University Plans Week of Events to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

While most area colleges and universities have a holiday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Willamette University uses the day to launch a week of discussions and activities surrounding social justice issues and the accomplishments of this revered civil rights leader.

The week starts Jan. 15 with Willamette students, faculty and staff signing the Willamette University Pledge, which encourages people to make a personal commitment to adhere to a common belief that all individuals are valued, including those in the majority and those in the minority.

Most other events during the week are open to the public. They begin with a free showing of the documentary film Rivers of Change: The Story of Five Unheralded Women in Montgomery and Their Struggle for Justice and Dignity. The event is at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 in Hudson Hall. The film is about the untold stories of women who fought discrimination and segregation in the U.S. and how their collective efforts changed a nation and impacted the world (visit for more information). The movie's producer/writer/director, William Dickerson-Waheed, will lead a post-screening discussion about social activism.

Portions of the film also will be shown from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 18 in Cone Chapel, on the second floor of Waller Hall, as part of the University's weekly convocation series. Waheed also will speak at this event, which is open to the public.

The University's celebration culminates Jan. 19 with a public event and concert at 7 p.m. in Smith Auditorium. Olympia Vernon, Willamette's Hallie Brown Ford Chair in Creative Writing, will give a community welcome, and Grammy Award-winning South African a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform. Tickets for the public are $5 and will be available at the University Center Information Desk beginning at 5 p.m. Jan. 17. There is a limit of four tickets per person. Willamette students and employees can obtain one free ticket beginning Jan. 8. For concert information, call the Office of Multicultural Affairs at (503) 370-6265.

Other campus-only events Jan. 19 include a Southern soul food luncheon at 12:30 p.m. in Cat Cavern, which will feature another showing of segments of Rivers of Change. The Willamette community also will participate in an annual event called Into the Streets, where people act on King's philosophy of service to the community by doing community service projects at a number of Salem sites, including the HOME Youth & Resource Center, Lifeline AIDS Project, Marion-Polk Food Share, Salvation Army and Willamette Valley Hospice. For more information about Into the Streets, call the Office of Community Service Learning at (503) 370-6807.