DeKALB – In the 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. told the world that he had a dream, Tammy Shered believes that dream is half-accomplished.
“The dream has manifested,” said the DeKalb resident, referring to interracial marriage, gay marriage and desegregation as examples of progress. “But now we have to keep the dream going and add on to the dream and move forward.”
Charlese Williams, a 12-year-old student at Christian Cornerstone Academy in Sycamore, agreed that King’s work isn’t done.
“Building our nation up, working together as a community,” Charlese said in regard to what needed to be done.
They were two of at least 70 people who attended “The Beloved Community: Faces That Inspire” event Monday evening at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
The service featured pastors from New Hope, First Congregational Church and Federated Church, reading about the lives and works of King, John Perkins and Clarence Jordan.
King, a Baptist minister, first came to prominence in 1955 by leading a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. His work and reputation spread across the nation, culminating with him earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Perkins was also a civil rights activist of the time, starting a number of community organizations in Mississippi. Jordan’s work with a small but dedicated religious community eventually served as the inspiration for Habitat for Humanity.
The pastors touched on the many similarities of King, Perkins and Jordan. In addition to being advocates of racial equality, they were all men who renewed their faith after suffering a particular crisis. And they were advocates of peace.
“They did not return evil with evil,” said Angela Baron-Jeffrey, an assistant pastor at New Hope, on the three men’s commitment to peaceful methods and responses in the face of violence.
Shered, whose family arrived in the county in the early 1900s, said she has seen community progress tremendously, but she commented that there’s still work to be done.
“As we reach the young people ... they see no color. They see everybody the same,” Shered said. “We have to learn to look like the children. We have to speak with the mind of a child sometimes. We need to be the beloved community, because God loves all of us.”
The politics of the day were touched upon in the service. Monday saw the second inauguration of President Barack Obama – the country’s first black president. Joe Mitchell, a co-pastor at New Hope, said he was touched by the sight of his son intently watching Obama’s inauguration speech.
“The roads Martin Luther King, Jr., laid out many, many years ago have been realized by Barack Obama,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell echoed King’s words when he said that if his son also decided to run for office, “he will not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.”
Gun violence and the issue of gun control were also featured. In one of her speeches to the assembled crowd, Baron-Jeffrey said the people do not have to wait for politicians to enact gun legislation or change the culture of violence. The people, she said, can do it themselves.
As the majority of people attended the service in the church, Shered worked with Derek Gibbs and Alex Smith of Feed ‘Em Soup to prepare food that was free and available to everyone after the service.
“The food, that brings everybody together,” Shered said. “It’s a common denominator for all people.