Martin Luther King Community Celebration will be held Jan. 18
The 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at the Stevens Point Area Senior High School auditorium, 1201 North Point Drive, Stevens Point.
The keynote speaker will be Jacqueline Houtman, a Madison area author who is co-author of the book “Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist.” Rustin was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and was also a longtime adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Performances will be also be provided by the Amherst High School Chamber Singers and the Amherst High School Women’s Choir.
The public is invited to attend. Admission is free, and refreshments will be offered after the performances. For more information contact Jamie at 715-344-3677.
Many local organizations and nonprofit groups will attend the celebration, displaying information about what they do and how the community can get involved.
This is the ninth edition of the event started by Katherine Munck, the former director of Justiceworks. The celebration is used to remind community members of the historical significance of the civil rights movement and to encourage people to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The event is meant to inspire, educate and motivate people to focus on the dream of King while also working to combat racism.
Elizabeth Fulton, a member of the planning committee, said the event offers an opportunity to focus in on what does King’s dream means today. There are a lot of issues that society needs to address, she said, and restorative justice hasn’t achieved its goal at this point.
Houtman is a freelance writer who holds a doctorate in medical microbiology and immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her science writing for adults and children has appeared in numerous academic and educational publications. Her award-winning novel for young readers, “The Reinvention of Edison Thomas” was chosen for five state reading lists.
Houtman said she, Walter Naegle and Michael Long collaborated on the manuscript for the book, after Naegle, Long and QuakerPress, the publisher, asked her to help them make Rustin’s life come alive for young readers.
The preface of the book opens with a quote from Rustin, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”
The authors wrote that Rustin knew that social problems, such as violence, poverty and racial, religious and ethnic divisions, often divide the human community; everyday people, including children and youth, can heal the brokenness.
He was convinced that people have the power to create a place where to enjoy peace, unity and economic justice, the authors said, but people have to be troublemakers, refusing to cooperate with anyone or anything that supports racism, sexism, poverty and violence as a means for dealing with human conflict.
Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence and gay rights but stayed out of the limelight, working behind the scenes. He helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, becoming a leading strategist of the Civil Rights Movement.
Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fulton said she was surprised to learn about Rustin because she hadn’t really heard of him before. “He played a huge role, but I didn’t know about it until I read the book.”
Justiceworks will present the annual John Klismet Award to a community member who has worked to advance restorative justice in the area. This year’s winner has yet to be publicly announced.
Fulton said the program is not run by Justiceworks, but the committee’s mission for the program goes hand-in-hand with that of Justiceworks. Justiceworks is involved with celebration, but the celebration is supported through the work of volunteers and the donations of local churches and organizations, she said.
Justiceworks is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the advancement of programs that secure right relationships between offenders, victims and their communities. The Portage County-based program was founded by volunteers who wanted to work toward community justice.