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2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration

Monday, January 18, 2016
Buskirk-Chumley Theater (114 E. Kirkwood Ave.)

Brittany Packnett Brittany PacknettBrittany Packnett is the daughter of educators and currently serves as executive director for Teach for America in St. Louis. She first joined Teach for America as a 2007 corps member in Washington, D.C., where she taught third grade at King Elementary in Southeast Washington. From there, she served as legislative assistant for her hometown Congressman, U.S. Representative Wm. Lacy Clay of Missouri, advising on education, family policy, and oversight and government reform committee matters. Following her time on the Hill, Packnett served as a director on Teach for America's Government Affairs team, and volunteered as the executive director of Dream Girls DMV, A Mentoring Program for Girls, and as founding co-chair of The Collective-DC, an organization for Teach for America alumni of color in the region.

In 2014, Brittany was appointed to the Ferguson Commission and President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She's been named one of Time magazine's 12 New Faces of Black Leadership and, with DeRay McKesson, awarded the Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership.

She is graduate of the John B. Ervin Scholars program at Washington University in St. Louis and American University in Washington.

Previous Celebration Speakers

2015 MLK Day Celebration - January 19, 2015

MLK - 2015 Bennet Singer Headshot Bennett SingerBorn and raised in Chicago, Bennett Singer is an award-winning filmmaker who has been making social-issue documentaries for more than 20 years. His credits include the Emmy- and Peabody-winning series on the history of the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize II; With God On Our Side; and The Question of Equality, all broadcast nationally on PBS.

With Nancy D. Kates, he produced and directed Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired nationally on PBS, and won more than 20 awards in the U.S. and abroad. Brother Outsider has been shown at more than 500 community and school screenings and has been used by dozens of social-justice organizations, including the NAACP; The Urban League; The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch.

Bennett's latest film, Electoral Dysfunction, is a feature-length documentary about voting and voting rights. Hosted by political humorist Mo Rocca, the film uses Indiana as a case study to illuminate how voting works - and doesn't work - in America. Electoral Dysfunction had a dual premiere at the 2012 Democratic and Republican Conventions, aired nationally on PBS, and won the American Bar Association's 2013 Silver Gavel Award, the ABA's highest honor for media projects that foster understanding of the law (learn more at or view the film on Netflix, iTunes or other digital platforms).

MLK - 2015 Brother Outsider Video Jacket Bennett served for eight years as Executive Editor of TIME Magazine's Education Program and is the editor of several books, including Growing Up Gay/ Growing Up Lesbian, an award-winning anthology for young people. He resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, David Deschamps.

Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and its national broadcasts on PBS' P.O.V. series, Logo/MTV, and public television's America ReFramed series, BROTHER OUTSIDER has introduced millions of viewers around the world to the life and work of Bayard Rustin - a visionary strategist and activist who has been called "the unknown hero" of the civil rights movement. A disciple of Gandhi, a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr., and the architect of the 1963 March on Washington, Rustin dared to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

2014 MLK Day Celebration - January 20, 2014

hank thomas Hank Thomas The keynote speaker for the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration will be Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, who will speak on "A Freedom Rider's Journey."

Nineteen-year-old Hank Thomas joined the 1961 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Ride. Thomas overcame an impoverished childhood in southern Georgia and St. Augustine, FL to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) affiliated Nonviolent Action Group (NAG).

After participating in the May 4 CORE Freedom Ride, Thomas returned to the Deep South to participate in the May 24 Mississippi Freedom Ride from Montgomery, AL to Jackson, MS, and was jailed at Parchman State Prison Farm. After being released on bail, he went on to participate in the July 14 New Jersey to Arkansas CORE Freedom Ride. On August 22, 1961, Thomas became the first Freedom Rider to appeal his conviction for breach of peace. He was released on appeal, pending payment of a $2,000 bond.

Following the Freedom Rides, Thomas served in the Vietnam War, returning home after being wounded in 1966. In recent years, Thomas has owned and operated several hotel and fast food restaurant franchises in the Atlanta metro region.

Explore the PBS American Experience program website to learn more about Freedom Riders.

2013 MLK Day Celebration - January 21, 2013

Carlotta LaNier 2 Carlotta Walls LaNier, featured speaker at the 2013 celebration The City of Bloomington's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration took place at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN at 7 p.m., following a reception featuring hors d'oeuvres.

The event included remarks by Mayor Kruzan, who presented the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award to the Indiana University Office of Diversity Education. MLK Commissioner Barbara Fuqua helped recognize volunteers who participated in "A Day On! Not A Day Off." Musical entertainment was provided by the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble and the University Elementary School Martin Luther King, Jr. Choir.

The keynote speaker was Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the "Little Rock Nine" who, in 1957, were the first African American students to attend Little Rock Central High School. LaNier and the other students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, and then attended after the intervention of President Eisenhower. The event is widely considered one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement.

Major event underwriters included Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, Otis Elevator, Stephens Honda-Hyundai and WFIU.

For more information, please contact at 349-3471.