Three female civil rights activists visit Mason as part of MLK commemoration

George Mason University will host a multigenerational panel discussion on Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., in the Johnson Center’s Dewberry Hall for the “Evening of Reflection.”

The event is part of the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration, “Dreams and Nightmares: We Cannot Rest.” The event is open to the university community and the public. Tickets are free, but registration is recommended. The first half of Wednesday’s event will be the panel discussion. The second half will include the announcement of nine Spirit of King awards for students, student organizations, faculty and staff members.

Michelle Allen, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME), said this year’s event intentionally honors the accomplishments and presence of women in the civil rights movement and other social justice movements.

Wednesday’s panel includes a pioneer in American civil rights activism, the founding director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia and an elementary school student from Alexandria.

Allen said Diane Nash immediately came to mind when organizers were planning the event. Nash, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was a Freedom Rider who was vital to the integration of lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.

After that, the committee started looking at women across multiple generations, and that’s how Trinice McNally, the founding director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia, came into focus. She was previously program manager for HBCU Initiatives for the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She is also known for her work with Black Youth Project 100.

Naomi Wadler organized a student walkout at Virginia’s George Mason Elementary School to protest gun violence after the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Wadler gave a three-minute, 30-second speech at the March for Our Lives rally in 2018 that went viral. Teen Vogue included her in their list of “21 Under 21 Class of 2018.” She also shaved her head and dyed her hair orange to encourage people to vote in favor of gun control in the November 2018 election.  

“I’m excited about all our panelists,” Allen said, adding, “but I think there’s something powerful about having a now-12-year-old speak to college students and faculty about the need for advocacy and civic engagement.”

Other events this week included Monday’s “Rhymes Like This” at the Johnson Center’s East Plaza, which combined key civil rights speeches with music, and a town hall on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m., in Research Hall, Room 163, hosted by ODIME and LGBTQ Resources. More details for all the week’s events are available here.  For more information, go to