Join us on Wednesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m., for a presentation on the book Breaking Free From Rigid Boxes by local author Diana Koppen. The program will include an overview of Marion Helland’s 90 years. Diana will also be bringing “artifacts” and copies of her book to sign.
Born in Iowa to Norwegian immigrants in the 1920s, Marion Helland learned how to celebrate one’s differences and advocate for others who were seen as outsiders. From an early age, Marion gained knowledge from books, newspapers, and the radio that opened her eyes to the discrimination in the world that permeated well-beyond the borders of her small Iowa community. By becoming a schoolteacher, Marion found her avenue for pursuing equality and opening her students’ eyes to injustice, knowing that reading and critically analyzing their environments were the keys. In 1965, Marion responded to an ad “Teachers WANTED to Teach FREEDOM” and migrated to the segregated American South to help instill in her Black students the power of reading as books were their gatekeepers of freedom. There she began her lifelong commitment to social justice —alongside mentors Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young Jr., Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth— documenting her life’s work in fifty boxes of journals and photographs. Marion entrusted these boxes to her family to share with others, to remind us how a history of segregation and intolerance still resonates in our struggle for equality today.
The goal of this presentation and our memoir Breaking Free From Rigid Boxes: From the Outside Looking In is to encourage individuals to critically analyze situations by searching for facts within primary sources and then in turn draw informed conclusions: discovery learning versus indoctrination
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