Mayor’s annual MLK celebration honors local civil rights leaders and organizations

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered the keynote speech on community healing.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivers the keynote speech at Friday’s virtual celebration.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivers the keynote speech at Chicago’s 35th annual Interfaith Celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Friday. | Screen shot

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Friday by promoting conversations about community healing at the city’s 35th annual interfaith celebration.

Lightfoot commended Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the keynote speaker of the virtual event, for her efforts to bridge racial and economic divides in her city that “set an example” for the country.

Bottoms said the fight for racial justice is a continuous one.

“The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others serve as reminders that the lynching of Emmett Till is not just the story of our past,” Bottoms said.

“We’ve all been reminded that creating the beloved community that Dr. King dreamt of is still a dream worthy of pursuing. A society based on justice, equal opportunity and love for one’s fellow human beings.”

Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to reflect on the city’s progress toward achieving racial justice. She said it is particularly important after a year that made many feel like they “lost ground” in their pursuit of justice and equality.

Chicago should embrace King’s vision of unity and healing, Lightfoot added, which calls on the city to come together and support each other during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The battle is in our hands,” Lightfoot said, quoting King. “The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. ... But we must keep going.”

Lightfoot awarded an inaugural Chicago Community Healer award to three local organizations — The Chicago Community Trust, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Lawndale Christian Health Center — for their commitments to upholding King’s legacy and working toward a better future for Chicagoans.

Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, introduced the organization’s Changemakers Network, a grant program that focuses on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gaps in the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in Chicago and across the country, increasing the city’s wealth gap, Gayle said. That’s why the organization is focused on closing that gap, pushing for major relief efforts to address important needs resulting from the pandemic.

“We believe that by empowering communities and giving voice and helping build collective power, we can have long-lasting change with community at the heart of it,” Gayle said.

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