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Peoria residents reflect 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

PEORIA, Ill - A death that shocked the country. Civil rights leader and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated outside his hotel in Memphis, TN. 

Peoria resident Jackie Petty was working at Illinois Bell now known as AT&T and remembers the day vividly.

“I got the word at work and I had to take a break,” said Petty.

Petty says she asked what she called then her favorite supervisor if she heard the news of King’s death, that’s when her boss gave her an eye-opening reply.

Petty said, "She said, "Yes and I’m glad.""

For many King was their hero and his death cut deep.

Lorene King, was born and raised in Memphis at that time businesses and schools were still segregated. A full ride scholarship to Bradley is what brought her to Peoria.

Lorene said, “When I came here it was the first time that I got to interact with people that were not black.

In 1963, she was among the dozens of Peoria residents who chartered a bus and went to the march on Washington where King gave his prolific “I have a dream” speech.

“The bus was full, we didn't have hotels or anything, we stopped at a rest stop freshen up,” said Lorene

50 years later while things like education has changed some still say much has also stayed the same.

“We're fighting the same battles that he was fighting, and that’s what’s so pathetic,” said Petty.

Referencing police brutality as one of the one of the number issues plaguing our country.

Petty said, “We don’t have the lynching, we have police killing our people but to me that a lynch.”

Other than getting involved, many say to enact change in our country the we just need do something so simple yet complex for many.

“All we need to do is love each other, and treat each other the way we would want to be treated,” said Petty.


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