Local View: Economic empowerment central to Dr. King’s message

Last year was tough. It is no secret that people are struggling, people are angry, and people are surviving and not thriving. Our community and our people are not only getting priced out of their neighborhoods, they are getting priced out of groceries, health care, and more. As a community, we can enhance support for those in need by fostering a culture of empathy and collaboration and by making bold decisions that are divergent from the status quo. Encouraging volunteerism and organizing community events that promote inclusivity and understanding can strengthen the social fabric. We can prioritize people.

It all sounds good, but how can you get started in this effort?

For starters, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I ask you to think about a core message of his that is often overlooked. In his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King did not just call for the equal rights of Black Americans or the end of Jim Crow laws. More importantly, he demanded equal access to economic opportunity, resources, and power for Black people and communities of color.

Let’s face it, without economic power, there is no true equal opportunity for historically disadvantaged people. As the economies of Duluth and surrounding communities continue to grow, the Duluth Branch NAACP is committed to making sure Black and Brown people are not left behind.

To help ensure economic prosperity for all people in our community, the Duluth Branch NAACP is launching the Ignite Empower Transform (IET) Foundation. The goal is to create and sustain an Economic Empowerment Center. The center would cultivate economic safe spaces and provide services that help ignite generational success and wealth, leading to the empowerment and transformation of the African American and African Heritage community. In order to work toward this end, the IET Foundation aims to raise $50,000 of additional seed money toward a broader goal for 2024.

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To launch this fundraising effort, the branch will host its annual Freedom Fund Dinner on Feb. 10 from 5-11 p.m. at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The event is to raise awareness about the IET Foundation and support its fundraising efforts. The event will feature nationally recognized keynote speaker Conscious Lee and music by The Gemstones and Nur-D.

On MLK Day, followed by Black History Month, I implore you to get involved. Honoring Dr. King’s legacy requires more than just showing up for breakfast or a rally. It means giving your time and money year round to help shift the unequal balance of power that exists. It means standing up and using your power to empower others. It means getting out of your comfort zone and into the fight for our freedoms.

Our organization and our community need your support, and we need it today and every day. To find out more about our MLK Day events, visit duluthnaacp.org/mlk . To buy tickets to the Freedom Fund Dinner or to become a sponsor of the event, visit duluthnaacp.org/freedomfund . Thank you for your support.

Classie Dudley is president of the Duluth Branch NAACP.

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Classie Dudley

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