By Mac McLean

The Bulletin

Events highlighting problems with the country’s criminal justice system are taking center stage when Central Oregon Community College gets ready to celebrate its fifth Season of Nonviolence later this month.

Starting Jan. 30, the seven-week event will include a discussion about alternatives to incarceration, a film about a Texas woman who was wrongly arrested for dealing drugs and a visit by filmmaker Dawn Porter, who made a movie about public defenders in the Deep South.

“Essentially (Porter’s) going to be talking about ways our criminal justice system really isn’t just,” said Karen Roth, the director of COCC’s multicultural activities program and the organizer of this year’s Season of Nonviolence.

Launched by the United Nations in 1998, the Season of Nonviolence is an international event that marks the anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s deaths by drawing attention to the way nonviolent protest can be used to achieve social change.

Roth said COCC held its first Season of Nonviolence in 2009 and over the years expanded its offering so it recognizes contributions made by Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee nation.

“Every year our programs are a little different,” Roth said.

She said the community college’s previous Season of Nonviolence celebrations have featured events looking at the Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists who rode interstate buses in the early 1960s, and a talk by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Manilal Gandhi.

She said this year will be special because the event is dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela, the South African leader and anti-apartheid crusader who died on Dec. 5 at age 95.

In addition to its focus on the criminal justice system, Roth said the event will feature presentations about what recent immigrants experienced when they first moved to this country and a one-man play about union leader Harry Bridges.

Here is a full list of the season’s events, which are taking place at either COCC’s Bend campus, 2600 N.W. College Way, or at its Redmond campus, 2030 S.E. College Loop:

• “Beyond Bars: Rethinking our Reliance on Prisons” (3:30 p.m. Jan. 30, Bend campus Willie Hall) — Author and professor Walidah Imarisha explores what people know about prisons and alternatives to incarceration.

• “American Violet” (noon, Feb. 3, Redmond campus room 306) — This 2008 drama looks at how a Texas woman struggled to prove her innocence after being improperly arrested for dealing drugs. It will be shown again at the Bend campus’s Hitchcock Auditorium at 5 p.m. Feb. 4.

• “From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks” (6:30 p.m. Feb. 13, Bend campus Hitchcock Auditorium) — Co-sponsored by Central Oregon Jobs for Justice, this one-man-play celebrates the life of Harry Bridges, a San Francisco labor leader who organized the dock workers.

• “Harvest of an Empire” (noon Feb. 17, Redmond campus room 306) — This 2012 documentary chronicles the history of Latinos in America from the first colonies to the new millennium. It will be shown again at the Bend campus’s Hitchcock Auditorium at 3 p.m. Feb. 18.

• “Gideon’s Army” (4 p.m. Feb. 26, Bend campus Willie Hall) — This 2013 documentary follows a group of overworked public defenders in the Deep South. Filmmaker Dawn Porter will follow its showing with a 7 p.m. discussion of the film and the American criminal justice system.

• “The Changing Face of America: Immigration Then and Now” (noon March 5, Bend Campus Willie Hall) — Actor/author Judith Sloan will discuss her 2003 book and play “Crossing the BLVD,” which looks at the immigrant and refugee communities of Queens, N.Y. The college will host a performance of this play at 7 p.m.

— Reporter: 541-617-7816,

This article has been corrected. The original version misstated a screening time and date for “Harvest of an Empire.” The Bulletin regrets the error.