South Dakota

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

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – Recognition of Martin Luther King and his racial justice movement is always a topic of the day. But one of Sioux Falls’ black leaders used this moment to ask more of his community to serve and lead.

Julian Beaudoin is executive director of the South Dakota African-American History Museum in Sioux Falls. He has been a high-profile leader of Sioux Falls’ black community for several years. The Louisiana native says he died 55 years after Dr. King’s death – some two decades before his birth – still feels like the civil rights activist challenges him and his family every day.

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

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

To strengthen that representation closer to 20 percent and a true mirror image, Beaudoin says more minorities need to run for office. Especially colored ones. Only one African American currently serves on either of South Dakota’s two governing bodies at Pierre.

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

“I definitely want to be involved in any way I can to make a difference because it’s important that it just keeps going,” Richie said.

She has been a mentor to youth in the area, both as a personal leader and as a reading mentor. But she says racial justice progress begins at home.

“I am a mother to this beautiful girl. I love my daughter,” Richie said. “And with my daughter, Naiyana, I talk about our history. I’m talking about where we came from. I’m talking about stories passed down from my great-grandparents. It’s important to have these conversations.

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

“I think it’s important to spread this message to people my age for future generations so that we can continue the legacy of Dr. MLK can continue,” Jones said.

It’s MLK day. But this is a week-long event at Augustana University that encourages more young people not only to serve, but to continue to advocate for racial justice.

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