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On MLK Day, a Portland attorney says that it's important to address racism after the speeches end

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Courtesy of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
Portland attorney Krystal Williams was the featured speaker at an event honoring Martin Luther King, Jr at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk on Monday.

Portland attorney Krystal Williams was the featured speaker at an event honoring Martin Luther King, Jr at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk on Monday morning.

After reading portions of King's 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail in which he advocated for nonviolent action to fight for civil rights, Williams said King's words still ring true today.

"If we want to change the outcome of American history, we have to change our daily actions. Will it take a little more effort? Yes, yes it will. But if you don't make the effort now, when will you?" Williams said.

Williams is the founder of the Alpha Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that works to diversify the legal profession. She's also the founder and managing attorney of the legal and business advisory firm Providentia Group, which seeks to create economic equity through entrepreneurship.

Williams told attendees of the Monday event that the Civil Rights Act ushered in important changes, but racism today is much more subtle and it maintains a race-based economic caste system.

"Now, almost 60 years later, black Americans remain economically disenfranchised with disproportionately negative outcomes across all social determinants of health," Williams said.

She urged the crowd to continue to focus on racial equity beyond the national holiday.

"Please know, this is the easy part," she said. "The work is not showing up today. The work is what you do away from the speeches, away from the workshops, away from the days of commemoration. The work happens when you choose what nonprofit to support, or what restaurant to go to, or where you purchase certain services, or even what movie ticket you buy."