Housing Action Illinois VISTAs lend a hand at Open Books, a nonprofit social venture that provides literacy experiences for tens of thousands of readers each year through inspiring programs and the creative capitalization of books.

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Every year, thousands of Americans volunteer on January 16th as a sign of respect and admiration for the work and dedication of Dr. King’s philanthropy and activism, which inspired a nation to demand change.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was only 26 when he led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, and for the next 11 years he led a revolution that shook America to its core.

Many may remember the great works of Dr. King here in Chicago. In 1966, he and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference began The Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign which encompassed the ongoing civil rights activities within the fair housing and discrimination initiative in Chicagoland.

King believed that ‘‘the moral force of SCLC’s nonviolent movement philosophy was needed to help eradicate a vicious system which seeks to further colonize thousands of Negroes within a slum environment.”

After a summer of full force demonstrations, Dr. King had established a committee to study relations between the police and the black community and achieved wins related to public housing regulations for Chicago Housing Authority and a policy change of the Mortgage Bankers Association to make mortgages available regardless of race.

Housing Action Illinois follows in his footsteps today by pushing for equal and fair treatment of Chicagoans in need of housing. In the pursuit of this goal, the Housing Action Illinois VISTA network places VISTA members with 25 member organizations throughout Illinois. In their roles as program developers, grant writers, and project planners, our VISTAs fight for the same principles Dr. King once built his Chicago campaign on.

This year, for our MLK Day of service, Housing Action Illinois organized several service opportunities for all of our VISTAs throughout Illinois, as well as Chicago area LAF VISTAs and Prairie Legal VISTAs located in Rockford. Our VISTAs joined the Chicago-wide Point-In-Time Count, organized donated books with Open Books, and served food from the Cornicopia and Aurora Interfaith Food pantries.

— Tanya Burgess, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at Housing Action Illinois