Martin Luther King Jr. dinner highlights efforts to improve unity in Wausau


By:  Laura Schulte, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Members of the Wausau community came together Monday night to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

About 130 people gathered at the YWCA Wausau in downtown to celebrate the memory of the man who worked to create a more unified country, while sharing pieces of different cultures in the community. 

The evening started with a dinner of comfort foods such as mac and cheese, vegetables and fried chicken, and then members of the community spoke about issues of equality when it comes to race. After the speakers, the band Unified Soul played music while attendees danced.

It's an event that's been happening in the community for about five years, said organizer Kate Gaines of NAOMI, an organization that strives to eliminate inequality in the area. It was the first time that the dinner event was able to host so many people, she said. 

"This year we wanted to make this a community collaboration," Gaines said. 

NAOMI worked alongside People for the Power of Love, the YWCA Wausau, the Women's Community and the Unity Project to make the event a possibility. 

Gaines said the event was meant to showcase the art, music and passion of community members, and an opportunity to bring all people in the community together to remember the man with a strong message of peace and equality. 

"Martin Luther King Jr. has a legacy, and it's a mission that we still need to work on," Gaines said. "We need to continue the work." 

At the end of the event, Anahkwet, the Menominee Nation Organizer, stood to say a prayer, but first asked everyone to take the message of King into their everyday lives. 

"Yes, we have a lot of work to do," he said. "But the only way it gets done is together." 

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