlow on the HBO series The Wire and as Larry Brown on the HBO series The Deuce — will deliver the keynote and head a group of five guest speakers when Bucknell University honors the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) during the University's MLK Week, Jan. 15–26.

The performances, lectures, community activities and meals will commemorate MLK under the theme "Sustaining Social Movements."

"The MLK Week Committee invites the Bucknell community to gather to ponder not only the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but also those around him who collectively made a sustained movement possible," says MLK Week Co-chair and Professor Cymone Fourshey, history and international relations, director of Bucknell's Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures. "Drawing connections between King's movement and various social movements of his era as well as those that followed, the committee has created several forums for the community to discuss the misconceptions about King and the kinds of commitment necessary for individuals and societies to move toward social justice in the context of pervasive injustice."

About Gbenga Akinnagbe '00
Akinnagbe will deliver his free, public keynote address focusing on the MLK Week theme Monday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in Vaughan Literature Building's Trout Auditorium.

Akinnagbe has brought a diverse array of characters to life on stage and screen, most notably in his career-defining role as the cold-blooded assassin Partlow on HBO's award-winning, crime-drama series The Wire. He can currently be seen starring in the drama-thriller FX series The Old Man, which is currently in production for its second season after its critically acclaimed first season. He can also be seen on the third season of STARZ's Power Book II: Ghost.

Akinnagbe was a standout wrestler at Bucknell, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in political science and English in 2000.

Other MLK Week Highlights
Walter Kimbrough, who served as the seventh president of Dillard University from 2012 through 2022 and is a noted scholar on the culture of Black fraternities and sororities, will present a talk entitled "It's Complicated: The Rhetoric and Reality of Greek Life" Thursday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.

Kimbrough has written about the role of Black fraternities and sororities and became a specialist in student affairs. The Chronicle of Higher Education describes Kimbrough's book Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities as "the go-to book on the culture of Black fraternities and sororities."

His talk will discuss the history of exclusion in Greek life and how it has created the current system and perception of Greek life, as well as what can be done to undo past ideas and bring inclusivity to the forefront of Greek life.

Rev. Angela Jones, Bucknell's gospel music fellow, will lead "Singing and Social Justice: A Community Sing" Saturday, Jan. 20, from 3 to 5 p.m. in Rooke Chapel. Participants can join Jones to learn and sing songs from the Civil Rights Movement, which will be performed during the "Multifaith Commemoration of the Life and Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." Sunday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m. in Rooke Chapel. The service will commemorate and celebrate the life and legacy of MLK. Attendees will share in the reading MLK's 1967 speech "Where Do We Go From Here?" and sing songs from the Civil Rights Movement.

Activist and scholar Jennifer Black, co-editor of the forthcoming book Beneath the Mountain: An Anti-Prison Reader (City Lights Publishers, June 2024) with political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and organizer of the Free Mumia movement, will present "Beneath the Mountain: The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and Build an Anti-prison Movement" Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. in the Elaine Langone Center (ELC) Walls Lounge (Room 213). Mumia is an American political activist and journalist who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1982 but had his controversial death sentence overturned by a federal court in 2001. He was described by The New York Times as "perhaps the world's best-known death-row inmate."

In partnership with the MLK Week theme, Bucknell Athletics will host its annual MLK Day of Bison Community Engagement on Thursday, Jan. 25. Students, faculty and staff will engage in a variety of community engagement activities throughout campus, during which they will also learn more about several Susquehanna Valley organizations and agencies.

Jared Ball, an American academic and political activist who is a professor of communication studies and Africana/Black studies at Morgan State University and author of The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power (Palgrave, 2020/2nd Edition, 2023), will present the final MLK Week talk entitled "Dr. King and the Terror of Revolution" Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. in Holmes Hall's Hislop Auditorium. Ball is also the host of the podcast iMiXWHATiLiKE! and co-founder of Black Power Media.

Events will culminate with "A Community Lunch: Where Do We Go From Here?" Friday, Jan. 26, at noon in the ELC Terrace Room. Conducted in partnership with the Teaching & Learning Center's Friday Learning Series, the meal is free, but online RSVP is required.

Since 2016, Bucknell has committed to engaging the community in a week of conversations about MLK’s legacy and philosophies.