On January 29, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, in partnership with the city of Bloomington, kicked off Black History Month with a virtual event featuring Earth, Wind, and Fire member Verdine White and his wife Shelly Clarke White, formerly of the band Honey Cone.
During this event, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center awarded the inaugural Clarence “Rollo” Turner Beyond Boundaries Award. Turner was an IU student activist who founded the Black Student Union and organized the 1968 Little 500 Sit-In. He was also the manager and public face of the Black Market, a shop specializing in products made by African or African American artists funded by Black faculty and staff. Turner wanted the Black Market to act as a cultural center for Black students at the university who had limited recreational opportunities and to expose IU students and Bloomington locals to Black culture.
Ky Freeman, an IU junior and current president of the Black Student Union, was selected as the first recipient. “This is the inaugural Beyond Boundaries award, so it’s incredibly special,” Gloria Howell, director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said. “When the Neal-Marshall staff thought about the development of this award and honoring Mr. Thomas, no question that we wanted Ky to be the recipient. He works tirelessly to challenge injustices that have disproportionately impacted marginalized folks both on campus and in the community. Like Mr. Thomas, Ky is a mobilizer, bringing the students and the broader community together. The work he does is critical and something that we value and appreciate.”
Selected by a committee of Neal-Marshall staff members, Ky was chosen for his incredible activism, including his work with the IU Police Department’s Advisory Board—which serves as a resource and connection between an IU Police Department campus division and the students, faculty, staff, and the communities—and the non-profit Enough is Enough for which he is a the co-founder.
“I am beyond honored to be recognized as a student that walks in the giant shoes of my predecessors! This award serves as a constant reminder that change is possible, and we have the power to evoke it. Moreover, the award shows students and me that no shoes are too big to fill, and this award is not the first but the start of an ongoing recognition for young activists to keep pushing forward in the everlasting fight for social change,“ Ky said.
The Beyond Boundaries Award will be presented annually by the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center to a student who embodies Turner’s incredible spirit.