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More than 100 people packed into a ballroom within the Holiday Inn Rapid City-Rushmore Plaza on Monday afternoon to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and listen to sermons denouncing the discrimination and racism King fought tirelessly throughout his life.

Elder Gordon Howie of Faith Temple Church said he had never experienced or witnessed racism growing up in western South Dakota until he became friends with an African-American man.

“I saw the deep wounds that racism had inflicted on this incredible man of God,” Howie said. “I walked with him on streets where he in his lifetime was forbidden to walk and I saw the hurt that was still deep inside of him. Those wounds of racism still were there and still tender. Racism is an evil thing.”

Pastor Scott Craig of the Landmark Church said God purposefully created variety in the world. He said to use variety and diversity as a way to divide people was the work of sinister forces.

“Racism is not a social problem,” Craig said. “It is a spiritual problem. It is sin.”

After a brief video detailing King’s life and legacy, followed shortly thereafter by a rendition of "God Bless America" by Sister Elinor Langer and Rosilee St. Nicholas, Pastor Chris Roussell of Emanuel Episcopal gave a rallying cry for the never-ending fight against racism, discrimination and injustice.

“We are not to succumb to our fallen human nature, which is fight or flight,” he said. “Rather, we are to sit at lunch counters or on buses and take it. We are to stand at oil pipelines and take it. We are to march arm and arm and take it. Our work will not be complete until there are more of us willing to take it than there are of those who are willing to dish it out.”

Julie Norwood, lead pastor at Big Life Church, also spoke at the event. 

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Contact Samuel Blackstone at samuel.blackstone@rapidcityjournal.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook @SDBlackstone.

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