MLK holiday marked by lectures, events in area

Speakers, activities and outreach are planned around the area throughout the week.

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A series of lectures and events is being coordinated this week to mark the Martin Luthern King Jr. holiday.

Local AmeriCorps members have traditionally used the holiday commemorating the civil right's leader to coordinate community service projects. The MLK Day of Service is part of the United We Serve national challenge launched by President Obama.

This year members of the local AmeriCorps of the Blue Mountain Action Council will help set up playground equipment, conduct stream restoration and tree planting, and coordinate an elementary school art project.

There is also a series of lectures and a traditional march planned through Walla Walla University and Whitman College.

On Monday, Walla Walla University, a scholar a speaker on poverty will share her life story and views during two public events.

Donna Beegle grew up in generational migrant labor poverty, and is the only member of her family who has not been incarcerated. She left school at 15 to get married. By 25, she was a single mom with two children, no job skills and little education.

Beegle eventually earned a GED, an associate's degree in journalism, bachelor's and master's degrees in communications and a doctoral degree.

Beegle will speak at 11 a.m. at the University Church and again at 7 p.m. at Village Hall on the university campus. Beegle's talks will highlight King's lesser-known legacy battling poverty.

Beegle is the author of "See Poverty, Be the Difference," and "An Action Approach to Educating Students Who Live in the Crisis of Poverty." Beegle has studied the social and cultural effects of poverty for the last 20 years. Her life and work have been featured in the news and documentaries.

Whitman College will commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a week of activies open to the public. Events range from a new pilot teaching program, "Whitman Teaches the Movement," to a lecture by civil rights leader Samuel B. McKinney, a friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The college kicks off the events Monday with its traditional candlelight peace march from campus to downtown Walla Walla and back. The march starts at 5:45 p.m. at the Reid Campus Center foyer, and ends at the Glover Alston Center with a reception featuring live music by Three Strikes Trio and refreshments.

The college's Black Student Union is hosting a panel on the Civil Rights Movement at 7 p.m. in Jewett Main Lounge. Moderated by history professor Nina Lerman, the discussion will focus on how we think of civil rights today and how that affects social justice and activism. A Q&A will follow.

On Thursday, the college is hosting the Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney, expert on teaching tolerance, at 7 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium.

McKinney served as pastor of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church from 1958 until his retirement in 1998, providing the longest continuous pastorship in the history of the church. As a civil rights leader and minister, he did much to shape the conscience of Seattle. In 1961, he convinced his college classmate and friend Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Seattle for a speaking engagement. King spoke at the Eagles Auditorium Nov. 10, 1961, his only Seattle visit.

During the week and in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Whitman students will teach a civil rights curriculum in Walla Walla Public School classrooms in the first Teaching The Movement educational effort.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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