MLK Day speaker to give 'practical tips' on carrying out King's work

  • Theon Hill

    Theon Hill Courtesy of Wheaton College

  • The Outreach Community Center's Children's Choir will take the stage Jan. 18 during a celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Carol Stream.

    The Outreach Community Center's Children's Choir will take the stage Jan. 18 during a celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Carol Stream. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, January 2013

  • "If people are looking for a pathway forward in the midst of all the turmoil and unrest in the nation right now, this event is for them," says Theon Hill, the keynote speaker of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Carol Stream.

    "If people are looking for a pathway forward in the midst of all the turmoil and unrest in the nation right now, this event is for them," says Theon Hill, the keynote speaker of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Carol Stream. Courtesy of Marr Miller

 
 
Posted1/6/2016 5:30 AM

Theon Hill sat transfixed in his college dorm room, watching a video that grabbed hold of the teen in a way that "nothing else has."

Here was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his last speech, the day before his assassination. Here was King eerily recognizing threats against him, "not fearing any man." Here was King, vulnerable, but still "someone who maintains love," Hill says.

 

"How do we maintain love of people even as we feel violated or threatened?" Hill asks.

King's 1968 "mountaintop" speech led Hill on a career path researching the civil rights movement. The Wheaton College communication professor is now writing a book, "Preserving the Legacy of King in the Age of Obama," (the manuscript is due next month), and giving "practical tips" to carry on King's work during a tribute in Carol Stream Jan. 18.

King's example has "immediate relevancy" for racial unrest, police brutality, poverty, mass incarceration -- "all the turmoil and unrest in the nation right now," Hill said.

"We're all talking past one another, and we don't engage with one another," Hill said.

Worse, "we've lost sight of what Dr. King said, and that is our destinies are intertwined," he said.

The way forward, Hill said, can be found in King's willingness to "speak truth to difficult situations" and engage with people who were different.

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"From the life of King we learn that the situation is not without hope," Hill said.

Before Hill's talk, attendees are encouraged to form a circle and participate in a conversation about King's legacy from 6 to 6:45 p.m. The discussion will be led by RESTORE: Carol Stream Peacemakers, a group that promotes so-called peacemaking circles as a way to resolve conflicts.

It was started in 2013 by Eileen Molloy Langdon, a Carol Stream Police Department social worker, Daniel Smith, a senior probation officer with the county's juvenile probation department and Laurie Flanagan, a prevention specialist at the DuPage YWCA.

"This is a way of getting back to basics and helping people develop for themselves that sense of being able to connect," Langdon said.

The founders have received requests to work through disputes between neighbors, racial tensions, juvenile offenses and trauma. Everyone in the circle has a chance to be heard -- without interruptions -- in a process that lets them receive empathy and validation and move forward to solving the problem, Langdon said. Their efforts have taken off in the past year, Langdon said, with nearly 40 circles held from January 2014 through last June.

"We see people who are initially very angry with each other and very set or determined that their perspective is the only perspective, and we see that evolve as they hear each other," Langdon said.

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