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The Legacies of Two Leaders

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MLK, Jr. Day: UMD Student Pays Homage to the Life and Work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela

Jireh Mabamba
Jireh Mabamba  

Twin Ports MLK Day Holiday Events
January 20, 2014


7-9 am
Holy Family Catholic Church
2430 W. 3rd St, Duluth, MN 55806
Free will offering.


10:45 am
Gather at the Washington Center (Lake Ave and Fourth Street) at 10:45 am to march to the DECC. In case of extreme cold, the march will be shortened and head through the skywalk in downtown Duluth to the DECC.

A celebration of work toward freedom and human rights

11:45 am
DECC Auditorium
This year, the rally features the connections between the lives of Dr. King and Nelson Mandela.
Featured speakers include:
Dr. Rogier Gregoire, college professor and consultant;
Jireh Mabamba, UMD student;
Dr. Chang’aa Mweti, UMD faculty

UMD student Jireh Mabamba is one of the three featured speakers at the Jan. 20 MLK Day Holiday Rally held in Duluth. It isn't surprising that Mabamba has been asked to share his story. Mabamba gives high praise to both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela and says he may not be alive today if it wasn't for Mandela.

Mabamba, now a freshman majoring in business, was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the fifth of six children. His father was a minister. All around Mabamba's family, rebels were capturing boys to become child soldiers. Mabamba's father spoke out against the rebels and the family was forced to seek refugee status in South Africa.

Because Mandela led the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy, South Africa became a safe place for Mabamba's family. Because of King's work 50 years ago, Mabamba is able to pursue higher education in the U.S. "Mandela and King both made a world where we are not judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character," Mabamba said.

"These two leaders changed the world," he said. "Neither one of them sought revenge. They chose compassion over hatred. They taught peace, non-violence, truth, and equality."

There is one additional story that binds Mabamba to Nelson Mandela. Mabamba was born in 1994, a few months after Mandela was elected as the first black president of a democratic South Africa. The hospital staff nicknamed Mabamba after the president. "They called me Nelson Mandela; that has given me inspiration for my whole life," he said.

The UMD Office of Cultural Diversity and UMD Disability Services and Resources have supported the Twin Ports MLK Celebration for decades. UMD students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate in all of the activities. To join the UMD contingent at the march, look for the UMD banner. The group will gather at the Washington Center (Lake Ave and Fourth Street) at 10:45 am.

This year the MLK Holiday Committee will focus on connecting the legacy of Dr. King with the life and work of Nelson Mandela. In December, the world marked the passing of Mandela. This event honors both leaders and calls attention to the work that still needs to be done to achieve their ideals.

Mabamba will share the stage at the rally with educator Dr. Rogier Gregoire, UMD Professor Chang’aa Mweti, and a variety of local speakers and performers.

Friday, Jan. 17 - 6:30 pm
Friday Night with MLK: Duluth’s Got Talent. A showcase of Duluth’s diverse talent. East High School Auditorium, 301 North 40th Avenue East. See for info on performing.

Saturday, Jan. 18 - 7 pm
MLK and the Expansion of his Dream. A Night of Readings, Writings, and Rememberings. Music and dramatic readings contemplating the influences on Dr. King in the struggle for Civil Rights. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, 835 College Street.

Sunday, Jan. 19 - 4 pm
Community Ecumenical Worship Service. Featuring Dr. Betty Jo Webb, former assistant superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools and founder of WISE Charter School. St. Mark AME, 530 North 5th Avenue East.



Those Who Can, Duluth

Story by Cheryl Reitan. January, 2014.

UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan,

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