2 NW Ind. black mayors say they learned from King

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GARY, Ind. (AP) — Two black mayors in northwestern Indiana are marking Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year by noting the impact the slain civil rights leader has had on their personal and political lives.

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GARY, Ind. (AP) — Two black mayors in northwestern Indiana are marking Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year by noting the impact the slain civil rights leader has had on their personal and political lives.

Anthony Copeland, the first black mayor of East Chicago, told the Times of Munster for a story Sunday that one lesson he has taken from King is having pride in one’s self and one’s community.

"If you’re gonna be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper that you can be," Copeland said. "I think that’s the essence of the man."

Gary’s Karen Freeman-Wilson, like Copeland, is leading a city with a crumbling tax base and other economic and social ills. Like King, she said she’s willing to make unpopular decisions as long as they improve conditions for Gary residents.

"Dr. King emphasized his desire to make difficult decisions even when they were unpopular. That is something I would certainly subscribe to," said Freeman-Wilson, 51, a former Indiana attorney general and the state’s first black female mayor.

The nation observes King’s birthday on Monday. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

Copeland considers himself lucky for having grown up in East Chicago’s North Harbor, where he says he was "blessed with riches" of ethnic diversity.

As in King’s day, Copeland said more progress can be made in his city and in northwestern Indiana to reduce racial and ethnic tensions, but there are plenty of examples of people of different backgrounds working together.

Even with these differences, Freeman-Wilson said there are universal things people want, such as good opportunities for children and safe and secure environments for residents. Working toward these goals will help bring people together, she said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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