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Fargo Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy with Artist Showcase and Human Rights Awards Presentation

The awards recognize community members working to extend MLK's legacy and uplift human rights

01/15/2024 8:30 p.m.

The Fargo Human Rights Commission hosted its annual Umoja 55 MLK Day Celebration on Monday, Jan. 15, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre to honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The free public event, with the theme “Umoja 55: Dreamers Unite,” celebrated MLK’s life and legacy through an Afro-futuristic lens and showcase the power of dreams, unity and hope, particularly among the youth. Umoja is the Swahili word for unity, and the event featured speakers, singers, dancers and poets sharing their interpretations of MLK's vision.

During the event, the Human Rights Commission, along with Fargo Mayor Dr. Tim Mahoney and the Department of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, formally recognized the contributions of Fargo community members with three Martin Luther King Jr. Day Human Rights Awards to an individual adult, youth and business/nonprofit organization. The awards recognize those whose work extends MLK’s legacy and uplifts human rights.

Youth Award: Skyler Skees is an LGBTQIA+ student-leader originally from Bismarck, N.D. She currently attends North Dakota State University and is set to graduate in the spring of 2024. During her time in college, she has served as the Student Liaison for Fargo-Moorhead's LGBTQIA+ College Alliance to ensure youth were represented in planning, and she intends to continue being a leader after graduation. She is passionate about our local community and empowering youth. In her free time, Skees enjoys everything downtown Fargo has to offer for building meaningful connections.

Adult Award: Cani Aden brings a wealth of experience to his role as Founder and Executive Director of New Roots Midwest. With over 12 years of experience in human rights, workforce development and youth & women empowerment, Aden has demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting immigrant communities. His previous role as Program Coordinator at the Afro-American Development Association in Minnesota and North Dakota has honed his skills in leadership and community engagement. As a member of the Moorhead Area Public Schools ISD #152 leadership task force, Aden has worked to strengthen the connections between New American parents, students and administration by conducting interviews and surveys, as well as providing recommendations on various aspects of the educational experience, including healthy classrooms, strategies, parent-teacher connections and addressing discrimination.

Organization Award: Families United for Self-empowerment (FUSE) is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering unity, inclusivity and equity among diverse communities in Fargo. Through programs and initiatives targeting social, educational and health challenges, FUSE works to bridge gaps, build connections and advocate for the well-being and progress of all residents, particularly those experiencing poverty and systemic disparities. Since its inception in 2019, FUSE has maintained a specific focus on supporting individuals and families experiencing poverty, individuals with disabilities and New Americans. Recognizing the diverse needs within these populations, FUSE has developed a broad range of support services, from educational support to mental health awareness and resource provision. Underpinning all their work is the belief in the power of understanding, connection and collaboration. They achieve their goals by working closely with local organizations, schools, courts and mental health professionals, leveraging these partnerships to enhance their reach and impact.