Oak Park religious, civic leaders gather at Scoville Park for Black Lives Matter Solidarity Walk

Crowd estimated at up to 700

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Last weekend there were large "Black Lives Matter" rallies in New York, Boston, L.A. and in Oak Park. An estimated 700 people gathered in Scoville Park on Sunday at 1 p.m. to sing gospel songs, hear speakers, march and pray in response to the killing of unarmed black men and boys by white police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York.

The Rev. Ira Acree, one of the speakers from the West Side of Chicago, declared that the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York not to indict white police officers "have caused the faith community to wake up."

Indeed, when the Rev. Shawn Schreiner, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, sent out an email to colleagues in the Community of Congregations, a week ago Monday, to float the possibility of staging a Black Lives Matter Rally six days later, she had no idea if anyone would respond. Apparently she tapped into a reservoir of pent-up emotion because an ad hoc committee of clergy got together the next day, emails flew, and the word got out in large part via social media.

Instead of listing specific proposals to turn things around, the speakers and individuals in the crowd who commented after the rally seemed to agree with Rev. Acree when he said, "The church is the conscience of a nation. I am honored to lock arms with faith communities of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds for such a worthy cause. Systemic change occurs when the church speaks up."

After the rally, Marty Swisher, music director of Unity Temple, seemed to speak for the crowd, which was 90% white, when she said with emotion, "I'm here because we need to represent a community that cares about what's going on. We are all here because we need to let the world know how much Oak Park is behind people of color." 

"This isn't about good cops and bad cops," said Acree during the rally in an attempt to broaden the discussion. "We can't be sidetracked by a few bad police. We must concentrate on the bigger problem, America's deepest moral sin, and that's racism. Police are merely the gatekeepers of a racist system in America."

What justice demands, he said, is a level playing field on which people of color don't have to go 12 yards to get a first down when whites only have to go 10.

Rev. Kathy Nolte, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, added, "Those who have the power must speak into the heart of prejudice and racism. Those who are benefiting from white privilege must speak publicly and loudly against racism." She said that her bishop, Rev. Wayne Miller, had sent out an email to every congregation in the Metro Chicago Synod to wear black on Sunday in order to be in solidarity with victims of racist violence.

Just before the rally ended with the singing of "We Shall Overcome," Rev. Schreiner declared, "This is not the end. Our whole point is that we're starting this today, but we can't end it here. The journey continues." 

Richard Boykin, newly elected Cook County Commissioner (1st District which includes Oak Park), proposed one step as a way to move forward. From the stage he said, "I invite everyone to come to the Cook County board meeting on Dec. 17. We have a resolution calling on President Obama to create a national commission to examine the entirety of the criminal justice system and the impact of race. The commission would include all stakeholders and would issue a report on ways to reduce the number of black males who come in contact with the criminal justice system. If current trends persist, one in three black boys born today will go to prison."

In the crowd, Glover Johnson, a member of St. Giles Family Mass Community, was circulating a petition to run next spring for the Triton College Board of Trustees.

"I think there are a lot of fundamental issues happening in this community and around the U.S.," he said, "and if we don't do something about the inequality in the justice system, we'll only perpetuate it. I currently serve on the Triton board and am running for reelection because I believe that inequality in education is part of the problem."

Melanie Kincaid, a Forest Park resident, said, "I am most encouraged by the momentum going forward and this will not end here for the sake of those who did die. We need to make changes, but I don't know how to do that myself. It was very affirming to know that there are people who will lead us forward." 

Schreiner said she didn't know the names of every faith community represented in the rally but the partial list includes Grace Episcopal, First United Church of Oak Park, Unity Temple, St. Giles Family Mass Community, St. Christopher's Episcopal, Fellowship Christian Church, First United Methodist, Pilgrim Congregational, and Oak Park Temple, all from Oak Park; West Suburban Temple Har Zion from River Forest; and Third Unitarian and Greater St. John's Bible Church from Austin.

"We will walk and gather and declare that "Black Lives Matter," walk organizers wrote on the event's public Facebook page a few days before the event. "We will be a witness against a justice system that is not working and share that we do not believe excessive force to and killing of unarmed black men is acceptable in the a country of the free and brave." 

A number of Dominican University students, faculty and staff staged a "die-in" on campus Dec. 9 as a mark of solidarity as well.

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Posted: December 17th, 2014 8:33 AM

700 people? We have eyes, you know. Or maybe 500 were disguised as blades of grass.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 3:28 PM

Bob - Again with the paternalistic nonsense about those in minority communities needing white folks to step up and solve our problems. Nothing reinforces your feelings of white superiority like imagining that we're all breathlessly waiting for you to benevolently open the door to white America and let us in. Can't do it without your help of course, since we're simple folk. We can only get it if you hand it to us, so we should wait with our hands out. And vote how we're told, of course.

Seriously? from OP  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 3:04 PM

Agree with so many posters here but obviously not @Bob. I think it's fair to say that many of us moved to OP because of its progressive liberal attitudes and beliefs. Many, incl. myself work for organizations that are embedded in the Englewoods, Roselands, and yes, Fergusons of the US. That said it is beyond frustrating to hear from folks like him who fail to acknowledge the forces on both sides who impede change, especially black "activists" who derive their power from the status quo.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 2:50 PM

Bob - How much time have you spent in Englewood?Lofty goals - and again, coming from a society that can't stop for a stop sign. We have all been doing our part to "dismantle the system of institutional racism". It's just that some aren't doing their part.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 2:48 PM

Bob, so how exactly is institutional racism holding black folks down in 2015? Last I checked, black folks held significant positions of power in every major urban city. Most county boards. Most school boards. Police chiefs. etc. Not too mention most of these same urban areas of solidly Democrat. So where is this institutional racism coming from that is holding down black folks? Inquiring minds want to know.

Seriously? from OP  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 2:35 PM

@Bob, please stop with the ultimatums, tired shibboleths, and vague (and therefore useless except for making people mad on BOTH sides) solutions. Folks like you love to say stuff to emotionally stir up things but then sit back in your easy chairs eating pop tarts when it comes to actually doing the hard work. I believe this is why we're so dysfunctional today as a society. So easy to lob silly bombs over the fence.

Bob Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 2:17 PM

White people have a responsibility to help dismantle the system of institutional racism from which they derive a racial advantage. Yet I see far too much evasion of that responsibility going on all across this nation.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 16th, 2014 10:11 AM

Local, we do need to talk details. I keep hearing about lack of equality, etc but yet when I look at the details I see nothing but whining and lack of personal responsibility. Specifically, 90% of black folks problems are self-inflicted. It ain't the klan. It ain't the cops. It ain't republicans. It ain't the koch brothers. It ain't bush. It is 2015, not 1955.


Posted: December 16th, 2014 9:59 AM

We can argue the details as much as we want, but the big picture is that we still have work to do on issues of equality. No quick fixes, but for a start maybe each of us (of all colors) could make a conscious effort to treat others, especially those who are different from us in some way, with respect and dignity.

Sam from OP  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 10:57 PM

Darin...... Well said.


Posted: December 15th, 2014 9:54 PM

protocol. And it's the schools fault when their little angels are failing and getting suspended for their behavior, and of course it has nothing to do with the parents. It's always someone else's fault, and the black community need never be accountable or take responsibility? Great lessons to teach the kids.


Posted: December 15th, 2014 9:51 PM

from the hood, yet they are the first to play the race card anytime some black kid is killed, either by some gangbanger (it's the whites fault cause if we we're poor it wouldn't happen), or by a cop (it's the cops fault, cause it doesn't matter if my kid was reaching for his gun, and assaulting the cop, because regardless of what the cop has done he's guilty). Of course it's also the cops fault if some gangbanger killer is not apprehended, even though the community adheres to the "no snitch"


Posted: December 15th, 2014 9:46 PM

I suppose it's the cops or the white man's fault that 90% of black people shot are by the hands of blacks. I suppose it's the white man's fault that those flash mobs happened nationwide where large groups of black youths and adults targeted lone white people and beat them (imagine the cry of racism is the reverse happened today). I suppose it's the cops fault that 1 cop is shop in the line of duty every 53 hours in the U.S. I've never heard more racist from any demographic compared to blacks


Posted: December 15th, 2014 9:41 PM

evidence that Wilson killed without justifiable force. What we do know now is that the witnesses claiming Brown did not reach into the Cops car were lying, and a number of the bullet holes indicate that Brown was shot a point blank range? Do these facts matter to the rioters and looters robbing and burning down people's businesses? Or to the "protesters"? I can only imagine not, because Brown was merely ideological ammo for them to act out the way they want to.


Posted: December 15th, 2014 9:36 PM

Shortly after Mike Brown was shot, a black cop shot an unarmed white male in Dallas. Did any of you hear about this? That's what I guessed, few if not none of you did. Does this mean that white lives don't matter? People like Bob and Al Sharpton perpetuate this entitlement attitude, where anything negative that happens in the black community is immediately accountable to whites. The black community started rioting about Mike Brown before any evidence was even in, and there's still no conclusive

I'm Just Saying  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 5:40 PM

Oh, and one more thing...its a tragedy when someone loses their life when a police officer is left with no alternative but force (not just the black ones by the way). However, I would guess a great majority of those people would be alive today if they did one thing. Comply as instructed and as the law requires. Resisting a police officer greatly increases your chances of being hurt.

I'm Just Saying  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 5:35 PM

How about we try this one on for size....All lives matter. I think I read that in a book somewhere, the same one these ministers supposedly preach about.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:59 PM

A good kid murdered because he stood up for his brother. There will be no Ferguson-scale demonstrations for his death, because "civil rights" now means "offender rights."

Karen from RF  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:51 PM

Folks should note that less than 48 hours after the murder, the police have 3 suspects in custody, incl. one who had committed another robbery shortly beforehand. I suppose the above protestors would just say that it's not that the justice system is working in some cases, it's just these corrupt cops "doing their job."

Karen from RF  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:37 PM

Here's the Sun Times article: http://chicagosuntimes.com/news/teen-charged-in-fatal-shooting-of-boy-15-in-robbery/

Karen from RF  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:36 PM

I read the Sun Times article about the 15 year old boy who was murdered over his jacket in Englewood on Sat. So incredibly tragic. What really struck me, however, were the number of residents, incl the school principal, who called for "martial law" in order to put a stop to the violence and madness. How does that reconcile with the message of these liberal Oak Parkers who protest from the safety of their +$350k homes and well funded schools?

Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:13 PM

Mr. Simpson, what you mean to say is "..if more white people rose up against the big city Democrat Party", since it and it alone created the system of institutional racism & segregation of which you speak. But Kurt & OPT are correct in rebutting your fully ludicrous position. A $ 15 minimum wage would destroy any chance for opportunity in low income areas by destroying jobs. What is wrong with you?

Kurt from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 3:05 PM

Bob Simpson... remember "Correlation does not imply Causation." Of course the neighborhoods with stable employment and higher wage jobs have lower murder rates. But that doesn't mean you can lower the murder rate by increasing wages.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 2:34 PM

"If more white people rose up against the system of institutional racism and segregation..." Perhaps the most blatant expression of white paternalism I've ever read.

Bob Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 2:23 PM

If more white people rose up against the system of institutional racism and segregation which creates the high levels of unemployment, underemployment and low wage jobs in distressed communities, the level of interpersonal violence would drop dramatically. The Fight for $15 movement put out a report last year showing that Chicago neighborhoods with stable employment and living wage jobs have very low murder rates.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 2:05 PM

Meanwhile across town, black lives apparently don't matter to black youths as some 30 people were shot over the weekend. Until we see the same level of outrage for the day to day hood violence, these protestors will continue to look like a conclave of minstrels who can't be taken seriously.


Posted: December 15th, 2014 1:36 PM


Inconvenient Ruth from OP  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 1:14 PM

I wasn't at the rally, but I wonder. Was there any mention at all about the 17 Million African-American babies who have been aborted (murdered?) since Roe v Wade became the law of the land? Do these "Black Lives Matter" to anyone, particularly a Catholic institution such as Dominican? I'll wait 24 hours for a response.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 12:46 PM

I think it's a mistake for minority leaders to focus their efforts on how police treat offenders. It concedes that minorities make up a disproportionate number of offenders, and it seems to imply that we somehow can't help it. When did the struggle for equality become the fight for better treatment when we commit crimes and resist law enforcement? If this is now the focus of minority empowerment, we have badly lost our way.

Jim from RF  

Posted: December 15th, 2014 12:09 PM

Hope there were signs up for kids killed by hoodlums in Englewood who prey on innocent victims as well, such as this poor child. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-demario-bailey-twin-brother-20141215-story.html LIVES do matter!

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