Diane Nash, a leader and strategist in the 1960s civil rights movement, will speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration Feb. 1 at Modesto Junior College.
“The Dreams of the ’60s: A Legacy for Today,” a free community event, will celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with inspirational music by the Ware Singers and a short performance from the Sankofa Theatre Co.’s production of “Freedom Riders,” which is being presented at Gallo Center for the Arts on Feb. 14.
The 2014 MLK Legacy Award will be presented to Wayne Bridegroom, pastor of Central Baptist Church, applauding his leadership and dedication in helping the neighborhoods and people on Modesto’s west side for 40 years.
The 20th annual MLK commemoration begins with a reception from 5 to 6 p.m. at King-Kennedy Memorial Center, 601 S. Martin Luther King Drive. The MJC event with Nash will be at 7 p.m.
Raised in a middle-class Catholic family in Chicago, Nash attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., where she experienced the segregation of the Jim Crow South. Blacks drank from separate water fountains, used separate restrooms and could not dine at restaurants and lunch counters reserved for whites.
At workshops, Nash learned the merits of nonviolent direct action. She helped organize sit-ins at department stores and lunch counters and played a pivotal role in the 1961 Freedom Rides that challenged interstate bus segregation.
After their bus was burned in Anniston, Ala., and riders were injured in Birmingham, Ala., some leaders wanted to halt the Freedom Rides, but Nash argued it was the movement’s duty to continue and pressed her case with federal authorities and the news media.
In 1962, she was jailed for teaching nonviolent tactics to children. In many acts of civil disobedience with John Lewis, she refused bail for her arrests in order to be heard. Lewis is now a U.S. representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.
Nash also played key roles in the 1963 Birmingham desegregation campaign and the Selma voting rights campaign of 1965.
Today, she remains a prominent voice for human rights. Among her awards are the Rosa Parks Award, Distinguished American Award, LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights and Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum.
The program is organized by the Martin Luther King Commemoration Committee. Sponsors include the Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department; Modesto Junior College; Associated Students of Modesto Junior College; Modesto Peace/Life Center; California State University, Stanislaus; Rockwell, Kelly & Duarte, LLP; Valley Lexus/BMW; Marianne Villalobos; Indira Clark; College Avenue Congregational Church; Central Valley Democratic Club; MOCSE Federal Credit Union; and the Modesto Irrigation District.
For more information on the event or sponsorship, email James Costello, Modesto Peace/Life Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dan Onorato, MJC faculty emeritus, at email@example.com, or call (209) 526-5436.