The City of Bloomington is set to host the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The annual event will feature keynote presentations, musical performances and an award presentation.
All attendees are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, as well as bring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. There is no charge for attendance.
IU President Pamela Whitten will provide opening comments and Bloomington Deputy Mayor Don Griffin will award the Legacy Award to a member of the community who embodies the values of Dr. King.
The African American Choral Ensemble will conduct a virtual performance, and the IU Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department will do an in-person performance.
In light of this year’s theme of “The Challenge of Action and the Challenges of Action,” Dr. Eddie Cole, an IU alum and a UCLA associate professor of higher education and organizational change, will deliver a keynote presentation on his book, “The Campus Color Line.”
Cole’s book discusses the Black Freedom Movement and the role college presidents played in institutional reform with urgent civil rights issues.
Vice-Chair of the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission Dr. Gloria Howell said the mantra the city wants to share with students is to make a difference regardless of identity and personal background. Howell also serves as director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.
“A challenge of action starts with one person and whether it be through policy, administration, advocating for themselves and for each other, or through their student organizations with their faculty, that’s the message we want to drive home,” Howell said.
She said organizing such events gives an opportunity to hold up a mirror to the community and recognize the progress as well as the potential changes which can be made.
Howell said she thought the celebration’s annual success and impact were due to the members of the commission and Legacy award tradition.
“It’s really good to honor when people engage in this type of work and service,” Howell said. “If they’re authentic and genuine, they’re not doing it for any recognition. That’s just who they are.”
She said given the nature of the pandemic, changes had to be made to the program. However, she appreciated the Buskirk-Chumley management for taking so many precautions to make people feel safe and hopefully excited to come, she said.
She said she recognizes some in the community will be hesitant to come to the event in person, and they can watch a live stream version on CATSTV.net.
“In the past, we average somewhere over 300 people,” Micheal Shermis, a Special Projects Coordinator and staff liaison for the event said. “We’re cordoning off every other row so people will have to do social distance seating, and that knocks down the capacity to 290.”
He said he’s unsure about the in-person turnout, but he looks forward to seeing the community engage in the celebration.
“Our speakers are really amazing people,” Shermis said. “We usually get the young up-and-comers, so the opportunity to talk to those people about who they are, what they do and why this is important to them, I think is great.”
James Sanders, the chair of the commission, said his favorite part involved evaluating and selecting a speaker for the event. He said the commission prioritizes relevance to the selected theme.
“We try to keep our program pretty diverse, and we try to make sure all facets of the Bloomington community are represented,” Sanders said. “In attending the program, whether that be virtually or in person, we hope that you will find something that is offered that appeals to you in any way that you identify.”