Activist Diane Nash to headline Martin Luther King Day celebration

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Jan. 3, 2013
Activist Diane Nash will speak about how the '60s non-violence movement relates to today. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

The Martin Luther King Day celebration is set for Jan. 21, at 7 p.m., at Smith Middle School. The keynote speaker will be Diane Nash – who is known for her non-violent movement that helped desegregate Nashville, Tenn., through lunch-counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides that desegregated interstate travel and her work in the Selma right-to-vote movement that influenced the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The president of the Glastonbury MLK Community Initiative, Diane Lucas, said meetings began shortly after last year's celebration to plan ahead for this year's event, and that feedback forms are evaluated. “We try to bring someone in who will help educate or re-educate the community about the philosophies of Dr. King, but also about the fact that there are so many other amazing leaders around the world who are continuing the work he began.”

The decision to bring in Nash was made after a committee member suggested her because she was a student at the height of King's initiatives and a female leader of the Civil Rights movement.

“That was something we thought would really be a great addition to the speakers we've brought forward,” Lucas said. “She continues to this day to work on non-violence in this country and around the world.”

Nash's address is entitled “The Nonviolent Movement of the 1960s Holds Lessons for Today.” Lucas said Nash will talk about how the community can get involved in creating a less-violent world.

“In light of all the horrific acts that have continued, we know that one way to hopefully help is to have conversations, as well as outreach and connections in our community,” Lucas said. “It's often that lack of a connection that keeps people ostracized and causes internal violence. Then, that internal violence becomes external violent action. There are always needs for improvement in everything in life. It's obvious that there's still work to be done, so hopefully conversations and connections to people and keeping people in a non-violent mind-frame are key to this.”

Nash was arrested several times for her civil rights activities. She was jailed in Jackson, Miss., in 1961, while pregnant with her first child, and later served 30 days in jail in Rock Hill, S.C.

She became the director of the direct action arm of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1961, and three years later was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to a national committee that promoted passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She was also a field staff person, organizer, strategist, race relations staff person and workshop instructor for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1961 to 1965 and an activist in the peace movement that worked to end the Vietnam war.

Lucas added that the group's hope is to inspire youth, so they can “make their own paths to make things more peaceful in the world.” She said that while the GMLKCI is known for its signature event, the group also holds workshops and community conversations year-round. Those on tap for 2013 will be announced at the event. “We had four of them last year, and we've just received funding for continuing that,” she said.

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