By Daniel I. Dorfman
Racial tension continues to dominate headlines from Ferguson to Chicago, but in Glencoe’s St. Paul AME Church on its annual celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., harmony was the watchword of the day.
With a theme of “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” a diverse group arrived at St. Paul AME on Jan. 17 to listen to both spoken and musical tributes to the slain Civil Rights leader. Messages of hope were abundant.
“I think there are so many who are good people and they want to embrace the good in our community and not the bad,” said Lonnie Barefield, a St. Paul AME member and longtime Glencoe resident.
While King’s Civil Rights work was done decades ago, before his assassination, there also were indirect references made at the church service to current events. Speakers said they felt optimistic that progress in race relations could still be made.
St. Paul’s Rev. Norris Jackson, Jr., said people could not turn a “deaf ear or blind eye” to police brutality or unfair housing, but urged those in the audience to use continuing developments as educational moments.
“We are in a good place and good position to come together to talk about not only where we are but where are going as a community,” Jackson said.
One of many elected officials in the crowd, U.S. Rep. Robert Dold, R-10th District, expressed a similar sentiment.
“Not only do we need to take this time to honor Dr. King and the sacrifices he made for Civil Rights, but also look at other things we can be doing,” Dold said.
Dold was joined by officials including State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-18th District; State Sen. Donne Trotter, D-17th District, and Glencoe Village Board President Larry Levin.
Levin quoted a King passage at the service.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” Levin read. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The service also included a mixture of videos of famous King moments, musical performances featuring children, adults and the St. Paul choir and the Rev. Levi Marshall, who received a standing ovation when he gave a rendition of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
Other parts of the celebration of King’s life included the Winnetka-based affordable housing advocacy group Open Communities receiving a “Faith in Action” for its efforts. There also was a dedication to Julian Bond, another member of Civil Rights movement, who died last August.
Sitting in the pews was St. Paul AME member Nancy King, who said improvements are needed in race relations in the state, country and the world. But, she said, she still believes advancements have been made over the last two generations, thanks to people like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“This day commemorates how far we have come in reaching our goals for equal opportunities and equality for all,” Nancy King said.