On a cold and bitter winter day, one might not think there is much to celebrate.
But despite sub-zero temperatures, the communities of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and many from nearby Crookston, Minn., came out Monday, Jan. 21, to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther king Jr.
This year marks the first communitywide celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In previous years, this event was held on the University of North Dakota campus, however, this year, members of the community wanted to spread Dr. King’s message throughout the area.
“We went through historical records and tried to understand more about what was done in the past for this day in our community and we could not find anything that was a communitywide celebration,” said Malika Carter, director of Multicultural Student Services at UND, “so we decided to do something that would literally bring everyone together.”
The event had an overwhelming response as students, staff and faculty from the University of Minnesota, Crookston gathered in Grand Forks to celebrate this historic day.
“This community event came to be out of a collaborative partnership that we desired to have between the University of Minnesota, Crookston and the University of North Dakota,” said Lorna Hollowel, the director of Diversity and Multicultural Programs at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. “The event is a collaborative effort between post-secondary, secondary, military, faith-based community agencies and community partners.”
Jenny Wirth, programmer at UND Multicultural Student Services, said that they wanted to go big to celebrate the cultures that are in Grand Forks, especially, this year because it is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech.
People of all ages came together for a day of marching, award presentations, performances and prayers held at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks.
The event was not only to remember Martin Luther King Jr., but also to help keep his message alive and teach younger generations his message to work toward making changes that extend beyond our community.
“If we don’t know our history, we are bound to repeat it,” Carter said. “It will be very, very sad if we regressed in a way that made us less humanistic.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a celebration of the great strides we have taken since his speech 50 years ago.
“We want to keep the legacy of a great person, Martin Luther King; he’s a good example for a lot of people and it’s good to remember that type of person because it kind of encourages people to do the same thing that he did,” said Tesfaye Mohamed, president of the UND African Student Union.
Every member of the community spoke on how it is important to keep making improvements to commemorate his message no matter the race or ethnicity. As people in our community, we need to stay involved in moving forward and making changes for a better future, they said.
“This type of event is so important because it speaks to diversity and equity and justice and inclusion and multiculturalism — all of those traits that Dr. King sought to address in those times,” Hollowel said. “It speaks to where we are today as people, as a nation, and as a world you can see there’s people from all walks of life here today, so it shows that the cause is not dead and that we are ready to take the torch and move ahead.”
Courtney Hrkac, UND Marketing Group student writer