On the campus of one of the most diverse colleges in the Midwest, McPherson College, in conjunction with the community-wide MAC Diversity Team, will celebrate the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
On Jan. 20, the celebration - previously held at McPherson High School - will include a special documentary presentation and a jazz music performance.
In connection with the Lincoln County Historical Society, the first event of the day will be a screening of “The Loving Story” at 1 p.m. in Melhorn Hall, room 112, on the campus of McPherson College, 1600 E. Euclid.
The society is one of 473 institutions across the United States awarded a set of four documentary films under an initiative between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History called “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle.” The films chronicle the history of the civil rights movement across 150 years.
“The Loving Story” documents the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, who were arrested in Virginia in July 1958 for breaking a state law banning marriage between people of different races. It follows their love and affection and the landmark legal battle that followed their arrest. “The Loving Story” was nominated for three Emmy Awards in 2013 and received a Peabody Award.
Following the film, special guests Justin and Ara Echols will leads a special discussion about interracial marriage.
Justin Echols, of Oklahoma City, Okla., will also be the guest speaker and performer for the evening event of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His performance will begin at 7 p.m. in Brown Auditorium. Echols is an internationally known jazz musician, mentored by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and Antonio Ciacca, Juilliard professor and director of programming at Jazz at Lincoln Center. His performances have included venues as far away as the Czech Republic and Italy and in such prominent domestic venues as Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Setai Hotel in New York City. In Oklahoma City, Echols is the artistic director and artist in residence at Hefner Grill and was the youngest inductee to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2012.
Echols story in jazz began when an injury resulted in his discharge from the U.S. Army Reserves and he returned to the Oklahoma City Police Department. During this difficult time, he discovered a talent for piano and singing. With strong vocals and straight-ahead jazz, his work lives in the tradition of masters such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ray Charles.
Also performing will be the McPherson High School Jazz Band, under direction of Joel Wagoner. The public is invited and encouraged to attend these free events.