As bell tolls, Twin Cities reflect on legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The bells at City Hall in Minneapolis rang 39 times Wednesday evening to honor the 39 years Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked the earth--50 years to the minute after he was shot and killed on a balcony in Memphis, Tenn.

Across the Twin Cities events were both joyous and solemn at times as activists, academics and everyday people commemorated the life and legacy of a man who has come to be known as the face of the civil rights movement.

A series of discussions hosted by the YWCA grappled with both the progress seen in the United States in the years since Dr. King's death and the progress many gathered still hope to gain in the future, especially in an area dealing with persistent racial gaps in educational outcomes and income, as well as several high-profile police shootings of black men that have gained international attention.

"We are quickly becoming the land of 10,000 disparities," said Ruthie Johnson, who helped facilitate Wednesday's discussion at the downtown YWCA. "That’s why creating a work of solidarity and teaching solidarity is huge."

From coast to coast--and across the world--hundreds of other events were held to remember the late civil rights icon, including concerts and marches and solemn ceremonies that many gathered said were as much about continuing Dr. King's work as they were about remembering the man who inspired the movement.

Here in Minnesota, many said talking about race is especially difficult, making Wednesday's effort especially important.  More than a few people in the audience stepped forward to share their perspectives in the hopes that it will get more people interested in talking about race relations and their effect on people's everyday lives.    

"They’re unsure about what they can do, what role they can play in impacting and dismantling those disparities," YWCA President and CEO Luz Maria Frias said. "This is a step closer to that."