News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 21, 2014

Sowing the seeds of our future

TERRE HAUTE — The ability for people to make a difference is sown in their youth.

It was young people who helped carry out the efforts of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and youths should know their role in how they can improve the future, said Valerie A. Hart-Craig, president of the Terre Haute Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and program coordinator at the Charles W. Brown African American Cultural Center on the Indiana State University campus.

Hart-Craig was the keynote speaker Monday during the 10th annual MLK Jr. Youth Summit, held at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. The summit, sponsored by Ivy Tech and the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission, attracted more than 60 students, plus volunteers from Ivy Tech Community College and ISU.

The seeds for King’s famous “I have a dream” speech were sown at the age of 15 when King won the Georgia Black Elks oratorical contest by writing “The Negro and the Constitution,” Hart-Craig said.

“[King] was thinking about what was going on in the world around him at a young age,” Hart-Craig said. “You don’t have to wait until you are 21 or 25 to get started,” to think about how to be pro-active, she said.

Hart-Craig said youths should also learn from their elders, then use that knowledge. Hart-Craig said newer generations have lost the ability “to know how to assert yourself without being offensive.”

The keynote speaker encouraged students to “know their role. You are in school to learn. You are on this earth for a purpose, to make a difference. You are not here of your own accord, and you are not here by yourself. You affect the whole, even if it is just your own family.”

Students went through three different workshops under the theme “accelerate excellence.” In one workshop, students stood in a circle and threw a ball to another person after naming a strength they had, while in another session, students placed sticky notes on their foreheads, with stereotypes written on them, such as mentally challenged, thug, gay or Middle Eastern.

Then students discussed what it felt like to be labeled and why they think people use labels.

In another session, Dario Stephens, a member of the Terre Haute North African American Club, had attendees play a “64 square” game. Sixty-four square pieces of paper were spread out on the floor. The idea is to find the one path that will lead a team across the square. Only one square was correct for each portion of the path.

Step on the wrong square, it’s a road block. Then it’s back to the start of the path as the next person works to overcome the obstacle.

“Each square represents the trials and tribulations that Martin Luther King went through, and there is only one path to get to unity,” Stephens said. “It teaches unity and togetherness. Martin Luther King didn’t do it all alone. Each person has a different skill to contribute to the group … to help overcome the trials and tribulations.”

Continuing under the theme of “accelerate excellence,” Elonda V. Ervin, Ph.D., director of ISU’s diversity office, focused on impediments that prevent people from doing what they want to do in life. She asked students to list impediments, such as finances, fear or relationships. Then a list was made of things that motivated people, such as family and religion.

“You can chose either things that hinder you or things that motivate you,” Ervin said, encouraging students to seek motivation. As an example, Ervin had students make something from colored pipe cleaners.

“Take these pipe cleaners apart and every day create something new that motivates you,” she said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or

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