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Black History Month ~ Bloomington Style 2015: What Excellence Looks Like

Black History Month Banner

Each year, the City of Bloomington Black History Month Committee plans activities and events for the community to celebrate and commemorate the month of February as Black History Month ~ Bloomington Style.

This year's theme is "What Excellence Looks Like."

All City of Bloomington Black History Month events are open to the public. Events are free unless otherwise stated.

The 2015 Black History Month Kick-off & Reception

Avis Dawson Arvis Dawson

The City of Bloomington's 11th Annual Celebration of African American History and Culture Month will kick off Thursday, Feb. 5. The event begins with a reception at 6 p.m. in the atrium of City Hall, with the Kick-Off Program following at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers of City Hall, 401 N. Morton St. This event is free and open to the public.

The theme for this year's celebration is "What Excellence Looks Like" and will examine African American excellence locally and nationally, past and present, with hopes of inspiring all members of the community to always strive for excellence. The Kick-Off Program will feature book signings by local authors, Janet Cheatham Bell and Audrey T. McCluskey, and a keynote address by Arvis Dawson, Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Elkhart, Indiana.

In his position at the City of Elkhart, Dawson is responsible for implementing the Mayor's vision for jobs and economic development. Prior to serving as Executive Assistant, he served seven four-year terms as City Councilman for the Fifth District, while working as an educator for the Elkhart Community School Corporation as a health and physical education teacher. He continues to be a group mentor for young men at one of the local middle schools. Dawson has served as Chairman of the Board for Indiana Black Expo, Inc. and currently serves as Executive Vice-Chairman of that organization. He also fulfilled the role of Democratic City Chair for the 2007 Municipal General Election and was an Indiana Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Dawson has been and continues to be a member of several boards, including the NAACP, DARE, Salvation Army, the Indiana State Teachers Association, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Trustee Board for Agape Missionary Church, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, the Elkhart County Election Board and the Goshen College Alumni Board.

Showers City Hall Council Chambers, 401 N. Morton Street

Reception: 6:00 pm, Program: 7:00 pm

The 2015 Black History Month Community-Wide Events Calendar & Insert

The 2015 Black History Month Community-Wide Events Calender is now available.

Black History Month Community-Wide Events Calendar (PDF 4.51 MB) & Insert (PDF 4.51 MB)

ADDENDUM to City of Bloomington Black History Calendar of Events.

ADDENDUM to City of Bloomington Black History Calendar of Events (PDF 10.75 KB) &Insert (PDF 10.75 KB)

2015 Black History Month Essay Contest

2015 Black History Month Essay Contest is now open to students grades 4-12. The deadline is January 30, 2015 at 5pm. Please see the following flyer for a complete list of guidelines, submission details, and a list of potential essay subjects.

2015 Black History Month Essay Contest Flyer (PDF 13.55 MB)

2015 Black History Month Gala

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hilton Garden Inn, 245 N. College

Reception & Silent Auction Opening: 6:30pm

Doors Open: 7:00pm

Celebrate with friends and neighbors at this elegant evening of dinner and dancing. The evening includes live music, a silent auction and the presentation of the 2015 City of Bloomington Living Legend and Outstanding Black Male Leader of Tomorrow Awards. Tickets on sale January 30 at the BCT Box Office. The BCT Box Office is located at 114 E. Kirkwood Avenue or on the web at

Black History Month Committee Announces Living Legend Award Recipient

David Baker David BakerThe City of Bloomington Black History Month Committee has announced that world-renowned composer, educator and writer, David Baker, is recipient of the 2015 Black History Month Living Legend Award. The Living Legend Award was created to recognize, honor and thank African-Americans in Bloomington who have given their time, talents and resources to make a difference in the Bloomington community and beyond. Their contributions and their lives have broken boundaries, created legacies and provided inspiration to many.

David Baker is a Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, as well as conductor and musical and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. A virtuoso performer on multiple instruments and top in his field in several disciplines, Baker has taught and performed throughout the world, including in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. He received both bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Indiana University and has studied with a wide range of master teachers, performers and composers, including J.J. Johnson, Janos Starker, George Russell and William Russo. A 1973 Pulitzer Prize nominee, Baker was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1979 and has been honored with prestigious awards three times by Down Beat magazine. He has more than 65 recordings, 60 books and 400 articles to his credit.

His service in music organizations is wide-ranging and includes membership on the National Council on the Arts; board positions for the American Symphony Orchestra League, Arts Midwest and the Afro-American Bicentennial Hall of Fame/Museum; past chairs of the Jazz Advisory Panel to the Kennedy Center and the Jazz/Folk/Ethnic Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts and has served a number of times on the Pulitzer Prize Music Jury. He currently serves as senior consultant for music programs for the Smithsonian Institution.

Baker will join a distinguished list of past Living Legend Award recipients, including James Mumford, William and Janice Wiggins, the Rev. Marvin Chandler, George and Viola Taliaferro, Gladys DeVane, Clarence and Frances Gilliam and Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Gene Shipp. He will be honored along with the City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Black Males' Outstanding Black Male Leaders of Tomorrow at this year's City of Bloomington Black History Month Gala on Feb. 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomington, 245 N. College Ave.

2015 Outstanding Black Male Leaders of Tomorrow Announced

The City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Black Males has announced the recipients of the Outstanding Black Male Leader of Tomorrow Awards. Awards will be presented at the Black History Month Gala on Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 245 N. College Ave. Awards are presented in two categories: High School and Adult.

Malik Laffon Laurence "Malik" LaffoonThe recipient of the high school award is Laurence "Malik" Laffoon. The son of Dennis and Rochelle Laffoon, Laffoon is embracing his role as an emerging leader at Bloomington High School North and in the community. He is a junior with a 3.3 GPA, who is lettering in both basketball and track. In basketball, he is leading the varsity team in scoring as a starting guard, with honors as a Herald Times Player of the Week and All Tourney Team at the Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament in Versailles, Indiana. In 2014, he hit the game winning, 3-point shot against New Albany to win the first Regional Championship for North since 2004. In track, Laffoon competed at the Sectional and Regional level in both hurdles and high jump. When he is not in competition as an athlete for North, he has been a Cougar Leader and is a member of the Student Athletic Board and the Empowering Team Leadership Movement.

Laffoon is also a tutor at Tri-North Middle School, a coach for the Hoosier Hills Basketball League Middle School Division, an Iron Man volunteer for the Roger's Parsonage Project and a member and youth leader for Guy/Girls Loving and Obedient Worship (G.L.O.W.) at Bethel AME Church, for which he also runs the technology booth.

Terrance Thomas Terrance ThomasReceiving the award in the Adult Category is Terrance Thomas. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Thomas gives credit to his parents and sports for keeping him on the right path growing up in an area of the city that was filled with violence and negativity. Growing up, Thomas' dream was to play pro football and to work with youth. As a result, he was a standout high school football player and earned a scholarship to play football for Indiana University (IU), where he was a four-year letter winner from 2007 to 2010. During his time at IU, Thomas volunteered with The Boys & Girls Club, Stepping Stones and Read Across America. After graduating from IU, he began working with Banneker Community Center in Summer 2011 as a Recreation Leader. Today, he continues to work at Banneker Community Center, now in the role of supervisor.

According to his nominator, "Terrance has worked faithfully in the key programs (at Banneker Center) and has proven to be a consistently available, dedicated and active supporter and advocate for the youth involved in them. Terrance is never not at work. Despite his status as a part-time employee, he works for our youth and teens around the clock. He is always making community connections, fielding parent phone calls and looking for resources to connect our students to a successful future. His choice to tirelessly and selflessly work for our community's youth and teens instead of pursuing higher pay or career advancement that he could easily find elsewhere makes him a perfect candidate for this award."

The Outstanding Black Males Leader of Tomorrow Awards were created to encourage the development of future leaders and recognize local contributions by young African-Americans.

Laurence "Malik" Laffoon and Terrance Thomas join a remarkable group of past recipients of the awards, including Matt Herndon; Cordero L. Rhyne; Alvin Henry; Gerald L. Mitchell; Eddie R. Cole, Jr.; Rashawn Ray; Adrian Land; Aaron Barnes; Myles Adams; Burnell Grimes; Landon Jones and Gabriel Jones.

For more information, contact Community and Family Resources Department Director Beverly Calender-Anderson at 812.349.3430 or