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Renowned singer will discuss civil rights

Immigrant business group opens local office
Hussein Samatar is the executive director of the African Development Center. The center has opened a new office in Rochester.

Her voice led the way for hundreds of Civil Rights activists as a music leader in Alabama's Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. Today Bettie Mae Fikes , a professional blues and jazz singer, continues to sing and speak out.

Fikes will discuss the Civil Rights Movement on Monday in Rochester, incorporating both song and storytelling, as part of the local Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.

A teenager during the movement, Fikes was among the young singers who led protest songs and was jailed for several weeks in 1963 in Selma, Ala. She later earned the Long Walk to Freedom Award.

As a singer, Fikes has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Library of Congress, and numerous blues festivals and clubs. She sang for the Democratic National Convention in 1964 and 2004. Her singing has been recorded by the Smithsonian Institution.

Fikes will speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Peace United Church of Christ, 1503 Second Ave. N.E., Rochester. Admission is free. The event is sponsored by the Diversity Council, Peace United Church of Christ, Winona State University and Anoka-Ramsey Community College.


The documentary "Freedom Riders," will be shown at 1 p.m. Sunday at Peace Church. Admission is free. The Freedom Riders, made up of more than 400 black and white Americans, embarked on a mission from May until November in 1961 in which they would travel together on buses and trains through the Deep South, deliberately violating the Jim Crow laws.

Here is what else is planned to commemorate King's life and work:

"Women of Jazz,"featuring Thomasina Petrus, opens a two-week "Celebrating Diversity and Inclusivity" program sponsored by the Diversity Council and Rochester Civic Theatre. Showtime: 8 p.m. today at Rochester Civic Theatre. Reception at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets: $50, includes dinner, available at the RCT box office, 282-8481.

• Winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Poetry Contestwill read their work at 1 p.m. Saturday on stage at Rochester Civic Theatre. The readings will be followed by a performance of "LIGHT,"an original play about racism that was commissioned by Rochester Public Library. Admission: Free. Poster contest winners will be on display in the lobby gallery at a reception following the performance.

• Rochester Community Baptist Church, 1048 Sixth Ave. S.E., Rochester, will have its annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative serviceat 4 p.m. Sunday. The theme is the faith that shapes the destiny of a nation, community, family and individuals.

• 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. We Have a Dream Breakfast. The keynote speaker is

Hussein Samatar, founder and executive director of the African Development Center, an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization that works within the African communities in Minnesota, including Rochester, to start and sustain businesses, build wealth and promote community reinvestment. Breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday at the International Event Center, Rochester. Cost: $30. Organized by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Rochester Branch of the NAACP.

Poster making and youth activitiesbegin at 10 a.m. at the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. S.E. A rallyat 11:45 a.m. in the city-county Government Center rotunda will be followed by a marchat noon from the government center to the Marriott, 101 First Ave. S.W. for a reception and program.


Mark Robinson, founder of Black Launch Consulting, a Twin Cities-based company that promotes African-American cultural wellness and economic development, will give the keynote speech at 1 p.m. Superintendent Michael Muñoz will give the welcome. A birthday cake for King, hot chocolate and coffee will be served. Free. Coordinated by the Rochester branch of the NAACP.

• Gospel singer Robert Robinson will perform a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at 12:10 p.m. Monday, Lips Atrium, Charlton Building, Mayo Clinic. Free.

Rochester Area Habitat for Humanitywill have a community work day inside a heated house. Contact Patricia McCleese at 252-0849 extension 4 or volmgr@rahh.org to register. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and sign a waiver and release of liability. Youths ages 16 and 17 may volunteer if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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