“King’s work is not over”: Annual MLK event slated at Riverland

Published 5:01 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Riverland Community College will hold its annual celebration of the life and work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday in the Lecture Hall on campus.

The event will include music, pizza and cider, the awarding of scholarships to Albert Lea students and a keynote speech by Todd Lippert of ISAIAH Minnesota on “Remembering more of King.”

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The program is free and open to the public and begins at 5 p.m.

Lippert currently works as the organizer of the Rural Organizing Project at the organization ISAIAH Minnesota. ISAIAH Minnesota is described as “a multi-racial, statewide, nonpartisan coalition of faith communities, Black barbershops, child care centers and other community-based constituencies fighting for racial and economic justice in Minnesota,” according to the organization’s website.

Notably, from 2018 to 2023, Lippert represented Northfield, Dundas, Lonsdale, Montgomery and surrounding townships in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Before holding this position, he worked as an ordained pastor for the United Church of Christ for 17 years.

Lippert said his work as a minister, state representative and activist all shaped his values and the speech he will be making at the Riverland event on Monday evening.

“In our politics right now, are we going to be strengthening a multicultural democracy?” he said.

Lippert’s speech will draw attention to the fact that King and his followers were shaped by Christianity and Christian values. Additionally, although King’s work is mainly thought about in terms of racial justice, he fought for other causes of justice as well, including rights for the working class and those in poverty. In fact, he was assassinated while speaking about the need for better wages for sanitation workers during a strike.

In keeping with King’s central message of justice and dignity for all human beings, Lippert hopes that people will be reminded that rural communities are important and deserve good jobs, schools, health care, child care and other necessities. He also wants to bring attention to the fact that rural Minnesota is becoming more racially diverse.”

“Martin Luther King’s work isn’t done,” Lippert said. “We’re still wrestling with his central project. … It’s important for white folks to notice that people of color are in rural communities and to be working to build relationships and understanding across race. That’s often a challenge in rural communities, but that’s the foundation of the work we need to be doing.”

During his time in politics and at ISAIAH, Lippert’s work has focused on creating a Minnesota that works for everyone regardless of race, income or geography.

“Ordinary people changed our country,” Lippert said. “We need to remember that we can keep doing that … When we do that, we realize that regardless of the color of our skin we’re all human beings trying to get from day to day.”