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Published: July 28, 2003

LOCAL NEWS: Rockford

Race Unity banquet honors those who promote peace, harmony

By MIKE WISER‚ Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — The Baha’i Community and the Institute for the Oneness of Humanity celebrated the trinity of freedom, music and individual action during its 13th annual Race Unity Awards banquet Sunday.

Tommy and Evelyn Meeks have promoted the dual concepts of freedom and remembrance since 1991 by organizing the city’s Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth, or June 19, 1865, commemorates the date many slaves in Texas learned they had been freed — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law.

Singer Dorothy Paige-Turner said music brings people together and, at the same time, celebrates our differences. The annual Rockford Area Music Industry’s RAMI Awards is the premier event of the local music scene that encompasses that same spirit.

Jennifer Lee Smith works to make a difference by living her life in a way that promotes harmony and togetherness.

Smith, the RAMI award committee members and the Meekses were honored for advancing the cause of racial peace in the Rockford area.

“I can’t think of a better group to get this from,” Tommy Meeks said, adding that racial unity is a laudable goal for all people. “There should be 1,000 or 2,000 people here ... It just shows we have to keep working.”

Smith said she didn’t think what she does is all that special.

That attitude is part of the reason her mother, Carol Jambor-Smith, nominated her.

Jambor-Smith related a story where she, her daughter and her daughter’s friend made it to a gas station on an empty tank of gas. Jambor-Smith thanked Jesus, the younger Smith thanked Baha’i, and her friend thanked Muhammed.

“This,” Jambor-Smith said, “is how it should be.”

Paige-Turner said she nominated the RAMI Awards after gazing across the audience from the stage at this year’s awards.

“I looked around the room and saw such a diversity of cultures and economic backgrounds,” she said.

Sunday, Paige-Turner proved her point by leading the 60-plus member audience in a rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

“This is special,” Lawrence Smith, a RAMI member said. “I don’t know how to receive an award. We’re used to giving awards.”

Contact:; 815-987-1377

©Copyright 2003, Rockford Register Star

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