As the nation honors the legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., people across the country are using the day to give back. In Sioux Falls, one special group is giving back to future generations by preserving the past.
“I think it’s such an incredible resource for the city of Sioux Falls and for the state,” Laura Renée Chandler said.
Chandler is the executive director of the board of the South Dakota African American History Museum at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. She’s also the director of the Center for Diversity and Community at the University of South Dakota.
“It’s very easy to think that there isn’t an established history of African-Americans here in South Dakota, but there is,” Chandler said. “The earliest instance that we know of, that’s documented, goes back to the early 19th century, and so when we talk about this history, and we educate people about this history, we’re learning about ourselves and about our collective history.”
Businesswoman Delinkka Beaudion is also on the museum’s board.
“Being an African-American woman, I feel like it’s a perfect opportunity for me to express interest in something that I feel is important and something that I can associate with especially,” Beaudion said.
Today in 2019, finding information takes just seconds with a quick internet search. But these two women say there’s something special about a physical place. Beaudion describes it as “a better connection.”
“I think actually being able to come down here and set eyes on it gives you a different feeling,” Beaudion said.
“It’s a very different experience to be here and to look at it physically and to look at really the wonderful artifacts that we have here that have been generously donated,” Chandler said.
History isn’t just about remembering- it’s about preserving.
“If it’s not out there for people to know about, I feel like it’s easy to get swept under the rug, or just put on the back burner, or just easy to forget about it,” Beaudion said.
That’s why there are places like this: to honor the past and look forward to the future.
“We definitely want to bring awareness about it ’cause there are so many people out there that have no idea that this exists, and that’s an issue,” Beaudion said.