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Michael Wilkerson
IU Office of the Vice President for Student Development and Diversity

George Vlahakis

Last modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Civil Rights Commission chair highlights celebration of Martin Luther King's life

Mary Frances Berry, the controversial chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, will speak at Indiana University Bloomington as the headline event in a busy and diverse campus celebration of Martin Luther King Day on Monday (Jan. 21) at 6 p.m. in IU's Whittenberger Auditorium.

A distinguished scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of seven books, Berry has been in the news during the past year due to her leadership in an investigation that found significant vote fraud in Florida during the 2000 election and in a matter involving a new appointment to the commission by President Bush.

For many hours in December 2001, Berry's face and voice became familiar to many Americans as she chaired long hearings about the Florida elections, accepting testimony from many voters and questioning election officials about events in November 2000. Last summer, she also was in the news when she refused to swear in a Bush appointee to the commission, arguing that the commissioner whom Bush sought to replace still had four years left in her term. That case is still unresolved and is in the courts.

As a member of the Civil Rights Commission since 1980, Berry has been a leader in a number of national civil rights initiatives and has received 28 honorary degrees from a wide variety of universities.

"Civil rights opened the windows. When you open the windows, it does not mean that everyone will get through. We must create our own opportunities," Berry has said. "When it comes to the cause of justice, I take no prisoners and I don't believe in compromise."

Other events centered around Martin Luther King Day include a massive volunteer effort organized in cooperation with a number of nonprofit agencies and the City of Bloomington, to be held all day Saturday (Jan. 19) and again on Monday; a tribute concert to King at the IU School of Music on Tuesday (Jan. 15) at 8 p.m.; a student re-enactment of 1960s civil rights "freedom rides" beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Jan. 17) at Wright Quadrangle; an interfaith prayer service on Monday (Jan. 21) at 9 a.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium; and a community celebration of King's life on Monday (Jan. 21) at 7 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre.

"Dr. King's birthday is a celebration of his life and values, but it is more than that," said Gloria Gibson, chair of the campus King Commission and associate vice chancellor of multicultural affairs. "The slogan 'A Day On, Not A Day Off' is very important. MLK Day is a day of learning, commitment and service, and I hope a great many students get involved. The opportunity to hear Mary Frances Berry is one that should not be missed."

All the events of Martin Luther King Day are free. For more information, contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs at 812-855-9632.