Indianapolis-based cultural development firm GANGGANG is the recipient of the 2023 Ovid Butler Founder’s Award, which recognizes and celebrates individuals or organizations that embody Butler University’s values of innovation, excellence, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Butler President James Danko presented the award to GANGGANG founders Alan Bacon and Malina Simone Bacon during a ceremony Wednesday, February 8, 2023 in the Atherton Union Reilly Room.

Butler first partnered with GANGGANG in 2021 to launch the Clowes Lawn Series, a free outdoor concert series featuring Indianapolis artists of diverse backgrounds on the grounds of Butler’s campus. Butler continued that partnership in 2022, growing attendance by targeting the Butler-Tarkington community in an intentional effort to welcome our neighbors to campus. The Clowes Lawn Series performances were held the same day national touring artists appeared in Clowes Hall or Schrott Center for the Arts, exposing patrons to artists and genres they had not previously experienced.

GANGGANG and Butler have also partnered to provide artist entertainment at campus events. For example, GANGGANG connected Butler with Alison Victoria and Be On It for the live entertainment at the Butler Beyond closing celebration at Hinkle Fieldhouse last April, as well as helping us provide artists for pop up performances in the cafeteria as we welcomed faculty and staff back to campus after the holidays.

“GANGGANG is doing incredible work on behalf of diverse local artists and musicians, and they are more than deserving of the Ovid Butler Founder’s Award,” Aaron Hurt, Vice President for Arts, Events, and Enterprise Management, said. “Butler’s partnership with GANGGANG over the past few years has been one of great success and importance to our growth in the community through the arts in an authentic and meaningful way. What is truly remarkable about the work Mali and Alan are doing with GANGGANG is that they are a true partner with those they work with. No idea is too small, and you never feel you are on your own; they want to be an active participant in everything they are connected with. That is very special and authentic to creating a true impact in Indianapolis.”

DEI Champions Awards
During the evening’s festivities, Butler also announced the winners of its inaugural DEI Champions Awards. Nominated by students, faculty, and staff, DEI Champions were recognized for advancing Butler’s efforts toward DEI and Innovation in three categories: Person, Program, and Practice.

Braxton Martorano ’22, who was nominated by fellow student Patrick Dowell ’24, was named a DEI Champion in the Person category. In his nomination form, Dowell wrote that Martorano, “… finds a way to weave DEI into his daily life in a way that is not only natural, but also in a way that encourages others to join him on his journey. I have learned so much about DEI as a result of Braxton’s leadership, and I have never met someone as passionate about the topic as Braxton.” Dowell specifically cited Martorano’s initiative in developing a workshop about the power that stories from Butler students of color can have in creating a better understanding and appreciation for diversity. The workshop was featured at the 2022 Undergraduate Research Conference, and has been implemented by some of the fraternities and sororities on campus.

Associate Professor and Director of Faculty Diversity Susan Adams’ College of Education DEI Faculty Fellows Program is the DEI Champion in the Program category. The program was nominated by Katie Brooks, Professor of Education in COE. The program enlisted five COE faculty members to serve as facilitators of DEI learning for the college’s full faculty and staff.
Brooks said that the program, “allows members to develop working agreements, make application of new DEI resources, reflect on current instructional and professional practices, get to know one another better, and build trust to be vulnerable with one another in order to engage in transformational learning together.”

Butler University Alumni Association’s DEI Task Force received a Champion’s Award in the Practice category. They were nominated by Jennie Jones, Director of Community Engagement. Sparked by the social unrest during the summer of 2020, Alumni Association leaders recognized the level of understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism and antidiscrimination varied among members of the Butler community and in particular among graduates and alumni leaders. As a result, Alumni Association leaders created a DEI Task Force whose mission was to work to review practices and develop plans and recommendations to ensure the Alumni Association, its board of directors and the Butler Communities that fall under the BUAA were consistent with the University’s mission and commitment to antidiscrimination and antiracism. Based on the scope and impact of their work, the Alumni Association Board of Directors voted to move the Task Force to a full committee within the board beginning in FY23.

“I want to thank everyone who submitted a nomination for the DEI Champions Awards, and congratulate all of our winners,” Khalilah Shabazz, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, said. “Our winners represent just a small fraction of the DEI Champions we have across campus. I encourage everyone who is engaged with DEI at any level to connect with me so that I can better support and highlight your efforts. We look forward to continuing to celebrate the DEI champions who help enrich and improve how students, faculty, staff, and the broader community experience Butler University.”