His third-grade teacher was crying, and she never cried.
This is what the Rev. Jamie Washington remembers about April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
It was also the day Washington gained insight into his life’s purpose.
“I am a part of the next generation of civil rights leaders,” he says. “I do count myself as part of Doctor King’s legacy.”
Washington, an educator, speaker and administrator, will discuss how everyone can be an instrument of change when he speaks at the “Celebrating the Voices Behind the Dream” event at Willamette University Jan. 16.
The celebration — also featuring two spoken word artists, the music of Up Top and the SEI Sounds of Soul Mass Choir from Portland — is a part of a series of campus and community events planned in January to honor King’s life and work.
“If there’s anything I want people to know, it’s that from wherever they are, they can do something to make a difference,” Washington says. “I want them to feel inspired, to feel empowered, to do what they can from where they are.”
Washington is the president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm based in Baltimore.
He served as an educator, administrator and consultant to higher education for more than 30 years, and he is a founder of the Social Justice Training Institute. Established in 1998, the institute’s purpose is to provide leadership and development opportunities for social justice educators across the nation.
Through these and other positions, Washington says he’s worked specifically to create more inclusive, welcoming environments for college faculty, students and staff.
Now his goal is to prepare young people to fight for social justice themselves.
“The first thing I’d like to say to folks is that the work did not start with them and will not end with them,” he says, adding that progress takes time and patience.
“We need to keep the conversation going. We want everyone to do their part, to pick up where other people have left off.”
“Celebrating the Voices Behind the Dream” begins Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in Hudson Hall.
Tickets are limited to two per person at $5 each for the general public. Beginning Jan. 13, they may be purchased on the second floor of the Putnam University Center weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or at the door.
Willamette faculty, students and staff may receive one free ticket by showing their university identification.