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Hello, and thank you for joining in our community celebration of Dr. King, Jr. and his legacy.  As mayor, I am very pleased to participate in this commemoration, and to present, in just a moment, the MLK Legacy Award to this year’s inspiring recipient. 

 

We come together to reflect on Dr King’s life and legacy every year on the national holiday of his birthday. With an obvious difference this year.  We’re missing out on hugs, laughing and singing together, and the all-around good vibes of being shoulder to shoulder inside the Buskirk Chumley today. In order to keep one another safe, we’re doing all this remotely.  The COVID pandemic has robbed us of so many important in-person occasions. Even more critically, it has stolen lives and livelihoods--and disproportionately those of people of color--because of the systemic injustices that still endure in our nation, even 53 years after Dr. King’s death.

 

This year is different too, because of activating events and important conversations and pervasive demonstrations about race that have been taking place in our country and community over the last year.  Today’s Dr. King Birthday celebration is a good time to reflect on the peaceful marches and protests that took place last year, in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, and against the legacies and present realities of structural racism. Last year’s wave of activism and demonstrations across our land were noted as the largest since Dr King’s own time.  And we can be confident that Dr. King is blessing in spirit these peaceful protests of what he called the “triple evils of poverty, racism, and violence.” That the departed hero John Lewis would be celebrating the “good trouble” we are getting into this past year.

 

I’m recording this message a few days before our formal MLK Day celebration, and several days after the outrageous and terrible insurrection that we witnessed at the US Capitol on January 6th. I join the calls for accountability for the attempted violent rebellion, coup, that happened that awful day. For those who acted, and those who spurred and incited the actions. I also want to join the demand for our country, and our community, to continue to work to eradicate the poison and cancer of racism and the dehumanizing voices and policies that perpetrate the evils of our original sin. We must all work to end the politics of lies and focus on truth and progress, toward eradicating the evils Dr King decried so many decades ago.

 

Our community celebrates and welcomes those working to heal our broken nation and make it and our community more just.  Today’s Martin Luther KIng Legacy Award winner is just such a leader. 

 

In the midst of a rigorous program of study at the doctoral level, this year’s winner has been intent on serving their community and providing critical support to students of all ages across multiple service efforts. Those who interact with them tell us that beyond just serving, our winner makes students, peers, and colleagues feel known, valued, and appreciated by being fully present.

 

As Vice President of the Sigma Kappa Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, our winner has worked with fraternity members to establish and sustain programs and activities that can meet the needs of marginalized groups in the city of Bloomington. For example, they spearheaded an initiative called Streets Paved with Gold that allowed fraternity members to interact with families in the Crestmont community and provide academic, employment, health, and other resources to them in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club.

 

This year’s legacy award winner has also been instrumental in developing curriculum and mentorship opportunities for young men in the community through the fraternity’s signature program, the Nelms Leadership Academy. 

 

Our winner volunteers with the Bethel AME Homework Help program, which provides free assistance for students K-12 in the Bloomington community. After volunteering with the program during the 2014-2015 academic year, our winner became a coordinator of the program, taking a leading role in structuring the program, planning and executing events, helping students develop goals and plan study schedules, and meeting with parents to co-facilitate ways to set students up for success. 

 

Previously a high school math teacher and currently studying astrophysics as a PhD student at Indiana University, our award winner was elected vice president of the Black Graduate Student Association in 2015, a student organization that promotes academic excellence, professional development and civic engagement. In this role, our winner was instrumental in collaborative leadership efforts, including a literacy initiative for Fairview Elementary School.

 

Our winner also led on-campus movements as a student activist in the wake of racially charged incidents that occurred as IU students, staff, and faculty stood in solidarity with University of Missouri students in 2015. They planned and facilitated meetings with students and administrators and mobilized members of the BGSA and the greater IU community to create a unified front and improve the campus racial climate.

 

Please join me in congratulating and celebrating the 2021 Dr. King Legacy Award winner, Marvin Q. Jones, Jr.  Congratulations Marvin! And thanks from all of Bloomington.


 

 

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