More than 800 people gathered at the Evanston Township High School auditorium to attend the 10th annual Diverse Communities United Martin Luther King day program this afternoon.
The Youth and Opportunity United event included 17 performances by more than 100 young people performing original songs and skits and giving speeches to express their vision for realizing Dr. King’s dream today.
This year’s theme for DCU, The Road Less Traveled, explored different routes to overcoming injustice, breaking down stereotypes, and leading for social change.
ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon opened the event by speaking about the persistence of racial injustice more than five decades after Dr. King’s dream. And the performers addressed how to build a more just world — touching on community diversity, exceeding expectations and promoting peaceful revolutions.
Highlights of this year’s DCU performances included elementary schoolers taking on the roles of “Kid Principals” and interviewing leaders ranging from Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro to Ulta CEO Mary Dillon.
Meanwhile, Y.O.U. middle schoolers remixed Silento’s “Watch Me” with original lyrics about fighting for your rights and Y.O.U. high schoolers discussed the history and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We celebrate MLK’s vision on this day to continue his legacy, that black lives matter,” said ETHS senior Ezra Averyhart. “I dream that our communities show us that our lives matter by working against income disparities and racism in the justice system. I dream that our schools enforce equal discipline policies and produce equal graduation rates. I dream that our newscasters report our deaths and our crimes and our losses with empathy.”
Y.O.U. bestowed its annual Diversities Communities Award on Evanston Own It, a coalition of faith and community leaders, for their antiviolence work in the community. The event culminated in a finale featuring nearly 100 youth symbolically marching forward to the song “Glory.”
Amanda Knighten, mother of Y.O.U. Lincoln Jr. High middle schoolers Kevin and Kendrick, said that the performances had her in tears throughout the entire show.
“I’m so overwhelmed,” Knighten said. “My sons have made so much progress since joining Y.O.U. three years ago, now being able to better express themselves and to make positive decisions. Just to see them doing something positive, and that they truly enjoy, was amazing.”
Photos by Jafet Melendez and Tom McAuliffe.