Civil rights activist Andrew Young to speak at Martin Luther King Commemoration

The keynote speaker for the 23rd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration is Andrew Young, civil rights activist and former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Young will speak on "A Continuing Legacy."

The event is scheduled for Saturday, February 4, 2017 in the Modesto Junior College Performing Arts and Media Center Auditorium, 435 College Avenue in Modesto.  Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m.  The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The program also features the presentation of the 2017 MLK Legacy Award to John Ervin II, who is being honored for his work with youth through Project Uplift, a program he founded, and for his involvement in the Sankofa Theatre Company, Modesto’s African American drama group, and other community efforts. 

The evening winds ups with a question and answer session with Young, followed by a book signing opportunity. Young's book, which he co-authored with Kabir Sehgal, Walk in My Shoes: Conversations between a Civil Rights Legend and his Godson on the Journey Ahead, is available in advance at the Pirates' Bookstore on East Campus and will be for sale at the event in the Auditorium Lobby.

Prior to the commemoration, students are invited to meet Young and ask questions during an informal student discussion held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the MJC Little Theatre.

After attending segregated schools, Young entered Howard University early, graduating in 1951 at age 19. Ordained a minister in 1955, he became active in the civil rights movement organizing voter registration drives in the African-American community, and endured death threats due to his work.

In 1961 he led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) "citizenship schools," working closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. to teach non-violent organizing strategies. Young organized desegregation efforts including the May 1963 march in Birmingham where police dogs viscously attacked the marchers. He often oversaw the SCLC when King was in jail and was a key negotiator during civil rights campaigns that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1972 Young became the first African-American congressional representative from the Deep South since Reconstruction.

In 1977, President Carter appointed Young as the nation's first African-American United Nations ambassador where he negotiated an end to white-minority rule in Namibia and Zimbabwe emphasizing human rights in international diplomacy.

Elected Mayor of Atlanta in 1981, he was re-elected with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Young helped bring the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta, receiving the Olympic Order, the Olympic Movement's highest award for his work.

In 2003, he founded the Andrew J. Young Foundation to support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean. He produced Andrew Young Presents, the Emmy-nominated series of specials. In 2011 he received an Emmy Lifetime Achievement award.

His books include A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young, An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America, and Walk in My Shoes: Conversations between a Civil Rights Legend and his Godson on the Journey Ahead, co-authored by Kabir Sehgal.

In addition to his many honorary degrees and the NACCP's Spingarn Medal, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and France, the Legion d'Honneur.

In order to host this free, public event, the organizers depend solely on generous donations of money or services from co-sponsors and donors.  For additional information on sponsorship or the event contact Jim Costello at jcostello@igc.org or 209-402-9191, or Dan Onorato, MJC professor emeritus, at onoratod@att.net, 209-526-5436.