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Letter: The legend of Martin Luther King Jr. lives on

Updated: Jan 7

January 15th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day we collectively as a nation take a moment to reflect on his life, legacy and vision. In Fargo, we can celebrate together at the Fargo Theatre from 6 to 8:30 p.m. as part of the Umoja 55: Dreamers Unite Event hosted by Freds Dissonance.

I think most people know or remember King as a civil rights hero, who worked largely through a racial justice lens. His iconic “I Have Dream” speech is still quoted six decades later to denounce racism and judge individuals by the content of their character first.

Yet, he went much further than advocating for the basic respect we should afford each other and fought for labor rights and reparations, and against poverty. He recognized systems of inequity and the struggles we faced were interconnected and the way forward was together.

He believed strongly in non-violence in the ways he fought for change, but he wasn’t a passive figure. He was active in making those in power uncomfortable and he died for his work. In fact, the night before his death, she spoke of the risks his work carried:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

Nearly 60 years later it feels like the same struggle continues. Recently, North Dakota Representative Nico Rios made local and national news for using racist and homophobic rhetoric. The cycles of pain, frustration, and inequity can feel hopeless or like we’re moving nowhere.

What helped to give me hope were the final words of renowned civil rights leader John Lewis, who wrote, “People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.”

That’s what’s so powerful about King’s legacy built six decades ago, it still matters, inspires, and brings us together. When we dig into the messages of revolutionary leaders throughout the ages, we often find that message of unity, collaboration and empowerment. Fargo’s local Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration is called Umoja, which means unity in the Swahili language.

The celebration is truly for everyone who shares the dream of unity to experience joy, hear truth spoken to power, recognize local civil rights heroes, and be part of a future where we all truly thrive. The event is built on hope, dreams, inclusion, and it’s a perfect way to center ourselves to carry MLK’s legacy and wisdom forward throughout the rest of the year.

Faye Seidler is a suicide prevention advocate and frequent contributor to Inforum.

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