On the morning of August 6, amid chants of “We gon’ be alright,” over 1,400 people marched down Kedzie Avenue into Marquette Park, channeling the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement. Fifty years prior, Dr. King and hundreds of other demonstrators walked the same route in protest of discriminatory housing practices. Since that pivotal 1966 day, Chicago organizers and activists have remained driven and inspired as they continue the journey towards a more just and equitable community.
To honor this legacy, IMAN spent months mobilizing individuals and organizations across the city and across the country around the MLK Living Memorial Project. The organizing effort culminated in the ‘1000 Mile March’, an unparalleled display of unity, peace and cooperation. The march doubled the King-led effort in attendance. Youth drummers from Ayodele Drum and Dance and the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center provided a rhythm for each step of the way, while leaders such as Father Michael Pfleger, US Rep. Robin Kelly and “legacy marchers” who’d walked with Dr. King 50 years earlier, delivered words of inspiration.
Calls for justice around local and international issues echoed through the streets, linking commonalities across different struggles. Chants rang out in English and Spanish, and residents carried signs demanding a “Free Palestine” and immigration reform.
Marchers entered Marquette Park and concluded the action by gathering for a powerful rally. Generations of freedom fighters, from Rev. Jesse Jackson to the youth leaders of Black Lives Matter and Assata’s Daughters spoke truth to power. Organizers from across the country, like New York’s Linda Sarsour, shared the stage with piercing artistic talent like Chicago youth mentor and poet K-Love.
In our time, the challenges of unfair housing policies, unjust violence and poverty persist. The 1000 Mile March gave activists and residents alike the opportunity to pause, reflect, and honor their collective struggle. A truly historic moment for the Marquette Park community, the march shined a light on what united communities can accomplish in the face of bigotry and discrimination. IMAN was able to demonstrate power by mobilizing local families, neighborhood institutions, and major foundations from across the city to take this critical first step toward much-needed healing and toward the world as we know it could be.