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Elgin’s King holiday celebrations begin with 250 people at prayer

KeyairrCalvright said her keynote speech Elgin's Dr. MartLuther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Saturday thher engagement white Alabamnative Derek Swann left

Keyairra Calvin, right, said in her keynote speech at Elgin's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Saturday that her engagement to white Alabama native Derek Swann, left, is an example of King's "I Have A Dream" speech turning into reality. | Dave Gathman ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 20, 2014 6:53AM

ELGIN — Three days of the Elgin area celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. began Saturday with a two-hour breakfast of prayers, performances, speeches and honors, attended by a sold-out crowd of 250 at Elgin Community College.

The 29th Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast was organized by the Elgin Human Rights Commission and emceed by De’Andre Shanice Johnson of Second Baptist Church. The crowd included many city and school officials, state legislators and charity activists. About two-thirds of those attending were African-Americans.

The keynote speaker was Keiyairra Calvin, a 20-year-old black Elginite who graduated from ECC just last month and plans to go into business management.

The program included a video replay of much of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered 50 years ago last year in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In it, the civil rights leader described a vision of blacks and whites from a then-racially-torn South sitting down together in peace in a world where everyone is “judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Speaking Saturday, Calvin said one line in that speech — about the blacks and whites of Alabama sitting down together in peace — really hit home with her. She pointed into the audience to Derek Swann, the fiance she plans to marry in October — a young white man who grew up in Alabama.

The young graduate said King’s success in overcoming discrimination in the South taught that strength comes not from violence but from many acting together using peaceful protest. “Martin Luther King said we cannot walk alone. In unity there is great power,” Calvin said. “If we walk alone, we are just wanderers and not seekers.”

Danise Habun, chair of the Elgin Human Relations Commission, presented this year’s Humanitarian Awards to three honorees.

The Group Humanitarian Award went to the International City of Peace Coordinating Committee, which has been working on a number of projects to stop drug abuse and gang violence.

Committee spokeswoman Danielle Henson said the group has held public meetings about the violence and drug problem, including one planned for April 24 that will feature the Chicago anti-street-violence group The Interrupters. Henson said the volunteer committee also is working to set up a website to promote peace in Elgin.

Accepting that group award along with Henson were Sigi Psimenos, the Rev. Denise Troy, Mike Murschel and Miriam Lytle.

This year’s Humanitarian Award for Youth went to Keyanna Ash, a South Elgin High School student who does volunteer work with Love Elgin Day, Feeding Greater Elgin, Neighborhood Walks With the Mayor and various other projects.

Ash said her family taught her that “to do better, I have to give back.”

The Adult Humanitarian Award went to Velma Sept, who Habun said has devoted her life to community service since retiring from the U.S. Postal Service. Sept chairs the School District U46 African-American Committee, tutors children, is on the Greater Elgin Boys and Girls Club board, is on the Elgin Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Committee, and is part of the Kane County Circle of Wise Women.

“People ask me, ‘When will you rest?’” Sept said. “I say that I’ll rest when I die.”

ECC President David Sam said we all stand on shoulders of people like King. “But remember that these shoulders are sore. We need more shoulders,” Sam said.

Also planned this holiday weekend are:

The life and dreams of King will be celebrated from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Hemmens Cultural Center, at Symphony Way and North Grove Avenue. The featured speaker will be Orlando Ceaser, CEO of Watch Wells Communications. Performing will be Elgin’s Community Choir, 100 community leaders collectively reciting quotes from King, the Youth Dancers of Elgin, and more than 100 students. A proclamation will be read by City Councilwoman Tish Powell, and a dramatic presentation of King’s famous “I Have A Dream Speech” will be given. Admission is free.

Since Jan. 2, MLK Committee members have been hosting a food drive, which will end with the distribution of food on the MLK Day of Service Monday. Drop-off sites include most area churches, Jewel stores, Elgin Fresh Markets, Butera Markets and city hall. Volunteers will distribute the food to area food pantries. For information about the drive, contact Joe Wars at 847-742-2228.

The MLK Committee will host the Third Annual Community Day of Service on Jan. 20. Groups of students or adults were encouraged to participate by completing a service project.

during the week of Jan. 13-20.

For complete information about the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, go to or visit the City of Elgin’s Facebook page.

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