Bahai News - Hundreds expected for Coming Together march LOCAL

Hundreds expected for Coming Together march

Groups to demonstrate commitment to unity in Central Park next Weekend

By THERESA CHURCHILL

H&R Senior Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (August26) -- The Baha'i Community of Decatur plans to spread its message about the oneness of humanity during Decatur's Celebration of Unity next weekend.

About 15 members, wearing Baha'i T-shirts and/or buttons and passing out balloons, will walk to Central Park from Illinois Power Plaza Sept. 2 to help kick off the Coming Together Project, which is aimed at promoting racial harmony in Macon County.

"The balloons have two doves with a heart between them," said community member Lethia Draves. "This means uniting the world one heart at a time, because solving racism has to come from the heart. You can't do it just by laws."

Theirs will not be the only balloons celebrating the birth of Coming Together, nor will the Baha'is be the only group converging on Central Park to symbolize what the project is all about.

Hundreds of people are expected to start a unity walk at 5 p.m. from five different locations, each receiving a name tag and a balloon color-coded to his or her step-off point. After arriving in Central Park, participants will each be encouraged to find someone with a different-colored name tag that carries a matching number, with each pair receiving a prize.

The Celebration of Unity program begins at 6 p.m. in Central Park, with a balloon release at 6:15 p.m. and a free concert by the Fabulous Motown Revue from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is sponsoring the event to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

"We're looking forward to having a good time," said Michael Gulledge, Herald & Review publisher and an organizer of the Coming Together Project. "I would encourage everyone to come out and participate."

Other groups that have made commitments to walk include Central Christian Church, which plans to start from the Mary W. French Academy, as well as Union Planters Bank and Richland Community College, both of which plan to walk from the Decatur Public Library.

"We're taking sign-ups on Sunday," said the Rev. Robert Bushey, associate pastor for children, youth and families at Central Christian. "This is a way for us to show, as a church, that we are interested in unity and being part of the community downtown."

Dan Dunphy, agriculture coordinator at Richland Community College, said the campus has been blanketed with publicity about the event and that special T-shirts are being made for participants to wear. "We hope to have 25 or even more," Dunphy said. "Promoting diversity and unity is part of our charter as a community college, plus it's the right thing to do."

Representatives of Millikin University and the Decatur branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also plan to take part. Other step-off locations are Central United Methodist Church and Foursquare Gospel Church.

Marsha Fleming, Community Agenda liaison for the Herald & Review, said she hopes more groups will participate but is pleased with the way individual sign-ups are coming in.

"It's really starting to pick up," Fleming said Friday. "I've received 100 coupons in the past three days, bringing the total to about 400.

"It's not too late to sign up," she added.

To make participation easier, city buses will add two special pickup points Sept. 2 -- one at the Boys and Girls Club of Decatur and the other at Millikin University -- and will provide free transportation from Central

Park back to those points and step-off locations.

The Fabulous Motown Revue of St. Louis -- whose concert will feature such hits as "Dancing in the Street" made famous by Martha and the Vandellas, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye and "My Girl" by the Temptations --will be interspersed by the reading of a unity poem at 7:15 p.m. and a candle vigil at 8:35 p.m.

For more information about the Celebration of Unity, call Fleming at 421-7979.

Theresa Churchill can be reached via e-mail at tchurchill@herald-review.com or by phone at (217) 421-7978


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