Martin Luther King Day Celebrated by Willamette

The annual Willamette University celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take place over three days during the week of Jan. 17 and will include a public lecture by civil rights activist Dr. Vincent Harding and a performance by the award-winning Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

On Monday, Jan.17, the campus community is invited to stop by the main floor of the University Center between 9am and 3pm to mark the national holiday with a birthday cake and an opportunity to sign the Birmingham Pledge. The Pledge was written by Birmingham attorney Jim Rotch to promote awareness of the importance of eradicating prejudice and promoting racial harmony in Birmingham and around the world. To date, thousands of people across the country have signed the document.

On Wednesday, Jan.19, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Community Outreach Program and the MLK Celebration Committee will host the annual Hunger Banquet. This sold out event will spotlight local agencies which provide services to homeless individuals and families in the area. The campus community has donated nonperishable foods and a record $2,000 in student meal-points that will be used to purchase food for the Salem Outreach Shelter. Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the food drive can contact the Community Outreach Programs office at (503) 370-6953.

The MLK Celebration Luncheon is Friday, Jan. 21, in CAT Cavern from 12:30 to 2 p.m. During the luncheon, the film "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)," a critically acclaimed 14-part series on the American civil rights movement, will be viewed.

This film was broadcasted nationally by PBS and focuses on the events, issues, triumphs and tragedies of ordinary people as they tested their power to effect change in America during a period termed "the Second American Revolution." Friday's program will focus on "The March on Selma." There will be a question and answer session.

The lunch is free but donations are encouraged. Proceeds will benefit the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Project and the Veterans of Hope Project. Space is limited and reservations can be made by contacting the Office of Multicultural Affairs at (503) 370-6265.

Dr. Vincent Harding, professor of religion and social transformation at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, will deliver the keynote lecture Friday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. in Smith Auditorium. He will be joined on stage by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

Harding has a long history of involvement in peace and justice movements including the Southern black freedom struggle. In 1968, after several years as chairman of the history and sociology department at Spelman College in Atlanta, Harding became director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and served as director and chairperson of The Institute of the Black World.

He was the senior academic consultant to the award-winning PBS television series, "Eyes on the Prize," and in 1992 was awarded the Charles Earl Cobb National Racial Justice Medal.

His most recent book, "Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero," is a series of essays that reflect on the last years of King's life. Many of these reflections are inspired by the ambiguous message surrounding the official celebration of King's birthday.

MLK05Following Harding's lecture will be a gospel music presentation by the Gospel Academy Award-winning Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The choir was founded in 1986 as a result of a gospel music workshop led by Emmy-winning co-founder and Artistic Director, Terrance Kelly.

The Choir has performed with Linda Ronstadt, Tramaine Hawkins, the Kronos Quartet and with Carlos Santana. Over the last 17 years, their vocal harmonies and stirring gospel repertoire have led to performances with Tramaine Hawkins, Take 6, The Clark Sisters, Walter Hawkins, Timothy Wright, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Clarence Fountain & The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, Jon Hendricks, Pharaoh Sanders, Stan Getz, John Denver, Marlena Shaw, and Jeffrey Osborne.

Tickets are $5 and are available beginning Wednesday, Jan.19, at the Putnam University Center Information Desk from 5 to 7 p.m. The Information Desk is open Thursday, Jan. 20, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased the night of the performance at Smith Auditorium Box Office beginning at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Gordy Toyama, Director Office of Multicultural Affairs (503) 370-6265. For more information on The Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Project, please visit For information on The Veterans of Hope Project, please visit