MLK day celebrations call for equality, unity in Evanston


Photo courtesy of Tim Rhoze

ETHS junior Chloe Ann Smith delivers the keynote speech for the Martin Luther King Day festivities. She said Evanston still has a lot of work to do to achieve King’s vision

Suzy Vazquez, Reporter

Evanston community members called for equality and unity at an event on Saturday, as the city celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with performances and speeches at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

The event started with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Second Baptist Church children’s choir. In his opening remarks, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) paid tribute to former Evanston mayor Lorraine Morton, the city’s first African-American mayor who served from 1993 to 2009. Morton passed away last September.

Evanston Township High School junior Chloe Ann Smith delivered the keynote speech.

Smith said she has attended the celebration for many years and even performed at past celebrations. Throughout her speech, she focused on King’s origin story, noting his upbringing in the church and his appreciation for Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.” Smith also stressed the importance of unification in Evanston.

“We claim Evanston as a diverse community — it’s not,” Smith said. “We may go to school with everybody else, but at the end of the day, we are all going home to our different wards. It takes people who want to go out and meet new people and form the type of world that Dr. King wanted where there are blacks and whites and Asians and Hispanics living all together for us to actually have a diverse community and a diverse Evanston.”

Smith said there are many attempts to focus on diversity in Evanston, but she pushed Evanston residents to work harder. She added that she’s not sure how long change will take, but it starts in the community and schools.

Tim Rhoze, the artistic director of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, said he wanted to highlight young people in the celebration. He thought Smith’s perspective as a black woman born and raised in Evanston would illuminate the passion of Evanston youth.

Rhoze also emphasized the importance of studying King’s legacy and values.

“To celebrate Dr. King is one thing, but it’s also remembering what he stood for and what the people who stood with him stood for and the legacy that they all have left for us,” Rhoze said. “We need to keep marching to all the things that are right.”

Eldridge Shannon, the host for the event, said he has worked with the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre for years and was enthusiastic when Rhoze asked him to participate in the celebrations.

Shannon said he enjoyed seeing the community come together not only to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., but also to celebrate the civil rights movement as a powerful movement that communities are still fighting for today.

“Understanding our history and the history of all races, where we came from and how we got here today, is so important,” Shannon said. “I’m thankful that we get to celebrate that.”

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