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Belated birthday event for MLK will honor Modesto couple who has worked for peace

Michael Eric Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the annual commemoration for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Modesto Junior College, California, on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and author of several books on race.
Michael Eric Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the annual commemoration for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Modesto Junior College, California, on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and author of several books on race. Modesto Junior College

A nationally known author will speak about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a Modesto event that also honors a local couple involved in peace work.

Michael Eric Dyson will be the keynote speaker Saturday night at the 25th annual MLK Commemoration at Modesto Junior College. It usually happens around the Jan. 15 birthday of the slain civil rights leader, but Dyson’s busy schedule forced a postponement.

The program includes presentation of the 2019 MLK Legacy Award to Gene Palsgrove and Mary Baucher. They helped found the Modesto Peace/Life Center, among many efforts.

The commemoration, free and open to the public, will be in the Performing Arts Center Auditorium on the East Campus, 435 College Ave. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the program will start at 7.

Students of all ages can take part in a discussion with Dyson from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center, 601 S. Martin Luther King Drive. He will remain there for a public reception from 5 to 6 p.m.

Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. , and a Baptist minister. His 19 books include “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X” and “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.”

Dyson’s topic in Modesto: “Dr. King for the 21st Century.”

Palsgrove and Baucher married eight years ago. Both were previously married to spouses who themselves were involved in community service, and the two families were next-door neighbors.

Palsgrove was a World War II conscientious objector, a Church of the Brethren minister and a teacher and principal in Modesto City Schools for 30 years. He helped start the Community Rehabilitation Project in south Modesto, the MLK Commemoration Committee, the Interfaith Ministries food bank and Modesto’s Sister City program with Khmelnitsky, Ukraine.

Baucher worked with Friends Outside, which connects with prison inmates, and helped start a child care program at Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown. She was a facilitator for the Bereaved Parent Support Group at Via, which merged with Community Hospice.

Baucher also was involved with Habitat for Humanity, the West-Care Adult Daycare Center, the SERRV International Gift Shop and the Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program through the Church of the Brethren.

The commemoration is sponsored by the Peace/Life Center, the college and numerous partners. People who can help with the event costs can contact Jim Costello at jcostello@igc.org.

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