“Tired? Go Home!” was one of the signs held up that hot August day in 1966. Over 5,000 people—grandmothers, young children and teenagers—were enraged by the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly 700 other Chicago Freedom Movement marchers walking through “their” neighborhood.
Yes, the marchers were tired. In the words of storied activist Fannie Lou Hamer, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They were tired of the fear, the racism and the hatred that unscrupulous realtors were exploiting to provoke bigotry and violence against blacks who dared to come anywhere near what Marquette Park residents claimed as “their homes.”
Yet, they fearlessly marched through the heart of the crowd, dodging rocks, bottles and nasty epithets from furious residents. King called the march and his Chicago campaign that summer a “first step in a 1000-mile journey.”
Fifty years later, the task of radically reimagining “home” remains urgent. The political rhetoric of our time constantly reminds us that the message of “Go Home” is still alive and well in America. Reimagining “home” as a safe, healthy, spiritually nourishing, culturally thriving space for all people has been at the heart of IMAN’s work for years. That mission is why Takin’ It to the Streets, hosted in the same park where Dr. King marched and bled, has always been so important.
In exactly one month, we will, inshAllah, retrace the historic steps of those courageous souls during the symbolic 1000 Mile March—a nine-block walk into Marquette Park that will lead into this year’s ‘Streets festival. The 1000 Mile March will evoke and celebrate the courage of the marchers 50 years ago, and remind us all that the journey to justice continues.
Marchers and festival attendees that day will be invited to visit Chicago’s first permanent memorial to Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement, an effort that IMAN has led alongside the Chicago Public Art Group for over two years. The memorial will stand as a challenge to never forget the ongoing struggles to fully realize King’s “beloved community” in Marquette Park and across America.
In Arabic, the root word for “home” carries meanings of peace and tranquility. At IMAN, our work to radically reimagine “home” in marginalized inner-city neighborhoods continues because you and others like you across this country invest in us, believing in our collective, sacred responsibility to make our home in America as equitable, just and peaceful as possible.
I want to express my deepest appreciation for your support, prayers, hope and confidence in IMAN’s direct impact and its model. If there are others in your network who still haven’t contributed to our 2016 Ramadan Drive, please urge them to do so in the last few hours before this blessed month comes to a close.