On January 17, Indiana University celebrated the 36th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday in the United States. An essential component of the day included the second annual social justice conference titled "A Journey Toward True Education." The conference theme comes from "The Purpose of Education," written by Martin Luther King Jr. and published in the Morehouse campus newspaper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947. In the article, King argues that education has a utilitarian and moral function, insisting that character and moral development are necessary to give the critical intellect humane purposes. The virtual conference boasted over 1,000 registrants from across the IU system.
The conference offered various unique virtual sessions focused on diversity and social justice. Sessions such as " Interrogating Islamophobia," "IU Student Activism: Then & Now," and "Centering Minoritized Populations in Social Justice Efforts: Research and Practical Implications" were attended throughout the day.
In addition, a student and a community member from each IU campus, regional center, and the IU School of Medicine received the annual Building Bridges Award for capturing Dr. King's vision, spirit, and leadership in their work. Additionally, selected student organizations on IU campuses received the MLK Student Organization Grant of $500 for programs, event sponsorships, or efforts supporting inclusivity, respect for diversity, and community service. A complete list of awardees is available here.
Another highlight of the conference was The Reverend Dr. William Barber II and Professor Tabitha Jones Jolivet providing relevant and powerful keynote addresses focused on the power of education and the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Rev. Barber is the president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach; co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary; and senior fellow at Auburn Seminary. Rev. Barber has given keynote addresses at hundreds of national and state conferences, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention, a highly sought-after speaker and featured in media outlets such as MSNBC, TIME, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and The Nation Magazine. In addition, Rev. Barber was named one of BET's 100 Entertainers and Innovators in 2020.
Professor Jones Jolivet is an abolitionist organizer, scholar, and associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences at Azusa Pacific University. She teaches doctoral courses on equity and inclusion, leadership, and research inquiry and advises a doctoral student research collective focused on Womanist and Black Feminist Thought and Praxis. In addition, Jones Jolivet is also the co-author of a critical book, White Jesus: The Architecture of Racism in Religion and Education.
In conjunction with the social justice conference, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs hosted a pre-conference program for student leaders across the IU system on Sunday, January 16. The inaugural program, Together We Commit: Student Leadership Curriculum, featured a keynote address from Benjamin Crump, hosted by IU East, Earlham College, and the Richmond NAACP.
Crump established himself as one of the nation's foremost lawyers and advocates for social justice, earning the nickname "Black America's Attorney General," and is the founder and principal owner of Ben Crump Law. He has received numerous awards such as the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award, the SCLC Martin Luther King Servant Leader Award, the American Association for Justice Johnnie Cochran Award, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Eleanor Roosevelt Medallion for Service.
The full keynotes, award presentations, and conference sessions are available on the diversity education site.