'It’s a beautiful thing': Duluthians march to remember Martin Luther King Jr., urge action
The annual event was focused on the slain civil rights leader's call to "keep moving forward."
DULUTH — Rodney Wilson wasn’t sure he’d take part in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day march.
A Duluthian for the last 22 years, Wilson said he had never participated, but when he woke up Monday morning he decided to join, feeling both excited and nervous about it.
He’s glad he did.
“It’s really refreshing to come out and be a part of this because you always see it on the news, but once you’re in it, it’s a whole different feeling,” Wilson said after the march reached the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. “I can’t even describe the feeling I have today. I really can’t. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Wilson, who is Black, wants to set an example for the kids he coaches in basketball, and part of that is paying his respect to King, a civil rights leader who “opened doors for a lot of Black people,” he said.
“I try to steer the kids in the right pathway because there’s no funding here, so if you can be part of something, you might as well jump in,” Wilson said.
The march, organized by the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, traversed icy hillside and downtown streets from the Washington Center to the DECC late Monday morning.
Singing and chanting the whole way, marchers paused only for the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge choir, which sang “Amazing Grace” from the corner of Second Street and Lake Avenue as the crowd passed.
Once at the DECC’s Symphony Hall, speakers followed the theme of the day’s events: Keep moving forward.
It’s a quote from King’s 1967 speech “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” : “If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
The Rev. Anthony Galloway, pastor of St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church in Duluth, urged attendees to remember King for everything he stood for and “not just the stuff that makes us feel good,” he said.
“We forget that when Dr. King was assassinated, he was not loved by an entire nation,” Galloway said. “He was poking at policy change, workers' rights, redistribution of wealth and the unfair labor practices and dignity of sanitation workers of all backgrounds and creeds”
By looking to that past, Galloway said people should see King as calling on others to take action and agitate, even if it is uncomfortable.
“I need you to be willing to look at who we were, who we are and imagine and dream with me who you want to be,” Galloway said. “Do you want to be a person whose children will grow up in the world that King was hoping for? Or do you want your children to grow up in a world of a dream realized? That is the only way that we can move forward.”
Classie Dudley, president of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, echoed that.
“I couldn’t help but to think in (King’s) times of despair or times of doubt, that this speech — moving forward as a blueprint — was a motivator but also a plea for us to get out there,” Dudley said.
That means challenging the status quo and working toward “people-first policy” and away from racist policy, by vetting political candidates and speaking up at city council meetings and school board meetings.
“Let this be your time to move forward,” Dudley said. “Not just today, but here on from every day out, until we get our justice and our freedom.”