Spotlight on Duluth
MN Midterm Elections 2023
Classie Dudley, President of the NAACP - Duluth
Duluth is a beautiful, idyllic port town that sits on Lake Superior. Top employers in the region include Essentia Health, Target and AGCO, an agricultural machinery manufacturing company. The 2020 Census puts Duluth’s population at 86,372, with 4.8% representing 2 or more races, and 2.6% African American, or, 2,057.
The ghosts of Duluth’s past hang over the city. The Clayton - Jackson - McGhie Memorial - steps from an emergent financial and social district - is an ominous reminder of the atrocius lynching of 3 Black circus workers in 1920. Today, racially-motivated crimes against Blacks are reported on a fairly consistent basis - even as recent as September 2023. A Black woman was severely beaten by 2 white men. Many more Black and Indigenous women are reported missing.
“Race is an indicator of all issues, implicitly or explicitly.” Says Classie, who wants to have a safe place for Duluth’s Black community.
Classie Dudley was born and raised in Duluth. She is the President of the Duluth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - the largest chapter in Minnesota boasting a membership of roughly one thousand. Having grown up in Duluth, Classie faced the issues, firsthand, alongside her peers and community. It’s what inspired her to lead the organization today: to truly be a part of change.
While Classie believes political leaders should come to the community to hear their concerns, she also believes the Black community needs to hold those leaders accountable. She believes the city council can do a lot more.
“City Council often says it’s about equity, (but) with no backing.”
Wasting no time in her new role as President, they developed a strategic plan, instituted committees around criminal justice, health and environment, education, and economics. Classie is seeing the same data in Duluth as in Minneapolis, North Dakota, South Dakota, and around the nation. “Disparities are still there.”
For example, the NAACP found that, despite Black students making up less than six percent of the student body, they received more than one third of tickets issued by school resource officers (SROs). 90 tickets were given at a predominantly Black school. Classie and her partners took action and made policy changes. This year, that number dropped to 28 tickets given at that same school.
“The school board race is important,” she continues. “There are currently 3 - 4 open school board seats right now. It’s imperative that we get people in those seats. We need better leaders.”
J. Deebaa Sirdar
Guest Editor, Black Votes Matter MN
NOVEMBER 7, 2023