Following the past year of racial unrest and the riot at the U.S. Capitol, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard used the city of Carmel’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration to address the need for the nation to unite.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name will always stand for the dream of a nation united,” Brainard said in a virtual ceremony Jan. 18 from the Palladium. “He shared his gift and risked his life to help drive the darkness of racism from a country in need of a light, working out conflict with kindness and love rather than hatred and violence. This day gives us the opportunity to remember it was the struggle for recognition of the natural rights for all people that turned a Baptist preacher from Atlanta, Georgia, into a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. It also allows us to assess the full measure of Dr. King’s message of racial equality, economic justice and peace in our own time.”
Regardless of race, religion, nationality or personal characteristics, Brainard said everyone must learn to live together in harmony and promote love, justice and humanity.
“Our area has a long history of advocating for human rights,” Brainard said.
Brainard said the Underground Railroad, a network that helped escaped slaves pass through the north into Canada, was very active in Hamilton County, particularly in Westfield and Carmel.
“It is responsible for the freedom of more slaves than any other county in central Indiana,” Brainard said. “As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy together, let’s be mindful of his example to all Americans to live our lives dedicated to the mission of social justice and human rights. This is what we are called to do and what we must do.”
The event benefited the United Negro College Fund. Bryan Kelley, the area development director for UNCF and a Carmel resident, was one of the speakers.
“Carmel has been a proud and committed partner of UNCF since 2014,” Kelley said. “UNCF was founded (in 1944) to provide black students access to education when that was not the norm. We still exist today to ensure access to education is fair and equitable for all students.”
UNCF supports 37 historically Black universities with more than 400 unique scholarship programs.
“We ensure 60,000 students get the education they need through our support,” Kelley said.
Because of the pandemic, Kelley said UNCF is in a state of emergency for funding.
“Every day, COVID-19 exacerbates the challenges our students and institutions must overcome,” Kelley said.
Dee Thornton, who serves on the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Human Relations, served as emcee.
“The commission’s role is to advise the mayor on better ways to recognize and appreciate the contributions of citizens of all races and ancestry,” Thornton said. “It also serves as a forum to handle possible prejudices that adversely affect the public welfare. Carmel has become a very diverse community with many different faiths and cultures represented.”
The ceremony included scenes recreated from Carmel-based Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Alabama Story.” ATI presented the play, which touches on censorship and segregation in Alabama in 1959, in 2019. A recorded performance is being streamed through Feb. 14. There were several performances by students of KJI Institute for the Arts.
To donate to UNCF, visit uncf.org/Indianapolis.