Black Catholics pray for civil rights, remember King

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, January 24, 2016

Black Catholics pray for civil rights, remember King

Brandon Sapp delivers an exerpt from Rev. Martin Luther King's speech "Rediscovering Lost Values" during a Prayer for Civil Rights Jan. 15 at the Archbishop Quigley Center's St. James Chapel. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Deacon Arthur Miller of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, spoke during the Prayer for Civil Rights service at the Archbishop Quigley Center's St. James Chapel Jan. 15. The archdiocesan Black Catholic Initiative hosted the event. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Deacon Art Miller has never forgotten Emmett Till or the summer of 1955.

Miller, a Chicago native who is now the director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, was a classmate of Till’s and their mothers were friends.

Till was an African-American teenager from Chicago who was lynched in Mississippi at age 14, after reportedly flirting with a white woman.

“When Emmett was killed, it was our community and love for that little boy that started the civil rights movement,” Miller told those gathered the evening of Jan. 15 for the Black Catholic Initiative’s Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration. The service was held in the St. James Chapel at the Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 N. Rush St.

The two-hour prayer service featured Scripture readings, music by the choir from St. Malachy- Precious Blood Parish, 2248 W. Washington Blvd., and a recitation of excerpts from King’s “Rediscovering Lost Values” speech by young adult Brandon Sapp.

As he walked up and down the middle aisle of the chapel, Miller, a longtime civil-rights activist, told the congregation that it takes a community to raise a child.

“Right now our community is sick and they are raising some sick children,” he said.

He recalled growing up in Chicago where neighbors would keep an eye on all children and ask them how they were doing. It was done out of love, he said.

The community that killed Till was based on something else. “The very foundation of that community was hatred,” Miller said. “Hatred killed that little boy.”

Today’s communities must spread love and show Christ to others, he said.

Drawing on that theme, Miller pulled people from the audience to portray characters in Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus and explained that Jesus doesn’t abandon his children.

“We’re a community and God works through community,” the deacon said. Like Lazarus’ friends, we must clear away the boulders keeping people from Christ, and even more. We must continue to journey with them.

“When our brothers and sisters come out of the cave, we don’t abandon them,” he said.


  • rev. martin luther king jr
  • archbishop quigley
  • civil rights movement
  • st. malachy-precious blood
  • emmett till

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