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Kent Ford, founder of Portland's Black Panther chapter, will be featured speaker

COURTESY PHOTO  - The Northwest Freedom singers will perform again at Mary's Woods MLK celebration event Jan. 18. Welcome, celebration and education: The Mary's Woods Diversity Task Force aims to spread awareness of those themes through special events and discussions with influential speakers.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the task force is hosting its sixth annual MLK celebration that will feature keynote speaker Kent Ford — founder of Portland's Black Panther movement. The event will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Chapel of the Holy Names at Mary's Woods, 17400 Holy Names Drive.

"We don't try to reinvent the wheel every year, we work to get a really good speaker in," said Janice McGuire, community engagement and events manager at Mary's Woods.

Past civil rights speakers have included Geneva Craig and Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe, C.T. Vivian, Ron Silver and Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

McGuire and Community Life and Concierge Manager Stacy Sharma — who are co-chairs of the diversity task force — said the idea to invite Ford to speak was sparked after a suggestion from Bruce Poinsette with Respond to Racism.

Sharma thought it would be powerful to have such a prominent figure from the local community speak.

Ford will talk about his personal memories of revolutionary activism and community service, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King and the peace movement. The Northwest Freedom Singers will also perform and Silver, the event's MC, will prepare a memorial tribute to civil rights leaders who have passed away over the last year.

COURTESY PHOTO  - Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell was the featured speaker at a past event.Though the public is invited to attend the free event, both McGuire and Sharma said if someone is unable to attend, Tualatin Valley Community Television video tapes the event and provides a playback the following month on cable.

Directly following the celebration there will be an opportunity to informally talk with the keynote speaker.

"That can be a nice opportunity for people to have some one-on-one conversation with the speaker in an informal setting," Sharma said.

Sharma added that the task force hopes to reach young people to promote an "intergenerational experience so the younger generation can hear what Kent has to say."

Sharma and McGuire said the task force has hosted several discussions and talks to educate the community and spread awareness of civil rights issues.

In collaboration with West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community and Respond to Racism, the task force plans to kick off a spring series to "further educate on the topic of equity and diversity and really celebrate our differences and educate in the process," Sharma said.

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