MLK Day celebrations call for public service, challenge divisive political climate

CHICAGO -- As the nation honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., born 89 years ago in 1929, many observed the holiday in Chicago by using their day off to do acts of community service instead.

Chicago’s first black mayor Harold Washington actually helped lead the campaign to get Dr. King’s birthday recognized as a federal holiday, saying there was a need for an African American hero. Starting the effort 20 years before he became mayor, Washington later used his influence to push other mayors to do it. As a result, most of the MLK Day celebrations came from the states, and less from the federal government.

While many events focused on remembering King's past, the present political climate and actions of President Donald Trump were also a big topic of discussion.

Elected officials and political hopefuls were among those attending the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast in Kenwood Monday. Organized to raise money for education, the event also featured speakers that weighed in on events in Washington and beyond. Rev. Jesse Jackson called for registering one million new voters for the 2018 elections on April 4 , showing an increased interest on southern states.

"The south will change the nation, the ex-slave states still hold the key to our freedom," Jackson said.

The breakfast was one many events around the city marking the King holiday, including the Mikva Challenge MLK Youth Summit, where hundreds of kids used their day off from school to think about creative ways of solving problems facing their communities.