By Maria Ortiz
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
The message I heard so strongly at the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration in St. Paul, was that “there is a serious urgency to act NOW! That we should not put off for tomorrow what you can be done today. Because time is not on our side, we have but precious moments to be the change we want to see in this world. We must seize the moment and act as individuals “rising above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” We need to regain a capacity to listen, to hear, and to discern the implications of the pains and possibilities of our Nation. The fierce urgency is now, will you make that change?
The day, themed, The Fierce Urgency of NOW- “Make That Change,” began with a rally in the auditorium of Central High School. People of all ages, races, religious backgrounds gathered together to once again be inspired by the words, images and work all in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. Speakers reminded all to support youth, our future leaders, in the continued fight for our human rights in a righteous manner. Reverend Christopher Henry, Champlin Park Step Team, and other speakers, musical, and dance performances kicked off the Rally. With a strong message of urgency.
By 10:30am the half-mile march from Central High School to Concordia University began. The march was a re-enactment of the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery. During the march we were joined by many people, including hometown hero, Representative Keith Ellison. About 2,000 people participated in the march this year. Students and organizations displayed positive, creative and colorful banners along the way.
Upon arriving at the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University for the main program we were greeted by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who came to show support. We were also joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Governor Tim Pawlenty, Mayor RT Ryback, Mayor Chris Coleman, and other elected officials. A number of people spoke of the legacy of Dr. King. It was inspiring to see so many elected officials spending their time and energy to show support for this community.
This year’s MLK Day Celebration featured a keynote address from Nekima Levy-Pounds, Professor from University of St. Thomas Law School. Her knowledge of the criminal justice system shed light on so many more issues that need be addressed. Her words of wisdom and encouragement no doubt left many inspired to act and act now. The program also included musical, dance, spoken-word and poetry performances, as well as awards and the unveiling of a new postage stamp in honor of the African American struggle in the United States. Following the main program an Education Fair was held at the Gangelhoff Center with numerous booths available to share information.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.