No Klan, but plenty of emotion in event
Saturday in Storm Lake was not what the Ku Klux Klan had envisioned it to be.
A boisterous peace rally replaced a KKK rally that was planned and later abandoned - caucasian holding hands with African American, holding hands with Asian American, holding hands with Latino American.
While a couple of police officers watched from across the Buena Vista Courthouse lawn, there was no word of dissent as nearly 60 people joined in the prayers and music at "A Day of Peace for Northwest Iowa."
Originally planned as a response to the KKK, there was only one brief mention of the white supremacy group during the rally, as co-sponsor Ted Weirchich, of Turning Point Community Church in Spencer, told the crowd that "The KKK is not harmony."
He said that racism is being brought down, and a sense of unity is emerging in Storm Lake, regardless of skin color.
"We are standing up for what we believe," he said.
The Voices of Praise gospel choir and DIMES spiritual dance troupe from BVU performed during the rally, and a young vocalist had the crowd swaying to the familiar lines of "We are the World."
There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all.
A few students from Buena Vista University took turns addressing the gathering as well, suggesting that "It is a time for action."
In a time when people in many parts of the world are born without freedom and die without every having an opportunity to experience freedom, Storm Lake is coming together for a common cause, they said.
"It doesn't matter where we come from... but what we value," one added.
Leon Williams, representing the Students of Diverse Populations at BVU, said that a community has elements of both love and hate, and reminded that crowd that it has not been long in historical terms since the lunch counter sit-ins, the march in Selma, Alabama, the killing of John F. Kennedy. The same kind of hate that once prevented blacks from using public facilities with white people, and barred women from voting, still explodes in incidents like Columbine, 9/11 and Virgina Tech tragedies.
"If we sit back, we are just as guilty," he said, encouraging local residents to speak out against discrimination and violence.
In an age when more is spent on people in prison than in public schools, and parenting attention is generally at an all-time low, teachers and social workers have been worn down by trying to carry the burden. "How can we sleep at night," Williams asked.
Weirich said that it was appropriate to hold the peace rally on the same spot the KKK had coveted - "the place of justice." While the event was aimed at Storm Lake, he said he hopes the message that people will no longer tolerate racial division will be heard by all people of northwest Iowa.
"The civil rights movement," he said, "is NOT over."