IUPUI faculty, students, and staff have shared a tradition with the Indianapolis community since 1970, honoring the memory of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of activities. The day, an official campus holiday, includes a number of events throughout the day, capped by the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dinner, the longest-running celebration honoring King in Indianapolis. The dinner attracts sell-out crowds to commemorate King's goals and dreams and to hear nationally renowned speakers. Past speakers include the famed American poet Maya Angelou; Benjamin Hooks, former director of the NAACP; former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; Hollywood actor and director Bill Duke; nationally syndicated columnist William Raspberry; and the scholar Henry Louis Gates. The Black Student Union with the Black Faculty and Staff Council present awards to outstanding faculty, students, and a community organization at the dinner.
IUPUI joins a national effort to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by making this national holiday a day on rather than a day off. Since classes are not in session, students, faculty, and staff participate in a half-day service project in the local community. A kick-off breakfast is followed by team service projects that may include painting and general clean-up, assisting with a youth basketball clinic, or preparing a low-income home for renovation. Students and student groups may also apply for mini-grants to fund special service projects to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2010, over 500 people from IUPUI and the Indianapolis community participated in service to 23 service organizations.