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Chicago Heights pays tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

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Updated: February 23, 2013 6:19AM



As many nationwide celebrated the second inauguration of the United States’ first black president, Barack Obama, Chicago Heights residents gathered to honor the memory of the civil rights leader who helped pave the way forward.

About 100 people were on hand Monday for the city’s 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at city hall.

“We cannot wait for another Martin Luther King,” keynote speaker Osei Andrews-Hutchinson said. “Let us not wait, but get to work.”

Mayor David Gonzalez, the city’s second Hispanic mayor, opened the festivities, saying King would be “happy to see the progress we made toward his vision.”

“His ideas and dreams helped develop a kinder and more compassionate country,” Gonzalez said. “His vision was not one of handouts, but equal opportunity for all of us.”

After Gonzalez’s speech, Ald. Wanda Rogers (3rd) sang Sam Cooke’s classic, “A Change is Gonna Come,” saying she picked the song Monday morning while watching the inaugural festivities on the news.

Andrews-Hutchinson, the brother-in-law of State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), urged the crowd to action in honor of King. He referenced Craig Hodges, a former Chicago Heights resident and Chicago Bulls player who made a controversial visit to the White House after the Bulls’ 1992 NBA championship.

While meeting President George H.W. Bush, Hodges gave him a letter criticizing his administration’s treatment of minorities. Hodges later claimed he was blackballed out of the NBA because he spoke out.

“He decided to put it on the line because he couldn’t let the injustice that he saw, and probably grew up seeing all his life, continue without saying something when he had the chance to have a voice,” Andrews-Hutchinson said. “(The band) Public Enemy, those great ghetto philosophers, reminded us that ‘Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitudes.’ ”

Andrews-Hutchinson asked those in the crowded room to take responsibility “not only for our children, but the children in the community.”

Toi Hutchinson closed out the ceremony, referencing the often-repeated King line about how all humans are all bound in a “single garment of destiny.”

“If a child is hungry in Chicago Heights, it should matter to someone in Rockford,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson also encouraged people to get involved to keep King’s memory alive.

“Don’t make this just another day off,” Hutchinson said. “Make this a day on.”

Bloom Township High School District 206 students Zhana Johnson, Yesenia Garcia and Guadalupe Maria Avalos also read speeches they entered into the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest, and the Chicago Heights School District 170 jazz band played “Lean on Me” during the event.



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