'The march is not over:' UND joins other schools in Martin Luther King Jr. Day march
The chorus of "We Shall Overcome" wafted through the still, cold air in downtown Grand Forks as about 50 community members walked and sang to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday morning.
The event was a collaboration among UND, Northland Community and Technical College and the University of Minnesota-Crookston, the chancellor of which, Fred Wood, said it was the best-attended King Day event he had seen in four years.
UND Director of Multicultural Student Services Malika Carter said the event felt liberating.
"I really, really enjoy seeing the diverse amounts of people and types of people that were represented in this audience today," she said. "It was soothing and made me feel good; like balm for my soul."
After a group braved the cold to march from Grand Forks Central High School to the Empire Arts Center, even more came to watch a diversity presentation that included poetry, music and dancing aimed at increasing inclusion and cultural sensitivity and awareness.
UND student Junior Chapusette said he attended the event because he had heard about it the year prior and said even though he couldn't carry a tune, he sang and enjoyed the march.
"When I heard about it last year I didn't even know we did something like this in Grand Forks," he said.
After the march, higher education and community leaders spoke about the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s message, noting its relevance in light of the Somali-owned Juba Coffee House being intentionally set ablaze in December, days after Nazi-like symbols were spray-painted on it.
UND's new Interim President Ed Schafer said he and his wife, Nancy, have visited Selma, Ala., the site of one of King's marches. He said he couldn't imagine how difficult it was for those taking a stand in the 1960s, and the events in Selma were a catalyst for a civil rights march at UND in March 1965.
"A lot of years have passed since 1965 and while a lot of progress has been made, the march is not over."
Carter said King's message was bigger than race and included peace, public service and equality.
"I'm really grateful for this diversity, this plethora of different faces, young and old," she said. "If there's anything I walked away with it's that this man truly did touch a variety of different lives."
The event was permeated with entertainment that included Afrofusion dance stylings from a UND African Student Union group, a traditional Sioux prayer, slam poetry an a capella musical performance and piano solo.
UND assistant professor Natasha Thomas and Amber Finley with Northstar Council, a group representing Native Americans, also spoke briefly about several diversity groups and initiatives in the Grand Forks community, including Global Friends Coalition and North Dakotans for Diversity and Compassion.
Thomas said Global Friends, which serves refugees and other new Americans, was the first organization to respond to reports of vandalism at the Juba cafe by organizing a vigil and publishing an online letter of support community members could sign "to let the owners of the shop know they were cared for, appreciated and wanted here."
NCTC President Dennis Bona said the event Monday was something fully supported by the NCTC Community.
"It's our kind of ethical and moral responsibility to do all we can do fight inequities and instill the principles Dr. King stood for," he said.