BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — More than 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and as time passed we use January 20th as the day to remember all he did to change America.
King Jr. has a history in the twin cities as he visited Illinois Wesleyan University twice. This prompted people in the area to come up with a way to shed light on his message so it can live on forever.
Since 1991 some of Central Illinois’ leading gospel groups have been coming to celebrate and rejoice for what he was able to accomplish, even after his death.
“The purpose of this, mainly, is to recognize him as a minister,” said Event Director Barbara Sims-Malone. “He was a minister first before he became a civil rights leader.”
For 30 years Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington played host to one of the most memorable dedications to Dr. King jr.
“It started in 1991 and I have been coming here ever since,” said Ben Rhodes. “It’s all positive, it’s very enthusiastic. This event supports the causes of what ‘civil rights’ stand for, what people stand for, it’s a celebration of life.”
The event welcomes gospel singers from all over the state, and they sing and dance to hymns before the teaching of scripture by the Reverend.
“Music is a universal language and music speaks to the soul,” said Jackie Newman, singer from The Fantastic Jones Family. “There are always experiences behind the music, so people can relate when you sing songs that resonate with them in their every day lives.”
Leaders say, although this is a one-day event, they are hoping people walk away empowered. As well as ready to make a change in any way they can to improve the lives of everyone in the community.
“We need more,” said Sims-Malone. “We need more people to stand up for justice, more people to stand up and do the right thing and encourage other people to do the right thing. There will never be another Dr. Martin Luther King, somebody like him yes, but never another one.”
King Jr. visited and spoke at IWU in 1961 and again in 1966 after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.