In Illinois Jan. 17 will be dedicated to both Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali

For the past 36 years, the third Monday in January has been dedicated to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. In Illinois, professional boxer and civic leader Muhammad Ali will be observed for the first time on Jan. 17, his birthday.

This year, both leaders will be celebrated on the same day.

State Sen. Laura Ellman and state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. sponsored the resolution, which was passed by the Illinois Senate in June.

King was a Baptist minister, a social activist and one of the main forces of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until he was assassinated in April 1968. Through peaceful protests such as sit-ins and sermons including the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he demanded racial, economic and civic equality.

Among his efforts was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory practices such as implementing tests to see if an individual was qualified to go to the ballot.

Laws around voting are still making progress to this day. Presently there are two bills awaiting a vote from legislators in Washington, D.C., including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The goal of the Freedom to Vote Act is to lessen voting restrictions by expanding the ability to vote by mail and allowing individuals to provide a wider range of options to use for identification when going to vote. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would bolster the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The goal is to identify jurisdictions that have a pattern of discriminatory practices in an effort to continuously remove the barriers voters face.

The first MLK Day was celebrated on Jan. 20, 1986. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton declared that Martin Luther King Day should not only be celebrated but also recognized as a National Day of Service as a reminder to serve and build bridges between communities.

Acts of service include donating clothes, volunteering at a food pantry, or beautifying a community through gardening are some of the ways the day is honored.

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January 15, 2022 at 07:17AM

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