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Community leaders celebrate MLK day with annual luncheon


Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Peoria leaders honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the 30th celebration luncheon.

Hundreds filled a ballroom for Monday’s event, held at the Peoria Civic Center, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Many more streamed the program on the web, which celebrated progress in social justice and highlighted the road ahead.

“A day like today, it means that I should be doing something of service, because that’s what Dr. King would do, and that’s what he would want us to do,” Keynote speaker Sybrina Fulton said.

Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black man killed in an altercation with a neighborhood watch coordinator in Florida nearly 10 years ago.

“I saw my 17-year-old son laying in a casket,” Fulton said. “That was by far the worst day of my life.”

George Zimmerman was acquitted in that high profile case, sparking nationwide protests. But, that hasn’t stopped Fulton from trying to inspire others by honoring her son’s memory and those lives lost across the country.

“The same things that are happening in big city Miami are the same things that are happening in Peoria,” Fulton said. “And so we have to not just want to make change. We have to make the change that we want to see.”

In 2021, Peoria’s homicide total broke the record. But on this MLK Day, leaders urged action to create change.

“[We’re] talking about service to the community,” Peoria Mayor Dr. Rita Ali said. “Talking about justice for all people. Equal rights. Equity. All of those things were important to Dr. King.”

“You define how you want to define service, and then be involved in it, to make this community a better place,” State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said.

“Affecting your neighborhood. Affecting your city. Affecting your community that’s around you,” Peoria District 4 City Councilman Andre Allen said.

“Let’s take those preconceived notions of what someone is supposed to look like out of the picture, and let’s just treat each other with respect and dignity,” Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria said.

No matter how they put it, they all say service is the best way to heal the community and live Dr. King’s legacy.

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