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Obama’s Inauguration On King Holiday Carries Dual Significance

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Derrick Blakley Derrick Blakley
Derrick Blakley is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – With President Barack Obama’s second inauguration coming on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday, Monday has been a day of special significance for African-Americans.

CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley took a ride down Martin Luther King Drive, and found the symbolism is striking a chord in Bronzeville, Woodlawn and beyond.

When you take a drive down King Drive, you find plenty of pride in both the civil rights leader, and the nation’s elected leader.

“President Obama is standing on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King, and today he can sort of combine the two occasions,” Jim Rolling said.

The King Holiday meant plenty of adults and children celebrating the inaugural at Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles.

“Barack Obama, he’s the new age or new generation of what Martin Luther King would want,” diner Angela Johnson said.

Denise Brooks-Offut said, “King just made the world see these things are possible; to have a black president.

Further south on King Drive, in Woodlawn, at Tailor Rite Cleaners – the shop that cleans the White Sox uniforms – Joseph Caldwell Jr. said a lot of things have improved in the 40 years since his father started the business, but he expressed a sense of regret at what he sees as a loss of solidarity among the African-American community since King’s day.

“These kids that are out here, the killings that are going on on King Drive, the type of violence we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis; it’s because there’s a lot of misguided youths out there. And that’s one thing, during the Dr. King days, there was a unification of blacks, and I think that that’s kind of gotten lost.”

Local residents said there’s more work to be done, and more progress to be made to achieve King’s dream.

“It’s like Barack Obama is trying to make Dr. King’s dream happen by uniting everybody,” Erinn Thomas said.

A number of South Side residents said Obama needs to do more to deal with unemployment, and the economic inequality that African-Americans endure, but most see the Obama presidency as a result of the equal playing field King helped create.

Across town, at Northwestern University, as they do every year, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity mounted a special service Monday night to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Although it has been four decades since Dr. King’s assassination, his teachings were hailed as still meaningful, still relevant.

“He continues to teach us,” University Chaplain Timothy Stevens told CBS 2’s Mike Parker. “We pore over his writings and listen to the speeches.”

Earlier Monday, during President Obama’s inauguration, the President paused briefly at the King bust on display in the Capitol rotunda. It was a touching moment.

The junction of the two events — the day honoring King and the inauguration — was not lost on Hyde Park resident Skip McGhee.  He and his grandchildren watched the events in Washington on television.

McGhee was asked if Dr. King would have believed what has happened in America. His answer:

“The night before he died he said that the Lord had taken him to the mountaintop and he could see over into the future. And I wonder often: Is this the day he was talking about? I’d like to think that it was.”

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