Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, commitment to service honored around Chicagoland

1964: American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jnr (1929 - 1968). (Photo by Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Civil rights leaders, officials and volunteers marked Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday with events reflecting the civil rights leader’s legacy across the country Monday.

At the annual Rainbow Push Excel MLK Scholarship Breakfast, education was the focus, but there was also an eye on the same racial inequities that Dr. King fought against, and continue today. Rabbi Samuel Gordon of Wilmette was the keynote speaker.

“In a time of tremendous division in this country and polarization, it’s all the more important that we join together to keep the vision of Dr. King alive,” Gordon said.

King would have turned 91 on January 15. One of his friends and Rainbow PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson hosted Monday’s event, and said only part of King’s dream for civil rights has been realized. He says racism is growing, and economic injustice continues.

“The stock market is through the roof, but people are going through the basement,” Jackson said. “There is progress yet we are facing headwinds, a dangerous and violent headwind today.”

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Marking MLK's birthday with a day of service 

With King's legacy in mind, hundreds of volunteers from every walk of life rolled up their sleeves and got to work fixing up Dett Elementary School on the city’s West Side.

"When you think about the legacy of Dr. King, Dr. King was a man of action, powerful words, incredible oratory but he was a man of action," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

The goal of these volunteer events: to use this MLK Day of service to bridge social divides and improve education.

"This embodies the spirit of 'Ubuntu,' the idea that 'I am because we are,' that when I give, I get so much more, why, because my humanity is tied to your humanity," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton.

Those gathered at Dett Monday for a day of service organized by City Year Chicago included federal, state and city elected leaders who highlighted the importance of helping others.

"You don’t have to be wealthy to enrich the lives of others," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)."You don’t have to be a doctor to heal a city and you certainly don’t have to have a title to be a public servant."

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Bringing the civil rights movement, MLK's legacy to a new generation

The Martin Luther King holiday is the busiest day of the year for the Chicago History Museum, with visitors in the thousands.

Every year, the museum puts on a special display to engage the youngest of visitors. Through songs and storytelling, thousands of Chicago children get a lesson on the man who gave his life so all would know respect and dignity.

"I feel like that's something all kids, regardless of their skin color, is something they can take from. It's about understanding respect for all people," museum visitor Jasmine Barber said.

The museum also opens a special craft room for the event so kids can use their own hands to understand the significance of the day.

"I think families are always looking for opportunities to talk about reflect on a lot of the ideas Dr. King left us. These exhibits allow them to do that," said the museum's education director Nancy Villafranca-Guzmany. "It gives children a chance to understand for themselves the meanings of justice, dignity and freedom."

The Chicago History Museum plans to keep their special MLK photo exhibit installed through the end of the year.

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Here's what's open and closed on MLK Day

Schools
Chicago Public Schools will be closed. Most suburban schools will be closed.

Post office is closed
Minus a few select locations, US Postal Service offices will be closed. There will be no mail delivery to homes and businesses except for Priority Mail Express, according to USPS. If you need something delivered, UPS is open. FedEx is operating, but with modified service for FedEx Express and FedEx SmartPost.

Most banks are closed
A majority of US banks are closed because they follow the holiday schedule of the Federal Reserve System, which is the nation's central bank. That includes most Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo bank locations. But that shouldn't stop you from being able to take out some quick cash as ATMs and online banking will be operating. Also closed are the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

What about the DMV?
Most DMV offices will be closed, as they are government agencies. Same goes for courts and other nonessential government buildings.

Most retail and grocery stores, restaurants are open
You'll have plenty of options to choose from if you plan on using the day to do some shopping or eating out, as most big restaurant chains, retail stores and grocery stores will be open. That includes Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. But check with your local retailers, as hours may differ by location.

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