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Activist, essayist and poet to give MLK Day keynote address Jan. 20

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s special events marking the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday will center on “three giants” – racism, militarism and materialism

There will be a screening of the film The Loving Story Jan. 19 and a presentation by Ewuare Osayande Jan. 20. Both events begin at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center.

The Loving Story, a 77-minute documentary released in 2011, tells the story of a young couple whose ordinary action – getting married – eventually resulted in the end of anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.

Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in July 1958 in Virginia for violating a state law that banned marriage between people of different races. Although such laws had been on the books in most states since the 17th century, the Lovings never expected to be awakened in their bedroom in the middle of the night and arrested.

The documentary, directed by Nancy Buirski and written by Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James, brings to life the Lovings’ marriage and the legal battle that followed, through little-known filmed interviews and photographs shot for Life magazine.

The screening of The Loving Story at Bethel will be followed by a discussion time led by Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, professor of social work.

Monday evening’s program will feature a keynote address titled “Facing the Giant Triplets: Racism, Militarism and Materialism” by Ewuare Osayande, who coordinates the Anti-Oppression ministry for Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Members of Bethel's Multicultural Student Union will also present some songs, poetry and a reading from one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.

Osayande’s title comes from King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” given April 4, 1967: “[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Osayande brings more than 20 years’ experience to the work of anti-oppression. He is an educator, writer and activist who has spoken at and provided workshops for colleges, congregations and community groups across the country, addressing the social realities of race, gender and class.

Most recently, Osayande taught African-American studies at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J.

In 2002, he co-founded POWER (People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism), an anti-racism learning experience and workshop series. In 2006, he created Onus Rites-of-Passage, an anti-sexist character development program for African-American boys and young men that emphasizes cultural awareness, academic success and community engagement.

Osayande’s poetry and essays have been collected in a number of anthologies, including Men Speak Out: Profeminist Views on Gender, Sex and Power, edited by Shira Tarant (Routledge); Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 Poems for Ken Saro-Wiwa, edited by Nii Ayikwei Parkes (flipped eye publishing); and What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation, edited by Joy James (South End Press).

Osayande is the author of several books, including Whose America?: New & Selected Poems and Commemorating King: Speeches Honoring the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

He is also the editor of Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander. All proceeds from the sale of Stand Our Ground are being donated to the Trayvon Martin Foundation and the Legal Defense Fund for Marissa Alexander.

The screening of The Loving Story and the Jan. 20 MLK Day celebration are free and open to the public. There will be a freewill offering taken during the Jan. 20 program to support the Newton Community for Racial Justice.

The film presentation and discussion following are funded through the Bridging Cultures initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History and supported by local partners Bethel College, Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Kauffman Museum, the Mennonite Library and Archives and the Newton Public Library.

For more information on the special events of Jan. 19-20, see the Bethel website,, or call Multicultural Student Union adviser Jean Butts at 316-284-5338.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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