Virginia to honor MLK with series of 'Community Conversations'

RICHMOND — The state’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission will commemorate the 50th anniversary of its namesake’s assassination through 12 “Community Conversations” beginning in March, each one at a location the Rev. King visited in Virginia, including one session at First Baptist Church in Williamsburg.

At these conversations, community leaders, religious leaders, historians, educators and residents will join members of the commission in reviewing King’s legacy and his time spent in the commonwealth. According to spokeswoman Lilly Jones, the conversations will reflect on King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” in each location today and ponder the question he penned in his 1967 book, “Where do we go from here?”

The Perkins Living and Learning Center at Virginia Union University in Richmond will host the first conversation from 6-8 p.m March 1. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who chairs the commission, will moderate the panel discussion.

The panel will include Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond; VUU Vice President Corey Walker; VUU graduate student Jamar Boyd II; the Rev. Jim Somerville of First Baptist Church in Richmond; the Rev. Janie Walker of Richmond Hill; and Benjamin Ragsdale, a Richmond resident who met King twice while working in civil rights and anti-war movements.

The roundtable discussions are part of the commission’s larger project, titled “King in Virginia.” In that project, historians, researchers and community members will gather and present information on King’s dozens of visits to Virginia.

King, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism, spent lengthy time in Richmond, often speaking at VUU. In 1960, he led a march on the Virginia State Capitol where he pushed for the reopening of public schools that had closed due to resistance of desegregation.

The “King in Virginia” project will create a public online archive bookmarking the activist’s time spent in Virginia.

Other Community Conversations will be held:

● At the University of Virginia’s Old Cabell Hall on March 13

● At First Baptist Church in Farmville on April 24

● At First Baptist Church of Williamsburg on June 6

● And on dates to be announced in Danville, Hampton, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg and Suffolk.

All events are free and open to the public. Visit the commission’s websitemlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov — for more information.

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