The spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. was alive and well in Chicago this January as volunteers honored the legacy of Dr. King by acting to strengthen their local communities.
This January 18-19, CAIR-Chicago joined the Chicago Youth Exchange (CYE) to participate in the Martin Luther King Days of Service. Participants joined others nationwide in transforming the federal holiday into a national day of community service by volunteering at social service sites such as the Hostelling International-Chicago, the MLK Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, and the Harold Ickes Housing Complex. The program was held at Hostelling International (HI)—Chicago, who initiated the efforts of forming a new youth intercultural program.
Together with seven local organizations, CAIR Chicago and MLYS (Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium) co-founded the Chicago Youth Exchange (CYE) in November 2008. This new yearlong endeavor brings together young leaders to create and sustain intercultural dialogue, cultural awareness, community engagement, the development of leadership skills. Students came from across the Chicago metropolitan area to share energy and ideas, and forge them into plans of action within their communities. The MLK Day of Service commenced this program, and will be followed by group workshops and programs throughout the year, including a weeklong conference planned for August.
Five MYLS freshmen and sophomores were immersed in the weekend of intercultural enrichment and community service. They hailed from two MYLS member schools, College Preparatory School of America in Lombard and Universal High School in Bridgeview: Zubair Asgar, Shetha Hamoud, Shadi Salah, Ahmad K. Musleh, and Julia Saleh. CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, Gerald Hankerson, and MYLS Coordinator, Mokaram Rauf, attended as sponsor representatives and facilitating leaders.
CYE featured workshops and group activities that brought together young adults of African American, Caribbean, Jewish, Latino, Middle Eastern, and South Asian backgrounds. The activities focused on cultural association and self-identity, brainstorming, teamwork, and constructive action to change social ills across Chicago-land. The volunteers also discussed the civil rights movement and how it introduced America to notions of compassion and respect towards people of all races and religions. Throughout the weekend CYE served as an ambassador program since HI-Chicago also hosts national and global visitors from places such as Argentina and Korea.
Two nights before the historical presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, an open mic event invited CYE participants and visiting hostellers to pay tribute to Dr. King, President Obama, their communities, and their experience at CYE’s weekend program.
The Chicago Youth Exchange includes, HI-Chicago, CAIR-Chicago, Alternatives, Inc., Christopher House, Claretian Associates, Community Foundation for Jewish Education (CFJE), Crib Collective, and Southwest Youth Collaborative (SWYC). Each group features youth programs with an intercultural or interreligious engagement focus.
CAIR-Chicago is committed to continuing Dr. King’s teachings of nonviolence and social justice by advocating for the rights due to people of all races and religions
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