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February 17, 2019

1/23/2019 2:24:00 PM
Editorial: Celebrations of Dr. King Conclude With History and Economic Empowerment

The celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Evanston extends well beyond the official holiday. This past weekend, Evanstonians remembered his legacy in words, music, dance and service. Two noteworthy events remain – one that brings a historical figure into focus and one that looks to the economic future.

On Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., Evanston Township High School Assistant Superintendent and Principal Marcus Campbell will interview Dr. David Blight, author of “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”

Dr. Blight is a Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. His book was named in the “Top 10” of 2018 by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and TIME.

As a young man Mr. Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Md. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, he and the passionate editor separated over differing approaches to abolition.

Mr. Douglass turned to political activism and became a Republican and, eventually, a Lincoln supporter.

By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Mr. Douglass became the most famed and widely traveled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. He was a fierce critic of the United States, a radical patriot and a champion of Black civil and political rights.

On Jan. 28 at 6 p.m., Maggie Anderson will deliver the keynote address for Northwestern’s University-wide MLK commemoration in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the campus.

Ms. Anderson, a first-generation American daughter of Cuban immigrants, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory University and a Juris Doctor and M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. 

She is CEO and founder of the Empowerment Experiment Foundation, a non-profit that studies and facilitates economic development in under-served Black communities through support of conscious consumerism, financial literacy, targeted entrepreneurship and business diversity and inclusion.

Her 2012 book, “Our Black Year,” (co-authored with Ted Gregory) chronicled the Oak Park family’s efforts to buy all of their goods and services for an entire year exclusively from Black-owned businesses on Chicago’s West side.

She discovered that more than 90% of the neighborhood’s businesses were not owned by local people nor by Black people, so that money spent at those businesses did not remain in the community. 

The experiment led to a landmark study by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which proved that an incremental increase in support of Black-owned businesses could lead to job creation and economic development in the Black community and improve the American economy as a whole.

 While these events “end” this year’s celebrations of Dr. King, they each offer thoughtful ways to enrich our community. Those who are interested in learning about local Black history should make a habit of visiting Shorefront Legacy Center, located in Sherman Methodist Church, 2214 Ridge Ave. Keeping our money in the community by patronizing local businesses is something the RoundTable has supported for years.

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