Oakton School students perform "Wavin' Flag" dance.

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In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, the sixth annual Diverse Evanston Walks United was held on Jan. 16 at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston. The event, a community-wide celebration of peace, diversity, unity, leadership and service, engages young people from throughout Evanston.

This year’s event promoted the ideas of social change and non-violence and featured original rap songs, dances and dramatic performances created by youth. Seth Green, executive director of Youth Organization Umbrella (Y.O.U.), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon spoke between performances.

The need for social change was a recurring theme. The lyrics to an original rap, “We Need Change,” by ETHS seniors Graig Tertulien and Robert Bost, include, “The world needs change. … We gotta lift a voice. There won’t be any kind of force unless it’s your choice. Get up on your feet. Go out and make some noise. …”

Mr. Green said Y.O.U. “seeks to weave the many rich resources in this community so they enrich all children, so all children have access and the opportunity to participate in the rich resources of this community.”

Too many people are satisfied with the status quo, Mr. Green said. “What we need is to embrace the challenge of change.”

Congresswoman Schakowsky said, “Martin Luther King Day has demanded that people focus on the vision of Martin Luther King,” and “where we are in relation to the vision.” She said the election of Barack Obama as president represents change, but on the other hand, “we are seeing a great deal of struggle and poverty.”

As examples, she recited the resurrection of voting laws in many states designed to limit access of low-income persons and seniors to the polls, the increasing number of homeless people and of home foreclosures, the high rate of unemployment, particularly of those who lack a college or high school education. She said, “Education is the ticket out of poverty,” and she encouraged youth at the event “to have hope for change” and to take action to effect change.

Dr. Witherspoon said, “Dr. King was about social justice. … Things have changed … but not everything has changed to where it needs to be. … A real civil rights issue is the right to and demand for an education that means something. …If you want to break the cycle of poverty, we need to make sure it starts in the schools.”

The event, co-sponsored by Y.O.U., YWCA Evanston/North Shore and McGaw Y, was followed by a march to McGaw Y for panel discussions.

Other events honoring Dr. King were sponsored by Beth Emet Synagogue and Second Baptist Church, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre and Community Center, the Unitarian Church, the McGaw Y, Grace Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church and Second Baptist Church, Northwestern University and St. Nicholas Church.