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Modesto Junior College

Renowned author Michael Eric Dyson to speak at the Martin Luther King Commemoration

The keynote speaker for the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration is Michael Eric Dyson, renowned author, preacher, radio host and professor of sociology at Georgetown University. His presentation is entitled "Dr. King for the 21st Century.”

The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, 2019 in Performing Arts Center Auditorium at Modesto Junior College’s East Campus, 435 College Avenue in Modesto.  Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m.  The program celebrates the life and legacy of King and it is open to the public and admission is free.

Students of all ages are invited to participate in a discussion with Dyson at 4 p.m. on March 30 in the King-Kennedy Memorial Center. There is also an open reception for the public from 5-6 p.m. at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center.

The evening program also features the presentation of the 2019 MLK Legacy Award to Gene Palsgrove and Mary Baucher for their many years of involvement with multiple community service efforts in Modesto. The couple, whose separate families were next-door neighbors, were both previously married to spouses who themselves had a long history of community service, married each other eight years ago.

Palsgrove, a World War II conscientious objector, Church of the Brethren minister, teacher and principal in the Modesto City schools for 30 years, helped start the Community Rehabilitation Project in South Modesto.  He was also instrumental in founding the Modesto Peace/Life Center in 1970 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee in 1994, establishing Interfaith Ministries food bank and creating Modesto’s Sister City program with Khmelnitsky in the Ukraine.

Baucher helped found the Modesto Peace/Life Center and worked for many years with Friends Outside. She helped start a child care program at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, became a facilitator for the Bereaved Parent Support Group under the auspices of Via which merged with Community Hospice. She was involved with Habitat for Humanity and West-Care Adult Daycare Center and helped start the Modesto’s SERRV International Gift Shop. She has been intimately involved with disaster relief with the Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program through the Church of the Brethren.

The MLK event winds up with a question and answer session with Dyson.

Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor, ordained Baptist minister, a New York Times contributing opinion writer, and a contributing editor of The New Republic, came from humble roots in Detroit to his present place as a world class intellectual, author of 19 books and a prominent leader.

His honors include an American Book Award and two NAACP Image Awards. Ebony magazine cited him as one of the 100 most influential African Americans, and as one of the 150 most powerful blacks in the nation.

Dyson’s pioneering scholarship has had a profound effect on American ideas. His 1994 book “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X,” was named one of the most important African American books of the 20th century and was also named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.

Dyson's recent books, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,” and “What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America,” have also received praise. His eloquent writing inspired Vanity Fair magazine to describe him as “one of the most graceful and lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today.”

Dyson's legendary ascent – from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to prominent author – may help explain why writer Naomi Wolf terms him “the ideal public intellectual of our time.”

MLK Commemoration sponsors to date include the City of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department; Modesto Junior College; Modesto Peace/Life Center; California State University, Stanislaus; Associated Students of Modesto Junior College; Modesto Teachers Association; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Ed Fitzpatrick, Valley Lexus; College Avenue United Church of Christ; Rockwell, Kelly, Duarte and Urstoeger, LLP; DoubleTree by Hilton; Mocse Federal Credit Union; King-Kennedy Board of Directors; Turlock Teachers Association, and Central Valley Democratic Club.

Additional sponsors are still needed and anyone interested in donating or sponsoring are invited to contact Jim Costello at