RIVER FALLS -- River Falls joined seven Minnesota communities in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day for a breakfast event Jan. 20 where attendees heard from accredited speakers highlighting historical and current social justice and civil rights acts.
River Falls celebrated locally after a one-year hiatus. Previously, River Falls hosted the event for 11 consecutive years.
Local community members gathered at St. Bridget Fellowship Hall to enjoy a meal and tuned into a worldwide live stream video of the speakers presenting at The Armory in Minneapolis.
The honorable Eric H. Holder Jr. of New York, the first African American to serve as U.S. attorney general, stood as the keynote speaker alongside presenters from General Mills and United Negro College Fund, who helped organize the main event.
Holder encouraged his live audience to look at what has been done and what is left to do and realize King’s long-lasting impacts.
“Consider where we are now as a nation. To take stock of our progress, to take responsibility for the work that remains for us and to rededicate ourselves to the dream of racial, social and economic justice … There is a direct line between his leadership in the front lines of the struggle to my service many decades later as our nation’s first African American attorney general and the election of our nation's first African American president. We would not have had the opportunity to serve in those positions without the sacrifices and the vision of Dr. King,” Holder said.
Kofi Bruce, General Mills’ first African American chief financial officer, spoke of the day’s importance as it relates to the current social atmosphere.
“Today is a day that gives us the opportunity to reflect on his (Dr. MLK Jr.’s) example of grace and it is a timely and also a timeless reminder, as our civil society seems more under pressure today than it ever has with the siren call of social media and rough public discourse demanding us daily to be outraged with one another… MLK’s leadership reminds us that it requires grace to recognize our common humanity and to love each other even without perfect understanding,” Bruce said.
Three Rocky Branch elementary students were chosen for the poetry and essay contest. Their pieces, which were read at the breakfast, were inspired by the 2020 theme “Rise Up: Standing together for positive change”.
River Falls High School senior Peter Noreen was recognized by the community and awarded the 2020 Youth Community Service Award. Lifelong friend and fellow senior student Alexandra Samargia presented the award to him with a heartfelt speech, testifying to his genuine character and leadership.
A full-length feature on Noreen will run in a later publication.
Samargia was local master of ceremonies alongside NCCM Company employee Stephen Tauer, a River Falls resident and University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate.