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Bemidji Freedom Walk: Tennessee State University professor speaks at program

Mayibuye Monanabela, a professor of Africana studies at Tennessee State University in Nashville, speaks at a program Monday night at Bemidji State University. The program, which followed the 10th annual Bemidji Freedom Walk, marked the start of African American History Month. Pioneer Photo/Michelle Bedard

Mayibuye Monanabela believes the election of President Barack Obama means a lot.

However, he said, he thinks it will take some time to see exactly what it means.

"It may mean different things for different populations," said Monanabela, a professor of Africana studies at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Monanabela was the keynote speaker at a program Monday night at Bemidji State University that marked the beginning of African American History Month, which is February.

Prior to the program, several people walked from the Paul and Babe statues to BSU in the 10th annual Bemidji Freedom Walk honoring the Martin Luther King Jr. legacy.

At the program, Monanabela said he believes Obama's election as president will have a big impact on the relationship between the United States and its global neighbors. He added that he believes Obama's election will impact the relationship between white people and people of color not only in the United States, but globally as well.

"I think we've got a lot of work to do," he noted. "We have to confront some things."

Monanabela said black people never received reparation.

"There was no attempt to repair the damage that was done by slavery," he said, noting that the damage was economic, political, social and cultural. "And now we're wrestling with the legacy of all that."

One way to repair the damage is to rethink the educational system to make it more inclusive and culturally, richly textural, as well as make it embrace diversity and deal honestly with human origins, Monanabela said. He said science suggests that Africa is the place of human origins.

Kelly Crow, a BSU senior majoring in social work, was among several people attending Monday night's program.

Prior to the program, she noted Obama's election.

"Martin Luther King could have only dreamt of such a thing and now it's a reality," she said.

Crow noted that she participated in the Bemidji Freedom Walk to remember King.

Rick Lidel of Bemidji, who said his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were part of the Great Migration, when many black people left the South, also said he joined in Monday night's events to remember King.

Additionally, Lidel said he went because "we live in a time" of not just change, but evolving history.