After a year that reignited a movement, Duluth and Minnesota plan virtual MLK events

“It’s time for humankind to be a priority instead of everything else,” said Salaam Witherspoon.

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Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, during the "March on Washington." Organizations in Duluth and across Minnesota are holding virtual events to honor the civil rights leader. (AFP / Getty Images)

Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police, subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations and COVID-19, the need is greater than ever, said Minnesota event organizers.

In Duluth, what’s usually celebrated with days of events, a breakfast and a march will be a live streamed event from 12-1:30 p.m. Monday, hosted by the Duluth NAACP chapter.

The theme: Our Rise in Voices: A Call for Bold Social Action.

“It’s time for humankind to be a priority instead of everything else,” said Salaam Witherspoon, NAACP Community Coordination Chair.


Salaam Witherspoon

Witherspoon and Daniel Oyinloye will emcee the virtual event. City Councilors Janet Kennedy and Renee Van Nett will discuss Duluth’s African Heritage Commission. Duluth artist Di Jay will sing the Negro National Anthem.

There will be spoken word poetry, and organizers will bestow the Drum Major for Peace Award, Witherspoon said.

“We like to embrace the community and affirm free activity and a chance for us to reunite and come together. … It’s more surreal to not be in person, and it goes to show how the shift in the atmosphere has taken place in the past year,” she added.

The 35th Annual State of Minnesota Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Monday via the Governor’s YouTube Channel .

This year’s state-led MLK event, “Beloved Community, Beloved Connections,” focuses on students.

“We want to recognize and honor the work that young people are doing. Young people are working to challenge oppression,” said Audel Shokohzadeh, who works with the Governor’s Council and as Community Engagement Director for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.


Activity and discussion guides are also available for additional reflection on actions you can take.

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Audel Shokohzadeh

“We hope folks will find a day of reflection and, hopefully, an opportunity to start some conversations around coming together,” said Duluth Human Rights officer Carl Crawford, who serves on the Governor’s Council.

“The year we have gone through with COVID," Crawford said, "with the passing and murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and now the insurrection of the White House, we are so divided, and there is a lot of pain from the treatment of peaceful supporters throughout the country that came together under Black Lives Matter and George Floyd — and how some of those protesters were met with violence. This is definitely a time that reminds you more of the ’60s than it does 2021.

“This is an opportunity for a new start.”

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Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford poses for a portrait in his office at City Hall. Along with his City of Duluth duties, Crawford serves on the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. “We hope folks will find a day of reflection and, hopefully, an opportunity to start some conversations around coming together,” he said. (Tyler Schank / 2020 file / News Tribune)


Crawford encouraged folks to pause and reflect with family, find an MLK quote to lean into. We can’t gather in groups and celebrate like we have in the past, but we can have those conversations at home, he said.

“His legacy is something that we can talk about every day of the year, and we should,” Shokohzadeh said.

If you ‘go’

What: Our Rising Voices: Twin Ports MLK virtual rally

When: 12-1:30 p.m. Monday

Where: View livestream at the NAACP Duluth Branch's YouTube channel,

To register for the livestream, go to and select “Duluth location - local community,” for your congregation.

Visit . More event info will be provided as it is available.

* * *

What: 35th Annual State of Minnesota Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration


When: 10:30 a.m. Monday

Where: Governor’s YouTube Channel,

Accessibility: ASL and CART services will be provided in the video.

Languages: Video will be captioned in Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

For more info: visit

* * *

What: 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday event: A Virtual Celebration and fundraiser to benefit UNCF Twin Cities MLK Legacy Scholarship Fund

When: 8:30-9 a.m. pre-event show; 9-10:15 a.m. MLK breakfast on Monday



More info:

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