MLK Day brings call for more local black civic and corporate leaders

MLK Day brings call for more local black civic and corporate leaders
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 7:20 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Recognizing Martin Luther King and his movement for racial justice is always a theme of this day. But one of Sioux Falls’ black leaders used this moment to ask more people in his community to serve and to lead.

Julian Beaudoin is the executive director of the South Dakota African-American History Museum in Sioux Falls. He’s been a high-profile leader of the Sioux Falls black community for several years. The Louisiana native says that 55 years after Dr. King’s death — about two decades before he was born — he still feels the civil rights leader challenging him and his family every day.

And he says more people in the city who look like him need to be in positions of power.

”In the city of Sioux Falls, 20 percent or so of our population is classified as non-white,” Beaudoin said. “And, currently, if you look at city leadership, if you look at executive leadership, we’re under about 2 percent. So, we are not reflecting a true accurate representation of our community.”

To bolster that representation closer to 20 percent and a true reflection, Beaudoin says more minorities need to start running for office. Particularly, people of color. Only one African-American is currently a member of either South Dakota governing body in Pierre.

Chanelle Richie, a lifelong Sioux Falls resident and local minister, says she’s not sure if she’s ready to run for office, but...

”I definitely want to be involved in any way I can to make a change because it’s important to just keep it going,” Richie siad.

She’s been a mentor for area youth, both as a personal leader and reading mentor. But she says the progress of racial justice starts at home.

”I’m a mom of this beautiful girl. I love my daughter,” Richie said. “And, with my daughter Naiyana, I talk about our history. I talk about where we came from. I talk about stories that have been passed down from my great grandparents. It’s important to have those conversations.

And those chats, along with today’s message, has inspired the Roosevelt High School freshman.

”I think it’s important to, just to get that message out there for people my age for future generations to come up so we can continue Dr. MLK’s legacy,” Jones said.

It is MLK Day. But this is a week-long event at Augustana University, where more young people are encouraged not just to serve, but to continue advocating for racial justice.