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January 19 – 21 Billie Jean Young, a veteran stage actress, civil rights activist and educator, will present a series of events at Colby College in Waterville in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. All of the events are open to the public and free of charge.
Sunday, January 19, at 3 p.m. Young will present the address “They Worked and Walked With King.” A former board member of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, Young will discuss the history of the civil rights movement in America. The event will be held in the Pugh Center of Cotter Union.
Monday, January 20, at noon Young will perform the one-woman show She Worked and Walked with King as the keynote event of the series. Through drama and song, Young portrays Fannie Lou Hamer, the 20th child of a Mississippi sharecropping family who went on to become a civil rights activist. In 1962 Hamer was brutally beaten during a confrontation with law enforcement officers while attempting to register to vote. She later became a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which put pressure on Congress to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The performance will be held in the Page Commons Room of Cotter Union.
Tuesday, January 21, at 4 p.m. Young will discuss her own civil rights work and life in southwest Alabama. The event will be held in the Pugh Center of Cotter Union.
Young has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellows Award and Essence magazine’s Legends in Our Time Award. In 1995 she received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Artistic Achievement and later that year the Lucy Terry Prince Unsung Heroine Award from the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights’ Women and the Law Forum. She is the founder and director of The Drama Project, which helps women and young people recognize and respond to child abuse. In 1981, Young co-founded the Southern Rural Women’s Network, which supports quality of life issues. Young earned her bachelor’s degree at Judson College and her juris doctorate at Samford University.