Courtesy of Cornell University

Acclaimed Nigerian-American author and activist Ijeoma Oluo is set to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture this year.

February 24, 2021

Writer and Activist Ijeoma Oluo to Give Virtual MLK Commemorate Lecture

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Cornell’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Lecture, an annual event that celebrates King’s life and legacy, will host a conversation with acclaimed Nigerian-American author and activist Ijeoma Oluo.

Moderated by Prof. Edward Baptist, history, the commemorative event will dive into racism in the United States and consider how the Cornell community can engage in anti-racist action.

Past event guests have included social justice leader Yusef Salaam, human rights activist Bree Newsome, and criminal justice reformer and filmmaker Dawn Porter.

Oluo is well-known for her 2018 New York Times bestseller, So You Want to Talk About Race, which outlines everything from intersectionality to affirmative action to engaging in open discussions about race and racism.  

The Seattle-based writer began her career in the digital marketing and technology industries. However, after the killing of Trayvon Martin, she says that her identity as a Black woman in America pushed her to change professions. 

“I started writing because every single day I was living a half-life,” Oluo wrote in an August 2019 article for The Guardian, explaining her motivation to make her voice heard. “I was tired of taking in every racist joke, every insult, every assumption.”

Named one of the Root’s “100 Most Influential African Americans” in 2017, and one of the most influential people in Seattle by Seattle Mag and Seattle Met, Oluo has earned a number of accolades since pursuing her career as a writer. 

Her journalistic work has been featured in The Washington Post, NBC News, ELLE Magazine, TIME and The Stranger, among other outlets. She has also penned a second novel, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, published in May 2020, explores white male privilege and how it pervades American history. 

“These last years, since I started writing,” Oluo wrote in The Guardian, “I have been as free as I can imagine a black woman to be in this country.”