Performances drive South Holland Martin Luther King Jr. Day event

As Superintendent of Thornton High School District 205 Nathaniel Cunningham Jr. pondered Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy Monday, he kept coming back to one thing: work.

“He did the work,” Cunningham said. “He was relentless in his goal of bringing unity and peace, not just to a community or a city, but to a global society.”

Before a crowd that was nearly full in the two-story auditorium of South Suburban College’s Kindig Performing Arts Center, Cunningham highlighted the marches, the Montgomery bus boycott, letters, speeches, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, who influenced King.

Patrice and Arthur Burton play spoken word and drums, with a poem about Martin Luther King Jr. and poetry by Langston Hughes and Sonia Sanchez.

Cunningham commissioned those who gathered in South Holland to continue this work.

“DR. King is gone,” Cunningham said. “He’s been gone a long time. But his work goes on. His work is to be carried on through us.”

Cunningham highlighted high levels of depression among young people and rising violence in schools and neighborhoods as two issues where the community can embody the spirit of King and get to work.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to make a difference in our community,” Cunningham said. “Let’s decide not to ignore it. Let’s choose to do something, to believe in something. Let’s do the work and believe in the work.”

Deborah Kimball Crosslin introduced various speakers and performers during Monday's Southland Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.

Cunningham was joined by State Senator Napoleon Harris and other leaders from District 205, South Suburban College and the Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland.

The program was accompanied by an exhibit honoring King, which South Suburban College President Terry Wells invited attendees to visit.

“Having this program in the South Suburban is perfect,” Wells said. “DR. King talked a lot about education. A quote from Dr. King was, ‘Intelligence plus character—that’s the true measure of education.’ That’s what we do here at South Suburban College.”

The two-hour celebration began with a presentation of the colors by District 205’s Civil Air Patrol while the high school band performed both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the latter sometimes called the black national anthem.

“Today’s theme, Restoring Unity and Peace, is a testament to Dr. King’s legacy,” said college president Lynette Stokes. “That was the cornerstone of Dr. King’s struggle for equality and unity.”

Members of the Thornton Township High School District 205 Civil Air Patrol present the colors as the high school band plays the national anthem.

Stokes highlighted some of King’s quotes, emphasizing his call to “live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. She highlighted the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion across its institution, activities and events, and strategies to promote healing and open discussions about racism, prejudice, inequality and injustice in society.

“I challenge us, Dr. Just to remember King as a man who wanted peace, justice and unity,” Stokes said. “For South Suburban College, the memory of Dr. King to continue the work he started so long ago.”

District 205 Student Board of Education President Eghosa Omosigho emphasized the offerings of help that have become a hallmark of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She said there is a great need for this ministry in America.

“I believe the best way to promote the work of Dr. Doing King is reaching out to someone in need and making a continuous commitment to community service,” Omosigho said. “I encourage you to ensure that the observance of the celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King across the nation is simply not a day off, it’s a hired day. Together we can make it a national service day.”

Tanika Price performs Kurt Carr's

Tamika Price, a 17-year-old Thornton Township resident, played Kurt Carr’s “For Every Mountain.” The Thornton High School Band performed, student Shaunti Jones recited some of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, the Bourné family sang and Arthur and Patrice Burton played spoken word and drums and also included a poem about Martin Luther King Jr Poems by Langston Hughes and Sonia Sanchez.

Rev. Patrick L. Daymond, senior pastor of the Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, delivered the invocation, asking the Lord to strengthen the people until the vision King died for is realized.

“We’ve come a long way, but we’re not over yet,” Daymond said. “As long as racism persists in its many forms, we have not overcome it. Until we are able to cast out all evil and hate, we still have to overcome. Until all systems of inequality are dismantled, wherever they exist, we have not overcome.”

Bill Jones is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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