IMAN staff marked this year’s Martin Luther King Day by hosting a discussion with several high school students, local educators, and artists around the construction of a memorial to mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march through Marquette Park almost fifty years ago. He and 700 other diverse civil rights activists, religious leaders, and concerned citizens took to the streets of Chicago Lawn on August 5, 1966 to demand equal housing rights, and IMAN has been leading an effort to memorialize this event, and the community that has struggled for justice and equality in its wake, for several years.
IMAN organizers sought to consult with youth leaders as well as local educators and artists about what the impact of a King memorial in their community could be. After viewing some of the images from that day and reading a news clip written on the day after the march, the group discussed how empowering it would be to have a physical monument in the heart of the Marquette Park community, reminding community members of the brave and powerful leaders who have fought for social justice in the area since 1966 and beyond.
In 2011, Gage Park High School students, under the leadership of their social studies teacher Mr. Victor Harbison, unveiled a multi-media kiosk at the park to celebrate the march through pictures, videos and oral histories. Their tremendous project marked the first concrete effort to commemorate Dr. King’s presence in Marquette Park in 1966 and the discussion on MLK Day, January 21, explored the very real possibility of expanding that effort into a more permanent and visible memorial on the grounds of the park. IMAN hopes to deepen this conversation with community members, historians, and artists in the coming months in order to envision the next stage of this initiative.