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City Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Commission Winners Announced

hank thomas


Jan. 23, 2014

For more information, please contact:

Craig Brenner, Special Projects Coordinator, City of Bloomington Department of Community and Family Resources, 349.3471,

Mary Tourner, Chair, City of Bloomington Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, 327.7374

City Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Commission Winners Announced

Bloomington, Ind. - The Bloomington community came together on Jan. 20 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater to celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday at the City's annual MLK Birthday Celebration. The celebration included a presentation from keynote speaker Hank Thomas, musical performances and announcements of award winners. At the event, Mayor Mark Kruzan presented the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award to Marlene and Donald Griffin, Sr. The award honors those who have made significant contributions in race relations, justice and human rights.

In presenting the 2014 award to the Griffins, Mayor Kruzan lauded them as having "always been advocates for civil rights and social justice." Donald Griffin, Sr. was one of the first African-American police officers in Bloomington. He worked to resolve issues between people of different races, cultures and religions. The Griffins have been active in the Monroe County NAACP, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Lions Club, Groups Student Advisory Board and numerous other organizations. Donald, Sr. is currently the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Bedford, IN, and both he and Marlene are continually helping others regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, location or age. "If someone needs help, they will be there," the mayor said.

Past recipients of the award include Bloomington United, the Monroe County Branch of the NAACP, Guy and Connie Loftman, the Rev. E. D. Butler, the Rev. Michael Anderson, the Monroe County Racial Justice Task Force, the Banneker History Project, Dr. James Mumford, Dr. Charlie Nelms, WFHB Community Radio, Elizabeth Mitchell, Daniel Soto, John Whikehart and the IU Office of Diversity Education.

Winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Commission's video contest were also announced. They included Myles Stephney of Batchelor Middle School, who received an iPad Mini as the overall MLK Commission award winner, and Mrs. Davis' 6th Grade Class at University Elementary, who, as winners of the People's Choice Award, will receive a pizza party from Pizza X.

The keynote speaker was Freedom Rider Hank Thomas who spoke on "A Freedom Rider's Journey." Thomas and others made history as civil rights activists who rode interstate buses in the segregated southern United States in the early 1960s to challenge the non-enforcement of U.S. Supreme Court decisions which had ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. When Southern states ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them, Freedom Riders confronted this segregation by riding in mixed racial groups.

Musical performers included the Indiana University African-American Choral Ensemble, directed by Dr. Raymond Wise, and the Bloomington Peace Choir, directed by Barb Qualls. Volunteers who participated in "A Day ON! Not A Day Off" were recognized.

Major event underwriters included the City of Bloomington, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University, Stephens Honda-Hyundai and WFIU. Event sponsors included First Christian Church, Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i of Bloomington, Donald Griffin, Jr., the IU Credit Union and United Way of Monroe County.

For more information, visit the website or contact Special Projects Coordinator Craig Brenner at 349.3471 or