Stanford King celebrations include book talks, worship services, open house

Headshot of Maria Gitin. She's wearing a purple sweater
Maria Gitin

Back in the early 1960s, MARIA GITIN had only a dim awareness of the emerging civil rights movement in America.

But soon enough, the 19-year-old girl from Petaluma found herself in the midst of an inspiring effort to register disenfranchised blacks to vote against racist intimidation and violence in the South.

On Jan. 28, Gitin will visit Stanford and read from her memoir, This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight. The  book is based on her original letters, reunions and conversational interviews with more than 50 Wilcox County, Ala., residents and former civil rights workers. Gitin also will lead a discussion about her experience in the civil rights movement.

The event takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Henry and Monique Brandon Community Room at the Black Community Services Center, 418 Santa Teresa Street. Lunch will be provided. It is free and open to students, faculty, staff and the public.

Gitin was a freshman at San Francisco State College when she felt called to action after viewing televised images of the brutal attacks on peaceful voting rights demonstrators during Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965, which are vividly depicted in the current film Selma. She immediately signed up for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where she helped African American activists in their nonviolent fight for the right to vote.

Gitin came from a rural low-income family; she had to raise her own funds to attend an intensive orientation in Atlanta where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke several times. She was assigned to Wilcox County, one of the most violently segregated counties in the South.

The Jan. 28 event is one of the events scheduled in celebration of the life of King.

Other events this month will include an open house at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute Friday, Jan. 16, from 3-5 p.m.  At that event, which is free and open to the public, visitors are invited to view exhibits of King-related photos and documents. At the open house, the Institute will celebrate the recent publication of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Volume VII “To Save the Soul of America, January 1961 – August 1962.” The volume documents King’s early relationship with President John F. Kennedy and his efforts to remain relevant in a protest movement that was growing increasingly militant.  JEWELLE TAYLOR GIBBS,  professor emerita at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California Berkeley, will be signing her new book Destiny’s Child: Memoirs of a Preacher’s Daughter, which traces 200 years of African American history through her own family and personal story.

The Institute is located at Cypress Hall D, 466 Via Ortega.

In addition, the Office for Religious Life will hold two services in commemoration of King at Memorial Church. On Sunday, Jan. 18, at 10 a.m., there will be an Ecumenical Christian Celebration and Communion honoring the life and ministry of  King. JANE SHAW, dean for religious life and professor of religious studies, will preach. The service also will feature the Stanford Gospel Choir.

The following Sunday, Jan. 25, at 10 a.m. there will be a Multifaith Celebration of King.  At that celebration, ELIZABETH WOODSON, executive president, Associated Students of Stanford University, will be the guest speaker. The service will include musical offerings by the Memorial Church Choir, Talisman a cappella and University Organist Robert Huw Morgan.

For more information on upcoming campus events commemorating King, visit the Stanford Events calendar.