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IWU, Taylor plan MLK celebrations

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is quickly approaching, and with that, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University have planned campus and community-wide celebrations and activities.

This year marks Dr. King’s 90th birthday and will bring a variety of discussions, service projects and music to the two campuses.

Diane McDaniel, vice president of diversity and inclusion at IWU, said since the university does not have classes on MLK Day, they want to be able to still celebrate King and what he worked for, stood for and died for.

IWU’s sixth annual MLK Day will take place on Jan. 18 beginning with a 10 a.m. chapel service.

According to an IWU press release, the service will feature author, minister and educator Jonathan Banks.

Later that same evening, the community will come together again at 7 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center to hear from cultural critic, essayist and author Dr. Rich Benjamin and music from the Indianapolis Performing Arts Conservatory under Robert Townsend, along with choreographed dance.

McDaniel explained that in the past five years of the celebration there has been a focus on music education that has predominantly been played and read in baptist missionary churches, which is the denomination King pastored in.

While music will still be a part of the celebration, McDaniel said she wanted to find someone who reflected King’s other characteristics, such as being an author and essayist. When she found Benjamin, she said he checkmarked those other areas.

Benjamin said he chose to be a part of the celebration because as a former teacher, he loves speaking with students. He also attended Wesleyan University and saw that as a fun and strong connection to IWU.

Attendees will hear the insights Benjamin has learned through studying King, including how people can live out King’s legacy, steps the country has taken both forward and backward and the subject of whiteness.

“People can expect a look into the impressive gains and missteps we’ve made as a country towards King’s vision of a ‘more beloved community,’” Benjamin said in an email. “From our homes, to our neighborhoods, to our schools, to our workplaces, how are we getting along? I want us to sharpen our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.”

After attending the evening celebration, Benjamin said he hopes people walk away with a “fresh and renewed sense of optimism.”

“There's so much negativity in our social media, in our debates, these days. But where’s the good? The possibility? So I hope folks walk away a little entertained, saying ‘Wow, I learned something new despite myself.’"

McDaniel said the celebration is also a great way to start off the year and hopes it can help energize people for 2019.

“We know that we have come a long way, but we know we have a ways to go. If we continue to all communicate, if we continue to be committed to the process of learning and growing together as a community, we can get through anything - any problem, any concern - if we all work together,” she said. “ … I want to be able to walk away with the additional tool has been added to my tool set as far as awareness and learning.”

A reception in the Barnes Student Center Piazza follows the event from 9-9:30 p.m. where Benjamin will sign copies of his book, “Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America.” According to IWU’s press release, this book was chosen as an Editor’s Choice by “Booklist” and The American Library Association.

The events are free of charge and do not require tickets.

Taylor University's MLK celebrations will begin on Jan. 21 with a 10 a.m. chapel featuring Dr. Rusty Hawkins, professor of humanities and history and associate dean at John Wesley Honors College.

Director of Media Relations at Taylor, Jim Garringer, said any speaker invited to speak has a significant contribution to bring not only to the students but to the faculty, staff and community.

The university will also host six workshop sessions in the Euler Science Complex from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m. which according to Director of Residence Life, Scott Barrett, were put together by faculty and staff.

To bring an end to the night, the Marion Philharmonic Orchestra will perform an MLK Tribute concert at 7:30 p.m. in Rediger Auditorium.

Garringer said adult tickets will cost $20, seniors ages 65 and older will be $18, students ages 13 and up will be $10 and those that are 12 and under will be free to attend the concert.

In addition to the events and activities on Jan. 21, students will host a panel conversation after showings of the film “The Hate U Give” on Jan. 19 and 20. “The Hate U Give” is based on a book written by Angie Thomas.

The story highlights the life of a 16-year-old black girl who becomes increasingly interested in activism after witnessing an officer shooting her childhood friend. 

To further focus on MLK’s legacy, the campus will take part in various service opportunities in the community during the entire month, led by Residence Life.