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IU South Bend student, staff member honored for social justice advocacy

Community Engagement News Release Jan 24, 2024

Pictured from left: Brie Simmons and George Garner Indiana University South Bend student Brie Simmons and staff member George Garner were honored with Building Bridges awards at Indiana University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. This award recognizes individuals who capture Dr. King’s vision, spirit, and leadership in ways both big and small at IU and within their communities across Indiana.

Simmons is a math education major, Herbert Presidential Scholar, and president of the Black Student Union. The IU South Bend nomination committee selected Simmons due to their exemplary leadership, dedication to advancing social justice initiatives on campus, and academic excellence.

“Brie has been the pinnacle example of individual and student leadership on IU South Bend’s campus. As president of the Black Student Union, their unwavering commitment to advocacy, visibility, and critical programming has further created and cultivated a culture of belonging and a safe space to facilitate discussion and dialogue of difficult topics. In addition to their leadership on campus, Brie’s commitment to their academics is unparalleled, as they work both independently and collaboratively with their peers to the highest standard.”

Simmons was excited upon learning of their receiving the Building Bridges Award, and the win is serving as motivation for continuing the impactful work of the Black Student Union.

“I haven’t been working with the Black Student Union very long, but I’m glad that we’ve come so far already. I can’t wait to see how far we go in the future, especially with Black History Month approaching,” says Simmons. “I’m so honored to have been recognized as capturing the essence of MLK in my work, but I can’t take all of the credit. I have an amazing team that helps to get the job done.”

Garner is assistant director and curator of the Civil Rights Heritage Center at IU South Bend, which operated as a segregated city-owned swimming pool for 30 years. Garner recently authored a book titled “Placing History – An African American Landmark Tour of South Bend, Indiana.” The IU South Bend nomination committee selected Garner for being a well-respected advocate for DEI work on campus and within the community, and the role he has played in telling the story of the local community in an accessible way.

“George has dedicated his career to exploring how museums lead people to make meaning from traumatic histories and use that work to actively change today. We are so grateful and fortunate to have staff like George and see his passion for social justice make a difference. He has lifted countless voices of the oppressed and marginalized populations in his book, and through the recorded series of podcasts.”

Garner is honored for his advocacy being recognized and is committed to advancing the critical work of the Civil Rights Heritage Center.

“Dr. King said, ‘The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.’ I feel that his words best capture the spirit needed from everyone in our current moment of challenge and controversy. I would never compare my work to Dr. King’s, but I am humbled by the recognition of my colleagues and their confidence in the Civil Rights Heritage Center to share difficult histories with honesty and to hold space for our community to listen and learn from each other.”

Simmons and Garner will receive their Building Bridges Awards on campus at the Coffee with the Chancellor event on February 14. To learn more about the Building Bridges Award, visit: https://mlkcelebration.indiana.edu/building-bridges/2024-recipients.html

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