Over the years, IMAN has celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by keeping its doors open and hosting or participating in local events honoring and making relevant Dr. King’s struggles. The Marquette Park area, in which IMAN is located, was the site of one of Dr. King’s historic stands against racial discrimination in housing and the diversity that makes up this area today is a result of that principled confrontation. Yet, there has not always been recognition or celebration of this historic connection in our local area. IMAN is attempting to ensure that the legacy of Dr. King’s struggle is kept alive in the Marquette Park area, not only with memorials and celebrations, but, most importantly, with efforts to translate his legacy into meaningful inspiration and effective action for marginalized communities in the face of our current struggles, locally and nationally.
This year’s MLK Day started out with a march of over 300 people including youth, parents, and CeaseFire and other community leaders. The march went through historic Marquette Park where Shamar Hemphill from IMAN was one of the main speakers at a gathering. He talked about the role of both IMAN and Muslims in the community, and about the need to create actual change to ensure that Dr. King’s legacy is not reduced to just a “dream.” Afterwards, the march continued to 65th & Mozart for a prayer vigil around community violence. After the march, the IMAN’s Youth Department lead a community discussion with over 30 youth from the local community. This discussion, held at IMAN, centered on the need for understanding why Dr. King’s legacy and vision is important to IMAN’s overall mission of community uplift. The rest of the day was full of other speeches, activities and lively discussions about how we can continue to create a model for positive change in urban communities like Chicago’s Southwest Side.