New MLK statue commemorates 1961 visit to Sioux Falls

There was a special dedication ceremony in Sioux Falls on this Martin Luther King Junior Day.

It's a statue of the civil rights icon commemorating his life and a 1961 visit he made here to Sioux Falls. The artist behind the statue tells us that his work is more than just art; it sends a message he hopes all people hear loud and clear.

You notice the sun more when it's this cold outside.
A ray of light and warmth and here, a spotlight for a piece of work that honors the work of a legend and the trip he made here nearly 60 years ago.

"To have it be a replication of the picture of Doctor King when he arrived in Sioux Falls I think is very powerful." Laura Renee Chandler is with the South Dakota African American History Museum and tells this statue captures a moment in time in 1961 when Doctor King was in Sioux Falls to speak about the future of segregation. He began his visit at the city's First Baptist Church, which was located near modern day Van Eps Park where the statue has been placed.

"I'm really honored to have lived in his time." The King statue is the work of long time Sioux Falls area artist Porter Williams....himself no stranger to speaking out for the advancement of civil rights.
He tells us this piece has been with him for awhile now. "This is a piece that has been in my mind for a long time." From his mind and his heart to now being a reality.

"We are one of the few states in the country that doesn't have any streets or boulevards or anything to memorialize him." said Laura Renee Chandler.

And while Chandler is hoping to see more done in Sioux Falls to honor Martin Luther King Junior...she says this statue is an important first step. "I think to have Doctor King represented in such a public space where people can see the artwork and can interact with it and learn about his time here I think it's really important."

And it's those words...."his time here"...that also resonate with Porter Williams. It's one thing to think of Martin Luther King Junior in Alabama or Mississippi or Washington DC.....but it's another thing to know that he was.....here. "As the city grows into 200-300 thousand people then they'll understand that Martin Luther King was actually here in the city of Sioux Falls." said Williams.

When King spoke here in 1961 on the topic of the future of segregation, King told the crowd that he believed life would change better in the South and that he was hopeful it would happen soon.
Three years later, in 1964, the ground breaking federal Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
King was assassinated four years after that in 1968.