Illinois celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 18, 2010 4:34:45 PM PST
Chicago-area schools, government offices and many businesses were closed Monday in honor of Martin Luther King. Dozens of events took place in the city and suburbs honoring the memory of the civil rights leader. Some chose to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by attending one of the many traditional gathering scheduled for this day, while others decided to celebrate his legacy by simply accepting his challenge to help others.

Actor LaRoyce Hawkins re-enacted Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech" Monday afternoon for audiences at the Chicago History Museum.

"I like how he talked like King. He really was influential," said Jamon Wade.

"I think it was a cool speech, a lot of good messages," said Jonah Koslofski.

It's all a part of how Chicagoland honored the legacy of the famed civil rights leader on what would have been his 81st birthday.

"That's the biggest honor, in my opinion, to make what was so real in that moment just as real to these people in this moment," said Hawkins.

For some, the day of remembrance began at the 20th annual PUSH-Excel Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast. Those in attendance celebrated the continued relevance of Dr. King's life and mission while demanding economic equality and justice for all.

"In Chicago alone, 3,200 blacks die a year on healthcare disparity...Here we are today, while Wall Street is relishing or wallowing in wealth. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but Harlem and Wall Street are on the same island, and what lifted Wall Street did not lift Harlem, nor Englewood, nor did it left Lawndale" said Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Meanwhile, one group of students took Dr. King's call to service literally by spending the day doing for others. Both elementary students and some high schoolers involved with several community outreach groups created care packages for war vets and current service men and women.

"They go together because they are about helping our nation and that's what Dr. Martin Luther King did by making everybody equal," said Patrick Gallagher, day of service participant.

Those kids participated in what organizers say is the first day of service at the academic center at Rush University. Students also completed a day of service at two other locations.