Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

Filmmaker to be keynote speaker for MLK Day event

Emmy award-winning filmmaker Bennett Singer is adding a new flair to Bloomington’s upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations next week.

Singer will be screening and discussing his film ‘Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.” The film showcases a civil rights champion who Singer said history has purposefully overlooked due to his ?sexuality.

“For me, as a gay man and a student of history, Rustin’s story certainly resonated with me,” Singer said. “It was remarkable to see how open he was.”

Mike Shermis, event specialist for the City of Bloomington, said Singer was selected to be a keynote speaker by a group of city commissioners. Shermis said the commissioners are appointed by the city council and the mayor’s office.

“They spend months deciding who’s going to speak,” Shermis said. “It depends on a lot of things, including the theme.”

Singer said he believed he was chosen as a speaker because of the focus of ?his film.

“I think they felt this story would be a fresh take on Martin Luther King Day,” Singer said.

The film has been shown in various schools and workplaces, including Google and J.P. Morgan, as a tool for diversity education, Singer said. He added that the film was often the first time racial and sexual diversity had been presented together.

“All of those opportunities have deepened my belief that people are hungry for change,” Singer said. “It gives me hope.”

IU Vice Provost Martin McCrory said the University hoped to highlight a commitment to diversity and innovation through the community’s events on MLK day.

Singer said Rustin’s sexuality and his role in the civil rights movement were at odds with each other.

“There’s a huge irony that Rustin was at the heart of the civil rights movement but fighting another battle,” Singer said. “He did pay a price. But he was able to live with authenticity and integrity.”

Singer said the fight for civil rights and equality for everyone is far from over.

“Even though America has banned official segregation, there is a long road ahead to achieve Rustin and Martin Luther King’s dream,” Singer said.

But the filmmaker remains optimistic.

“This country has the potential to change and individuals who are strongly motivated to make things change.” Singer said. “Individuals can make a huge difference.”

Other MLK Day speakers include Myra Selby, the first African-American to serve on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1995 to 1999.

Get stories like this in your inbox