My head snapped up at a Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in Hoffman Estates late last week when the Rev. John Alan Boryk described himself as a "recovering racist" and detailed his journey from the Jim Crow South to his role as a civil-rights activist.
Boryk, worship coordinator and retired pastor of Our Savior Lutheran in Arlington Heights, attended schools in North Carolina and Mississippi where he says he was taught "No matter how low you are, you were better than them (blacks)."
Enrolling in Aurora University, Boryk arrived on campus to find a shock -- he'd been assigned a roommate "with pretty dark skin.
"I was raised in a Christian home, studying to be a pastor, but racial superiority still existed in my heart," he said.
But in 1965, Boryk, at the prompting of a professor, traveled to Chicago to hear King speak.
"During his sermon, I felt a volcano erupt in my soul," he said.
Afterward, Boryk said, he approached King. "I shook his hand and said, 'Something's happening to me." King then put his hand on Boryk's shoulder and told him he'd pray for him, he'd be all right. "And I was. And I am," Boryk said.
A week later, Boryk was one of hundreds marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
"Not the same"
"I felt compelled to be there," Boryk said. "And life has never been the same since."
Devoting himself to the cause of breaking down racial barriers for the past 50 years, Boryk reflects that "we still have a great divide" in this country. "We've come a long way by faith, but still have miles to go."
Vivian in town
A close friend and lieutenant of King, C.T. Vivian, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, made a visit to the area this weekend, speaking Sunday at St. Sabina Church in Chicago. Before heading to his well-known role on the South Side, Sabina's pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview. The ties between the two parishes, developed through Pfleger, still exist today, with busloads of suburban parishioners heading to Chicago to participate in Sabina's Friday anti-gun violence marches.
Designer Ben Olson of Schaumburg-based Three Monkeys and an Aardvark Studios tells me the turnaround to create and complete the winning logo for Illinois' bicentennial was about half that of typical projects -- just under two months -- after he and other artists met with state officials in November. Olson says it's the highest-profile project for the small firm, which has also done digital design work for the Daily Herald and has been honored frequently in recent years by the Schaumburg Business Association.
Of note: Three Monkeys and an Aardvark provided the logo -- which features rays of a sunburst emanating from the center of Illinois -- for free to the cash-strapped state.
Duckworth's disability rights concerns
New Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates late last week outlined some concerns about the disability rights record of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has been nomination by President-elect Donald Trump as attorney general. Sessions, as Alabama's attorney general, led a legal battle against requiring many of the state's poorest schools be given funding for disabled education, and he voted in 2009 against expanding hate crime protections to people with disabilities.
"My life isn't like many of my colleagues in Congress," said Duckworth, a double-amputee Iraq War veteran. "I can't always get into restaurants or other public spaces. I have to spend a lot of time planning how to get from one place to the other ... it matters deeply to me who the attorney general is, as they are the person who decides whether to enforce or erode the protections countless Americans depend on."
In addition to the host of local Republicans headed to Washington this week for Trump's inauguration, Mayor Rodney Craig tells me he is one of several suburban mayors bound for the Beltway for the 85th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, which runs today through Wednesday. Also going are Barrington Mayor Karen Darch, Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham Jr., Lake Barrington Mayor Kevin C. Richardson and Warrenville Mayor David Brummel.
Like me, many of readers who are also running enthusiasts have lamented the cancellation of Runners Hi n Tri's Tuesday evening runs in Arlington Heights -- a good excuse to get a paced workout in without fail once a week. So I was excited to hear about the formation of a new group, the AMPD (Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Des Plaines) Athletic Association, which held its first Saturday free fun run beginning at Mark and Pom Rouse's store, 121 W. Campbell St. Runners of all ages and abilities are welcome to head out on 2- or 4-mile loops. About 270 runners participated in Saturday's event, and the group has about that many members on its Facebook group page, AMP'D Athletic Association.
A volunteering commitment kept me from joining Saturday, but I'm looking forward to heading out soon.