DANVILLE — A banquet this weekend will give people a chance to honor civil rights leaders and help a church continue its work in the community.
The 49th annual Lincoln–Douglass-King Banquet will start at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Days Hotel, 77 N. Gilbert St. It’s sponsored by Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. For tickets, which are $25, call Virginia McKinney at 446-5639.
Guest speaker will be Shelly La Botte, formerly of Danville, who is the access to visitation grant coordinator for the state of California. She is the daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Charles “Chuckie” Robinson and Joan Robinson of Danville.
La Botte said she will speak about how the three leaders — Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. — have influenced her view of life.
“The idea is to remember them for the legacy they left for us — standing up for what’s right and fighting racism and sexism and other –isms,” she said in a telephone interview.
La Botte also will discuss the importance of community service and giving back, saying, “It’s our responsibility to give back to the community. We all have the power to make changes.”
Change can be made in small increments, she said. For example, people think if they can’t give more than an hour a day or week, then they’re not going to make a difference. However, that’s not true. All those hours add up to make a difference.
People in positions of power also need to be cautious and wise in their actions, and to work with others, she said, so positive changes can be made in the community.
Besides the speaker, the event will feature a meal, awards and entertainment.
Suzanne Adkins, a church member, said the banquet usually attracts 100-150 people, and is open to everyone of any race or religion. “It’s a humanitarian banquet,” she said, and awards in the past have been given to people who were not African-American.
Vocal performances will be given by Yolanda Glass with Georgetown Baptist Church and Tiffany Shelton of Danville. A Community Award and Layman Award will be given to two people, whose names are not being released in advance.
The meal will consist of Swiss steak and fried chicken, salad, green beans, corn, potatoes, cobbler and drinks.
“It’s a nice affair,” Adkins said. “The singing is marvelous and the atmosphere is great.”
She added, “Our church is small, but it’s mighty.” AME is considered the oldest African-American church in Danville, and will mark its 150th anniversary next year.
The Lincoln-Douglass Banquet was started by Presiding Elder Richard D. Smith, Fourth District Illinois Annual Conference of the AME Church, in 1965 at Allen Chapel AME Church in Danville. Smith, who was the pastor of Allen Chapel at that time, wanted to commemorate the civil rights contributions of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
In 1988, the Rev. David Jarrett, pastor of Allen Chapel at that time, changed the name of the banquet to Lincoln-Douglass-King to commemorate the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
La Botte, a 1978 graduate of Danville High School, holds a juris doctor degree. She is employed with the Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts, Judicial and Court Operations Services Division, Center for Families, Children and the Court.
La Botte is responsible for managing the state (federal funding) grant program, which supports funding statewide to the superior courts (about 28 of the 58 counties) to facilitate and increase non-custodial parents’ access to and visitation with their children through the grant-related activities of supervised visitation and exchange services, parent education, and group counseling services for parents and children going through separation and divorce in family court.
She has more than 18 years of experience in the California court system, with an expertise in public policy development, project management, grant administration, and technical assistance adviser to the family court. She works on various public policy initiatives and assists with the development of statewide standards of practice for court-based best practices and Rules of Court related to supervised visitation services. Also, La Botte provided guidance on passage of Assembly Bill 1674 (effective Jan. 1, 2013), which added section 3200.5 to the Family Code relating to child visitation.
She also worked with the Judicial Council’s Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee on creation of a new optional family law form (effective last month), which was approved by the Judicial Council in October 2013 for implementation of Family Code section 3200.5.