In the tight text of her Twitter bio, Tara Murray uses these words to describe herself: human rights defender, truth teller, justice lover, freedom fighter.
A civil and human rights lawyer in Washington, D.C., she’ll share more of her story tomorrow as the keynote speaker for the University of Mary Washington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. Her talk will take place in the Chandler Ballroom inside the Cedric Rucker University Center at 7 p.m. It’s followed by activities that draw service and the arts into a weeklong recognition of the late civil rights icon.
As deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Murray tackles structural racism and xenophobia. Her work – featured by CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and others – is “impressive and trailblazing,” said Marion Sanford, director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), which presents the MLK Celebration.
Inspired by her experience growing up in a Los Angeles neighborhood where the police presence was heavy-handed, Murray earned a law degree from Harvard. She went on to run her own firm and serve as deputy director for the London-based human rights nonprofit Reprieve, handling issues including prisoner rights, police accountability and education reform.
With Reprieve, she represented Guantanamo detainees in federal district court and led the organization’s first investigations into civilian casualties in drone strikes in Pakistan, an initiative that’s expanded to include Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“She has significantly impacted local, national, and global policy in her tireless fight to achieve justice and dismantle racism,” Sanford said. “I know she will have an inspiring message for all.”
Other Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events include the “Speaking Truth to Power” exhibit of art, music, dance and spoken word created by members of the UMW campus community in honor of Dr. King and other leaders in the fight for human rights and social justice. It’s open to the public and will take place Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m., in Lee Hall’s Underground.
UMW students from across campus will also participate in the annual MLK Jr. Day of Service event on Saturday, Jan. 21. Participants will honor Dr. King’s vision by taking part in a variety of service projects to benefit Fredericksburg-area agencies.
And as part of Black History Month in February, UMW will host the Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Project – also known as the vMLK Project – from North Carolina State University. The interactive project combines re-creations and technologies to allow viewers and visitors to experience a speech by Dr. King. It will be on view Wednesday, Feb. 22, and Thursday, Feb. 23, in the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium.
For more information on this week’s events, visit the JFMC’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration page. For a list of events set to take place next month, visit the JFMC’s Black History Month Celebration page.