In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) is hosting two programs that are designed to teach Hoosier youths about the life and legacy of King and inspire adults to practice acts of service to others.
“Most people today don’t think that discrimination is a problem or the Civil Rights Act solved much of the problems that existed. When we go out and talk to people we learn these issues are still out there,” said Brad Meadows, communications manager for the ICRC.
In conjunction with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Commission, on Jan. 17 the ICRC will host the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration.
The day begins with a youth summit consisting of 375 sixth through eighth grade students from seven schools throughout the state descending upon Indianapolis for a special program held at the Indiana State Museum. They’ll participate in a number of programs and workshops that focus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his messages of equality and peace. This includes viewing King speeches in their entirety and a live performance on civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks produced by members of the Indiana State Museum.
Students will also take a guided tour through the museum and learn more about Indiana history leading up to the civil rights movement.
After lunch, students will make their way to the Indiana Statehouse to meet state employees, local and state government officials, human rights agencies and Indiana residents for the holiday celebration program.
Gov. Mike Pence will give remarks and former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett will provide the keynote address. The Rutgers University alum and NFL pro bowler will discuss “Living in the Footsteps of a King,” this year’s theme.
“We are honored to have Gary at the program to share the influence Dr. King has had on his life,” said Jamal Smith, ICRC’s executive director. “His rise to one of the best defensive players in the NFL is truly inspiring.”
Like King, Brackett overcame various difficulties in his life. A walk-on at Rutgers, Bracket was named defensive captain and an all-conference selection as a senior. After going undrafted, in 2003 the Colts signed him as a free agent. During the next 17 months, Bracket lost his mother, father and older brother to various illnesses.
Meadows said that in addition to Bracket sharing what Dr. King has meant to him, four awards will be given to community activists for their work and commitment to King’s ideals. Several individuals will be recognized including former state Sen. and City-County Councilor Glenn Howard.
“He was vital to not only this program but civil rights in Indiana,” said Meadows on Howard who passed away July 2, 2012.
Every middle school in Indiana is invited to the celebration, however only a select number of schools are awarded the opportunity to attend. Meadows said that for schools that aren’t able to attend the Dr. King celebration, lesson plans are sent out.
The ICRC didn’t just want to talk about Dr. King’s work but wanted to put it into action. For the second year, the ICRC will follow their King celebration with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 18. Approximately 50 volunteers will spend the day honoring Dr. King by completing service projects in and around Watkins Park Family Center and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
“As the need for service continues to grow, we take time to honor Dr. King by giving back and making an impact on our local community,” said Smith. “Through the efforts of our volunteers and partnering organizations we are working to revitalize Dr. King Street one project at a time.”
Meadows said 2013 Day of Service partners include Indiana Black Expo, the City of Indianapolis, IndyParks and the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.
Day of Service projects include cleaning up rain gardens on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street; shoveling snow and/or picking up trash on Edgemont Avenue; food pantry and clothing projects at Riverside Elementary School (IPS #44); a construction project at the Indiana Federation of Colored Women’s Club; and a construction project at the MLK Vision Center, a future business incubator that has ties to Marian University.
The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration and the King Day of Service are simply two of many programs and initiatives the ICRC does year round. The ICRC exists as a state government agency tasked with education and outreach to the public on their rights and responsibilities under Indiana’s civil rights law. They are also responsible for investigating complaints alleging discrimination and violations of civil rights.
“We were initially a commission put together to eliminate racial discrimination and create equality in employment. We’ve expanded to include housing, places of public accommodation, credit and also education. Those are five areas where we have enforcement abilities,” said Meadows.
If anyone in Indiana feels as if they’ve been a victim of discrimination, they can contact the ICRC and they will assist them in filing a free complaint. If the complaint has merit and probable cause exists, the case is passed on to their legal unit where an attorney will be provided. Meadows said typically cases that make it to the legal unit results in settlement. The ICRC only handles civil disputes.
The ICRC has been in existence for 50 years and is part of the executive branch of the State of Indiana.
Meadows said the ICRC encourages everyone to participate in their Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration initiatives but reminds all to always keep King’s legacy alive.
“Dr. King is the father of civil rights and we do everything we can to honor him not only in January but throughout the year,” said Meadows.
For more information or to sign up to volunteer for the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service, call (317) 232-2600 or visit in.gov/icrc.
The 22nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Indiana Holiday Celebration
Date: Jan. 17
Place: Indiana Statehouse,
200 W. Washington St.
Time: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service
Date: Jan. 18
Place: Watkins Park Family Center,
2360 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.
Time: 8 a.m. to noon
Other King Day celebrations
Here are some of the activities celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy:
Celebration Dinner with Bobby Seal
For the past 43 years, the IUPUI Black Student Union has sponsored its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner. This year’s event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, 140 W. Washington St. This year’s theme is “To live as brothers, or perish as fools.” Special guest speaker will be Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale. Cost is $75 for guests; $25 for students. For more information call (317) 274-3931, or visit iupui.edu.
Celebration at State Museum
The Indiana State Museum, located in White River State Park at 650 W. Washington St., will host its annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration throughout the day. Bring a canned food item and receive free admission to the Indiana State Museum as participants celebrate the life of Dr. King through films, live music, poetry, and performance art that will fill the galleries and public spaces of the museum. For more information, call (317) 232-1637.
MLK Community Festival
Sponsored by Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 W. 42nd St., this festival celebrates the community’s diversity by providing music, art, dancing, food, inspirational and educational speakers, poetry, a non-profit resource fair, and many other family-friendly activities. For more information, call (317) 327-7144.
The Dream Realized
The Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Ave., will celebrate the first African-American U.S. president on Jan. 21., which is also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Walker will stream the inauguration, happening in Washington, D.C., live in the historic 937-seat theater.