Civil Rights leader Kenneth Morris coming to Kokomo in January

KOKOMO, Ind. – For the 15th year, Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo is presenting its “Doing the Dream” events honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In January, a series of programs for area school students, as well as a community banquet on Jan. 31, will feature a guest speaker who is recognized internationally as a dynamic leader in advancing civil rights around the world.

Kenneth B. Morris Jr.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

With its 2019 “Doing the Dream” program, Ivy Tech is also recognizing the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of King’s most significant predecessors in the fight for racial equality, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, by welcoming one of Douglass’ direct descendants – Kenneth B. Morris Jr. – as keynote speaker.

Morris actually descends from two of the most influential names in American history; he is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of renowned educator and author Booker T. Washington. Today, Morris continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

“Since 2005, Ivy Tech’s ‘Doing the Dream: A Cultural Celebration’ has been an annual event for the community and local students designed to embrace and celebrate cultural diversity as expressed by Dr. King’s vision of peace, service and unity,” said Chancellor Dean McCurdy. “In 14 years, its impact has been felt by the more than 24,000 people – school children, high school and college students, teachers and faculty members, religious and civic leaders, and community members – who have participated in ‘Doing the Dream’ activities.

“Ivy Tech is pleased to continue this tradition by bringing to Kokomo this dynamic speaker who is recognized as a proponent of education for all and a leader in the fight for freedom and dignity for all. His message will resonate with anyone who shares Frederick Douglass’s conviction that ‘It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’”

As keynote speaker for the 2019 “Doing the Dream” events, Morris will discuss past, present, and future – the history of the struggle for human rights, the power of the individual to make positive changes in their communities, and the on-going work of the modern abolitionist movement to fight the scourge of human trafficking – today’s slavery – around the world. On Jan. 29 and 30, Morris will speak at three high schools in Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Service Area (Kokomo, Logansport, and Peru) and on Jan. 31, he will present at two public events – a free student convocation and a community banquet.

The community banquet will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, at Bel Air Events, 3014 S. Webster St., in Kokomo. Tickets are now on sale at $50 for the dinner and presentation; reservations can be made by going to ivytech.edu/kokomo/dream or calling 765-252-5500.

The free student convocation will begin at 11 a.m. that day in the Kokomo Event & Conference Center, 1500 N. Reed Road (Ind. 931). The recommended audience for the event is high school juniors and seniors. To get more information about participating in the student convocation, contact Allison Toren, program chair of General Studies and a lead on the “Doing the Dream” activities, at 765-252-5518 or atoren@ivytech.edu.

Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and the Community Foundation of Howard County are serving as lead sponsors to support participation by a noted speaker for the “Doing the Dream” celebration.

“This includes support of the student convocations where we expect more than 2,000 students will have the chance to hear Mr. Morris’s message,” said Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of Resource Development for Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Service Area. “Along with the presentations at Kokomo, Logansport, and Peru high schools, school superintendents from around north central Indiana have been invited to bring their students to the free convocation Jan. 31.”

Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI), which Morris co-founded to carry on the work of his great-great-great-grandfather, brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement, FDFI has several projects designed to educate young people about all forms of forced servitude and inspire them to action. Morris strongly believes, as did Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, that education is the pathway to freedom.

Morris also serves as a director of the Frederick Douglass Ireland Project, as an ambassador for the nonprofit organization Human Rights First, and as a member of the federal Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. He is an accomplished and prolific public speaker who has appeared on numerous nationally broadcast news and commentary programs as well as several National Geographic documentaries. His long list of honors includes awards from the National Park Service, the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.