RICHLAND — A jazz concert. A sit-down dinner. A meaningful conversation about civil rights.
That's what Washington State University Tri-Cities students plan to offer during their fourth annual community conversation in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is recognized Monday with a national holiday.
The free event, which includes dinner, a panel-led discussion and a jazz concert, begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.
The event's goal is to celebrate a range of diversity, focusing an intergenerational conversation about civil rights accomplishments and remaining challenges.
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The WSU Tri-Cities Multicultural Club wanted to offer an event that gave locals the chance to dress up and have a nice night on the town with conversation, music and food, said club President Samantha Wilder, a WSU Tri-Cities junior majoring in social science.
The first 350 people to arrive at the student-run event will receive a free dinner, said Melissa O'Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities marketing manager. No tickets or reservations are needed.
Last year, more than 400 people attended, Wilder said. She hopes to see a similar number this year.
The size of the event is part of the reason the conversation is at the Three Rivers Convention Center this year and not the college, O'Neil Perdue said. And the location is more central to the Tri-Cities than the north Richland campus.
People of different races and ethnicities have similarities in the types of struggles and issues they face daily, said Wilder, 22, of Kennewick.
The members of the panel represent a wide spectrum of experiences, including WSU Tri-Cities students, professors and community members, she said.
Paul Strand, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of psychology, will moderate the discussion.
The panel includes Novella Bridges, a senior research chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Zixu Ha, president of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities; Jack Hamann, a Seattle author and journalist; Kimberlie S. Izaguirre-Merlos, a WSU Tri-Cities student; Joshua Wretzel, WSU Tri-Cities adjunct professor in philosophy; and Sheila Newsom, a recent WSU Tri-Cities graduate.
Those who attend will be able to ask the panel questions and express their own opinions about the issues discussed, Wilder said.
Kimberly Camp, artist and Hanford Reach Interpretive Center CEO, also will speak about the civil rights trail.
The evening will wrap up with a jazz performance by the Larry Fuller Quartet with guest vocalist Shilah Phillips, who became the first black woman to be crowned Miss Texas in 2006. The performance is expected to start at 8 p.m.
The performers came to last year's event and wanted to come back this year, Wilder said.
The Multicultural Club plans to give Commitment to Diversity awards to five students and college employees, Wilder said.
"You'd learn something if you came to this event," she said.
The event is sponsored by the African-American Community Cultural Education Society and Just Roses in Kennewick. The school's Humanities Club, Digital Technology and Culture Club, Psychology Club and Business Club are also contributing to the event.
-- Information: www.tricity.wsu.edu/mlk/
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org