When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held a “Get Out the Vote” event in Chicago in 1964, Rev. Kwame John R. Porter not only introduced him to the crowd at Ogden Park — he also brought 10,000 people with him.
“I can remember walking to the park with them. It was so packed and my husband introduced Dr. King and stood by him the whole time as he spoke,” said June Porter, the pastor’s wife, who also attended the demonstration.
Rev. Porter, 87, who died April 9 at his Hyde Park home, was at the forefront of the expansion of the civil rights movement north for several decades.
The Ogden Park event brought attention to the disenfranchisement of black voters and was the result of Porter responding to King’s open request to speak in local Chicago communities, said June Porter. Her late husband and King were friends.
“They shared stories and talked about what they wanted to do,” said June Porter. “Rev. King came to our church and spoke twice there, played pool with the kids who were in gangs and joked around with my husband.”
The civil rights activists first met after Porter traveled to Georgia for anti-segregation demonstrations organized by King in 1962.
Two years later, their relationship strengthened after King approved the first Chicago chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Porter’s church, Christ United Methodist Church in Englewood.
The civil rights activists soon joined forces in Chicago, as King moved in 1966 to join Porter in leading the Chicago Freedom Movement — a joint campaign by the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference to end segregated housing practices in Chicago during the late 1960s.
Rev. Porter and his Englewood church directly worked with King and his campaign, organizing hundreds of mass protests across Chicago’s segregated neighborhoods during 1966, according to the family and an oral history posted online.
After earning his master’s degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Porter became assistant pastor at Normal Park United Methodist Church in Englewood.
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SOURCE: Chicago Sun Times, Nirmal Mulaikal