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News / Clark County News

Clark County organizations plan, offer events for MLK Jr. Day

By Nika Bartoo-Smith, Columbian staff reporter, and
Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 12, 2023, 6:30pm

Honoring the legacy of civil rights activist and leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many organizations offer service opportunities and celebrations during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day that falls on the third Monday in January.

It has been 40 years since Martin Luther King Jr. Day first became a federal holiday in 1983. In 1994, it was named the nation’s first national day of service.

Local organizations around Clark County will also be hosting ways to celebrate and participate in the national day of service.

Local nonprofit iUrban Teen is hosting its 13th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

“It’s a very inspiring day,” said Deena Pierott, executive director and board chair for iUrban Teen. “It feels like a big family reunion (because) many of the same people attend every year.”

The event has hosted many noteworthy speakers in the past, including John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, according to Pierott. This year the main speakers will be 3rd District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and the Rev. Matt Hennessee.

The event will also include a musical performance by Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Take 6.

Tickets for the event are on sale now, with much of the fund going toward scholarships for youth via iUrban Teen.


For individuals who like the outdoors and want to participate in community service, the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, in partnership with Odyssey World International Education Services, is hosting its annual day of service. Participants will help plant native trees along Burnt Bridge Creek in Vancouver.

“We have hundreds of people come out to plant thousands of trees. It really is an incredible transformation over a short period of time,” Sunrise O’Mahoney, executive director for the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, told The Columbian. “On average we plant 4,000 trees with around 250 volunteers.”

This year, participants will also plant in a section of the site that was created in 2021 in memory of those in the people of color community who lost their lives to COVID-19.

“I wanted the most marginalized people in Clark County, BIPOC individuals, to be recognized,” said Karen Morrison, executive director of Odyssey World International Education Services. “We lost our lives to COVID too.”

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The event will start at Fort Vancouver High School. The organizations ask participants to wear long pants, closed-toed shoes and dress for the weather. Participants are also advised to bring water and snacks. The all-ages event will also have a Spanish speaker onsite to provide translation as needed.

To register for the event visit thewatershedalliance.org/events.

School events

Washington State University Vancouver will also hold events honoring the holiday throughout the rest of January, starting with a celebration and recognition of the National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday.

The event will begin at 9:10 a.m. on Zoom with a series of virtual panel discussions on racial healing and transformation facilitated by Lisa Guerrero, WSU Pullman’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusive excellence, among others. The events will culminate with a series of workshops and performances led by Portland-based musician and activist Chrissy Wood beginning at 5 p.m. in the Firstenburg Student Commons.

For more information about Tuesday’s events throughout the day, visit WSUV’s website here: https://provost.wsu.edu/ndorh-schedule/.

WSU Vancouver’s Center for Intercultural Learning and Affirmation will also host a book drive from Tuesday through Friday. Interested participants can drop off books at one of three silver donation bins on the Vancouver campus: the Firstenburg Student Commons, Library foyer and the Dengerink Administration building foyer. All donations will benefit the Vancouver area’s Little Free Library program.

In recognition of the holiday, Clark College will be screening the one-hour documentary, “Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts” at noon Wednesday at the Gaiser Student Center. The screening is free and open to the public.

The film was directed by Dru Holley of Vancouver and was recently named Pacific Northwest Best Documentary at the Tacoma Film Festival. It explores the roles played by the Buffalo Soldiers, a regiment of Black soldiers in the U.S. Army in the 19th century.

Information about this event and a trailer for the film can be found online at clark.edu/campus-life/arts-events/mlk/index.php.

Public lands

Across the nation, the U.S. Forest Service will honor the holiday and King’s work toward equality by waiving all standard amenity fees for visitors to national forest and grassland day-use areas for the day, according to a press release.

All standard recreation use fees for Forest Service-managed picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads and visitor centers will be waived on Monday.