KOKOMO, Ind. – In celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students and staff from Indiana University Kokomo were among those honored across the IU system for their work in upholding the social rights activist’s vision.
Student artist Shailyn Nash and Black Student Center leader JC Barnett III were each named recipients of the Building Bridges award, while the IU Kokomo Equity Ambassadors received the campus’ first MLK Student Organization Grant to support an upcoming campus program.
The Building Bridges award honors faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners across IU’s campuses who capture King’s spirit, vision, and leadership. The grant awards $500 to a student organization for programs, event sponsorships, or efforts supporting inclusivity, respect for diversity, and community service.
Shailyn Nash, a senior graduating in May with a degree in New Media, Art, and Technology, was named the student recipient of the 2022 Building Bridges award for her senior thesis exhibition, “Our Hair, Our Story, My Story,” depicting the relationship the Black community has with natural hair.
Learning she had been chosen to receive this award was emotional, Nash said.
“Just thinking about myself, I don’t feel like I would have deserved that award. To know that someone else thinks that of me, it felt really good,” she said. “It kind of felt like all I had put into it was not done in vain. The fact that people feel the piece and they understand the piece and they know it, makes it just that much more successful.”
Barnett III, who is also a financial aid counselor at IU Kokomo, was the community recipient of the Building Bridges award. He was recognized for his work with the Black Student Center, which provides a place of belonging and facilitates academic and social support opportunities in a safe and welcoming environment for Black students.
Investing and educating young adults is important to Barnett, which is why he believes the Center plays an important part on campus.
“To be able to have a space like the Black Student Center here on campus, and to give students an opportunity to see Black leadership, is vitally important,” he said. “Dr. King invested so much time, effort and attention into the youth in trying to get them to understand and develop positive perspectives in their lives. That’s very much what I am about. To be thought of as an individual making great strides in that area, in trying to develop young people in those ways.”
The upcoming Equal Pay Day earned the campus’s first MLK grant. Freshman Evan Price, who is leading the project for the Equity Ambassadors, explained that day measures how far into the year a woman must work to be paid what a man was paid in the previous year, with a goal of spreading awareness of the wage gap between men and women.
“It brings awareness to the issue, where people can learn about it and understand that it is still going on,” Price said.
In 2022, Equal Pay Day falls on Saturday, April 2, and will be recognized on campus Wednesday, March 30. Students can play a quiz-style game with questions about when different groups of women, including Asian American, Black, Hispanic and working mothers, reach wage parity.
“It’s an honor to be put in the same sentence as MLK,” Price said. “I think that his work was very important in our history, and I believe there is still work to be done. I’m glad I can be helping out in some way.”