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MLK Day reminder of man's work

Martin Luther King Jr. may have been killed nearly 50 years ago, but his message and the work he did lives on. Four Central Lakes College students sat down Friday with the Brainerd Dispatch to talk about the impact King had on the United States a...

Central Lakes College students Kierre Rhodes (left), Mandela Minga, Kieran Johnson and Danny Zogaa talk about the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy at Central Lakes College last week. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video
Central Lakes College students Kierre Rhodes (left), Mandela Minga, Kieran Johnson and Danny Zogaa talk about the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy at Central Lakes College last week. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video

Martin Luther King Jr. may have been killed nearly 50 years ago, but his message and the work he did lives on.

Four Central Lakes College students sat down Friday with the Brainerd Dispatch to talk about the impact King had on the United States and how MLK Day honors his memory.

Kieran Johnson said he has a great deal of respect for King, because his parents, married 21 years, are different races.

"My essence, everything I stand for as a person, wouldn't be allowed without him and the civil rights movement," Johnson said.

Mandela Minga said it's amazing how hard King fought to bring black people and white people together.

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"Without him, none of this would be happening," Minga said. "I don't think you would be talking to us right now, without him."

King's impact was unbelieveable, Kierre Rhodes said, and the legacy he left behind is unforgettable.

Teachers frequently talk about King's accomplishments, Danny Zogaa said, and it's unbelieveable one man was able to do so much to bring people together. Things aren't perfect, he said, but King's work serves as the foundation for the work still needing to be done.

"I wish that he could have lived longer, to do more," Zogaa said. "Because I feel like we're still not where we should be."

Because of this, it's unfortunate when people have to be reminded why the third Monday in January is a holiday, Zogaa said.

"I feel like we should do more for this day," Zogaa said. "Some people don't really realize what that day means."

According to census data, Brainerd's population is 93 percent white, which means recognizing King's memory is harder, Johnson said. In his second year at CLC and originally from St. Paul, he said he sees Brainerd differently than he did when he first got here.

"I see a community that's willing to learn and willing to change," Johnson said. "And to expand for the better."

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MLK Day doesn't only mark King's accomplishments, Johnson said, but the accomplishments of the entire civil rights movement.

"What he did was so inspirational, in the way that he persevered," Johnson said. "And that inspires me to wake up every morning and persevere through whatever I think life is throwing at me."

Open and close

To recognize the holiday Monday, CLC's campuses are closed with no activities scheduled. Class will be in session at Brainerd Public Schools, with a short video on King played at the start of second period at Brainerd High School, principal Andrea Rusk said.

"Individual teachers give different recognition and education to the day, but as a school the video giving the history of King and the commitment to make the day one of service is the only formal programming we provide," Rusk wrote in an email.

Politicians honor King

On Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will be joined by keynote speaker Talia Lewis, founder of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf; elected officials; and the Governor's Council on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, for a statewide celebration of King's life and legacy.

According to a release, the Governor's Council on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday is charged with commemorating and celebrating King's legacy of equal rights and opportunity. As part of this mission, the council plans an annual event in honor of King.

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The celebration takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul. The theme of this year's celebration is "The Power of Telling Your Story: 30 Years of Us."

Monday is a day to remember King's leadership, eloquence, courage and determination to bring people together, U.S. Sen. Al Franken said in a statement.

"King imagined a world without hate," Franken said in a release. "But now, nearly 50 years after his death, we remain fractured in many ways. When I was growing up, my rabbi always used to say that it isn't enough to be just. He said you have to do justice. King challenged us to do the same when he said that by staying neutral in the face of injustice, you side with the oppressor."

Franken continued, "So if we're going to live up to King's dream, and if we're going to try to repair these fractures, we can't remain neutral. We need to work together to address real injustices-racial, economic, and educational-that continue to divide communities in Minnesota and all across the country."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

Related Topics: BRAINERD HIGH SCHOOL
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