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Marches, Speeches, Report Honor MLK

A slew of events in Lane County will honor Martin Luther King Jr., the week of Jan. 18, including several marches, a talk by a leading black journalist and the release of a report on the Oregon Legislature and racial equity.

On Jan. 18, the MLK holiday, the Lane County chapter of the NAACP will host a march to honor the life of the civil rights leader beginning 9 am outside the north gate of Autzen Stadium, according to the chapter’s president, Eric Richardson. 

“We hope to have a unified message of peace honoring Dr. King’s vision,” Richardson says.

The march will begin with speeches by student representatives from the UO’s Black Student Union, UO Provost and Senior Vice President Scott Coltrane and Mayor Kitty Piercy. At 10 am, attendees will begin marching towards The Shedd Institute where they’ll hear from city officials as well as clergy from different faiths. 

Richardson says, “As descendants of slaves in the U.S., who went through that and still love this country, that’s the struggle — to honor all the people who lived through that and the idea they lived through it but still held on to the love of those ideals, liberty and freedom.” 

There will be a second march held in Springfield, beginning at 1 pm at the Springfield Police Station, 230 Fourth Street, and ending at Springfield High School. 

Richardson says organizers have partnered with EmX to provide day passes so people can attend both marches. Most of the passes have been delivered to local schools, but he says some can be found at the Human Rights Center located at the Atrium Building, 99 W. 10th Ave.

White House correspondent and author April Ryan will visit Eugene for a dinner event to honor King’s life at 7 pm Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the UO’s Columbia Hall, Room 150. The event is free and open to the public.

City Councilor Greg Evans says of Ryan: “We picked her because she is one of the leading black journalists in this country.” 

Evans, who also works at LCC, which co-sponsors the event, adds, “She just published a book that’s been nominated for an NAACP Image Award about her covering three presidents, literally from the basement of the White House press corps.”

Ryan has covered the White House since 1997 for the American Urban Radio Networks. Her news blog The Fabric of America offers a “unique urban and minority perspective in news.”

Evans says MLK Day is incredibly important because not much has changed when it comes to race in America. 

“The issues have not changed,” Evans says. “We had the same issues when he died in 1968, when I was 7 years old. It’s the same stuff we grapple with now.”

Also calling attention to the issues facing people of color, a report was released Jan. 14 by the Racial Equity Report working group highlighting 20 pieces of legislation in Oregon that have significant impacts on the state’s communities of color. Seventeen of them were passed into law, and the three that didn’t pass were recommended to be prioritized in 2017: the health gap for children under 18, comprehensive women’s health and affordable housing. 

The report outlines each piece of legislation and its impact on communities of color from paid sick leave to the new Motor Voter law, and it details Oregon’s “long, well-documented history of racism that is reflected in public policy.”

The working group is a coalition of racial and social justice organizations ranging from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon to the Urban League of Portland.

The full report can be found on FacingRaceOregon.org.