|Realizing King's Dream in the "Fierce Urgency of Now"|
Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee
The first Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Indiana University's Bloomington campus was held in 1995. Not until 1998, however, were university students, faculty, and staff given a day off to observe Dr. King's birthday and carry out his visions. Volunteers celebrate a day of service at sites around Bloomington. The celebration is, "A Day On! Not a Day Off!"
The infectious positive spirit of countless individual acts of community service is acknowledged by the celebration theme each year. The theme for the 2010 celebration was, "Now Is the Time: Making Real the Promise." One person who could be said to have seized the moment to "make real the promise" on the IU Bloomington campus is Ryan Vertner. On December 10, 1996, Mr. Vertner, an African American Wells Scholar and member of the "Student Coalition," led a nonviolent campus protest of 500 students from various organizations, including Black Student Union, IU Student Association, American Indian Association, Latinos Unidos, Asian American Association, and the Indian Student Association. Representing less than 1 percent of the student population, this protest nevertheless culminated in Mr. Vertner's presentation of a list of demands to the former IU Vice President and Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis.
The next day, Bloomington's newspaper The Herald-Times brought more attention to the issue by publishing the article, "IU Groups Want King Day Classes Cancelled." That article was followed on January 24, 1997, by a declaration from the Indiana University Board of Trustees that, henceforth, on the third Monday of every January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would be observed on the IU Bloomington campus with the cancellation of all classes on that day. Mr. Vertner, who would later that year be named a Truman Scholar, replied when he heard the news, "I am really happy to see that they [the IU Board of Trustees] got on board.... I think they will be surprised to see the extent to which students will be willing to engage in meaningful educational activities with that day."
As in the past years, the myriad educational activities and individual acts of community service currently being planned by IU Bloomington students to observe each MLK Day Celebration prove just how right Mr. Vertner was.
Pieces from Past Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebrations
Revised: November 13, 2011