By Latricia Cherise Wilson
To commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 85th birthday and to further his quest for economic justice, Roosevelt University’s RISE organization joined social activist leaders from IIRON Student Network and the People’s Lobby at Hope in an Age of Crisis: Reclaiming Dr. King’s Radical Vision for Economic Equality on Jan. 19.
The event took place in the South Shore neighborhood at the monumental Polish St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, with 2,400 people in attendance who donated a total of $24,000 for the “radical vision for change” movement, according to IIRON Student Network leader and Roosevelt student Dylan Amlin.
Event sponsors kicked off the first phase to the event by featuring several keynote speakers from various organizations.
Chicago City Council members and Illinois General Assembly representatives stood in St. Michael’s pulpit facing hundreds of people, as leaders of IIRON, the People’s Lobby and their allied organizations asked politicians to answer “yes” or “no” in support of ordinances and legislation to ensure all Illinois corporations pay their state income taxes and increase living wages for workers.
Several speakers discussed issues ranging from the mass incarceration of African-African Americans and Latino men for low-level and non-violent drug offenses to support from Illinois political leaders for a statewide climate action plan, initially proposed by President Barack Obama in June 2013.
Amlin talked about environmental injustices during his speech and touched on the “grave danger” he says our communities are in.
“We are experiencing extreme cold, record tornadoes and droughts that have devastated our food crops,” Amlin explained. “We can solve the unemployment crisis by together investing in green jobs and renewable energy, instead of industries that are killing our communities.”
Another keynote speaker, Brianna Tong, a University of Chicago student, who is a member of
IIRON and the South Side Solidarity Network, talked about Illinois tax accountability.
Tong stated that two-thirds of publicly traded corporations in Illinois currently pay zero income tax.
“That’s why we are seeing school closures — 50 schools closed last summer, [and there’s] no funding for social security,” she explained.
Roosevelt communications student Lupita Carrasquillo, also a member of RISE, said the $24,000 raised at the MLK event will be used for leadership trips to Springfield where they plan to speak to elected officials. She also said the funds will be used for weeklong leadership training, staffing and flyers.
Commitment cards to attend grassroots organizing training sessions were also passed out to attendees in an effort to gain more members.
IIRON and the People’s Lobby also began organizing the Protecting Our Environment, Fighting Austerity, Advancing Worker Justice, and Ending Mass Incarceration task forces.
The first meetings for these task forces will take place in January and February.
For more information, visit iiron.org or thepeopleslobbyusa.org.