Chicagoans reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 16, 2012

Jennifer Brandel and Associated Press

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(AP/Charles Knoblock)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks with a Chicago building janitor in 1966 about evictions.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 83 this week were he still alive today. On Friday Chicago's department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events held a breakfast honoring Dr. King for civic, business and religious leaders.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the program's speakers. He highlighted the role of education in civil rights, stressing the need for Chicago's schools to provide equal opportunity to all students and blamed adults for "failing our children."

Emanuel remarked that over the last 50 years, Chicago has been a crucible for civil rights in America.

"It is no coincidence that the city of Chicago and the struggles we've had with civil rights gave birth to a mayor like Harold Washington. It is no coincidence that Illinois has more African American officers and has elected more African American officers statewide than any other state of the union. And it is also no coincidence, given it's history and struggles, no accident that Chicago and Illinois put President Barack Obama on his path to the White House. In the eyes of the world, Chicago is a city no longer defined by its divisions," Emanuel said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also gave remarks. The keynote speaker was Melody Spann-Cooper of Midway Broadcasting Corporatoin and WVON Radio.

Meanwhile, a number of King-related events are scheduled for today in Chicago, including an Occupy Chicago protest at 3 p.m. in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.  The Occupy event is part of a national day of action involving at 13 Fed banks around the nation marking the King holiday.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are hosting an annual Martin Luther King Day Jr. scholarship breakfast.

Officials with Jackson's civil rights organization say the goal is to highlight how large gaps in wealth and education persist among different populations.

Jackson has made poverty awareness a theme of commemorative events this year.

He announced Sunday his plans to spend the night at Pacific Garden Mission, a Chicago homeless shelters. Jackson says the millions of Americans living in poverty is a moral disgrace.

Also Monday, Chicago's Joffrey Ballet is offering an African dance class in commemoration of the holiday and the Bronzeville Children's Museum in Chicago will have a program featuring crafts.

Here's a sampling of other King-related events in Chicago scheduled for Monday:

City Year Chicago plans Day of Service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 9 a.m. opening ceremony at Henry Ford Academy, 931 S. Homan Ave.; 10:30 a.m. service at Bethune School of Excellence, 3030 W. Arthington St.

Community groups plan city-wide canvassing to target homeowners facing foreclosure, 10 a.m. 2655 N. Melvina Ave. and 1401 E. 75th St.; 11 a.m. 7463 N. Ridge Blvd.

Teens and World War II veterans gather to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, 10 a.m. Renaissance Court Senior Center, 77 E. Randolph St.

Bronzeville Children's Museum hosts King Dream Quest Program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 11 a.m. 9301 S. Stony Island Ave.

Service to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with 44 members of the clergy, 11 a.m. South Park Baptist Church, 3722 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

Chicago Sinfonietta present "The Journey, The Dream," tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., 7:30 p.m. Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.

WBEZ asked Chicagoans who gathered at the breakfast to honor Dr. King, what  he would have thought of our city today. You can click above to hear the responses of Barbara Klein, Dennis Talison, Corliss Garner and Dr. Carmelita Green.