IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs held a social justice conference to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day featuring social justice experts who spoke about critical race theory and the importance of MLK Day. The conference took place Sunday and Monday.
The virtual conference, "A Journey Toward True Education: Social Justice Conference 2022,” featured 18 sessions and a series of speeches by nationally recognized keynote speakers, including Benjamin Crump, a civil rights leader and attorney who specializes in civil rights cases.
Crump represented the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake.
He spoke about the importance of continuing to celebrate King, even over 50 years after his death. He said King’s words are just as true today as they were when he first spoke them.
“It is simply not enough for us to remember Martin Luther King's dream, we must act to make the dream a reality to make a better world for all of our children,” Crump said. “That is what we can do to honor Dr. King.”
Crump said the debate over critical race theory and voting rights shows how much more work needs to be done to fight racism and inequality in the U.S.
“I’m going to fight to have people who live in my community and people who look like me have an equal opportunity of achieving the American dream,” Crump said.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, delivered the second keynote speech.
Tabatha Jones Jolivet, an abolitionist organizer and associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences at Azusa Pacific University, finished the conference with the third keynote speech.
Jones Jolivet spoke about influential Black Americans in history and said critical race theory is true education that everyone deserves.
“True education demands that we tell the truth about these things, and we do so not only in the halls of places like Indiana University, but the streets where there is much to learn about how to build the world we all deserve to live in,” Jones Jolivet said.
The conference, featuring experts discussing topics such as critical race theory, compassion fatigue and Islamophobia, was moved online Jan. 5 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to the conference webpage.
The theme of the conference was based on “The Purpose of Education,” an article written by King and published in the February 1947 edition of the Maroon Tiger, the Morehouse College student newspaper.
Monday, the second day of the conference, began with opening remarks by IU Vice President James Wimbush, IU President Pamela Whitten and Bloomington officials, followed by a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner” by the African American Choral Ensemble.
IU officials presented $500 IU MLK Student Organization Grants to one student organization on each IU campus and the IU School of Medicine. The grant is intended for programs, events or other efforts supporting inclusivity, respect for diversity and community service.
One student and one additional community member from each IU campus and the IU School of Medicine was recognized with the Building Bridges Award, which recognizes an individual or group exemplifying equality, diversity, inclusion, and respect.