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'Start where you are'

Mt. Hood instructor, student leaders urge community to move King's dream forward


When Larry Dawkins offers advice to young activists, he channels the advice Martin Luther King Jr. once gave him.

“Start where you are,” said Dawkins, a popular Mt. Hood Community College speech instructor. “Do good things locally.”

Shortly after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Dawkins, then a 21-year-old student from Arkansas, met King at Portland State College. Dawkins was helping people register to vote, and the experience left a resounding impact on his life.

by: OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Meeting Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 was the 'experience of a lifetime' for Larry Dawkins, a Mt. Hood Community College speech instructor.

“If you think he just made things better for black people, you’re missing the point,” Dawkins said. “He made things better for the whole country. The thing that made him spectacular was his intellect.”

Along with meeting King, Dawkins met Roy Wilkins, then executive director of the NAACP, and connected with the Ford Foundation.

Because of those early connections, Dawkins formed the Oregon Diversity Institute with four others and a grant from the Ford Foundation in the 1990s.

Now, diversity trainings are available at all community colleges across Oregon, and each quarter 150 students take a class at Mt. Hood focused on communicating across cultural barriers.

Today, Dawkins encourages young people to remember the sacrifices King made in his life and remember his basic ideals — his respect for people.

“Start where you are,” Dawkins reiterated. “Do the work where you are.”

BE YOUR DREAM

Mt. Hood Community College is hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. event, “Living the Dream,” from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the student union of the Gresham campus.

The event, focused on how to “walk the walk,” will feature former Mt. Hood student, community activist and spoken word artist Kashea “Hug Dealer” Kilson-Anderson.

“Our slogan at Mt. Hood is ‘Be your dream,’” said Crystal White, director of diversity for Associated Student Government. “We learn about King every year, but sometimes it sounds like a broken record. What are we doing to live the dream? What are we doing to promote peace in our neighborhoods?”

Kilson-Anderson will focus on a message of community service. Along with Kilson-Anderson’s presentation, the campus is encouraging students to involve themselves on campus, in their churches, at work and through city efforts.

“We have really busy lives, and (King’s) message isn’t just about celebrating on this day, but the whole year,” said Marcelino Bautista, community affairs director for Associated Student Government. “It’s critical we are here for not just the school but the community at large.”

Additionally, White and Bautista suggested students peruse websites for opportunities, including handsonportland.org, greshamoregon.gov/live and volunteermatch.org.

“A lot of the feedback I get from students and people in general is not having enough time,” White said. “The smallest seed will lead to the biggest tree. Start in your family, your house. If we all did our part to sweep the gutters, there wouldn’t be buildup in the winter.”



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