Student Newsroom

Urbana Park District celebrates Black history month with ‘I Have a Dream’ quilt


The Urbana Park District’s “I Have a Dream” quilt hangs at the Phillips Recreation Center on Feb. 1. The park district received so many submissions it needed to split them into two quilts. Nour Longi

“I want to be a doctor.” 

“I hope all kids have food and shelter and get to go to school.” 

“I have a big dream of peace, love, and equity.” 

These are three of 234 messages written on paper squares that make up the Urbana Park District’s “I Have a Dream” quilt. 

The quilt — which is an ode to Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the march on Washington in 1963 — will hang right next to the front desk at the Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana for all of February in honor of Black History Month.

There is a transcript of MLK’s infamous speech next to the display. 

For the last two months, the park district has been collecting submissions from community members. Park district staff said they were shocked when they received over 200 submissions. 

The park district’s recreation office manager Heather Britsky – who organized the project— looked through each submission and stapled them together. 

Each five by five inch paper square is a representation of its creator’s hopes and dreams for the future.

“They [community members] wanted to express themselves, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. It wasn’t just for themselves, but for their community, for their family,” Britsky said. 

The quilt, which is 6.5 feet wide and 10 feet tall, is an amalgamation of colorful drawings in crayons, colored pencils and markers, collages of magazine clippings and short sentences stapled together. 

Most of the submissions were from children; a lot of them were Black students from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Urbana or the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center.  

“They are wanting to better our community, they are wanting to come together, they’re wanting to help people,” Britsky said. “We have a 10-year-old right out that she hopes everybody finds happiness and peace. I want people to come by and see that hope."

In addition to the quilt, the Urbana Park District has a myriad of displays and events to celebrate Black History Month, including a timeline of local Black history.