Willamette University Hosts Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Willamette University will host a series of community events Jan. 18-28 in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including an exclusive Oregon performance by gospel legends the Blind Boys of Alabama and several spoken word and hip-hop performances from West Coast artists.

The theme of this year's events is "Remember. Reflect. Realize. The Dream." The celebration is one of Oregon's most extensive annual commemorations of King's legacy and reflects Willamette's motto, "Not unto ourselves alone are we born."

"The celebration puts both our mission and motto into action," said Gordy Toyama, director of multicultural affairs at Willamette. "We hope these events play a part in encouraging our community and state to uphold the dignity and worth of all individuals."

This year's schedule includes:

  • "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America," Monday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m., Hudson Hall: This Salem community celebration includes a stage performance of several stories about African-American women who shaped Oregon history. The play will be followed by a discussion with the performers. Numerous civil rights-related community organizations will also be available to provide information about their activities. Free.
  • Good Sista/Bad Sista, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m., Putnam University Center, Cat Cavern: Provocative, political performance poetry with attitude by Portland State University faculty Turiya Autry and Walidah Imarisha, who teach in schools, juvenile detention facilities and prisons. Free.
  • The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon: 1920-1923, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Salem Public Library, Loucks Auditorium: Willamette and the Salem Human Rights & Relations Advisory Commission sponsor a showing of this 2009 film, followed by a panel discussion with producer/director Thomas Coulter and community historians and civil rights advocates. Free.
  • Blind Boys of Alabama, Friday, Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m., Smith Auditorium: Willamette and the Salem Multicultural Institute (SMI) present this exclusive Oregon performance by the Blind Boys of Alabama, worldwide legends of gospel music who have been honored with five Grammy Awards. Proceeds benefit SMI and the Oregon African American Museum. Tickets: $25 in advance, $27 at door. Tickets available at; SMI, (503) 581-2004; Oregon African American Museum, (503) 540-4063. (UPDATE, 1/22 - Please note that this event is sold out and no tickets remain.)
  • Stride Toward Freedom 5K Run/1 Mile Walk, Saturday, Jan. 23, 9 a.m., Brown Field: Entry fee for this run/walk includes t-shirt and snacks. Proceeds benefit SMI. Registration: $15 in advance, $20 day of race,
  • Mark Gonzales and SKIM: "We Made America," Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m., Hudson Hall: Through interactive spoken word and music, def poet Mark Gonzales and hip-hop artist SKIM draw on their indigenous and immigrant experiences to give voice to those who have been silenced in America. Free.
  • Tunnel of Oppression, Tuesday, Jan. 26, through Thursday, Jan. 28, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., 3-5 p.m., 7-10 p.m., Montag Den: This student-produced, multimedia, multi-sensory display presents sites and stories of oppression and injustice in our communities and the world. Topics include U.S. imperialism, immigration, trans-racial adoption and higher education. Free.

Campus-only events during the King celebration that are not open to the public include the signing of the Willamette pledge, which is a commitment to the belief that all individuals are valued, and an afternoon of community service at sites throughout Salem.

More information:, 503-370-6265