By Mike Isaacs
Not far to the north and east of Skokie, Martin Luther King Jr. appeared 50 years ago to speak to thousands of people about the need for affordable housing and the end to segregation.
That speech, held at Winnetka Village Green, is being commemorated July 26 by Open Communities, formerly named Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, which serves 16 communities in advocating for fair and affordable housing and housing justice.
The Skokie Village Board July 6 became the first municipality to approve a resolution that supports the project, which is titled The Justice Project: The March Continues. The resolution makes Skokie a partner with Open Communities in the July 26 event.
“The primary focus will be to join in the celebration and commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the North Shore Summer Project that brought Dr. Martin Luther King to Winnetka to speak about how to end racial discrimination in our communities,” Trustee Randy Roberts said.
Roberts said he views Skokie’s participation in the project as a continuation of the village’s Coming Together in Skokie and Niles Township, which this year examined the issue of race by holding myriad programs over the first three months of the year.
“We want everyone in our community to live without fear of racial discrimination,” Roberts said.
The Skokie Village Board’s unanimous vote supporting the resolution followed a presentation on the project by former Skokie librarian Frances Roehm, who represented Open Communities.
Roehm said King came to Winnetka when the village was confronting difficult issues related to affordable housing.
“He talked about treating people a little better, and there was a great crowd at Winnetka Green,” she said. “We decided we needed to celebrate this day, we needed to commemorate this day. We needed to use it to help us all rethink and get back that spiritual push to move us all ahead.”
The event is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. July 26 at Winnetka Village Green, 525 Maple St. Open Communities promises “a family-friendly event with tables from various community organizations, music, arts and crafts, and children’s activities.”
The scheduled keynote speaker is Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President For Advocacy. Roehm said that Susan Van Dusen, the wife of Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, will also be honored. Susan Van Dusen traveled on her own as a teenager to Selma, Ala. and participated in King’s seminal civil rights march there more than 50 years ago.
For more information on the 2015 Justice Project: The March Continues, go to http://www.open-communities.org.