The Pickerington Public Library will play host to a civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., as well as representatives of people with disabilities, varying gender orientations and voting advocates for their second “Know Your Rights Day.”

Ron Payne, a lifelong civil rights activist, will share his story of marching with King in Selma, Alabama, as well as a presentation called “Don’t Be Wrong About Your Rights,” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 at the library’s main branch, 201 Opportunity Way.

Program organizers said the event is being billed as a day dedicated to educating the public and increasing knowledge about civil rights, diversity and how society is strengthened when people respect each other.

The program also will feature presentations by representatives of the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who will discuss the rights of disabled individuals, and members of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, who will discuss LGBT rights and those for immigrants.

Additionally, members of the League of Women Voters will share voting rights and discuss the impact of women on Ohio elections.

“Diversity is a strength of the Pickerington community and embracing our differences can only bring us closer together,” said Erikka Sawdey, a reference assistant at the Pickerington library who organized Know Your Rights Day.

“The library has always been a center of education for lifelong learners and we hope these speakers will bring new information and insight to the community.”

Last year, the library hosted a similar event, but it was cast as a weeklong series of activities and programs.

Library Community Relations Coordinator Colleen Bauman said officials received feedback that a condensed, one-day event would be a better fit for people with busy schedules.

“We envision our library as a vibrant hub in the community, open to all, accepting of all,” Bauman said. “Part of our mission is to connect community, and what better way than to offer information and resources to encourage understanding and respect of others.”

Know Your Rights Day is free and there are no registration requirements.

Library Director Tony Howard said he hopes the event will help to foster “tolerance and understanding” in the community.

He said Payne is an Ohio State University graduate who has served as a Methodist pastor.

During his seminary days, Payne was part of an integrated caravan of students who traveled to Selma to march across a bridge there with King in March 1965. The students were there on March 25 when Viola Liuzzo, a white woman and civil rights activist, was shot and killed by Klu Klux Klan members.

After decades of promoting progressive causes during his career as a pastor, Payne has volunteered as a legislative advocate for AARP and is a frequent speaker for the American Civil Liberties Union. He now lives in Milford Center, Ohio.

“Among the many rights we enjoy as Americans, civil rights is an area of continuous struggle for equality among our citizenry,” Howard said. “When we contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Ron Payne was one of the speakers they recommended and we were fortunate that our event fit his busy schedule.

“Mr. Payne was involved in the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Selma Alabama in 1965. His firsthand experiences and understanding of where we are as a country today will offer great insight for our community.”

Bauman said the other organizations also were invited to provide access to information about rights for people of all backgrounds.

“By partnering with these organizations, we create an opportunity to allow them to offer knowledge and awareness of some of the diverse groups that are part of our community,” she said. “The library hopes that attendees will increase their knowledge and awareness of their rights.

“Additionally, this is an ideal way for people to connect with local organizations that make a difference in our community.”

Additional information about Know Your Rights Day is available at pickeringtonlibrary.org.

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