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Bemidji Freedom Walk shines light on Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is still alive, the Rev. Patrick Owens of Minneapolis said Monday night in Bemidji.

Owens, from Greater New Jerusalem Faith-based Ministries, was the keynote speaker for a program at Bemidji State University that marked the start of African American History Month. Before the program, marchers joined together to honor King's legacy in the 2008 Bemidji Freedom Walk from the Paul and Babe statues to the BSU campus.

Owens said King's dream was a dream for equality.

"Martin Luther King's dream is alive, but we have fallen short," he said. "It's time to make a difference, folks. It's time to make a difference."

Owens said the American dream should be one of love.

"I challenge you today to live Dr. King's dream," he said.

He said prejudice is a hateful thing.

"I believe that we all are created equal," he said. "It's time to get to know people and their culture."

Owens' mother, Lorraine Sweat-Manning of Minneapolis, sang the African American anthem, and his brother, Robb G. of Bemidji, a singer, songwriter and producer, sang one of his songs, "My Country." Also performing were the Central Elementary School Chorus and Colette Dahlke.

Larry Krantz of Bemidji marched in the Freedom Walk and then attended the program that followed.

"I just think it's important to support an event that supports equal rights for everyone," Krantz said.

He said the walk was "more celebratory than solemn" and the participation of college students really made the event.

"It's important for these college students to carry the support for equal rights forward," Krantz said.

BSU senior Molly Votava, who marched in the walk, said the civil rights movement is one of the most important pieces of the nation's history.

"There's no reason we should quit making progress towards freedom for the common people and increasing the love and understanding that we have for each other," she said.

During the program after the walk, Simone Greenleaf, a senior at TrekNorth Senior High School, read her poem, "She Feels It Too." The poem took first place in the high school category of the local "I Have A Dream for ..." Creative Expression Contest.

The poem tells the story of a young woman who listens to King's speech in the present day and becomes energized to begin seeking justice for her generation today.

"Beaded earrings dangle, she listens to a King's speech, filling her paper cup with words -- making it sturdy, larger," Greenleaf read from her poem. "Overflowing messages spread magic, filling her cup with his inspiration, determination down her throat directly to her heart. She rises."

Reading from his essay "My Dream of Local Community," which took first place in the postsecondary category of the new contest, was BSU sophomore Wesley Johannessohn.

"In my ideal world, people will have the guts, the power, the belief, the money, and most importantly, the heart to do what is right for all of mankind," he read from his essay. "We all walk the same Earth; let's have the same chances, the same hope, the same will to do good things."