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Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009

IU's activities commemorating Martin Luther King to include presentation by Elaine Brown

Jan. 8, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy with activities on Jan. 18-19 that include a speech on Jan. 18 by Elaine Brown, an activist, author and former Black Panther Party leader.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Print-Quality Photo

Other events will include a day of activities for elementary school children at the IU School of Education, an interfaith prayer service, a leadership breakfast and a unity summit. Programs and observances also will be held in university residence halls. With the exception of the breakfast, all IU events celebrating King's life are free and open to the public.

Classes are not held on the King holiday, and many IU Bloomington students will use the day to honor King's legacy by volunteering in the community. "A Day On, Not a Day Off" -- a massive volunteer effort organized in cooperation with a number of nonprofit agencies, IU and the City of Bloomington -- will be held all day on Jan. 19.

In collaboration with Salvation Army, the IU School of Optometry on the King holiday will be providing eye exams and eye glasses to members of the Bloomington community who do not have access to vision care. Eligible patients are required to sign up with Salvation Army prior to Jan. 19.

The overall theme for IU's celebration is "The Power of One: Taking Action in a Time of Challenge and Controversy."

Brown's lecture will begin at 5 p.m. on Jan. 18 in the Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St.

She is a former chairperson of the Black Panther Party and author of A Taste of Power - A Black Woman's Story (Pantheon, 1993), which was optioned in 2007 by HBO in connection with its planned six-part series, "The Black Panthers."

Her other books include The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America (Beacon Press, 2002) and the forthcoming For Reasons of Race and Belief, a biography of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown), with Karima Al-Amin; and Melba and Al, A Story of Black Love in Jim Crow America.

Brown also is the editor of Trapped! Messages from Behind the Wall, a collection of autobiographical essays by black prisoners in New Mexico. In 2006, "Seize the Time, " her 1969 recording of music and poetry, was re-released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers. Its 10 tracks include "The Meeting," which became the party's national anthem. She also released an album on the Motown label in 1973.

A native of North Philadelphia, Brown attended Temple University, UCLA, Mills College and Southwestern University School of Law. Brown's papers have been acquired by Emory University.

In 1996, after living seven years in France, Brown returned to the United States and settled in Atlanta, where she co-founded Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice and established the nonprofit education corporation Fields of Flowers. In 2002, she co-founded and became a board member of the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform. In 2004, Brown moved to Brunswick, Ga., where she twice ran for public office.

Today, Brown is a member of the Geechee Council of Georgia, a partner in Seize the Time Inc., and a founder of the Brunswick Women's Association for Community Improvement. She continues to serve as executive director of the Michael Lewis Legal Defense Committee, which she founded in 1997 to support the legal appeal of Lewis ("Little B"), who was arrested at the age of 13 for a murder he said he did not commit, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Brown frequently lectures on the topic of "New Age Racism," and deconstructs the history of racism, gender oppression and class disparity.

Other events centered around the holiday include:

  • The City of Bloomington's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission annual celebration, Jan. 19, 7 p.m., at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. in downtown Bloomington. The community celebration will feature a keynote address by Bishop Woodie White of Emory University's Candler School of Theology and speeches by Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, City King Commission Chair William A. Vance Jr., and Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart. The event will include performances by the IU African American Choral Ensemble, directed by Professor Keith McCutchen, the community vocal group Kaia, and Hip Hop ConnXion-Indiana. A reception will precede the program at 5 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 219 E. Fourth St. For more information, visit or call Craig Brenner at 812-349-3471.
  • An interfaith prayer service, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 in Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union.
  • A Unity Summit in the Willkie Auditorium, 150 N. Rose Ave., on Jan. 19 from noon to 3 p.m. The event brings IU students together for a program that promotes civil dialogue and explores ways to improve the campus climate for all IU students.
  • The IU Bloomington School of Education's Sixth Annual King Activity Day with Children, Jan. 19 in the School of Education Atrium. Elementary-age students from the community will participate in a variety of educational activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., including math, art and music activities. For more information or to volunteer, contact Leana McClain at 812-856-8160 or
  • A "mini-fair" for elementary- and middle-school students, including activities focused on education, friendship, diversity and the teachings of Dr. King. Tables will be hosted by student organizations from IU and Bloomington High School South. It will begin at noon on Jan. 19 at Bloomington High School South.

Complete information about all IU King Day events is available at a special Web site at