With a room of nearly 300 attendees on Monday, call and response speeches laced with “overwhelming powerful themes” of trust, love and flourishing relationships rooted in diversity, most walked away with pride in their stride and smiles on their faces, after the Seventh Annual O’Fallon Metro-East Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast event at New Life In Christ Interdenominational Church.
“Not every cop is bad. Not every white person hates a black person, and certainly not every black person hates a white person,” O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham said. “I contend there’s no trust in this country. I’m a peon government official ... people don’t trust government. People don’t trust car dealers, their doctors ... don’t trust period, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Let’s look for the best in people instead of automatically assuming that they would do something wrong to us until proven.”
Graham paved the way for the common themes of the event’s program to unravel with his focus hovering on truth and trust by debasing the idea of his position of government as a seat of grandeur.
Not every cop is bad. Not every white person hates a black person, and certainly not every black person hates a white person.
O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham
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“You’re all here on purpose this morning, you felt the need to come and unite and trust other people,” Graham said.
“When you look at this tapestry of people (here) you see truly the rainbow that God has for us,” New Life In Christ Bishop Geoffrey Dudley Sr. said. “I met our speaker Pastor Shane Bishop almost 14 years ago ... and when giving advice on my plans for future expansion, he said to me, ‘Do not hesitate to call me — I have my hand on your back and there’s not a knife in it, and this is the quality of man who will share his message with us today.”
Following Graham was the main speaker, Christ Church Pastor Shane Bishop of Fairview Heights.
Bishop described “a nation that is angry and polarized” in the past and in the present. He went on to explain his thoughts on diversity and his advice on how to move forward embracing those who “... don’t think like me or y’all.”
“I think the problem today is people are talking at each other in the absence of love,” Bishop said with his voice cracking. “When people talk about jagged and volatile issues with the absence of love, they’re always going to end up yelling at each other. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of people yelling at each other.”
Bishop used his own life experiences to paint a vivid picture of how he continues to tread on in his life of Christian evangelism in the face of indifference, and underlying issues gone unspoken.
“When justice demands, the truth be spoken, and some things are plain wrong, and they must be named for what they are,” Bishop said in reference to racism and negative stigmas surrounding cultural differences.
Bishop shared his love and appreciation for those around him who have a different world view.
“They have been the most defining characteristics of my Christian journey in recent years,” Bishop proclaimed. “I encourage each and every one of you to find some friends who do not think like you.”
Dudley said boldly alongside an extended standing ovation, “Did our hearts not burn?”
“In this time when our country seems to be fraying at the edges, my heart breaks for where we are,” Dudley said. “I don’t know about you but I don’t look at the political debates and the various things (of the world) feeling okay. Sometime no matter the sides I listen to, I feel like taking a shower because of the weight.”
Audience members give rave reviews
“Today’s program was amazing! (They) delivered a very heartwarming community focused program,” said Mark T. Kupsky, mayor of Fairview Heights. “I loved the speeches about people working together and taking time to show your caring and love for those around you and in your community.”
O’Fallon Alderman Ward 1 Richie Meile described the program with one word, “uplifting.”
O’Fallon Alderman Ward 4 Herb Roach said he hopes attendees walk away with the right message of “the strong need for everyone to come and work together and have trust in others.”
Shiloh resident Greg Yank, a member of the O’Fallon Rotary, said he can’t wait to spread the “powerful message of love and hope.”
“In a society today that is cracking at the seams, the message today is one that Dr. King would endorse,” Yank noted.
O’Fallon Chief of Police Eric Van Hook said he comes every year to the event.
“Gratitude is the one word that comes to mind,” Van Hook said. “I was simply filled with gratitude today.”
Sponsors included the city of O’Fallon and the O’Fallon Metro-East National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.