As far as birthday celebrations go, it couldn’t have been any better, except the guest of honor wasn’t there. Legacies that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began continue to live on in the city of Chicago Heights.
City Clerk Ethel M. Taylor from the Heights introduced the special speakers and musical selections that brought everyone at Chicago Miracle Temple Church to their feet. The Rev. Lawrence Blackful gave a short history on the guest speakers during the 14th annual Chicago Heights Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration.
Lt. Commander Ed Spires and the Bloom High School ROTC Color Guard presented the colors and Alderwoman Sonia Perez of the Second Ward led the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the ceremony.
Opening in song, Alderwoman Wanda Rodgers from the Third Ward gave a booming rendition of Lift Every Voice. Afterward, Rodgers spoke about her favorite movie It’s A Wonderful Life. She spoke about the plot of the movie, which was about an angel showing George Bailey what the lives of the people around him would have been like if he was never born.
“What if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have never been born,” Rodgers asked, looking around at the guests. “How advanced would civil rights be in 2011?”
Radio personality Effie Rolfe encouraged young people to make the right choices in life. Musical group G3 got the crowd moving as they stomped and sang, commemorating the 25th anniversary of nationally celebrating the birthday of Dr. King.
The mood changed when U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. spoke of the unemployment and the destitution of Chicago Heights, citing a 25 percent unemployment rate as the major issue in the Heights.
“Unemployment is the great evil ... We need jobs, we need to build an ark down here,” Jackson said, referring to his longtime support of a proposed airport in the south suburbs. Jackson said he believes it would create 15,000 jobs for the area.
The congressman said he remembers the legacy of King and wants to carry on the dream to help others, help the poor for a better world.
As special video tribute played, it was clear the words and deeds of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring in the hearts of people in Chicago Heights.