Indiana University observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day January 20 for the twenty-third consecutive year.
One of the biggest events, with over 9,000 tickets distributed, was “An Afternoon with Viola Davis.” The Academy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning actress delivered a keynote lecture in the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to an awe-struck audience. In her speech, Davis spoke of overcoming adversity, fighting for those less fortunate, and the effect of Martin Luther King Jr. on society.
However, MLK Day was more than a single event. All across the IU campus and the city of Bloomington, Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy and memory were remembered and celebrated in a variety of ways. For example, students, faculty, and staff at Indiana University participated in a peaceful city-wide march, beginning at Showers Building, City Hall and ending at the Indiana Memorial Union.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the American civil rights movement who sought to fight social injustices not only in the United States but around the world,” Donald Nash, a freshman studying computer science with a specialization in software engineering, said. Nash was instrumental in the planning and execution of this event. “The purpose of this march was to commemorate his efforts through a peaceful demonstration inclusive of students, faculty, staff and Bloomington community members. One of the goals of this march was to create a sense of community and inclusivity between IU Bloomington and local Bloomington communities. The other reason was to improve the social image of diversity amongst the campus for the future of our community at IU Bloomington.”
To honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., multiple schools across Indiana University Bloomington held events that touched on his teachings or MLK himself. The Jacobs School of Music hosted a faculty/student recital in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., which included an afternoon of performances, reflections, and readings. The IU School of Education hosted two events, a Martin Luther King Jr birthday celebration for elementary school students and an MLK Community Teach-In. This event, focusing on middle and high school students, was designed to inspire discussion by using movie clips and music to explore current social issues about Dr. King’s vision.
The Latino Cultural Center, La Casa, also held an MLK event called Restorative Justice: Transforming Conversations. Designed to offer a working definition of restorative justice—often understood as an approach in which an offender is rehabilitated through interactions with their victims and community—the event provided the opportunity to review strategies and techniques for conducting restorative conversations and allowed participants to practice these skills during the session.
The Indiana Memorial Union hosted an event titled Culture and the University: Micro-Aggressions on Campus, an event designed to showcase how everyday experiences can contain micro-aggressions—small acts of derogatory language and action that are often unnoticed by the perpetrator—and how to best deal with them on campus.
“The event was a great opportunity for attendees to hear and see how different perspectives can shape someone’s experience,” Lloyd Graham, Assistant Director of Residential Life, said. “It was also was a great opportunity to learn how to navigate difficult conversations by focusing on what people do and not who they are.”
The City of Bloomington also celebrated MLK Day by hosting a Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at the Buskirk- Chumley Theater with a keynote speech from Dr. Melinda Abdullah—former chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement—who spoke on “Courage and Beautiful Struggle: Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Our Work.” Additionally, the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble, directed by Dr. Raymond Wise, the Fairview Elementary School Choir, and the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department performed at the celebration. This event was partially funded by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs.
Additionally, several film screenings took place in honor of MLK Day. The IUnity Symposium presented a film screening of “Agents of Change,” a documentary that explored race relations on college campuses during the late 1960s. A screening of the film “Loving” was also shown, detailing the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving—an interracial couple whose lengthy legal battle would result in the Supreme Court’s overturn on interracial marriage.
For more information on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Indiana University, please visit the MLK celebration website here.