Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Celebrated by Evanston, Skokie Youth

By: Mike Isaacs, Skokie Review
Published: January 20, 2015

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

This was one of many resonant quotes and passages from the great civil rights leader recited by Evanston students Jan. 19 in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But it wasn’t just King’s words that drove home his real legacy on stage at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston; It was the generations of younger and older children inspired by King. They sang and danced and rapped, they acted and recited poetry and they spread messages of hope and about coming together.

“We serve incredible young people,” said Seth Green, executive director of Y.O.U. (Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc.). “They immerse themselves in their academics. And they come in every day after school to become better leaders. It is beautiful to see how you are embracing the opportunities around you, and you may not see it yet, but it will profoundly impact your future forever.”

This was Y.O.U.’s ninth annual “Diverse Communities United: Realizing King’s Vision Today,” a community-wide celebration of peace, diversity, unity and leadership.

Children of all ages from Evanston and Skokie were coached this year by Jefferson Award winning actress Susie McMonagle, who once appeared on Broadway as Fantine in “Les Miserables.”

Yale University’s oldest co-ed a cappella group, Redhot and Blue, visited some of Y.O.U.’s young singers, and best-selling author Wes Moore helped Y.O.U.’s student storytellers in the lead-up to the event.

If King wasn’t always overtly at the forefront of this 90-minute barrage of performances, there was no mistaking that his spirit was guiding it.

“His message has always been relevant to our love and necessary to our survival,” said Frolian Landeros, program manager at Washington Elementary School. “To celebrate Dr. King would be to recognize that we are not done.”

Packed both downstairs and in the balcony of this elegant venue, the celebration was attended by leaders of both Skokie and Evanston and beyond — from Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Students from Dawes, Oakton and Washington elementary schools, from Nicholas Middle School, Martin Luther King Junior Laboratory and the Y.O.U Spartans all performed.

Northwestern University’s Boomshaka drum and dance rhythm group banged on drums (plastic upside down garbage containers) alongside Skokie School District 69 students; Boomshaka’s dancers energetically and fluidly moved feverishly to the street beat they created.

Student art work and original poetry on display also gave even more meaning to a special day.

“I’m from the cold, the warm cold
with the opportunities that we bring
because MLK told us to let freedom ring
because he was the man who had a dream
where I’m from,
I’m from the image he had embedded,
for the future generation, he said, 
‘if a man has not discovered something he will die for,
he is not fit to live’
where I’m from, that’s the life I live.”
— Evanston High School student Mackkeitha Mason

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