A couple communities in western Illinois continued their long traditions of commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The annual solidarity march and celebration program began with a prayer at the courthouse square.
This was the largest gathering in recent memory. An estimated 75-100 people marched, and all the seats were filled at Mount Calvary Church of God in Christ for the program.
At the church, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas told audience members to think about what they can do to serve their community.
“Dr. King’s life was about service to others. And after his death, his wife and others continued to serve others by sharing and promoting his teachings,” said Thomas.
“My friends, we must hold fast to the dream this morning. The dream that says, ‘We shall overcome.’”
Dr. Thomas also said WIU has a proud history in civil rights, citing Dr. C.T. Vivian and others who served with Dr. King.
The keynote speech was given by James W. Johnson, who is credited with numerous achievements including founding the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at WIU and serving as its first director.
“Black people have always had an undying religious fervor in the history of liberation, equality, and personhood. The peculiar genius of Martin Luther King is that he was able to translate that religious fervor into social action,” Johnson said.
He also read the I Have a Dream speech delivered by Dr. King in 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Every year, a different church in Galesburg is responsible the Martin Luther King Day breakfast. This year, it was hosted by First Baptist on South Cherry Street.
Organizer Pamela Davidson said the event brings in at least 100 people each year. Proceeds help fund scholarships for students in the area.
Davidson said the breakfast gives people a chance to reflect on the legacy of Dr. King.
“Lots of times, people forget. They forget about things that might happen 2 or 3 years ago,” Davison said.
“But Martin Luther King helped changed this United States, this nation, from the Civil Rights movement. And he was just a pillar within our whole country. So we cannot forget what he done, because we’ll be doomed to repeat it.”
The event featured students who read essays about the Voters Rights Act and how it relates in today’s age.
Davidson said it’s important to keep King’s legacy alive for future generations.
“Some of these young kids that are here … they said Martin Luther King was a slave. Martin Luther King wasn’t a slave,” Davidson said. “So even though his name might be popular for ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, they do not know all the different things that Martin Luther King did to help all people.”
The breakfast also featured Dale Kelly, a 1966 Galesburg High School graduate who was member of the school’s basketball team.