Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - As community members gathered together Saturday evening under the roof of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, songs echoing generations of civil strife filled the air.
And while all present came to celebrate the life work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the eve of his birthday, one sobering message was made all too clear.
"We need to do better. We need to do better," said Denfeld Junior Ariel Pendleton.
During the event, Pendleton—along with other fellow students—read excerpts from Dr. King's writings. And various speakers shared their stories, taking listeners to the front lines of the civil rights movement of today: the battle to end poverty.
"It grips and strangles hope and life out of everything it touches. But, together, we can change this, said Carl Crawford—Intercultural Center Coordinator at Lake Superior College.
Crawford said there's nothing new about poverty since Dr. King turned the media's attention toward it decades ago. What is new—according to Crawford—are the means to end it.
"The real question is: do we have the will," Crawford asked attendees.
Crawford addressed the many ways in which the nation has allegedly avoided the ever–growing issue: "When we look at the food shelves and the outreach centers, where are they located? We have built highways and new roads that carry us past the ghettos and homeless so we don't see the poor."
And attendees agreed, questioning the ways in which money that's put toward solving the poverty issue could be better spent.
"We put so much money into figuring out ways to help these people. If we put that money toward just buying a meal, where would we be? Futher than we are now," said Pendleton, passionately.
According to Duluth activist Joel Kilgour—who works with the local peace and justice group Loaves & Fishes—the front lines of the war on poverty are right here in the Northland.
"The numbers of people that are coming to us needing help are growing," said Kilgour, somberly.
All things considered, it gives Northlanders something to reflect upon during a holiday that calls everyone across the nation to serve one another.