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IWU Gospel Fest Celebrates MLK's Legacy

BLOOMINGTON - The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has left many striving for years to achieve his mission, and at Illinois Wesleyan University...
BLOOMINGTON - The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has left many striving for years to achieve his mission, and at Illinois Wesleyan University, a gospel festival bearing his name has another high standard to follow.

More than 50 years ago, the words of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech were first spoken. They still have meaning for Barbara Sims.

"I was just a little kid then, but I used to sit and watch the videos and the movies, and if you don't need to know, you need to know," said Sims.

King visited IWU twice in the 1960s, once before and once after doctor king's most famous speech. And organizers want to keep that spirit alive through the soul of this music.

"This event evolved from Mrs. Corinne Sims and her husband, Rev. James Sims, who've both passed away, to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King," said Yvonne Jones, a board member from Chicago.

During this first year without their parents, the privilege of keeping the gospel festival alive falls on Sims and her three brothers.

"It's a delight to come over here and see all types of nationalities over here, getting along, getting together," said Jimmy Sims.

And this 24th year is particularly important to her.

"We should not let a legacy die, you know. If we did, how many other leaders wouldn't we know about," said Barbara Sims.

Her brothers love the soul that rings out through Westbrook Auditorium.

"And anything worthwhile takes time, and I'm praying that this evening we will all come together in unity and praise the Lord," said Jarry Sims.

And with dozens of local choirs from throughout the state taking the stage, it's a moment they wish could last forever.

"And every year, when the congregation gets together, and everybody's zealous and I've seen times where a lot of people didn't want to leave," said Jarry Sims.

The first gospel festival in 1991 featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s son, Martin III.

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