We All Want Unity
Black churches, racial reconciliation take center stage at St. Louis Graham crusade.
November 1, 1999
The Saturday youth night at a Billy Graham crusade has always mingled pop music with an altar call, but racial reconciliation took top billing at youth night in St. Louis in October. As 57,000 teenagers danced and sang along to dc Talk's song, "Colored People," a dc Talk member shouted out, "Look at all of us here tonight. We're like a batch of M&Ms! Aren't we all, in fact, 'colored people?'"
The members of dc Talk were not the only ones with racial themes on their mind. The local organizers of Graham's St. Louis crusade saw racial reconciliation as one of their community's deepest needs.
"St. Louis is a polarized community. It's almost like a line is drawn in the sand in some places," says Donte Smith, representing 19 minority-owned Church's Chicken Restaurants. "But the Graham people made a concerted effort to get the black community involved. It gave us a chance to build contacts and network with each other."
Blacks held eight of the 17 places on the crusade's executive committee. A high percentage of the pre-crusade choir rehearsals, church-leader events, and counselor training classes occurred in the black community.
"It's been said the Civil War is still being fought here in St. Louis because of how the city is racially divided," says Ronald L. Bobo Sr., pastor of the 69-year-old West Side Missionary Baptist Church. "But a number of us were determined to work together in this shared outreach."
Bobo served on the crusade's executive committee and was cochairman of the prayer committee. His church, which welcomes 700 to 1,600 worshipers on Sundays, hosted several pre-crusade events, including a choir rehearsal with Cliff Barrows.
Billy Graham reiterated the racial unity theme during the crusade. "Like the Samaritans and the ...