Suburban pastor recalls how MLK inspired churches to action
James Shannon was 7 years old when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first came to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Dexter Avenue was among the more prominent Black churches in Montgomery, and it sought King, then a 25-year-old minister, to take on the pastorate. He served as pastor there from 1954 through 1960 and began his quest for civil rights.
The church already had a provocative pastor, Vernon Johns, a pioneer in the civil rights movement whose sermons preached "there is no segregation in heaven," said Shannon, now head pastor at Peoples Community Church in Glen Ellyn.
As a youngster, Shannon was inspired by King's activism.
King organized the successful Montgomery bus boycott, which followed Rosa Park's historic act of civil disobedience. On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks was jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city's racial segregation laws. The entire city got behind the boycott, Shannon said.
"I saw the power that the church has to change the society that is around it," said Shannon, who was baptized by King at age 12 and sought to emulate King's example finding his own pastoral calling in 1986. "I saw what happened in Montgomery with Dr. King's leadership. It had an indelible effect on my life."
Shannon, now 74, said he has witnessed and experienced discrimination his entire life and has worked on fair housing and civil rights issues.
"I saw the best vehicle for change was through the church," he said. "The movement that Dr. King started, it was the impetus for President (Barack) Obama getting elected. One of the first things that Dr. King said in his first sermons at Dexter, he wanted every member of the church to register to vote. Dr. King saw the power of the vote, of elected officials ... and we can see the same things happening today with all these restrictive voting laws (nationwide)."
MLK day of service
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is urging county residents to honor the King's legacy by helping clean up the forest preserves.
"The lessons Dr. King left us about the necessity of equity and the power of community are a transcendent gift for every American. Every day, we can choose to make a difference," Preckwinkle said.
There will be volunteer opportunities during the MLK Day of Service at various Cook County forest preserves from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
During the self-led litter cleanups, volunteers can help pick up discarded cans, dumped tires and trash left in the preserves. The agency will provide bags and gloves for volunteers at the following locations: Crabtree Nature Center, 3 Stover Road, Barrington Hills; River Trail Nature Center, 3120 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook; Trailside Museum of Natural History, 738 Thatcher Ave., River Forest.
For volunteer information, visit fpdcc.com/volunteer.
Activist, author and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will close the American Library Association's 2022 LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience conference on Jan. 24.
Kaepernick will discuss his first children's book, "I Color Myself Different," which will be available in April from Scholastic Press and Kaepernick Publishing. The picture book, illustrated by Eric Wilkerson, is a joyful ode to Black and brown people and communities and is based on the real events from Kaepernick's life. It's a story of self-discovery, self-love and staying true to yourself.
In August 2016, Kaepernick made global headlines when, before a preseason game, he chose not to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner." His action sparked a movement, and he has become widely known for his work challenging anti-Blackness and systemic oppression.
LibLearnX is a virtual, four-day learning conference. It offers hands-on workshops and more than 120 educational sessions on a variety of topics. For more information, visit ala.org.
Advocating for older adults
Jennifer Brasfield will serve as Kendall County representative on AgeGuide Northeastern Illinois' board of directors. She was elected to serve a 3-year term.
Bransfield is the executive director of the Riverwalk Adult Day Services, a member of the Dementia Friendly Naperville Task Force and a founding member of the Dementia Leadership Network.
"Jennifer is an incredible advocate for older adults and people living with dementia," said Marla Fronczak, AgeGuide chief executive officer. Bransfield also serves on the Naperville-Lisle TRIAD Board as program chair and vice president of the Association of Senior Service Providers. She is a member of the Continuity of Care and the Southeastern Kane County TRIAD.
In 2019, Bransfield was trained by AgeGuide to facilitate the Stress Busting Program for Caregivers and in 2020 as a Dementia Friendly Business Sector trainer. Since then, she has conducted several dementia-friendly trainings for church groups, Realtors, libraries, park districts, and communities.
Bransfield has been a social worker for more than 20 years and is a certified gerontologist.
• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at firstname.lastname@example.org.