“Institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” These are the orders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bestowed on Bernard LaFayette Jr. in 1968. Still devoted more than 50 years later to carrying out the edict for nonviolent social change, LaFayette will deliver the University of Mary Washington’s MLK Jr. Celebration keynote address Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.
The speech is part of a series of events hosted by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to recognize the life – and assassination – of the great civil rights leader. Activities include a MLK Jr. Kid’s Day for Fredericksburg area children, Day of Service for UMW students to get involved in community projects, and documentary film viewing and discussion.
A minister, educator and lecturer appointed by King to national leadership positions in the civil rights movement, LaFayette led the 1961 Freedom Rides alongside longtime civil rights leader James Farmer, who taught history and American Studies at UMW from 1985 to 1998. King named LaFayette to national roles as program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign. LaFayette also co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Nashville Movement lunch counter sit-ins, and directed the 1962 Alabama voter registration project in Selma, Alabama.
“We are very honored to have Dr. LaFayette as the MLK, Jr. keynote speaker this year,” said JFMC Director Marion Sanford. “He has been a trailblazer and visionary in his own right in the fight for civil rights, dignity and justice for everyone.”
In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma, which LaFayette co-wrote with Kathryn Lee Johnson, received the prestigious Lillian Smith Book Award in May 2014. Rep. John Lewis wrote in his foreword to the book, “A powerful history of struggle, commitment and hope. No one, but no one, who lived through the creation and development of the movement for voting rights in Selma is better prepared to tell this story than Bernard LaFayette himself.”
On Sunday, Jan. 20, from 3 to 5 p.m., MLK Jr. Kids Day at Fredericksburg’s James Monroe High School, invites area children to participate in games, crafts and other activities in honor of King. The event is part of a 13th annual communitywide celebration sponsored by the Fredericksburg-area Partnership for Academic Excellence.
King in the Wilderness, an HBO documentary examining King’s philosophical struggles and commitment to nonviolence in the face of increasing political unrest, will be shown on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m., in the University Center’s Colonnade Room.
UMW’s MLK Celebration culminates in the Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Chandler Ballroom. Service projects donated to various Fredericksburg area agencies will be available for students and other members of the campus community to complete. The event includes a continental breakfast and lunch, and ends with a discussion on servant leadership and the importance of working toward social change.
All events are free and open to the public. For information, contact the JFMC at 540-654-1044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.