Bahai News -- The State Journal-Register - Coming together; Springfield joins other capitals in Race Unity Rally

Coming together
Springfield joins other capitals in Race Unity Rally

Staff Writer

In Springfield and five other Midwestern state capitals, people joined together Sunday in hopes that eliminating racial prejudice will lead to world peace.

"Here at home during my lifetime we have made progress. Now, I don't mean to imply that we have conquered any of it," former Peoria Mayor Lowell "Bud" Grieves said at Springfield's sixth annual Race Unity Rally at the Statehouse.

It will take a lot of work if the world is to ever obtain racial unity, Grieves and other speakers acknowledged at the event sponsored by the local Baha'i community.

In the back of the Capitol, though, that dream seemed a little closer to reality.

Their attention unraveled by the various speakers, six boys sat on the floor trading Yu-Gi-Oh cards. They were of different races and ethnic backgrounds, but the only difference of interest to them was who held the more powerful card.

"It's what's inside that's most important, not what's outside," said 12-year-old Dalton Vodden, born in Israel and a citizen of both America and Britain.

As the children went back to playing, Grieves continued his speech.

"Our world is getting both better and worse at the very same time," he said.

He made his point with a list of paradoxes: We have more labor, but less time. We have gone to the moon and back, but we have trouble making it across the street to befriend a neighbor. We have more degrees but less common sense. More income, but less morals.

"We have split the atom, but not our prejudices," he said.

Working to unite the races, as the event's name suggests, is what Sunday's rally was about, said Mike Lang, the program's organizer.

This was the sixth year people gathered in the Capitol for the rally and the second year other states joined to rally for racial unity. Similar programs took place Sunday in Indiana, Wisconsin, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota.

"You have come to be a part of history," said Juliette Whittaker, the event's emcee and the first drama teacher of comedian Richard Pryor from Peoria.

Locally, there have been obstacles to achieving racial harmony, said Sandy Robinson, director of the city of Springfield's department of community relations. However, he promised that the issue is a priority for Mayor Tim Davlin.

"The best days of the city of Springfield are yet to come," Robinson said.

Lang said he eventually hopes to see all the states in the Midwest join the rally, and one day, every state in the union.

When all the speakers had concluded, a spirited rendition of "America the Beautiful" drifted from the speaker and into the hallway as the event changed its location from the Capitol to the visitor's center for more music and cake and ice cream.

Walter Schexnayder, 84, of Sioux City, Iowa, said he was excited by the speaker's words. He was in Springfield visiting his daughter and it was the first time he had attended the Race Unity Rally.

Adrianna Runyon, 11, of Peoria, shared similar sentiments.

Runyon knows she will encounter prejudices in her life, but said "if people look at me in a different way, I'll just look back and smile."

"I'll always be a friendly person. I won't judge people by their race," she said.

Everyone at the rally was treated to an African spiritual dance performed by the Springfield Urban League Kuumba Dancers.

"I get to express myself through dance," said Erica Austin, who led the dance team with energy and vivid expression.

Eman'uel Borders, 22, found it a little more difficult to find the words to reveal how he felt about the day's events.

He found his voice, though, when he took the microphone, singing a cappella, and filled the pavilion with "What the world needs now is love, sweet love."

"That's what I was trying to say," Borders said at the end of the song.

Molly Parker can be reached through the metro desk at 788-1519/

©Copyright 2003, The State Journal-Register (IL, USA)

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