Award-winning attorney, criminal justice reform advocate to headline Adair Lectureship

Brittany K. Barnett

An award-winning attorney, advocate, author and entrepreneur will be this year’s speaker at the 2021 Larry Adair Lectureship.

The public is invited to join the conversation with Brittany K. Barnett as part of the lectureship on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. at Northeastern State University Tahlequah’s Webb Auditorium and live via Zoom. The live audience is limited to 100. Interested individuals may register for the event at http://bit.ly/Adair2021. The Zoom link for the event will be provided following registration.

As part of this year’s lectureship, Barnett will discuss her book, “A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Freedom,” which tells a coming of age story and narrative of her uphill struggle to bring hope and change to the criminal justice system.

Peggy Glenn, NSU Foundation executive director, said she learned about Barnett’s book, released last fall, following an email from SMU Dedman School of Law, where Barnett received her law degree.

“I downloaded the audiobook and after the first few chapters, I was impressed with her clear, honest and conversational writing, as well as the facts and statistics she wove into the personal stories of Black people who received harsher sentences under mandatory federal sentencing guidelines,” Glenn said. “I sent the book to NSU President Steve Turner, and the founder of this lectureship, former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Larry Adair, and told them I thought we had a great candidate for the lecture speaker. After reading the book, they both agreed.”

As a young law student, Barnett came across the criminal drug case of Sharanda Jones, a single Black mother and business owner who was serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. This encounter reminded Barnett of her own life as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, the once girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer, and how America’s war on drugs had claimed another victim. After taking on Jones’ case, Barnett switched her career focus from corporate law to work pro bono cases.

Barnett is responsible for securing freedom for a number of clients who were at one point serving life sentences for federal drug offenses. In addition to freeing incarcerated individuals, Barnett uses her skills in the corporate world to nurture her clients’ entrepreneurial spirits and creative abilities to create social change.

Barnett also advocates for transforming the criminal justice system and social impact investing. She founded two nonprofits: the Buried Alive Project, which attempts to dismantle life without parole sentences, and Girls Embracing Mothers, an organization that empowers girls with mothers behind bars. She also founded XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign, two social enterprises dedicated to showcasing the impact that formerly incarcerated people can have when they are able to not only survive, but thrive.

For her efforts, Barnett has been named as one of America’s Most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association and was on Essence’s “Woke 100” list in 2019.

Friends and family of former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, the Honorable Larry Adair, and the NSU Foundation established the Larry Adair Lectureship Series in 2004 to create an annual forum to engage students in politics, government and public policy.

For more information about the 2021 Larry Adair Lectureship, contact the NSU Foundation at 918-444-4200 or visit nsualumni.com.

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