‘Still We Reach’: Kennedy King Memorial Initiative Unveils New Permanent Exhibit

The historic events surrounding Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s famous speech in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968 – the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed – are commemorated in Still We Reach, a permanent exhibit now housed in the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative Cultural Visitors Center of the Kennedy King Park Center.

A project of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, in partnership with Indy Parks, Still We Reach also highlights progress that has been made by African-Americans and other minorities in Indianapolis in pursuit of full access and inclusion in society.

“The message conveyed at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park is always relevant and inspiring, but for many this provides a new context,” said Mayor Joseph Hogsett. “In ways not seen since that tragic day in April 1968, our city and nation are grappling publicly with the consequences of an unequal society. I am grateful for this timely addition of the new exhibit to the park, and encourage all our residents to come and experience the continuing story of a resilient people set against injustice and discrimination.”

Upon entering the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative Cultural Visitors Center, visitors will view a series of 18 panels with contributions from archives of the Indiana Historical Society, Crispus Attucks High School, IUPUI University Library, Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis Star, WISH-TV and WFYI dating back almost 200 years to the first census enumerating African-Americans in Indianapolis. 

Highlights of the exhibition include a timeline series of panels taking attendees through the events of April 4, 1968, Race Relations in Indiana, The Spirit of Reconciliation and Activism in the 21st Century. Rarely seen images of African-American life in the 1920s as well as conversations with influential city leaders such as longtime Indiana lawmaker Rep. William Crawford and civic champion Jim Morris are included in the exhibit. Additionally, visitors will be able to view a recording of Sen. Kennedy’s speech in its entirety.

“On April 4, 1968, Sen. Kennedy conveyed a moving message of peace and forgiveness in the midst of violence across the country following the assassination of Dr. King,” said Darryl Lockett, executive director of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative.

“The empathy Sen. Kennedy exhibited and the message of grief inspired activism remain relevant half a century later as we hear renewed cries for civil rights and racial justice,” Lockett said. “We see this exhibit as a call to action for people of all ethnicities, walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds, ideologies and faith traditions to reach across the artificial barriers that we often allow to divide us, and find meaningful ways to connect with one another to create a stronger, more inclusive, equitable community for everyone.”

The exhibit was funded by a $100,000 grant from Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis. KKMI was the 2019 recipient of the Change Maker grant, a high impact grant awarded each year by the women’s giving circle to support critical needs, new ventures, and innovative ways to solve social problems and to create a more civil and respectful climate in our community.

“I could not be more proud to be a part of an organization that lifted up a nonprofit that works to diminish racial conflict, inspire courageous action, and strengthen Indianapolis,” said Karen Holly, president of Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis. “It is through these ideals that I hope we will get the city we love through this difficult time period. If there is one part of KKMI’s mission statement that I would encourage us all to reflect on it is courageous action. I hope that we all take the opportunity to determine how we can step out of our comfort zone and be the ripple of change.”

The Kennedy King Memorial Initiative Cultural Visitors Center will also feature the Advancing Racial Equity Collection and a reading nook containing selected literary texts that address racial injustice and systemic racism through a humanities lens. The collection, made possible with grant support of Lilly Endowment Inc. and Indiana Humanities, includes 75 titles curated by librarians with input from humanities scholars, to help the local community think, read and talk about these critical issues.

The Still We Reach exhibit is a permanent installation of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative Cultural Visitors Center. KKMI invites individuals, school and adult groups to request either an in-depth guided tour led by trained volunteers and/or witnesses to Sen. Kennedy’s speech, or a self-guided visit to learn more of the historical events of April 4, 1968, the continued efforts to hold the values of equity, inclusion, justice, and peace, and to engage in conversations that address those values.

Admission is free and open to the public by appointment only in consideration of COVID-19. To schedule a visit to the exhibit, please contact info@kennedykingindy.org. Guests are required to wear masks and maintain social distance while visiting the exhibit.

For further information on the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, visit www.kennedykingindy.org.
The public is also encouraged to follow the conversation on social media through the hashtag #StillWeReach @KennedyKing1968 or www.facebook.com/KennedyKingMemorialInitiative/.

PHOTO ABOVE: Mayor Joe Hogsett (third from left) anchors the ribbon-cutting team for the Still We Reach exhibit.

The new permanent exhibit of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative includes a reading collection.