Activists call for solidarity, mark anniversary of MLK’s Marquette Park march

South Side activists called Friday for solidarity between Black and Brown communities at the Martin Luther King Jr. Living Memorial in Marquette Park.

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Alfredo Palafox speaks during a gathering meant to celebrate Black and Brown solidarity and commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march at Marquette Park on Aug. 5, 1966 near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial in the Marquette Park neighborhood, Friday morning, Aug. 6, 2021.

Alfredo Palafox of the Southwest Organizing Project speaks during a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march at Marquette Park on Aug. 5, 1966.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

About 100 people gathered Friday in Marquette Park to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership and to call for a strengthened solidarity between Black and Brown communities.

Activists with the Resurrection Project and Southwest Organizing Project gathered with politicians including U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) at the Martin Luther King Jr. Living Memorial at 3201 W. Marquette Road. 

The commemoration comes one day after the 55th anniversary of King’s march on Marquette Park. On Aug. 5, 1966, King marched with hundreds of other demonstrators calling for better housing for Black Chicagoans. A mob of counter-protesters threw rocks, bricks and bottles at the demonstrators. King, 37 at the time, was struck in the head by a rock or brick.

The memorial was chosen as the meeting place to not only remind the community of King’s legacy, but also because organizers felt many community members were unaware of the memorial. 

Dubbed “Black and Brown Solidarity Day,” the event saw a range of guest speakers, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, express gratitude for the civil rights leaders both past and present. 

“We thank our ancestors and we thank the African American community because they set the path forward for all of our rights,” said Alma Sigala, the Resurrection Project organizer, through a translator. “This is the combination of 55 years of history.”

Some speakers shared their experiences with racism while others called on the community to continue building solidarity between the Black and Latino communities. 

“It’s important in this city, and in our country, for African Americans and the Latinx community to join together ... because our communities face very similar challenges around racial justice and economic justice,” Preckwinkle said.

Garcia said cultivating a deeper relationship of solidarity “underscores the value of a relationship in the struggle for equality and for equity.”

Tanesha Flowers, 15, attended with her mother, Gail Mayfield. Both said they hope to see the message of solidarity spread beyond the event and into the communities. 

Gail Mayfield, who attended a gathering meant to celebrate Black and Brown solidarity and commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march at Marquette Park on Aug. 5, 1966, poses for a picture near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial in the Marquette Park neighborhood, Friday morning, Aug. 6, 2021.

Gail Mayfield attended a gathering commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s march at Marquette Park on Aug. 5, 1966.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

For Tanesha and Mayfield, Black and Brown solidarity would mean the two communities communicate and support each other.

“Everybody needs to get along because we are all in one place on one earth,” Tanesha said. 

Sigala said solidarity between the two communities is vital at this moment in time as voting rights and immigration laws are being debated across the country. 

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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