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Page last updated on October 24, 2023 at 12:10 pm

Award Winners

  • (2022) Jeanetta Nelms
  • (2021) Marvin Q. Jones Jr.
  • (2020) David Hummons
  • (2019) Dr. Gladys DeVane
  • (2018) Nicole Griffin
  • (2017) Donald Griffin, Jr.
  • (2016) Rev. Dennis Laffoon
  • (2015) Craig Brenner
  • (2014) Marlene and Donald Griffin, Sr.
  • (2013) Indiana University Office of Diversity Education
  • (2012) John Whikehart
  • (2011) Daniel Soto
  • (2010) Liz Mitchell
  • (2009) WHFB Community Radio
  • (2008) Ken Thomas (2007) Dr. Charlie Nelms
  • (2006) Dr. James Mumford (2005) Banneker History Project
  • (2004) Monroe County Racial Justice Task Force
  • (2003) The Rev. E. D. Butler
  • (2003) The Rev. Michael Anderson
  • (2002) Monroe County Branch of the NAACP
  • (2001) Guy and Connie Loftman
  • (2000) Bloomington United

Most Recent Award Winner Bios

2022 Award Winner: Jeanetta Nelms

Jeanetta Nelms reflects Dr. King's legacy as a quiet humanitarian who gives so much of her time, talent, and treasure to make her community better. Jeanetta's commitment to equitable opportunities, particularly in education and civic engagement, is incredibly admirable. As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Kappa Tau Omega chapter, she served as chair of their scholarship and connections committees. She has consistently been intentional in identifying Black and Brown students in our local schools who can benefit from the scholarship. Once a recipient is selected, she goes above and beyond to make sure they have what they need in preparation for college. She goes the extra mile and does looking for nothing in return. She energizes and mobilizes chapter and local community members, encouraging them to stay abreast of issues that affect and empowers members to get involved fully in the election process. People can be counted on to receive an email, text message, or phone call from Jeanetta with a reminder to check voter registration status, go to the polls, attend a local meeting, and engage in local government. As a retired educator and college administrator, she grew up in the rural South and taught mathematics for many years. She is a proud graduate of University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, an HBCU. She was the first director of the 21st Century Scholars Program at Indiana University, an initiative that began in the 1990s in which pathways to higher education are created for students as early as 7th grade. Jeanetta, along with her husband Charlie, have financially supported countless students in their pursuit of higher education through various scholarships at colleges and universities across the nation. She has mentored many graduate students pursuing degrees at Indiana University, often creating a sense of belonging for Black students who experience challenges finding community in a predominately white city. She has consistently supported community initiatives and organizations including the Banneker Community Center, Boys and Girls Club Crestmont, and local schools. She is a giver who has a heart of gold and why her contributions are so impactful. She has a kind and warm disposition that encapsulates everyone that she encounters. She is a mover and shaker in our community, and it is a privilege to have her serve alongside us in efforts to make the community better.

2021 Award Winner: Marvin Q. Jones, Jr.

Marvin Q. Jones, Jr. lives a life that is a reflection of the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is committed to serving his community, particularly as an example of Black excellence, putting forth his best efforts as a STEM scholar and educator, a leader, and a man of faith, honor, and civility.

As Vice President of the Sigma Kappa Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, Marvin has worked with his fraternity brothers to establish and sustain programs and activities that can meet the needs of marginalized groups in the city of Bloomington. For example, Marvin 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. Marvin 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. Marvin’s commitment to service through his fraternity led to the chapter being named Chapter of the Year for two consecutive years and Marvin being recently named Chapter Brother of the Year.

As a PhD student in astrophysics, Marvin is uniquely qualified to provide assistance in subject areas including science and mathematics that are often challenging for many students, particularly at the higher level. Many adults do not have the proficiency to help high school students taking advanced mathematics, and oftentimes tutoring services are expensive. Further, among individuals who have the proficiency, not all have the temperament, skill set, and willingness to encourage and join with students. We have witnessed Marvin display these characteristics firsthand as he 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, Marvin became a coordinator of the program. He has taken 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. Marvin has helped many students complete homework, prepare for exams, and better understand upper level math and science through this program and by creating an additional weekly high school math tutoring group. Marvin, therefore, fills a critical gap by providing assistance to multiple students through a free program. When he interacts with students, he is patient, engaging, and able to break down complex concepts in new ways. Students clearly look forward to working with him, and both they and their parents have often expressed their very strong appreciation for him.

In addition, Marvin 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, Marvin was instrumental in collaborative leadership efforts, including a literacy initiative for Fairview Elementary School. Marvin 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. Marvin 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. During this time, Marvin exemplified many characteristics of one of his greatest inspirations, Bayard Rustin, a strategist and organizer for Dr. King. Although Rustin did not receive a lot of credit for his work, he was behind-the-scenes doing what was necessary to aid Dr. King during the Movement. Like Rustin, Marvin is humble and willing to stand in the shadows if it means working to improve conditions of life for his brothers and sisters.

Marvin is very tactful, organized, and driven. His peers and colleagues admire him for these qualities. Marvin works tirelessly for the organizations in which he serves. A transformational leader in his own right, he never hesitates to put others' needs before his own.

Ultimately, Marvin is the quintessence of being involved. Previously a high school math teacher and currently studying astrophysics as a PhD student at Indiana University, Marvin is no stranger to hard work and a hefty challenge. In the midst of a rigorous program of study, Marvin has been intent on serving his community and providing critical support to students of all ages across multiple service efforts. But, he does not merely serve. He is very genuinely present – he makes students, peers, and colleagues feel known, valued, and appreciated. Marvin demonstrates that being involved is not merely about doing the work; it is about the building of relationships and community, both of which are undoubtedly dear to his heart. He is very deserving of this honor. 

2020 Award Winner: David Hummons

David Hummons recently retired after working 48 years at Indiana University. At the time of his retirement he was Director of Community & Student Engagement in the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs. Through those years of service, his focus was helping students and making both campus and community more equitable. He served on the IU MLK Committee for years, frequently chairing the Building Bridges Awards selection committee. He spent nearly 50 years making tangible, visible, and meaningful contributions to the advancement of race relations, justice, and human rights causes.

In the community, Hummons has been an integral member and officer in many groups, including groups which the City of Bloomington established specifically to address race relations, justice, and/or human rights. These governmental groups include the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission and the Commission on the Status of Black Males. He has been active in other civic organizations, serving multiple times as President of the Exchange Club of Northside Bloomington and as Indiana District Director of Exchange Clubs. He also has been a longtime member of ad hoc groups, including Bloomington United and the Noah’s Ark 2 Interfaith Initiative, among others.

Not content to just be a member, Hummons helped shape the activities of the City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Black Males. He had a major role in implementing several Commission initiatives, including the community health screenings the Commission has organized and the creation of awards the Commission presents annually during Black History Month. He served in a similar role on the MLK Commission, helping the Commission evaluate its goals each year while often acting as emcee at MLK Birthday Celebrations, representing the interests of the Commission in meetings with MCCSC officials and other community groups, and acting as liaison between the MLK Commission and IU MLK Committee.

Hummons’ actions serve as an example of what it means to make tangible and meaningful contributions. His presence on City commissions has been a guiding force, enabling both the MLK Commission and Commission on the Status of Black Males to determine and reach their goals over the many years during which he has been involved, with Hummons often acting and speaking on behalf of the commissions during public events, meetings, and presentations.He has been a faithful and important contributing member in many non-governmental civic groups. And his official and unofficial roles and actions on the IU campus have positively influenced countless students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

Because Hummons exemplifies a commitment to community engagement, he has received numerous awards, including the City’s Living Legend Award, IU’s Lifetime Achievement and Building Bridges Awards, and a Certificate of Excellence at the National Exchange Clubs Leadership Conference. Most recently, David was recently honored with the Indiana University Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award.

His contributions to race relations, justice, and human rights and his impact on the community are legendary and ongoing. For a living a life committed to justice and a passion for serving others and his deep community involvement, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission was proud to present David Hummons with the 2020 MLK Legacy Award.

2019 Award Winner: Dr. Gladys DeVane

Dr. Gladys DeVane has thirty eight years of teaching, administrative and civic experience.  She has served in numerous local, state and national committees, boards, and commissions, thus she brings to the table a wealth of experience and expertise across a wide range of activities.  Civic leadership and participation at the local and state levels include, but are not limited to, membership and service to; Bloomington Hospital Advisory Board; Bloomington, Developmental Center Board of Directory; Bloomington Youth Shelter Board of Directors; Stone Belt Center Board of Directors, Indiana Association for Retarded Citizens. Bloomington's Playwright's Project Board of Directors. She has a commitment to justice and a passion of service to others.  Gladys has worked tirelessly as a supporter of and advocating for people with disabilities. Gladys was invaluable as a speech, language, hearing clinician for the Monroe County Community School Corporation, she worked with elementary, secondary and high school students, their parents and teachers.

While working full time, raising a family and earning an advanced degree, Gladys co-founded "Better Living for Special People" (now called Life Designs) an organization that provides group homes, apartments and assisted living for people with developmental disabilities.  In addition, Gladys has served on the National Speech and Hearing Association Diversity Committee which she Chaired, Indiana Association for Retarded Citizens Board of Directors, Kelley School of Business Diversity Advisory Board, Center for Human Growth Board of Directors. Most recently Gladys became a member of KAP (Kids with Absent Parents). As an actor, stroyteller, writer and narrator she has performed in mainstage plays, storytelling events and stage readings. She has provided "voice-over" and narratives for documentaries and has written and performed numerous plays depicting the lives and struggles of real African American people. In celebration of Indiana's bicentennial, Gladys co-wrote, produced and performed in Reslilience: Indiana's Untold Story and most recently wrote a play for Monroe County's bicentennial "Stories of Monroe" both of which had sold out performances.

This community would suffer from a huge void without Dr. Gladys DeVane. Her enthusiasm for writing, telling and acting out the stories of African Americans in and out of out community has made a tremendous impact.  Her devotion to the special needs community is unmeasuable. As a member of KAP, Gladys is there to do what she can in assisting the innocent children who are suffering when their parent or parents are incarcerated, leaving them to most likely live in poverty, have depression and anxiety. Gladys has lived a life committed to justice and a passion for serving others, this is why she was honored as an elder in Stephana L Colbert's book, "Ordinary Extraordinary African American Women: The Elders." Gladys received the Living Legends Award in 2012 along with numerous other awards since arriving in Bloomington in the 1960's because of her deep community involvement and service to others. 


2018 Award Winner: Nicole Griffin

Nicole Griffin is one of those people who can easily be overlooked because she is unassuming and goes about her day taking care of business without the need for recognition or accolades. However, there is so much in Bloomington that wouldn’t get done if not for Nicole’s perseverance, creativity, and tenacity.

In addition to her role as loving wife, doting mom, and loyal daughter, Nicole spends her days as director of the Indiana University Visitor’s Center, arranging tours and connecting prospective students, parents and other visitors with information about the campus and the Bloomington community.

Never one to complain, when Nicole realizes a gap, she forges ahead to make things right:

  • Along with Chalmer Thompson, Nicole created and coordinated Summer Heritage Camp – to share African American, Asian, and Latino culture and heritage with children during their summer break. This endeavor helped keep children from minority population attending majority culture schools in touch with their own heritage and gave them a sense of belonging.
  • As a member of the City of Bloomington Black History Month Committee, she helped spearhead an initiative to recognize local women who had gone unnoticed and unsung but had been instrumental in the mentoring and nurturing of others. These women were recognized at two magnificent Legends’ Teas in 2012 and 2014. Additionally, along with her husband Donald, she conceived the Black History Month Living Legends Awards to recognize long time African American Bloomingtonians who have helped shape the campus and community. Nicole and Donald are in their 11th year of sponsoring this recognition.
  • Nicole and Donald pulled together a consortium of donors in order to assure more representation of African American artists in the Eskenazi Museum of Art collections.
  • 2017 Lemonade Day Champion – encouraged and supported young entrepreneurs (5-12) participating in Lemonade Day.
  • Served on the planning committee for the 2017 American Heart Association annual fundraising luncheon.
  • Although she will be coming off the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Commission this year, she served as chairperson for three years and agreed to stay on to assist current chair Marcus Debro transition into the role.

If this wasn’t enough – Nicole spends much of her time supporting her son Dexter in his academic, musical, and athletic endeavors and, of course, keeping husband Donald on track – which is no small task.

For her kind spirit, grace under pressure, and her willingness to always step in and lend a helping hand, Nicole Griffin was the recipient of the 2018 MLK Legacy Award.

2017 Award Winner: Donald Griffin, Jr.

During the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration on January 16th, the 2017 Legacy Award was presented by Mayor Hamilton to Donald Griffin, Jr. a businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, advocate, husband, father, son, and a Bloomingtonian. As his nominator said, he is more than a sum of all these things. “It’s how he uses his talents, resources, and gifts to make the community a better place that qualifies him for the 2017 Legacy Award. Congratulations again, Donald Griffin, Jr.

2016 Award Winner: Dennis Laffoon

It would have been easy for Rev. Dennis Laffoon to settle into Bloomington with his wife, Rochelle and their children, continue to work as a graphic designer for the Herald Times and enjoy what life had to offer. Instead, Rev. Laffoon responded to the call to ministry by attending seminary to prepare himself, serving two churches in southern Indiana and after being appointed to Bethel AME Church, came full circle back to serve the community where he'd matriculated and matured into manhood. For one to become a pastor, there are sacrifices to be made. Most people don't take ministry lightly or go into it ill-advised. In this role, Dennis has been able to reach out into the community to bring hope and inspiration to those in need. His life and his ministry are focused on issues of justice and race relations. He faces these issues with intelligence, compassion and a determination to make a difference.

Rev. Dennis Laffoon is a native of Gary, Indiana. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic design from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1993.After years of serving the church, he answered his call to preach in 1999, which led him to pursue higher education, earning his Masters of Divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Following ordination, he served as pastor of Bethel A.M.E Church in New Albany, Indiana for four years prior to his appointment here to Bloomington.

Rev. Laffoon is a published writer with the African American Lectionary through Vanderbilt University Divinity School and is a distinguished fellow of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, sponsored by the Lilly Endowment. He is husband to Rev. Rochelle Laffoon and together they have three wonderful children, Laurence Malik, Britanny Cherí (pronounced sher-ay), and Aubrey Xavier (pronounced Za-vee-er).With a love of the visual and performing arts, he brings a bevy of gifts and talents to his ministry and is committed to using them as a bridge to show the world God’s love. Rev. Laffoon loves his family, he loves his church, but more than anything; he loves the Lord.

2015 Award Winner: Craig Brenner

Craig Brenner spent twenty years as the Special Projects Coordinator in the City of Bloomington's Community and Family Resources Department. His contributions, in the words of his nominator, "have been meaningful to many individuals as well as the Bloomington community." Craig was nominated by a colleague at the Community and Family Resources Department, who has been able to watch firsthand for many years his efforts on behalf of the MLK Commission, the Commission on the Status of Black Males, and the Council on Community Accessibility. He has consistently planned numerous programs that were beneficial for the entire community.

Craig's personality and sense of humor welcomed each volunteer and commissioner and made them feel appreciated as well as a valuable part of the team on which they served. His knowledge of the community, ability to engage community partners, and attention to detail enabled commissioners to focus on the bigger goals of their commissions. Because of his knowledge and abilities, many individuals who had never previously served on a commission began their service and moved into leadership roles both on the commission and in other parts of their lives. Although advocacy was his profession, it was also his passion.

Craig graduated from Florida Southern College with a Political Science degree in 1970, taught and studied music in Miami, FL, then studied music at Indiana University. Other involvements include being a VISTA volunteer for the South Central Community Action Program and setting up Hoosier Hills Food Bank, being a VISTA Supervisor for Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis, serving as the first City of Bloomington liaison with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission, the Council for Community Accessibility, and the Commission on the Status of Women. He also served on various boards and committees including the IU MLK Birthday Committee and the IU Committee to End Rape and Relationship Violence. He received the Mayor's Award for the Council for Community Accessibility in Oct. 2014.

Craig is also a professional musician and has been called on many times to contribute his talent and skills as a musician to enhance various nonprofit events and functions. He has volunteered by performing music and/or raising funds at Middle Way House, Monroe County Jail, Indiana University, etc. His CD release parties provided funds and food for Community Kitchen and Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

2014 Award Winners: Marlene and Donald Griffin, Sr.

At the Jan. 20, 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration, Mayor Mark Kruzan presented the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award to Marlene and Donald Griffin, Sr., lauding them as having "always been advocates for civil rights and social justice." Donald Griffin, Sr. was one of the first African-American police officers in Bloomington. He worked to resolve issues between people of different races, cultures and religions. The Griffins have been active in the Monroe County NAACP, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Lions Club, Groups Student Advisory Board and numerous other organizations. Donald, Sr. is currently the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Bedford, IN, and both he and Marlene are continually helping others regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, location or age. "If someone needs help, they will be there," the mayor affirmed.

2013 Award Winner: IU Office of Diversity Education

The Office of Diversity Education serves as a resource for issues of diversity and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff. It helps students prepare for a global economy and increasingly diverse population by providing multicultural competence training and opportunities to interact with IU’s multicultural students.

2012 Award Winner: John Whikehart

John took office as the Chancellor of the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College on September 5, 2001. An employee of the College since 1991, he vacated the post of Executive Director for Administration at Ivy Tech's Region 5 at Kokomo to lead Ivy Tech's newest region based in Bloomington. In his previous position, John was responsible for financial, human resources, and the auxiliary service areas of the three campuses - Kokomo, Logansport and Wabash - in the Region 5 / Kokomo service area. In addition to those administrative duties, John taught courses in public policy and political science as an adjunct faculty member at both Ivy Tech Kokomo and Indiana University Kokomo.

Prior to his tenure with Ivy Tech, John served as Director of Staff in the Indiana State Senate, Director of Community Relations at Indiana University Kokomo, Personnel Director for the City of Kokomo, and Director of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) program in Monroe, Lawrence, Orange, Washington and Jackson counties. In addition, he served as a member of the Board of Public Works for the City of Kokomo.

John earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Indiana University Bloomington, a Certificate in Public Management from the SPEA Graduate School at IUPUI and a Master of Arts in Political Science from Ball State University. He also has post-graduate work in a PhD program in Educational Administration from Indiana State University.

As impressive as his resume is, it does not begin to tell the story of what John Whikehart has meant and continues to mean to those with whom he interacts in his professional and personal relations. Whether it's encouraging students to return to or stay in school, administering arts programming in this region of the state, helping keep the John Waldron Arts Center open and making it thrive as the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, annually supporting the efforts of our own Dr. Martin Luther King Commission in whatever way he is asked. He started the Ivy Tech Center for Civic Engagement and the O'Bannon Institute, bringing to two such figures as Sen. Birch Bayh, Sen. George McGovern, Mary Matalin and James Carville, Laura Bush, Dors Kerns Goodwin, Arriana Huffington, Richard Dreyfuss, Eugene Robinson, and the list goes on - all to offer students and community alike access to these contemporary movers and shakers in American life.

He has been a transformative and inspirational figure in Bloomington, putting the community back in community college and involving Ivy Tech in many aspects of the civic life of our community. He is a cornerstone of the community in both his professional and personal life.