Jan. 18th: DEWU a Great Success

Y.O.U. would like to thank the entire community for making this year's DEWU a great success - we couldn't do it without you! A special thanks to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, Representative Robyn Gabel, Representative Daniel Biss, The Honorable Lionel Jean-Baptiste

and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl for their support, and to all of our extraordinary youth for the time, effort and enthusiasm they put into this event! Photos and video from DEWU will be available online soon, and below is a brief article about the event published by the Daily Northwestern:

Evanston March Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
By: Rebecca Schechner
Published: January 16, 2012

Community leaders and Evanston students celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday at the annual Diverse Evanston Walks United event, which included dance, rap and singing performances as well as guest speakers and a visit from Evanston mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

"We really see this as an opportunity to make sure that even though Dr. King tragically passed, his life goes on in all of us," said Seth Green, executive director of Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc., a co-sponsor of DEWU.

Students at Evanston Township High School originated the concept for the youth-driven program, which honors King and celebrates peace and diversity in the Evanston community. DEWU, a six-year-old event, took place at the Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave.

The YWCA Evanston/North Shore and the McGaw YMCA also helped put on the complimentary celebration, which featured speeches by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. Students from ETHS, Washington and Oakton elementary schools, and Chute and Nichols middle schools put on musical performances.

Green, addressing the audience, commended the respect Evanston students show toward one another, regardless of race, sexual orientation and ethnic background.

"I think it's a cool opportunity for some of the kids to step outside of their shells," said SESP senior Rachel Bhagwat, a Y.O.U. work-study student. "There are a lot of really good messages in the performances, and I think it's important that we do something to honor MLK Day."

Chauncey Martinez, an ETHS junior, participated in the program for the fourth time.

"I listen to a lot of Dr. King's and Malcolm X's speeches, and I go and talk to kids at the elementary and middle schools to see how they feel about things," Martinez said. "I get their perspectives on the speeches and I sort of use that to motivate myself to write down what I personally feel."

Martinez gave original spoken word and rap performances in hope the adults in the audience would be able to understand a young person's viewpoint on community issues.

"I want to get across to the audience that they should listen more to what the kids have to say," Martinez said. "Talk with them instead of talking at them, get the perspectives of the kids and see how they feel about life and certain situations."

Tisdahl stopped by the DEWU event, one of several celebrations she planned to attend Monday.

"I hope that the kids take away the idea that Martin Luther King was a fabulous American and someone to learn about and study," Tisdahl said. "His work is very important to all of us and I hope they realize that today is incredibly important to their parents, their teachers, their community."

In her speech, Schakowsky said Martin Luther King, Jr. Day cannot be easily compared to other national holidays.

"The fact that we are celebrating this as a national holiday has demanded that the people around this country focus on the moral vision of Dr. Martin Luther King," Schakowsky said. "Lots of holidays come and go in our country, but I think few honorees get the kind of attention on their holiday as does Martin Luther King."

Schakowsky also stressed how important it is for the youth of Evanston to realize the impact they can make in their community.

"We want to encourage young people like our dancers, like our rappers ­— all the children that attend our schools — to have the hope for change," she said.

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