CHICAGO - Two thousand met Sunday afternoon to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and reclaim Dr. King's "Vision for Economic Equality" at St. Michael the Archangel on Chicago's southside.
"Dr. King's dream had a fundamental economic component," Rev. Dwight Garner of I-IRON, one of the event's sponsors, said.
Garner went on to quote Dr. King who said, "When you talk about ending the slums, before saying the profit must be taken out of the slums ... you can't talk when you do that, you're messing with captains of industry... because it really means we're saying something is wrong with capitalism."
Garner continued with King's quote,"There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move towards democratic socialism."
Speakers from various demoninations and advocacy groups used the opportunity to promote grassroots action for universal health care, economic equality, higher minimum wage, public funding of schooling from pre-K to Master's degrees, and a progressive tax system in Illinois. They criticized racism, capitalism, "1 percenters" and fracking.
At one point, speaker Toby Chow from the People's Lobby, pushing for higher corporate tax rates, said that during President Dwight Eisenhower's term the highest corporate marginal tax rate was 91 percent. "We could learn something from that Republican president," he said.
Five Democratic members of the Illinois House stood in front of the crowd and committed to support three "economic equality" bills before the Illinois General Assembly. Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie, Marcus Evans, Will Davis, Robyn Gabel and Christian Mitchell said they would support forcing corporations to disclose the amount of income taxes they pay, closing corporate loopholes and adopting a progressive state income tax.
"We're not here only to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, we are taking the Martin Luther King agenda and making it our own," Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie said.
The event closed with the congregation singing the 1960's civil rights movement's "We Shall Overcome." Tweets at #radicalMLK journal the day's emphases and CAN TV recorded the event available HERE.
Photos from Twitter and CAN-TV