Updated: January 18, 2021 06:23 PM
Created: January 18, 2021 05:52 PM
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has inspired movements of civil rights and justice across many generations and his message is getting renewed attention this year. The pandemic didn't stop Northland leaders from honoring him Monday through a virtual tribute.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we would usually see people coming together, marching the streets, sharing Dr. King's powerful message. COVID-19 may have forced these events to go virtual, but it isn't stopping people from celebrating the civil rights leader and continuing efforts for justice.
This year's event by the Duluth NAACP has a message of being bold and raising your voice. It is inspired by Dr. King's last book "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" Community leaders spoke on that message and more during the virtual tribute.
"Dr. King represents something so amazing in our life, but he doesn't represent the end. He simply represents the beginning of you making a decision to carry on a legacy of greatness," said Chaquana McEntyre, the CEO of Family Rise Together.
"We recommit ourselves to the pursuit of a just and compassionate society to which he devoted his life. There remains much to be done," said Rabbi David Steinberg of Duluth's Temple Israel.
Community leaders said Dr. King's message is something that resonates more than ever after the racial disparities of COVID-19 and the incidents that unfolded with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.
"What are our next steps as a community to move forward and push past this white supremacy nation that we are living in right now?" asked Classie Dudley, the president of Duluth's NAACP. "I can tell you somewhere you can go, the NAACP. I need you to join actively in the fight for justice. Our lives depend on it," said Dudley.
Community leaders shared words of courage, strength, and wisdom through music and prayer.
"May we be inspired to become extremists for love, for justice, for true equality for all people before the law, within society, and within each of our souls," said Rev. Greg Briggs, the lead pastor of Peace United Church of Christ.
That's why community leaders said it's important for people to be bold and speak up like Dr. King.
"We know historically that Dr. Martin Luther King worked with presidents and a lot of people in power to make those changes and so we're continuing that work and lifting up the voice collectively," said Janet Kennedy, who represents District Five of Duluth’s City Council.
Kennedy also talked about how she is the first person of African heritage to serve on the Duluth City Council and spoke further on her efforts and the creation of the African Heritage Commission.
"The committee was formed to be able to ensure that the views on the African heritage community are heard right at where the policies, practices and procedures are made. We haven't had that voice for many, many years and in today's event and the theme of today really, really fits that," said Kennedy.
"Everything that we do today has to be about planting seeds for tomorrow,. The prayers that you pray today have to be about planting seeds for tomorrow, for our next generation. When you speak up today, it is not about speaking up for yourself. It is about speaking up for the children who are watching you, for the adults who find themselves to be part of the voiceless. You have to be bold. You have to understand leadership and what our community needs when we are raising our voices as leaders," said McEntyre.
Community leaders also spoke on the importance of continuing to promote COVID-19 safety and education on the COVID-19 vaccine. The Duluth NAACP health equity committee spoke about a new campaign called "Mask up, Back up, Vax up."
A virtual town hall meeting on Jan. 27 will look at the impact of COVID-19 on the African heritage community. It will be hosted from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The virtual meeting will be via Zoom. You can join by clicking here. Meeting ID is 891 1257 7527. You can call in at 312-626-6799.
Those who missed the virtual rally can watch it here.
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