In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved into a decrepit apartment at 1550 S. Hamlin St.- in North Lawndale- with the goal of bringing his previous successes in the Civil Rights Movement in the South to Chicago. That top floor apartment became the headquarters for Dr. King’s Chicago Freedom Movement. While living in North Lawndale and fighting for racial housing, education and employment equality, he spoke at Solider Field, Grant Park and countless churches, spreading his dream.
Fifty years later, that apartment – is gone. In its place now lives the Dr. King Legacy Apartments, , a fitting parallel to his life and legacy.
For the past four years, UCAN’s founding partner St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park has organized the Polar Peace March in honor of Dr. King and that legacy. All the money raised for the March goes directly to our Violence Intervention and Prevention Services (VIPS).
This year, on January 14th, the day before Dr. King’s birthday, nearly 400 people attended the March. Despite the 22° temperature, participants walked 1.5 miles around the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side, carrying signs and drums while chanting, “Stop the violence. Start the love!”
Chicagoans and tourists alike waved from apartment windows, stepped onto balconies, and took pictures from the sidewalk.
The walk is held in January to remind Chicagoans that although violence is at its highest in the summer, it is happening year-round. The walk is held in cold weather to remind participants and others that no one should be comfortable with violence. The Polar Peace March is held in affluent and safe Lincoln Park to remind everyone who doesn’t live in Chicago’s West or South sides that there are ways to help prevent gun violence.
“I love holding the March on MLK weekend. It’s a great way to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence,” says Jan Bail, founder of the Polar Peace March. “I went to college to be a teacher and feel the Peace March is a teachable moment for all of us. It’s so empowering and rewarding to see families marching side by side, holding high their handmade posters or when I hear about our high-schoolers engaging in conversations about social justice as they make the soup for our marchers. As a parent, I would have loved an opportunity like this for my children. It’s wonderful to be able to host this event and actually ‘Walk the Walk’.”
Thanks to the dedicated supporters, marchers, fundraisers, donors and organizers the March surpassed the $50,000 fundraising goal.
Scroll down to see more photos from the event. You can still donate to the Polar Peace March here.