MBU Lecture to Feature Celebrated Human Rights Lawyer

During this year’s Mary Baldwin College for Women Leadership Week, welcome renowned human rights lawyer and writer Derecka Purnell to campus.

Derecka Purnell, a celebrated human rights lawyer, scholar, and author, is visiting Mary Baldwin University to deliver the highly anticipated keynote lecture “Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom.” Purnell’s work embodies the spirit of leadership and empowerment that MBU aims to promote, offering inspiring insights into freedom and justice. The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 14 at Francis Auditorium.

Purnell’s lecture stems from her recent memoir Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom, wherein she chronicles her own path to abolitionism and connects her experience to the wider reaction across the country to the death of George Floyd in 2020.

Aside from her authorship, Purnell is also a columnist with British publication The Guardian and a scholar-in-residence at Columbia School of Law. This lecture will figure into a week of programming as part of the Mary Baldwin College for Women’s Leadership Week. 

MBU is proud to present a dynamic and transformative Women’s Leadership Week annually, blending a rich tapestry of empowerment, activism, and cultural celebration. This year, the week takes inspiration from the half-century anniversary of hip hop (continuing a celebration begun at Kwanzaa earlier this year), and highlights the activist traditions of the era alongside new forms and ideas of inclusive leadership.

The week kicks off on March 13 with a unique opportunity to dive into cultural traditions, offering a “Learn to Play Spades” event at the Spencer Center from noon to 1 p.m., inviting participants to engage with one of hip hop culture’s beloved pastimes.

On March 14,  Purnell will give her keynote lecture at 7 p.m. in Francis Auditorium – all students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to participate.

Continuing the celebration of hip hop culture, the week includes an Old School 90s–20s Party from 9 p.m. to midnight on March 15 at the SAC, where attendees can revel in the nostalgic beats and rhythms of past decades.

MBU co-sponsors the PEG Gifted Symposium on March 15–16, exploring academic excellence and the nurturing of gifted individuals with experts in the field.

On March 16, MBU welcomes back Dr. Jacquelyn “Jacqui” D. Elliott, former dean of admissions and financial aid, to conduct a workshop on “Transnational Lessons in Women’s Leadership” at 4 p.m. in the Nuthouse, with Middle Eastern food to follow.

The week also features thought-provoking discussions and screenings, including ‘I Ain’t Sorry’: Women and Apologies from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on March 21 in the McClung Lounge, and a documentary screening and panel discussion of The Janes (2022) from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 25 in Francis, featuring panelists from Planned Parenthood and MBU faculty/staff.

MBU invites the surrounding community to join students on campus for the keynote lecture by Derecka Purnell, Esq. For more information and to register for the event, please visit MBU’s event page.