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MLK Gets 1st Memorial In Chicago 50 Years After Freedom Movement March

By Kelly Bauer | August 5, 2016 2:04pm
 A monument to the 1966 Freedom Movement march in Marquette Park was unveiled in a Friday ceremony.
Freedom Movement march memorial
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MARQUETTE PARK — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored with the first permanent memorial to him in the city on Friday.

The MLK Living Memorial at 67th Street and Kedzie Avenue was unveiled 50 years after King led activists in the Freedom Movement march of 1966. That march gained national attention when critics descended on several hundred activists, throwing rocks and insulting them.

King, who also lived in Chicago for a time, said Chicago was more racist than what he'd encountered in the South. But the work of King and other activists eventually led to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

"The sense is in Chicago we lost the battle, which is not the truth," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who joined King in the Freedom Movement march. "Just as public accommodations came out of Birmingham, the right to vote came out of Selma, fair housing came out of Chicago. When fair housing came down, the walls came down."

Jackson was among a diverse crowd of activists, politicians, religious leaders and supporters who came together to celebrate the memorial and the march. The memorial features images of King and other activists, quotes about the violence that protesters encountered in Chicago and tiles made by dozens of people to represent their ideas of home.

The idea, one organizer said, is that people should imagine a future where the message to everyone is "welcome home" instead of "go home."

Timuel Black, now 97, was among the activists who protested with King in Chicago. The march in Marquette Park was particularly "dramatic because of violence," Black said, noting that people who lived in the area felt "threatened" by the activists.

Yet Black said he and the other protesters remained peaceful, following King's message of non-violence, and that confused their violent opponents.

"I'm so happy and proud," Black said of his activism and the memorial.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called on people not just to remember the march of 1966 but to also fight for equality for all.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," Preckwinkle said, quoting King, three times. "I've always believed that that arc did not bend of its own volition, that ordinary people, you and I, are responsible for bending the arc, for achieving social justice in our time and for future generations."

The march will be honored again during a re-creation Saturday morning. More than 1,400 people are expected to march for justice, an organizer said.

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