Every year, IMAN commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by honoring the larger civil rights legacy of working for social justice and racial equity, particularly in neighborhoods like the one in which IMAN is based. This year, on Monday, January 20, IMAN marked the day by officially launching a community-wide and historic initiative to create an MLK Memorial Project in Marquette Park, and by holding a free community luncheon in its new and partially rehabilitated IMAN Youth and Arts Wellness Center.
The MLK Memorial Project will be a two-year effort to construct a memorial that commemorates Dr. King’s march through Chicago’s Marquette Park on August 5, 1966. The Memorial will also celebrate the struggles and commitment of diverse local communities that have, since that day, continued to work together toward realizing a dignified quality of life for all community residents. By connecting community organizations, public schools, religious institutions and neighborhood families with artists, local historians and participants in the 1966 walk, IMAN intends to build a dynamic and expansive team of people who are eager to establish a Marquette Park memorial that will bring enthusiasm, vitality and community spirit back to the neighborhood. IMAN is partnering with the Chicago Public Art Group to construct the memorial, while funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development was made possible by the leadership of State Senator Jacqueline Collins.
IMAN leaders and volunteers were also honored to hold a free community luncheon that day. Individuals and families from IMAN’s larger Chicagoland base of supporters and leaders, such as families from the Hyde Park River Garden School, teamed with local leaders from the Chicago Lawn community to hold a restaurant-style luncheon for local residents. Volunteers as young as four years old helped to serve homemade turkey, rice, vegetables and chocolate cake to local parents, educators, construction workers, store clerks, retired couples and children off of school that day. IMAN staff also used the opportunity to inform new faces about IMAN’s services and to formally announce the launch of the MLK Memorial Project.