MLK Celebration

Reclaiming History: Creating the Dream

January 17, 2022

For more than 30 years, Valpo has engaged students, faculty, staff, retirees, and the broader Northwest Indiana community in purposeful dialogue about the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how to further this legacy today and beyond. 

We are happy to announce the 2022 MLK Day celebration, titled “Reclaiming History: Creating the Dream” will feature a keynote address from Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Ed Gordon.  Gordon is the president of Ed Gordon Media, a multi-service production company.

In 2020, Gordon authored, Conversation in Black where he interviewed over 40 leaders and influencers for a “virtual” conversation about the state of Black America. Gordon also hosted and executive produced Ed Gordon, an hour-long quarterly newsmagazine on Bounce TV. 

Gordon hosted and executive-produced the nationally syndicated one-on-one program Conversations with Ed Gordon. The signature program allows Gordon to bring newsmakers and celebrities up close and personal with viewers. Over the years, guests have included Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Kevin Hart, and Beyoncé, among many others. Previously, he has also been a contributing correspondent for the CBS news show 60 Minutes II, a contributor for NBC’s Today Show and Dateline, the host of NPR’s News and Notes with Ed Gordon, and the MSNBC anchor and host of the nationally syndicated television programs Our World and Weekly with Ed Gordon. He further distinguished himself during two stints at BET.


9 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.Pick Up Program Booklet/ Give Directions to Focus Sessions  Harre Union Lobby
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.Concurrent SessionsCommunity Room & Ballrooms A, B, and C
11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.On your own 
$5.00 Buffet lunch for all at Founders
Founders Table, Harre Union
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.ConvocationThe Chapel of the Resurrection
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.Books Signing and ReceptionBrown and Gold Room

Focus Sessions:

Harre Union, Ballroom A 

“Reforming the Role of an Educator” lead by: Teresa Neubert, Valpo Student

A common misconception is that white students from affluent neighborhoods bypass their culturally diverse peers in all aspects, academic and otherwise (Hammond, 2015). By seeing cultural differences as a strength rather than an obstacle, educators can use culturally responsive teaching as a tactic against these misconceptions and harmful judgments.

Being presented with this introduction, audience members will then make connections to their own K-12 education experiences. The audience will be presented with questions (not limited to) such as, When was the first time you had a teacher of color? What are some words or phrases that you can recall from when you learned about the civil rights movement in kindergarten through 12th grade? Did your educators ever advocate for your peers of color? Did they ever need to? How did they?

“The value of Integrating Social Workers Into Community-Oriented Policing” led by: Caroline Ban, MSW, Program Director and Assistant Professor of Social Work, Sam Burgett, MSW ’20, Police Social Worker at Valparaiso Police Department, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, and Jeff Balon Chief of Police at Valparaiso Police Department

Between 67-80% of police calls are related to social problems, such as substance use, mental illness, homelessness, and housing instability, etc. (Patterson, 2013; Ward, 2019). The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these societal issues and led to increasing rates of calls to the police and a significant rise in the need for social services. We expect the police to effectively respond to and perform crisis management, suicide prevention, addictions intervention, crisis counseling, elder and child abuse, and human trafficking. However, police officers do not receive the training, nor do they have sufficient time to both uphold law and order and simultaneously respond to social issues effectively. Communities question what measures could be taken to reduce violence and promote community-oriented policing. Several police departments throughout the country, such as Alexandria, KY, and Griffith, IN, have begun to employ social workers and provide witness to the positive results. These innovative departments have reported improved community relations, decreased rates of homicide, fewer repeat 911 calls, 15% fewer incarcerations and overall healthier communities, which have resulted in significant cost reductions for the departments and their communities (Mattingly, 2020). Through the process of service referrals, social workers can decrease calls for service received by police departments, address social issues, and foster positive relationships with community members. These departments attest that there are options other than arresting individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis, responding to weekly calls from families experiencing domestic violence, answering repeat calls on individuals experiencing homelessness, or continuously combatting the delinquency of youth who are being neglected at home. As of September 2021, Valparaiso Police Department has joined the initiative and begun to help develop the new field of Police Social Work by hiring their first police social worker.

 Anchor Panelist: Brian S Collier, Ph.D.

Brian S Collier teaches at the University of Notre Dame with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and also undergraduate courses for American Studies and the Education, Schooling, & Society minor as well as the History Department. His work focuses on Native American Education and he is also the Senior Advisor to the American Indian Catholic Schools Network. His research and teaching focus on ways to bring truth, reconciliation, and healing to our schools, our communities, and our families through the power of transformative education practices, steeped in Civil Rights for all and the tradition of telling of hard truths and not taking on the sins of those who have gone before us, but acknowledging the benefits and damages that earlier actions have caused for us all and how to react differently so that better outcomes might be available for all in our communities and our larger society.

Harre Union, Ballroom B

“Welcome Project” led by Allison Schuette, MFA, Welcome Project co-director, Associate Professor of English ’93 and Willow Walsh, BA, Welcome Project Community Liaison, ‘19

The Welcome Project ( is an audio/video story collection of edited interviews with campus and community residents. We have the campus initiative that asks storytellers to reflect on when they have and haven’t felt a sense of belonging on campus, the Invisible Project initiative that asks storytellers about their experience with homelessness in Porter County, and the Flight Paths initiative that asks storytellers to help tell the history of Gary and the region, especially focused on the civil rights era.

“How to be an Antiracist at a PWI” led by Valpo Students Noor Azmat, Eliana Miller, and Kayla Smith

This panel examines the intersectionality between race, class, and gender in the media. According to Kellner, “media images shape our view of the world and our deepest values” (p.7). This student-led panel outlines the implications of media representation and its relationship to policies that perpetuate systemic racism. Students will use concepts from Kendi’s How to Be An Anti-racist and Gender, Race, and Class in Media as a springboard for the presentation.  

Anchor Panelist: James Muhammad, President & CEO of Lakeshore Public Media

James A. Muhammad is the President & CEO of Lakeshore Public Media based in Merrillville, Indiana which serves the Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland areas.  His position makes him one of a handful of African Americans responsible for a joint PBS and NPR operation. Muhammad is the first African American to hold his position at Lakeshore Public Media.

Known for his transformative leadership style, Muhammad has led Lakeshore Public Media to numerous national and regional recognitions including an Emmy Award, a Gold Telly Award, six Silver Telly Awards, four Public Media Award nominations, and four Emmy Award nominations.  Lakeshore Public Media had not received any of these prestigious recognitions prior to his arrival.  Due to his accomplishments at Lakeshore Public Media he was named to the 2020 Public Media Honor Roll.

Prior to arriving at Lakeshore Public Media, Muhammad had already received such recognitions as the Peabody Award, a national Edward R. Murrow Award, a Silver Baton award from Columbia University, and a Gabriel Award. Muhammad serves on the board of the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations Association. He received his B.A. in mass communications from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and his M.B.A. from Valparaiso University.  He’s a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Harre Union, Ballroom C

Creating the Dream: Health parity for African Americans related to smoking led by Dr. Karen Allen, PhD, RN, FAAN Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Carolyn Higgins, M.S., RCHES ® Program Director for Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County, Karen Hernes, MSN, RN, CNE Clinical Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Health Professions

This presentation will focus specifically on smoking within the African American population in the United States. By discussing both historical and current factors that have influenced smoking rates and health outcomes, presenters will bring awareness and needed attention to this disparity. Current efforts and actions for change will be highlighted, providing participants with resources to help bring health parity.

 “The Pursuit of Dr. King’s Dream” led by the: A Greater Good Foundation team Charles Carter Jr, CEO ’15, Cody Cotton Chief of Heart ‘16,  James Turner ‘17, Joshua Easter, Chief of Operating Officer,  Alex Casimiro

We will introduce the participants to Restorative Practice – Talking Circles as a means to advocate sharing perspective, creating community, and gaining understanding. Circle-keeping is a centuries old practice used by Aboriginal people to create a safe space and shared equity in conversation. Due to the limited amount of time, our objective is to provide guests with a tool/framework to facilitate their own conversations around these subjects. Our sessions will be separated into 2-3 smaller, more intimate groups where a Circle Keeper will introduce the practice and facilitate questions

Anchor Panelists: 

Tionna Harris, MSW, LCSW (CEO of Elevation Individual and Family Therapy)

Featured in the Northwest Indiana Times newspaper and Psychology Today, Tionna Harris is a passionate therapist devoted to helping others.   Tionna Harris is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Illinois and Indiana. She is also a proud alumna of Indiana State University.

Tionna created Elevation IFT with the vision of a safe space for youth and families to address issues and improve the quality of their lives.  Tionna prides herself in being down-to-earth and going the extra mile to meet the needs of her clients.


Caroline Rosales, MA, LMHC, NCC

Caroline is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Indiana and is a National Certified Counselor. Caroline is a proud Alumna of Valparaiso University. Caroline has worked with individuals of all ages and backgrounds with focuses on depression, anxiety, ADHD, LGBTQ+, behavioral issues, relationship issues and family problems. Previously, Caroline worked in community mental health working with youth in residential treatment. Caroline uses an individualized approach to meet each client where they are at. Often she uses humor and problem solving in a relaxed setting to build trust in therapy and make your therapy experience comfortable and even enjoyable.

Christopher Center, Community Room 

Project Neighbors: Creating “A World House” in Valpo’s Backyard led by Liz Wuerffel, MFA, Associate Professor of Communication and Visual Arts  ’00, Richard Sévère, PhD Chair and Associate Professor of English and Matt Puffer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Ethics, Paul Schreiner, Execute Director of Project Neighbors

Dr hc, Valparaiso University

Valpo ’70

For more than fifty years Valpo faculty and students have volunteered with Project Neighbors to strengthen the Valparaiso community by addressing issues of race, class, and poverty, striving to create healthy families and neighborhoods, where diversity of all kinds is welcomed and cherished. In this session, we will hear about the past, present, and future of that work.

The African-American Wealth Gap: Home Ownership and Black Business led by Allison Howard, Valpo Student

The African-American Wealth Gap is a subject that describes many discriminations that African-American communities have dealt with that prevents us from reaching the same amount of financial freedom and wealth that our White counterparts have. Through this presentation I will focus on the issues surrounding home ownership and entrepreneurship within the black community. I will not only present the history surrounding them but also how we can counteract these discriminatory policies and envision ways to close this gap .The main things I will focus on will be: a small backstory on the wealth gap, redlining and discriminatory bank practices that prevented and still affect homeownership in the black community, issues surrounding the formation of black-owned businesses and the ability to scale, and finally how we change these policies to create a new future. 

Erika Watkins, Valparaiso Community Schools, Board Member

Anchor Panelist: Renaldo Hudson, Education Director of  Illinois Prison Project

Renaldo Hudson is an educator, minister, and community organizer, and focuses his work on ending perpetual punishment in Illinois. After being sentenced to death row, Hudson worked for 37 years while incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections, where he became a leader, educator, and founder. Hudson developed and implemented groundbreaking programs inside the Department of Corrections, including the prison-newspaper Stateville Speaks and the Building Block Program, a transformational program run by incarcerated people within the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Hudson’s work and life have been featured in media outlets including the BBC, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and others. His story and work to create back end mechanisms for the release of incarcerated people is the subject of the documentary Stateville Calling. He was released in September 2020 when Governor Pritzker commuted his life sentence, and joined IPP as its Director of Education later that year.

10:30 AM Welcome: President Jose Padilla

Opening Message: MLK Committee

Panel Discussions

11:00 AM (1.5 hr) Lessons From the Movement: What Would MLK Say?

(Sponsored by the Urban League)

Moderator: Chelsea Whittington

Panelists: Joey Kikke, Dr. Danny Lackey, Rev. Kevin Miller, Representative Frank Mrvan, Nia Pullins, Lucille Upshaw

12:45 PM (1hr) Lessons on Building a Lasting Movement versus a Powerful Moment

There are incredible events in our lives that shape and mold us as individuals and as a broader community. The magazine cover featuring the slain body of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks sitting down on the bus, and the march on Washington featuring Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, are all powerful, life-altering moments.  But what turned those moments into a movement?  In this discussion, panelists will interrogate the actions and framework needed to propel important moments into lasting movements that create and sustain systemic change toward justice.

Moderator: Deaconess Kristin Lewis

Panelists: Maggie Parker, David Rojas Martinez, Pam Saylor

2:00 PM (1hr) Lessons on Listening: Celebrating 10 Years of the Welcome Project

The Welcome Project began as a campus story collection about belonging, and has grown to include oral histories from the city and region. In 2015, the Welcome Project partnered with area nonprofits to create a mobile exhibit, The Invisible Project, featuring stories of homelessness in Porter County. By 2016, the Welcome Project had undertaken an initiative called Flight Paths, conducting oral history interviews across Northwest Indiana, digging into the history of Gary through migration, work in the steel mills, civic and church life, black empowerment, white flight, urban disinvestment, and regional politics. Throughout the Welcome Project’s 10-year history, Allison, Liz, and close to 200 students have conducted interviews, edited stories, and facilitated conversations on campus and across the region, engaging over 6000 people. All of this work is rooted in the act of listening. In collaboration with facilitators from the Civic Reflection Initiative, Liz and Allison share three stories from the Welcome Project archive in order to reflect on the practice of listening closely, a practice that can illuminate serious gaps in access, treatment, and equity in individual stories, in the project itself, and in society.

Presenters: Allison Schutte, Liz Wuerffel

Reflection Facilitators: Sarah Brase, Alice Abegunde

3:00 PM (1hr) Lessons from Experience: BIPOC Professionals Navigating the Workplace

Navigating any workspace has tremendous challenges. From building healthy interpersonal relationships to creating a strong portfolio of work to negotiating promotions and raises are all practical aspects to being an effective professional.  However, BIPOC professionals, in most cases, are navigating those variables plus the often ignored conversation about racism and its deleterious effects on their work experience.  Join this panel for a necessary conversation about the experience of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in the workspace.

Moderators: Dr. Gregg Johnson & Deondra Devitt

Panelists: Chris Chyung, Zebadiah Hall, Dr. Norma Ramey, Jamie Kaye Walters

4:00 PM (1hr) Lessons on Character and Integrity: Leadership From the Movement

(Sponsored by Richard C. & Francelia A. Gozon University Chair)

As the civil rights movement gained momentum, many leaders experienced immense challenges both privately and publicly. Many of these challenges included attacks on their lives and family wellbeing with the hopes of crumbling their character and undermining their integrity.  In this discussion, the panelist will share essential lessons on leading with character and integrity in advancing the movement. The panelist will also highlight the leadership impact of Black Greek Letter Organizations.

Moderator: Dr. Michael Chikeleze

Panelists: Dr. Robert Mock Jr., Beverly White


5:30 PM Lessons From the Movement

Keynote: Dr. Molefi Kete Asante

Professor & Chair of African American Studies at Temple University

7:00 (1hr) Lessons From our History: Viewing of  “From Sundown to Sunrise.”

Trace one man’s journey from sundown to sunrise as he and his family integrate an all-white Indiana town in 1968. By breaking the color barrier, they also helped transform the town and place it on a trajectory of inclusion.

10 (1hr) Celebrate (Virtually)

Speaker: Pastor Lawrence Rodgers, Minister of the Historic 2nd Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan

Fill out my online form.