DuPage MLK event calls people to action, emphasizes hope, determination

Everyone walking out of Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton Monday night had a message in their heads that they plan to carry with them through the next four years.

“This little light of mine,” they sang in unison, hands clapping. “I'm gonna let it shine.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the church for a countrywide celebration of the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and heard messages from local religious leaders calling them to action and reminding them to stay hopeful and determined.

“We have the power and the agency to take things into our own hands and we can do it,” said Jim Honig, keynote speaker and senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. “Brothers and sisters, the next four years we are going to need each other. We are going to need to be organized.”

Honig acknowledged that it “remains to seen whether the hateful and divisive rhetoric of the campaign will turn into policy and action, but in a sense it doesn't matter.”

“We simply must do the hard, slow, painstaking work of meeting with one another and developing those webs of relationship in our community so that I stand with you when you need me, and you stand with me when I need you,” he said.

Honig sent a message to the “white Christian church” as well, noting that it “has a miserable record of silence, complacency and complicity when it comes to matters of race in this country.” He confessed he didn't wake up to that problem until the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina in 2015.

“We are learning, we are waking up,” he said. “We've got our own work to do, recognizing white privilege and doing our work to start dismantling the structures of racism.”

Celeste Jarrett, an associate minister at Second Baptist Church of Wheaton, said Honig's message was important.

“I especially liked the fact that he said, white church, wake up,” she said. “They need to open their eyes up because racism is still there.”

Wheaton resident David Hainline said he enjoyed Honig's speech as well and felt the event reflected how King's words are still relevant today.

“It's even more important right now, that we've elected a president who is completely anathema, completely against the American spirit and the things that make America great,” he said. “We can't count on others. We're going to have to stand up ourselves and do the work ourselves.”

The night also featured the delivery of King's “I Have a Dream” speech by a boy, a young man and an adult who spoke the words in booming voices that echoed up to the rafters. In addition, 12 local high school students were awarded scholarships for their commitment to social justice and equality.

  Attendees at the DuPage County Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Mark Black/
  The Gary United Methodist Church Peace Choir performs during the DuPage County Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton. Mark Black/
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