Muncie, Ball State communities kick off Black History Month

<p>(From left to right) WaTasha Barnes Griffin, chairperson of the MLK Dream Team, Sali Falling, Ball State's vice president and general counsel, and Yvonne Thompson, director of the Muncie Human Rights Office, pose for a photo Feb. 1, 2020, at the Black History Month Kickoff event at Minnetrista. Falling was one of the recipients of the James &amp; Marilyn Carey Community Service Award. <strong>Jaden Hasse, DN</strong></p>

(From left to right) WaTasha Barnes Griffin, chairperson of the MLK Dream Team, Sali Falling, Ball State's vice president and general counsel, and Yvonne Thompson, director of the Muncie Human Rights Office, pose for a photo Feb. 1, 2020, at the Black History Month Kickoff event at Minnetrista. Falling was one of the recipients of the James & Marilyn Carey Community Service Award. Jaden Hasse, DN

Students and community leaders from the Ball State and Muncie communities joined hands for Muncie’s annual Black History Month kickoff.

The event, held Saturday at Minnetrista, opened with the Black History Month proclamation speech by Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour.

“We understand that for Muncie to move forward, it takes everybody to move forward,” Ridenour said. “Anything we can do to help, we’re here to do it.”

The event featured a silent auction, awards for local community leaders and the recognition of the winners of an essay contest for students from local schools.

It also featured a presentation about the Race Relations Survey 2020, a survey of Muncie and Delaware County residents to determine their perceptions of race relations.

The last race relations survey of the community was held in 2000, according to the event’s information pamphlet. This year, a group led by the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Team, an organization focused on promoting King’s ideologies, will revisit this survey, gather new data and recommend steps to improve race relations in the community, it states.

Under the guidance of Melinda Messineo, professor of sociology, Ball State students as part of capstone class have been working on the new survey since the beginning of the academic year.

During the fall semester, students were in charge of creating the survey, and this semester, students will be distributing the survey as far as they can. 

“A lot of things have changed, like people don’t use landlines, which is how they’ve got the data 20 years ago,” said Margaret Fishbeck, one of the students currently in the capstone class.

While Fishbeck said the team is still brainstorming ways of distributing the survey in the community, the link to an online version of the survey was distributed at the event.

Ball State students and Melinda Messineo, professor of sociology, (third from right) pose for a photo Feb. 1, 2020, at the Black History Month Kickoff event at Minnetrista. Messineo and her students, in partnership with the MLK Dream Team, are conducting the Race Relations Survey 2020. Jaden Hasse, DN

Work on the survey will continue into next year, Messineo said, and the students next year will work on analyzing the data gained.

She reflected on the experiences students had with the survey and getting opportunities to visit historical sites in Muncie.

For example, Messineo said, students got to visit Schaffer Chapel, Muncie's oldest standing public school building, which was built in 1893 and later purchased by a church congregation, according to the Indiana Historical Bureau’s website.

The building served as a rallying point in 1930 when bodies of two African-American men, lynched in Marion, were brought to Muncie for embalming, the website states.

“Just the process and experience of working with the community got the students out into the community, and that was phenomenal,” Messineo said.

Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns, who attended the event, reflected on the importance of the Ball State and Muncie communities working together.

“Dr. King recognized that that brighter future only comes about if we work together,” Mearns said. “It doesn’t happen by chance. It doesn’t happen automatically. It comes by joined arms, joining hands and working together.”

Contact Jaden Hasse with comments at jdhasse@bsu.edu or on Twitter @HasseJaden.

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