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NIC’s Lobby Day uses lessons of the past to change the present

Posted: April 25 2024 at 07:00 AM
Author: by Rev. Dr. Norval I. Brown,  Cary UMC

Early in the morning of April 18, 22 members of the Northern Illinois Conference Anti-Racism Task Force, many of whom had participated in last year’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, boarded a bus or piled into cars to descend on Springfield to speak to state legislators about issues of racial injustice that concern us—with a focus on environmental justice, the school to prison pipeline, and immigration.  

Group At Lincoln Statute Getting Ready To March

The NIC ARTF group met by the Lincoln statue in front of the Illinois State capitol before the prayer, march, and rally.

This Legislative Lobby Day is an outgrowth of last year’s Civil-Rights Pilgrimage. Among the many lessons of the pilgrimage was the idea was that visiting the past was not enough. The NIC statement that racism is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ also prodded the need for the lobby day.  

There was excitement in the air as participants anticipated dialogue and collaboration with our lawmakers, learning something about the legislative process, and helping others to see the deep issues that affect our lives and the lives of those around us.  

Lake North Simmons

District 7 State Senator Mike Simmons meeting with Lake North representatives Richard Stevens and Marlene Morton. Simmons is the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee.

Participants organized themselves into their conference district and met with legislators who represented portions of their district. They brought with them position papers and talking points. Pictures were taken; partnerships were forged; prayers were offered.  

State senators and representatives seemed to appreciate not only the dialogue but also our asking how we could help them. Conference members also met support staff, lobbyists, and other visitors. We exchanged business cards and other contact information intending to follow-up and establish more opportunities for collaboration. 

Douglas Ave Umc Volunteers

Volunteers from Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield hosted the group for lunch.

Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield hosted the group for lunch. Rev. Curtis Brown, director of connectional ministries for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, and Rev. Meredith Brown, pastor of Douglas Avenue, offered a brief history of Methodism in Illinois—much of what was news to many in our delegation. Relationships built during table conversation with them help establish a collaborative relationship in advocating for racial justice with the state’s lawmakers 

As the group’s closing action, they engaged in prayer, a public rally, and march around the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in front of the capitol building. Though a small group, they were seen and heard by passersby. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the group was praying with their feet. The overall consensus of the day’s work was, “It is good.” But as God did on the eighth day, the group agreed to roll up their sleeves and go back to work the next day. 

As a participant, I believe that there are moments in our lives when we are moved to remember, reflect, and reminisce about the past. Often these are good memories that help us to see where we have been and how we arrived at this present moment. Sometimes memories focus on some challenging moments in our lives that again help us to see where we have been and how we have arrived at this present state.  

Last year’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage helped the pilgrims remember, lament, reconcile, and strengthen their resolve to end racism and to share with others what they learned and experienced. Those times of remembering, reflecting, and reminiscing are the impetus for affecting change in this present moment.  

That is the essence of the Sankofa experience. Sankofa is an African concept instructing us to retrieve things of value from our knowledge of the past in order to define where we want to go. The Lobby Day helped us take what we learned history into action toward changing the present. 

Group Leaving From St Mark

Participants leaving from St. Mark UMC in Chicago

Friendship Departure Group

Participants ready to leave from Friendship UMC in Bolingbrook.

A Delicious Lunch Provided By Douglas Ave Umc

Enjoying lunch at Douglas Ave UMC in Springfield.

Praying In Front Of The Lincoln Statue

Pausing for prayer in front of the Lincoln statue.

Partial Group Of Us Waiting To Go On A Tour

A portion of the group about to tour the capitol building.

Sitting In The Galley

Sitting in the gallery of the capitol building.

Prairie North And South 1

Prairie North and Prairie South attendees Rev. Catiana McKay, Pastor Toni Lucas (Lobby Day Chair), Judy & Richard Schultz, with Senator Steve Stadelman.

Prairie North And South 2

Prairie North and Prairie South attendees Richard & Judy Schultz, Pastor Toni Lucas (Lobby Day Chair), and Rev. Catiana McKay, with Representative Maurice West.

Lake North Kevin Olickal District 16

Lake North representatives Kathy Tiffin and John Alan Boryk had a brief meet up with Brief meet up with Illinois Representative Kevin Olickal, District 16.

Lake North Senator Ram

Senator Ram met and talked with constituent Kathy Tiffin and friend John Alan Boryk (Lake North). They discussed the 3 highlights of the rally trip: Immigration, Just Energy for All, Schools to Prison Pipeline.

Prairie Central Il Senate Minority Leader John Curran 1

Prairie Central meeting the IL Senate Minority Leader John Curran

Prairie Central Il Senate Minority Leader John Curran 2

Prairie Central meeting the IL Senate Minority Leader John Curran.

Lake South With A Legislator

Lake South representatives with IL Senate Majority Leader, Kimberly Lightford.

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