Yuri Kochiyama
(Courtesy of the Kochiyama family/UCLA Asian American Studies Center)
August 19, 2013

The Japanese-American Internee Who Met Malcolm X

The brief friendship of Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama began close to 50 years ago with a handshake.

Diane Fujino, chairwoman of the Asian-American studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, details the moment in her biography Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama.

Kochiyama and her eldest son, 16-year-old Billy, were arrested along with hundreds of other people, mainly African-Americans, during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October 1963.

"[They were] in this packed courthouse," Fujino says. "[There were] a lot of activists who [were] waiting their hearing on the civil disobedience charges."

In walks Malcolm X, who was quickly mobbed by adoring activists.

Kochiyama described the scene in a Democracy Now! interview in 2008. "I felt so bad that I wasn't black, that this should be just a black thing," she recalled. "But the more I see them all so happily shaking his hands and Malcolm so happy, I said, 'Gosh, darn it! I'm going to try to meet him somehow.' "

Eventually, Kochiyama called out to Malcolm X, "Can I shake your hand?"

"What for?" he demanded.

"To congratulate you for giving direction to your people," she finally mustered.

Malcolm X smiled and extended his hand. Kochiyama remembered how she could hardly believe she was meeting the most prominent black nationalist leader of the time.

'A Nail That Sticks Out'

Kochiyama's friendship with Malcolm X fascinated playwright Tim Toyama, who wrote a one-act play called Yuri and Malcolm X.

"Malcolm X's movement was probably the last thing you would imagine a Japanese-American person, especially a woman, to be involved with," he says.

Toyama's father and Kochiyama are cousins and nisei, children of Japanese immigrants. They were part of a generation that was rounded up by the American government and forced to live behind barbed wire during World War II.

"There's a Japanese saying that a nail that sticks out gets hammered down," Toyama explains. "I think most Japanese Americans, especially nisei, did not want to stick out, especially after the war."

Kochiyama couldn't help but stick out. She lived in New York City housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family's apartment.

From Activist To Radical

Audee Kochiyama-Holman, Yuri's eldest daughter, remembers feeling shy around the constant flow of visitors in their home, where her mother taped newspaper clippings to the walls and dinner plates often shared space on the kitchen table with piles of leaflets.

"Our house felt like it was the movement 24/7," Kochiyama-Holman recalls.

In the summer of 1963, a Kochiyama family vacation included a visit to Birmingham, Ala., to see charred houses and storefronts left behind by racial protests. The Kochiyamas also visited the 16th Street Baptist Church weeks before a bombing there killed four black girls.

"It was one of the first news stories in the civil rights movement that our mother sat us down to talk about," Kochiyama-Holman says.

The growing momentum of the civil rights movement and meeting Malcolm X in 1963 radicalized Kochiyama, who became more interested in black nationalism. FBI files later described her as a "ring leader" of black nationalists and a "Red Chinese agent."

The Final Meeting

Kochiyama and Malcolm X stayed in touch through postcards and even a visit to the Kochiyamas' apartment. Their last meeting was on Feb. 21, 1965 — just 16 months after their first handshake — in New York City's Audubon Ballroom.

That Sunday afternoon, gunmen killed Malcolm X moments after he approached the podium to address a weekly meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which Malcolm X founded after he was expelled from the Nation of Islam.

Most of the audience in the ballroom fell to the ground after the gunfire, crawling away for safety. But Kochiyama headed toward the injured Malcolm X, who was lying on the floor.

"I just picked up his head and just put it on my lap," Kochiyama said in the Democracy Now! interview. "I said, 'Please, Malcolm! Please, Malcolm! Stay alive!' "

The moment was captured in a photo in Life magazine in 1965. She's the unidentified Asian woman peering worriedly through horn-rimmed glasses at a soon-to-be lifeless Malcolm X. His blood-soaked shirt is open, exposing his bullet-riddled body.

Illness and age have slowed down Kochiyama, now 92, drastically over the past couple of years, her eldest daughter says.

But for decades after her brief friendship with Malcolm X, Kochiyama remained committed to causes in the black, Latino and Asian-American communities.

In 1988, she and other Japanese-American internees, including her late husband Bill, celebrated the signing of the Civil Liberties Act. It was a formal government apology that provided reparations to World War II internees — and a milestone Kochiyama helped to achieve 25 years ago this month.

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Bayard Rustin
(AP)
August 15, 2013

Bayard Rustin: The Man Who Organized The March On Washington

The trailblazing strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington will this year by posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

That's a long way from the days when civil rights activists counted on Bayard Rustin's hard work, but tried to push him aside because he was gay.

For 60 years, Rustin fought for peace and equal rights — demonstrating, organizing and protesting in the United States and around the world.

'Strategic Nonviolence'

In the summer of 1963, he was the main organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On Aug. 28, speaker after speaker roused a crowd of 250,000, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., with his seminal "I Have A Dream" speech.

Rustin had less than two months to organize what was the largest demonstration the country had ever seen.

"As we follow this form of mass action and strategic nonviolence," he said. "We will not only put pressure on the government, but we will put pressure on other groups which ought by their nature to be allied with us."

Washington, D.C.'s Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was a law student in 1963 and a volunteer for the march. Rustin was her boss. "Bayard was one of a kind, and his talent was so enormous," she says.

"The great achievement of the March on Washington is that Rustin had to work from the ground up," Norton says. "There had been many marches from the South ... but calling people from all over the country to come to Washington, the capital of the United States, was unheard of."

Speaking Truth To Power

Rustin grew up in West Chester, Pa. In college in the 1930s, he joined the Communist Youth League for a few years, attracted by the group's anti-racist efforts. He later embraced Socialism.

He was a gay black man, tall, with high cheekbones, and a gifted singer. He played a bit part in a Broadway musical alongside Paul Robeson, and Rustin often sang for his audiences as he toured the country, conducting race-relations workshops.

Rustin was considered a master organizer, a political intellectual and a pacifist; he served time in prison for refusing to register for the draft. He created the first Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation on interstate buses. Along with Dr. King, Rustin was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Bayard Rustin speaks in front of City Hall in New York on May 18, 1964, at a rally for school integration. (AP)

He had two strong mentors. A.J. Muste, the head of the pacifist organization the Fellowship of Reconciliation, hired Rustin as a youth secretary to conduct workshops and demonstrations against war and segregation. Rustin's other mentor was A. Philip Randolph, the head of the first predominantly black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

"What Rustin took away from Randolph, especially, is the recognition that economic issues and racial justice issues are completely intertwined," D'Emilio says.

Despite his extensive involvement in the civil rights movement, Rustin was content to remain behind the scenes, says his biographer, John D'Emilio.

"I think of it as part of the Quaker heritage that he internalized. You don't push yourself forward," D'Emilio says. "It doesn't matter if you don't get the credit for it. What is important is this notion of speaking truth to power."

A Matter Of Orientation

In 1953, Rustin's homosexuality became a public problem after he was found having sex in a parked car with two men. He was arrested on a morals charge. Later, when he was chosen to organize the 1963 March, some civil rights activists objected. In an effort to discredit the march, segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond took to the Senate floor, where he derided Rustin for being a communist, a draft dodger and a homosexual. Ironically, author D'Emilo says, it became a rallying point — for the civil rights leaders.

"Because no one could appear to be on the side of Strom Thurmond, he created, unwittingly, an opportunity for Rustin's sexuality to stop being an issue," he says.

The march was a success, and at its end, a triumphant Rustin stepped up to the microphone to read the demands that the leaders of the civil rights movement would take to President John F. Kennedy.

First on the list: "effective Civil Rights legislation — no compromise, no filibuster — and that it include public accommodations, decent housing, integrated education, [fair employment], and the right to vote."

Rustin wanted to move the civil rights agenda from protesting to politics and to work within the system — blacks and whites together — to create jobs and other opportunities. His effort fell flat, stymied by a more militant generation and the dominant issue of the times, the Vietnam War. Rustin said, "It has split the civil rights movement down the middle. It has caused many white people who were in it to say, 'That must wait now until we stop Vietnam.' "

'A Visionary'

In his later years, Rustin continued to speak out on a variety of fronts, and his personal life also changed: He met Walter Naegle.

Naegle, Rustin's surviving partner, says that in the final years of his life, Rustin became more involved in gay rights.

"He saw this as another challenge, another barrier that had to be broken down — a larger struggle for human rights and for individual freedoms," Neagle says.

Or, as Rustin put it:

"The barometer of judging the character of people in regards to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, lesbian. The judgment as to whether you can trust the future, the social advancement, depending on people, will be judged on where they come out on that question."

Activist Mandy Carter says Rustin was a visionary, understanding the parallels in the civil rights struggle and the gay rights movement. Carter is on the leadership council the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT civil rights group.

"For me and for a lot of us who are black, and gay and lesbian, bi, trans, who see ourselves as social justice advocates as well, to have this person — such an amazing role model," she says.

Carter says there was just no one like him, and she is delighted such a key individual in the civil rights movement is now being recognized with the nation's highest honor.

Rustin died in 1987 in New York. He was 75.

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 Arvarh Strickland
(L.G. Patterson/AP)
May 01, 2013

U. Illinois Grad, First Black Professor at U. Missouri Dies

A graduate of the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus, who went on to become the first African American professor at the University of Missouri, has died.

Arvarh Strickland passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82.

Strickland was raised in Hattiesburg, Miss., and did his undergraduate work at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Miss. He earned a doctorate in history from the U of I in 1962, and he taught at Chicago State College.

His 1966 book called History of the Chicago Urban League is about the history of the Chicago League at the start of the early twentieth century to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The book also looks at the worst race riot in Illinois, which took place in Chicago over a five-day period, leavingt 38 people dead and hundreds injured. The book has been described as "the first history of a major African American organization."

Strickland joined the University of Missouri in 1969, and he is credited for boosting African American enrollment and helping start its Black Studies Program.

“The purpose of black studies is to give an understanding and appreciation of the black role in this country. It is not for ego gratification,” Strickland said. “The part blacks played in building up America is often dismissed, and there is little study of what blacks are doing today.”

He was critical of the university for not taking enough action in hiring and promoting black faculty.

"You have not availed yourself of the diversity and broadened perspective which black faculty members can bring" to these positions," he told the chancellor in 1978.

As a member of the Ethnic Minorities Committee, Strickland also pushed to get black students financial aid.

In 1978, he told the Columbia Missourian, "I hope we are about to make a leap."

Strickland went on to become a tenured faculty member in the Department of History, associate vice president of academic affairs, and special assistant to the Chancellor.

He retired from Missouri in 1996, but remained active in the area as a community leader.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign honored Strickland in 1997 with the Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I would urge young people not to let barriers, real or imagined, keep them from preparing themselves to fulfill their dreams,” Strickland said when receiving the Alumni award. “And to not let anyone convince them that their dreams are unattainable.”

In 1998, the Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professorship in African-American History and Culture was created. Wilma King, the current chair of Missouri's Black Studies Program, is the currently the Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor. She said Strickland touched the lives of many people, and she believes his legacy will live on for years to come.

“To have an endowed chair created in your name is a great honor," King told Illinois Public Media. "The University  and the university community raised over $500,000 when he retired, and then the state legislator matched and endowed a chair at over $1 million.”

In 2007, the university renamed its General Classroom Building after Strickland, who was the first African-American faculty member there to have an academic building on campus named for him.

"This is literally not about me," Strickland said at the dedication ceremony. "This is a tribute to Lloyd Gaines, Lucile Bluford, to all of those folks who came, and some who tried and found the doors shut in their face, and others who did enter this institution."

Gaines dissapeared in 1939 right after becoming the first black student admitted to the university. Bluford was also admitted to the university in 1939, but she was denied entrance because of her race. Years later, both of them recieved honory degrees.

"This will represent a tribute to all of these black people who are part of the history of the University of Missouri," Strickland added during the dedication ceremony.

Services for Strickland are scheduled for Saturday morning at Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, Mo., with internment at Memorial Park Cemetery.


Erma Bridgewater
April 03, 2013

C-U Civil Rights Figure Erma Bridgewater Dies

A major force for civil rights in the Champaign-Urbana area has passed away.

Erma Bridgewater died Monday at around midnight at Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana at the age of 99, according family members.

During a long life spent in Champaign-Urbana, Bridgewater was involved in various civil rights groups, and she regularly shared with community leaders and children the challenges that she faced as an African American woman in the formative years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Bridgewater was born on Nov. 24, 1913.

In 1919, she and her brother were the only black children at Champaign’s Lincoln Elementary School. She talked about her experience in grade school during an interview several years ago with the Youth Media Workshop, a collaboration between WILL and Will Patterson, the Associate Director of the University of Illinois’ Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations.

“It was a good school with good teachers,” Bridgewater recalled. “I was discriminated against not by the teachers. They were especially nice. They were all Caucasian teachers, but some of the children were not as nice as they might have been. Not wanting to hold my hand, but then the teacher usually found some way to make it alright.”

Bridgewater graduated from Champaign Senior High School .  She then attended the University of Illinois, and in 1937 earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology.

“My dad was employed at the university as a mail carrier, and my parents didn't ask me if I wanted to go to college,” she said. “They just took it for granted that I was going, and I always understood that that was what I was supposed to do. So, I was expected to go to college.

Her daughter, Cassandra Woolfolk is a clinical supervisor at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions in Champaign. She remembers her mother talking about the difficulties she faced as an African American student on a predominately white college campus in the 1930’s.

“One of the stories she’s always told is having to eat lunch in the restroom at the University because there was no place she could go in for meals,” Woolfolk said. “That was a barrier that she learned to deal with and never allowed it to really stop her achievements.”

“I would buy a candy bar and an apple and go into the library restroom to eat,” Bridgewater told WILL. “So there were things that happened. And when we went to the theaters, we had to sit up in the balcony.”

“At times now when I go to the theater, I still go to the back,” she added. “At one of the theaters, what is now the Art Theater - it was Park - we had to sit down in the front row, right up in the picture. So those are things that happened then that fortunately have changed.”

Bridgewater’s first job out of college was as a maid at Newman Hall, where she said she made roughly $1.60 an hour.

“I'd looked for a job and couldn't find any, and my mother was working there at Newman Hall, and I felt like I had to help repay my parents for the money they'd spent for me to go to school,” Bridgewater said. “So I got a job there and worked. I think it was a couple of years. I didn't wanna leave town.”

Will Patterson, a longtime friend of the Bridgewater family, said the difficulties Erma Bridgewater faced in finding a job right out of college were not a surprise for an African American at that time.

“She had to face that type of adversity, but she saw it through and positioned herself to just be a great force in her own community,” Patterson said.  “Many of the things that she may have experienced back then are still happening and a lot of stuff wouldn’t be accepted today.”

By 1939, Bridgewater became the first director of the Douglass Community Center after the city of Champaign created the Department of Recreation to replace programs through the Works Progress Administration.

“I was coming to them, not knowing anything about recreation,” she said. “I just was not accepted because I was from the other side of the tracks and all that, and had been to college and had a degree. So I learned. The way they treated me was an advantage in the end, and I was glad because it made me realize that I had to learn how to get along with people.

Bridgewater was with the Douglass Community Center until the mid-1940’s when she left to take care of her children. Woolfolk said her mother returned to the center in 1955, and left for the final time in 1963 when she was demoted.

“At some point, they decided they wanted a man to be the (Douglass Community Center’s) director, so they made her assistant director and cut her salary,” Woolfolk explained.

Bridgewater then worked for the city of Champaign as a Relocation Officer for the city’s Urban Renewal Program, where she helped relocate people living in homes that were in poor quality.

She also worked as a proof reader for the Courier Newspaper, as an Outreach Worker at Frances Nelson Health Center, and as a Housing Specialist for the city of Champaign’s Community Development Program.

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery has fond memories of Bridgewater, who she knew as a young child. Avery likens Bridgewater’s impact in the community to Rosa Parks.

“Rosa Parks you think of the mother of civil rights,” Avery said. “I think when you think of Erma Bridgewater, you would think of her as someone who has blazed the trail in terms of civil rights, human rights, education. I think her legacy will be one encompassing of a lot.”

Bridgewater served on various boards and committees (the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, Family Services of Champaign County, Head Start, the Urban League, Community Chest, Council on Aging, and the City of Champaign Housing Commission and Fair Housing Board).  She was also a charter member of the local graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a charter member of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.

She received numerous awards and honors over the years. They included a mini park named after her in Champaign, the Living Legend Award presented at the UIUC Black Reunion, and the Champaign County Martin Luther King Day Award.

“She was full of life,” Patterson said. “She was not one that would be considered sit back on a porch somewhere and just watch the days go by.”

Bridgewater was also an avid swimmer, and swam five times a week until a month before her death.

She said as a student at Champaign Senior High School, African Americans were not allowed to take swimming classes with white students. Instead, special arrangements had to be made.

“They had some of the seniors or some of the older students teaching the class and they spent more time laughing at us, at our efforts to swim than they did at teaching us,” Bridewater said.

Also, she loved jazz music, which would rub off on her sons.

Ron of Urbana teaches jazz, saxophone and improvisation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Cecil of Englewood, N.J. is a noted jazz trumpet player and teacher.

Bridgewater’s husband, Cecil Bridgewater was from Tuscola, Illinois. He died in 1999. The two had been married for nearly 60 years.

In addition to her three children, she leaves behind a niece, Loretta Scott Davis, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“One of the things she said a number of times when she was in the hospital right before she died that she feels like she had a very good life,” said her daughter, Cassandra Woolfolk. “She was just very, very blessed with the life that she had led.”

Bridgewater was a member of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Champaign from the age  of 12 and a member of the Bethel Choir for more than 80 years. Her wake and funeral service is scheduled this week at the church. The wake is Friday from 6pm-8pm, and the funeral is on Saturday at 11am.

“As long as her memories live on with all of us and she’s touch so many generations, her life and legacy will live on for many years,” said Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery. “I think she will never be forgotten.”

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A young demonstrator is attacked by a police dog in Birmingham, Ala., in May 1963.
(Bill Hudson/AP)
February 25, 2013

Alabama Divided As Court Prepares To Hear Voting Rights Challenge

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law's future is to be decided in a case from Alabama, the very place the statute was born.

Shelby County, Ala., is fighting a section of the law that requires states and localities with a history of discrimination to seek federal approval for any changes to election rules.

National support for the law galvanized in the wake of brutal scenes from the civil rights movement in Alabama, like when the police, on orders from the segregationist commissioner for public safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, turned dogs and fire hoses on young marchers in Birmingham in 1963.

"You can never whip these birds if you don't keep you and them separate," Connor said in 1963. "I found that out in Birmingham. You've got to keep your white and the black separate."

Alabama was also the scene of "Bloody Sunday," when Alabama state troopers beat back marchers crossing Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge in a demonstration for African-American voting rights in March 1965.

But today, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says it's time to turn the page on that disturbing history and acknowledge that the state is now a different place.

'Alabama Has Changed'

"George Wallace is gone, Bull Connor is dead. He's not coming back," Strange says.

"Alabama and other states had a terrible record in terms of depriving people of their right to vote, making it difficult for them to vote, discriminating against people," he says. "I'm happy to say and proud to say that after many years — 50 years now as we celebrate 1963 and the great progress that was made in that historic year — that Alabama has changed."

On Wednesday , the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether there has been enough change that Alabama and 15 other states should no longer be subject to federal approval of any election rules. That approval is currently required under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Strange likens the provision to asking, "Mother, may I?" He says it's outdated and unfair in the post-Jim Crow South.

"What Section 5 does is impose a burden on our states that really is unnecessary in 2013," Strange argues. He points to statistics that show Alabama is second in the nation, behind Mississippi, in the number of African-Americans holding public office.

For Act Supporters, A Bulwark Against 'The Old South'

One of those officeholders is Ernest Montgomery, the lone black city councilman in Calera, a small town near Birmingham. On most Wednesday nights you'll find him on the front pew of the New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church.

Montgomery is in his third term on the Calera City Council, a seat he lost when Shelby County officials redrew district lines in 2008, changing the makeup from about 70 percent minority to around 30 percent.

"And [of] course, we ran anyway," Montgomery says. "We didn't like those kind of numbers, but we thought that's the only way it could be."

Montgomery lost to a white candidate by two votes. But the redistricting had not gained pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department as required by the Voting Rights Act. That prompted a new election, which Montgomery won.

Now, the soft-spoken 56-year-old machinist finds himself at the heart of this Supreme Court case.

"I'm not here to air our laundry here in Shelby County, but I know the stories," he says. "I think we're getting better. But the removal of this legislation would definitely turn back the hands of time."

At about 10 percent of the population, blacks are very much the minority in Shelby County. Montgomery says trusting officials to do the right thing is still hard for African-Americans here.

Some people think the events that plagued Jim Crow-era Alabama "happened a million years ago," Montgomery says. "But it was just only less than 50 years ago. They think ... 'Well, we don't need this,' 'People don't even remember, that was so long ago.'

"You want to talk to my parents? They're right here in Calera also," Montgomery continues. "They very well remember when our church door was shot up just because the preacher was encouraging people to go to the polls and vote ... To bring fear and intimidation they shot up our church doors."

Those scars and the experiences of black voters are reason enough to retain protections under the Voting Rights Act, says Montgomery's pastor, the Rev. Harry Jones.

"I've seen a lot of things, and I don't want to see the Old South rise again," Jones says. "And I think that Section 5 prevents, to a certain extent, the Old South from rising again."

In 50 Years, A County Transformed

Election changes are common here because Shelby County has seen such dramatic growth. Back in the '60s, it was largely rural, with a tiny county seat surrounded by farms, fishing lakes and a few bedroom communities.

Today, you're more likely to find suburban sprawl and endless traffic here. The population has grown sixfold, from about 32,000 people to close to 200,000 now.

"I'm a good example of some of the changes," says Cam Ward, who represents the county in the Alabama Senate. "You've seen a huge migration of new people moving into Shelby County."

Ward, 41, is white, like all the members of the county's legislative delegation. Originally from Florida, he says people have moved here from all over the country and shouldn't be punished for government actions decades ago.

"We get penalized now ... every time we go through planning and zoning," Ward says. "Every single minute change, we have to go all the way to the Justice Department, which penalizes us for conduct now that doesn't exist in Shelby County. It just really doesn't. It's a very changed world."

Aubrey Miller, president of the Shelby County Board of Education, is proof of that change. He was elected countywide.

"I do not believe that I was elected because I was an African-American," Miller says. "And I do not believe that people voted for my opponent because she was a white female."

Even so, Miller is no advocate of Shelby County's case challenging federal oversight of elections.

"Much progress has been made," he says. "But we are not so far advanced that we should not pay attention to the potential that exists for pockets of — unintentional, even — discrimination."

Miller says the country needs the Voting Rights Act for at least another generation.

"Is it as relevant as it was in 1965? No, not at all," Miller says. "Will it be less relevant in 2030? My hope and prayer is that it won't be relevant at all."

The question of relevance now rests with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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January 18, 2013

Upcoming Martin Luther King Jr., Day Events

Here's a list of some of the public events scheduled in east central Illinois over the next few days, celebrating the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

Friday, January 18th


Ernest Green … one of the “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 … is the keynote speaker at the Luther King, Jr. Countywide Celebration. The free public event takes place at 4 PM at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign.

Sunday, January 20th

Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Service of Celebration, 4:30 PM,  University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana.

Monday, January 21st, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast, 8:30 AM, Dodds Athletic Center at Parkland College, 2400 W Bradley, Champaign. (This event, usually held at Vineyard Church in Champaign, is being held at Parkland College this year only, due to construction at the church).

Annual Martin Luther King March and Motorcade beginning at 10:30 AM, with lineup beginning at 10 AM the corner of Main and Logan. It concludes at St. James United Methodist Church, 504 N Vermilion, for a community-wide celebration service at 11:30 AM. The Rev. Sylvester Weatherall will be the speaker. Brett Dupree will direct the Danville MLK Mass Choir.

Thursday, January 24th

Millikin University holds its 4th annual Candlelight Vigil for Dr. King, at 6 PM at Pilling Chapel. This year's theme:  “45 Years: Progressing Towards Social Change”. Millikin and Decatur leaders will speak on King’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change.

Saturday, January 26th

Martin Luther King Community Celebration, Including Presentation of the Winners of the MLK Writing Contest, 10AM - 1PM, University of Illinois Krannert Center for Performing Arts, 500 S Goodwin, Urbana. Organizers say this is a family-friendly event featuring performances and presentations by local musicians, theatrical and dance groups and arts and crafts for children to celebrate the life of Dr. King.


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