50th anniversary of Dr. King’s March in Marquette Park nears

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By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

For Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger, his decision to become a Catholic priest began 50 years ago on August 5, 1966. As a 17-year-old, he witnessed his neighbors throwing rocks, spitting and yelling racial slurs at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Saturday, August 6, Father Pfleger is scheduled to be among many Chicago residents who will mark the 50th anniversary of the march with a memorial in Marquette Park.

Five decades ago, King and 700 other civil rights activists from the Chicago Freedom Movement marched to Marquette Park, demanding open housing and an end to segregated schools.

After conducting his weekly Friday march and praying by the Saint Sabina Memorial Wall that bears pictures of children who were gunshot victims, Pfleger reflected on the day he saw Dr. King under attack by neighbors he thought he knew.

“It was where my life got changed,” Pfleger said referring to August 5, 1966. Pfleger was riding his bike when the crowd formed. “It is where I saw Dr. King and where I saw the violence and the hate. I saw him in the greatest demonstration of non-violence that I ever saw.

“I left that day realizing there was something about this man, and I became obsessed with him. I am a minister because of that day in Marquette Park. It’s kind of a turning point in my life,” he said of August 5, 1966. I thank God for that day, and I thank God for him in my life.”

Pfleger said he would be attending the dedication of the memorial and on that Saturday he will be a part of the re-enactment of that historic march.

The 1,000-mile march will end at the Marquette Park, 6700 S. Sacramento, and will include the “Takin’ It to the Streets Festival” where there will be a lot of social and artistic activities, especially the festival and a bazaar.

Standing near the Memorial Wall by Saint Sabina, Father Pfleger said for those critics who don’t believe that marching works the proof is “this area has been very quiet, and I thank God for that.”

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