Activist Ron Allen remembered as soldier in fight against injustice
As Ron Allen lay peacefully in an open casket, the scene unfolding around him at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle was evidence of the inclusive community environment he worked tirelessly to build.
Parishioners of the church were talking and laughing with area Muslims who had come to honor their friend, the longtime Naperville activist. Woodridge Police Chief Brian Cunningham prepared to play "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, while the church's praise choir performed a rousing welcoming hymn, attendees of all races clapping to the music.
Allen was shot to death a little after 2 a.m. Dec. 2 while driving in his car on the 1300 block of North Laramie Avenue in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, where he had been visiting friends and playing cards. Chicago police say the investigation into the shooting continues, but they do not have any suspects or information about a possible motive.
The Rev. James Miller called the service "not a moment of defeat" but instead an opportunity to "celebrate a great soldier."
"There are no short lives, for each is given an appointment. We are celebrating a well lived life," Miller said.
Allen was active in the DuPage County NAACP and served as a Democratic precinct committeeman. He was also deeply involved in a police-community relations improvement initiative called Unity Partnership.
Shoaib Khadri of the Islamic Center of Naperville, who worked with Khadri in the Unity Partnership, called Allen a "dear friend who was a champion of social justice, who stood for values of tolerance, peace and justice."
Along with Khadri, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster was among those who spoke at the service. Family members said the Naperville Democrat was among the many who called to comfort Allen's wife of more than 50 years, Carol Jean Allen.
Foster noted that the circumstance of Allen's death was exactly what Allen was fighting to change, working to make communities around the area more uniformly safe.
"This in truth wasn't completely random," Foster said, a nod to the Austin neighborhood's high levels of gun violence. "It is that kind of injustice that Ron dedicated his life to fighting," Foster said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the DuPage NAACP were among those who submitted formal resolutions honoring Allen that were read at the service.
This was not the first time DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church was thrust into the spotlight by the death of one of its members. Last year, it honored 28-year-old member Sandra Bland of Naperville, who died in a Texas jail cell following a conflict with police that began after she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation.