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Article updated: 1/20/2014 8:34 AM

Elgin celebrates King's legacy, progress toward his dream

By Steve Zalusky

Elgin showed its commitment to the dream of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday -- in words, song, prayer and dance.

By Mayor David Kaptain's admission, that commitment may not always have been there.

"When I became a councilman almost 10 years ago, diversity was not something that was a pleasant subject in Elgin," he said. "But the world has changed in the last decade. Diversity now is something that the city is proud of, and I'm proud to be the mayor of the city of Elgin."

The ceremony, the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program at the Hemmens Cultural Center, showed the contemporary relevance of King's message. It also pointed out that aspects of that dream are still deferred.

Councilwoman Tish Powell mentioned that people often think of King with respect to racial justice. But at the time of his death, she said, "He was working toward economic equality and justice for people of all races and all colors in our country."

She noted how he was trying to help striking garbage workers seeking a living wage in Memphis.

"That economic struggle continues yet today in our own community for people working at minimum wage -- in some cases working several jobs and still not able to feed their family," she said, adding that some community members have recently lost their unemployment benefits.

Linda Deering, president and CEO of Advocate Sherman Hospital, quoted from King on the subject of health care, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

The ceremony not only inspired with words, but stirred with song, as the audience swayed and clapped with the Elgin Community Choir, and danced, with the trio Trinity.

Winners of the 2014 Scholarship Awards were honored, including Larkin High School senior Luis Garcia, who plans to pursue a degree in business management, with a minor in culinary arts; Shawdrea Hill, a senior at Larkin High School, who plans a career in nursing, specializing in neonatal care; and Danielle Robinson, a senior at Larkin High School, who plans to study culinary arts and business.

The keynote speech was delivered by Orlando Ceaser, a South Barrington resident who is an author and professional speaker for Watchwell Communications.

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