For most students and working professionals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a day off, just another day of a three-day weekend. However, this MLK Day proved different for University of Indianapolis students, faculty and members of the surrounding community as they served and celebrated King’s life. On Jan. 19, UIndy hosted its Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, during which the campus and Southside communities participated in a day filled with events, service projects, bus tours, dinner and the “Selma” movie premiere.
First on the list of events was the Indianapolis Civil Rights Tour. This event was a city wide bus tour featuring three Indianapolis historic sites that were prominent during the Civil Rights Movement. Tours were hosted by Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli, Dean of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Michael Cartwright, Director of the Institute of Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives and Associate Professor of History and Political Science Ted Frantz, Associate Professor Terrence Harewood, Assistant Dean of Students Joe Thomas and UIndy alumna Stephanie Crowe.
The first tour stop was Martin Luther King Park, the site where Robert Kennedy gave his speech in 1968 the night King was assassinated. The park is also home to the Landmark for Peace Memorial sculpture, which honors both of the late leaders. The next stop was Crispus Attucks High School/Museum, which is the first segregated high school built for African Americans in 1927. The last stop featured on the tour was the Madam CJ Walker Theatre, which was once the headquarters and manufacturing plant of Madam CJ Walker Hair Care and Beauty Products.
“I really enjoyed visiting each tour site, especially the Madam CJ Walker Theatre,” said sophomore sports management major Da’Chera Baker. “They showed a short film after the speaker that highlighted the works of Robert Kennedy and MLK in efforts to unite the states, despite color. We are able to celebrate and enjoy the company of individuals of all backgrounds, and a big thank you is owed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for that.”
Later that day, a speech was held at UIndy’s Ransburg Auditorium at 1:30 p.m. The keynote speaker was Patricia Russell-McCloud, an Indianapolis native and Shortridge High School graduate. Russell-McCloud is an author, orator and former Federal Communications Commission attorney.
The title of her speech, same as a book she published by the same name, was “A Is for Attitude: An Alphabet for Living.” The program was presented by the university’s Multicultural Affairs Committee and included music by UIndy’s Jazz Combo and Concert Choir.
The last events of the MLK Day Celebration featured a service project for campus and community participants, a dinner featuring music from UIndy’s Voices of Worship gospel choir and a speech from Sister Jane Marie Klein, who helped to administer last rites to King upon his assassination. The dinner served foods such as smothered pork chops, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens, cornbread, yams, pecan pie and sweet potato pie, which were Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite foods. Lastly, the celebration ended with a discussion and private screening of the historical film “Selma.”
“‘Selma’ gave me a better understanding of how things really were back then,” said senior mechanical engineering major Anthony Bigham. “It taught me to respect our history and gave me the desire to want to learn more. I felt amazing celebrating this day, because it showed me how far we’ve come to live our lives the way we do now.”