Evanston community leaders celebrate King’s life, legacy


Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and former Mayor Lorraine Morton at the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremonies at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. The speakers emphasized honoring King’s legacy at the event.

Zoe Miller, Reporter

Evanston leaders discussed the relevance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy at an annual MLK Day event.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) and former Mayor Lorraine Morton spoke at the annual event on Saturday at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. The event also featured a performance by Evanston Children’s Choir and a performance by the Evanston Dance Ensemble.

The speakers emphasized the continued relevance of King’s legacy. Tisdahl spoke about the connection of King’s dream to Evanston in particular, saying the day is of special importance to the city.

“In Evanston, we always try, we don’t (always) succeed, but we always try to live King’s dream,” Tisdahl said.

Holmes discussed the importance of continuing to work for King’s vision in the present day. She said although the current political climate was “troubling” for her, taking individual action was important.

“I do know that there is always hope, and most of all, there’s faith … we can overcome whatever obstacles that there are if we just decide what it is that we want to do as an individual,” she said. “But it really starts with us and we have to decide what our part is and then we will realize what that dream was and how we can make it a reality.”

Morton, Evanston’s first black mayor, praised the actions of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who recently said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he will not be attending the inauguration on Friday and does not see President-elect Donald Trump as a legitimate president.

Morton, speaking about Lewis’ role in the Civil Rights Movement, encouraged the audience to take inspiration from him and other movement leaders. Lewis was jailed several times as a civil rights activist and suffered a fractured skull after being beaten during the march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery.

“(Lewis’ statements) may not have meant anything to some of you because you don’t know about John R. Lewis.” Morton said. “He is truly the epitome of what Martin Luther King stood for, and what Martin Luther King would have expected people to do.”

Morton also brought up other civil rights activists, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, and encouraged the audience to remember those who fought for civil rights, including Evanston residents.

Saturday’s event also featured Evanston Township High School student Alexis Harris-Dyer as a keynote speaker. Harris-Dyer, who is involved at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theater, spoke about King as an example to be followed.

“We all owe him,” Harris-Dyer said. “And it’s our duty to make a difference.”

Harris-Dyer praised Holmes and Tisdahl for exemplifying King’s legacy.

Tim Rhoze, artistic director at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre and host of the event, told The Daily that the event’s tone changes each year.

“It’s different now because we have a new president,” he said. “It’s different because of the crime that either increases or decreases. The temperature of this event fluctuates.”

Email: [email protected]