Bankole Thompson, a nationally renowned Black journalist and standard-bearer for economic and racial justice issues, will speak at Dillard University in New Orleans on Thursday, Oct 5.
Thompson will return to one of the nation’s most prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which was founded during the Reconstruction era, to discuss his latest book titled Fiery Conscience. The book, a compendium of analytical essays about his more than two decades of speaking truth to power in the media was released last month.
His talk on campus at Kearny Hall beginning at 12:30pm is being sponsored by Dillard University’s Center for Racial Justice, which is making the book available to students who are engaged with the work of the center.
Thompson was recently elected to the National Board of Directors of the Atlanta-based historic Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the signature civil rights organization founded by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who served as its first president, and which led the Civil Rights Movement.
He was nominated for a seat on the SCLC’s decision making body by board chairman Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., a veteran civil rights leader, and one of the last remaining and most trusted and top lieutenants of Dr. King. LaFayette has long followed and admired Thompson’s work as a journalist of consequence.
Thompson is the executive dean and editor-in-chief of The PuLSE Institute, the national and independent anti-poverty think tank headquartered in Detroit, which was founded five years ago based on his influential work on race, democracy and poverty.
He is a twice-a-week opinion columnist at The Detroit News, where his columns about the presidency, politics and economic justice issues appear on Mondays and Thursdays in the newspaper.
In 2008, Thompson, led a groundbreaking coverage of the historic presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and became one of the first Black journalists in the nation to conduct exclusive one-on-one sit-down interviews with Obama. The interviews led to a pair of books he wrote, “Obama and Black Loyalty,” (2010) and “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” (2011) which explored the politics of the religious right and Obama’s faith posture.
Janis F. Kearney, former newspaper publisher in Arkansas, who served as the first Presidential Diarist in the history of the White House under President Bill Clinton, wrote the book’s epilogue.
“It is gratifying for a native of the Arkansas Delta region and child of cotton sharecroppers to know that we still have a social commentator and leader who remains an unapologetic advocate for the poor and downtrodden. While American politics is oftentimes a murky, messy undertaking; the practical, realistic, yet hopeful Bankole Thompson knows that good politics can mean social and economic change for the masses. And, that good politics can result in policies, laws and civil actions that make life better for the least of us and addresses the dignity of all—including America’s poorest,” Kearney wrote. “But, good politics doesn’t just happen. It needs advocacy and fiery voices like Bankole Thompson’s. Voices that worry the lawmakers at night, that remain, like ‘earworms’ in their subconscious as they make and act on decisions that are crucial and life-changing for everyday Americans.”
A cultural and political commentator, Thompson has appeared on national networks such as CNN during the presidential election discussing Black America, Detroit and the future of American democracy.
In 2019, on the eve of the Democratic Presidential Debate, Thompson appeared with David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama to examine the critical Black vote. In 2020, when then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate, Thompson who was strongly advocating for a diverse ticket was invited by CNN to respond to the selection of the first Black woman on a VP ticket.
A sought after speaker, Thompson, has addressed many leading organizations in the nation including the Providence NAACP 98th Freedom Fund Dinner and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Detroit Region Annual Distinguished Leadership Dinner. He was a speaker at the 2011 Federal Bench and Bar Conference for the Eastern District of Michigan as well as the 2010 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference.
He was the 2022 keynote speaker for Brown University Forum on Race and Democracy in the Era of Black Lives Matter during Black History Month, during which he addressed the Ivy League university on the theme, “Why Major Institutions Must Address the Fierce Urgency of Racial Justice.”
In 2020, Bankole Thompson, accepted the invitation of Dr. William G. Anderson, one of the leaders of the Albany civil rights movement in Georgia, and who worked with Dr. King, to deliver the keynote address for the 20th Dr. William G. Anderson Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey Lecture Series at Michigan State University. The series’ previous speakers include late civil rights heroes Harry Belafonte and Congressman John Lewis.
His address at the East Lansing campus was titled, “Black Lamentations: The Redemptive Need for Healing in American Democracy.”