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updated: 1/2/2013 6:25 PM

Civil-rights pioneer's descendant to speak in Elgin

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After last year's success, a community food drive and youth leadership conference again will be part of the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in Elgin.

Motivational speaker and activist Dan Duster of Chicago, a great-grandson of civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells, will talk about personal achievement at a prayer breakfast Saturday, Jan. 19 at Elgin Community College, said Janice Hare, a member of Elgin's Martin Luther King Jr. planning committee. The Elgin Human Relations Commission is also sponsoring the celebration.

Wells, who was born into slavery in 1862 and died in 1931, was among the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"It is particularly exciting," Hare said. "(Duster) is going to be addressing ... a variety of people very eager to hear the message about keep moving forward. It's about knowing that we can achieve if we believe, and this message is coming at a right time from a young African American man."

Drop-off sites for the food drive include most Elgin area churches, Jewel-Osco stores, Elgin Fresh Markets, Butera Market in Elgin and city hall. Last year's drive yielded 13,000 pounds of food, so organizers upped this year's goal to 16,000 pounds, planning committee member Joe Wars said.

Church representatives are encouraged to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7 at The Centre of Elgin to hear more about the drive, whose distribution center is set up at the Church of the Brethren's warehouse in Elgin, Wars said.

Half the donations will go to the Food for Greater Elgin collaborative nonprofit, and the other half will be divided among five Elgin food pantries, Wars said.

"The idea is in keeping with the goals and objectives of Dr. King in his dream of helping those that might need a little help during some tough times," Wars said.

Adults who work with middle schoolers and high schoolers are encouraged to bring them to the all-day youth leadership conference Monday, Jan. 21 at The Centre of Elgin, said planing committee co-chairwoman Rose Reinert.

The free program is designed to spread King's message of leadership and community service, Reinert said. Based on feedback from last year's conference, this year topics will include bullying and cyberbullying, she said. "It's a great way to honor Dr. King, as well as to challenge the next generation to carry the torch."

The celebration also includes a public program at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Second Baptist Church at 1280 Summit Street in Elgin.

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