Wheaton MLK observance celebrates 30th anniversary

Wheaton MLK observance celebrates 30th anniversary

  • The Rev. James Miller, pictured here with his wife, Rev. Lana Miller of the DuPage AME Church in Lisle, will be the keynote speaker Monday at the 30th annual DuPage County celebration and observance of Martin Luther King Day.

    The Rev. James Miller, pictured here with his wife, Rev. Lana Miller of the DuPage AME Church in Lisle, will be the keynote speaker Monday at the 30th annual DuPage County celebration and observance of Martin Luther King Day. Daily Herald file photo

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted1/17/2020 6:00 AM

In 1990, the first DuPage County Martin Luther King Jr. celebration was observed at the Second Baptist Church in Wheaton.

"It resulted from a conversation with a guest minister who was in town for a funeral at my church," said the Rev. Dr. James Miller, senior pastor of the DuPage AME Church in Lisle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At that time, he said, there was no public acknowledgment in DuPage County of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

"It began as a collaboration between the Second Baptist Church in Wheaton and the DuPage AME Church, which was in Wheaton at that time," Miller said. "It has always been an interfaith service. It invites and includes and embraces all of the faiths."

The 30th annual observance of the celebration is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton with Miller, founder of the event, making his return as keynote speaker.

"I did it once before, in the beginning," he said. "We've always had guests -- college presidents, local clergy, out-of-state dignitaries."

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Miller said remembering King with a worship service is a way to honor his legacy.

"We will have prayers offered by members of the prayer community," he said, including representatives of several faiths.

"It's really a strong statement of unity, for everybody comes together and feels very good. Dr. King was a spiritual person who had a view of the human race. His 'I Have a Dream' speech was one of the most profound views of the human race. It's important to view ourselves as a human family."

Miller said the event will include gospel music from the DuPage AME Church Gospel Choir and scholarship presentations along with his message.

The scholarship program was added several years ago, he said, and awards of $500 each will be given to DuPage high school seniors selected by their schools. Miller said the scholarships are funded by church member offerings and community sponsors.

There are many MLK events going on throughout the county these days, following the example set by the DuPage County MLK Celebration.

"This one is the groundbreaking one. That makes me feel good. It was something positive for others to emulate," he said. "It was a big journey that evolved into all of the things you've got going now. It's had quite a journey and touched a lot of lives."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• • •

30th annual DuPage County Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20

Where: Gary United Methodist Church, 224 N. Main St., Wheaton

Info: dupagemlk.org

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