Whitman organizes activities to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. candlelight vigil march

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other individuals who shaped the Civil Rights Movement, the college kicked off a week of events for students and community members alike.

The first is the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, which took place on Monday, Jan. 20. Participants in the march walked from Reid Campus Center to the Land Title Plaza, where they held a vigil and listened to musical performances.

Interim Director of the Intercultural Center Matt Ozuna believes the march is a great opportunity to bring the larger community together to acknowledge the efforts of Civil Rights leaders.

“The holiday serves as a wonderful opportunity for members of the Whitman and Walla Walla communities—from all backgrounds and beliefs—to come together, overcome indifference, and build relationships of trust, tolerance, and respect,” he said.

MLK Vigil - Downtown Walla WallaNext on the agenda is a lecture by Diane Nash, a Civil Rights activist who participated in the Freedom Rides and in a successful sit-in campaign in Tennessee. Nash will speak on Thursday, Jan. 30 in Cordiner Hall.

Intercultural Center Program Advisor Kyle Martz ‘07 encourages everyone to take advantage of this unique chance to hear a first-hand account of such an important time in our history.

“Historic figures who can personally speak to events as momentous as the Civil Rights Movement are becoming increasingly rare, and so we should consider ourselves fortunate to have an opportunity such as this.”

A group of students from Whitman, Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University will also have the unique opportunity to attend a workshop on nonviolent resistance with this prominent Civil Rights Movement leader. Attendees will discuss nonviolent strategies and hear more about Nash’s experiences.

In addition to these events, community members were invited to attend a film screening of “Freedom Riders” and to hear a lecture about the importance of the Civil Rights Movement from Dr. Kate Shuster. Shuster is a researcher of education reform and a key organizer of Whitman Teaches the Movement, a program in which Whitman students teach lessons on the Civil Rights Movement in Walla Walla Public Schools.

Martz believes these events give community members the chance to learn from historical leaders and to implement change today.

“I believe that the value of learning history is to not repeat history's mistakes, and MLK Jr. faced many of our historical mistakes head-on,” he said. “ It's important for every member of this society to acknowledge what he did, and know the history of what he did and why, so that we never slide back into those mistakes, and continue to move forward and work to end oppression, racial or otherwise.”