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Mayor Says Springfield Hitting Tipping Point in Fight Against Inequality

Mr. and Mrs. Stiles hold signs at the MLK Day march in Springfield.
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stiles hold signs outside the Gillioz after the MLK Day march in Springfield. Credit-Shane Franklin

Hundreds attended this year’s march in Springfield Monday to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And as KSMU’s Shane Franklin reports, for many community members and leaders the celebration served as another big step in promoting equality. 

Jim Stiles is retired and has lived in Springfield for nearly 80 years. He and his wife attended the march holding signs, including one that read “Everyone deserves equal protection under the law.”

“We think there’s many many issues in Springfield, as well as in the country, that are not being resolved, and we think we should to work to resolve some of these issues. Not just with the black population, but we think we have issues with the homeless and with the gay and lesbian segment of our population. We want to see equal treatment for everyone,” says Stiles.

Stiles says the march was probably the largest he’d ever seen in Springfield, and to him it feels like people in the city are becoming more and more aware of the lack of diversity.

“I think we’re going to see more and more commitment and more and more participation in this type of activity,” says Stiles.

Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens agreed, saying the city is doing what it can to encourage diversity, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes that racism is an antiquated attitude.

“I think that what you’re seeing is Springfield hitting a tipping point. We had the celebration of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech this past summer at the public square; we had over 1,500 people there. I think folks are beginning to realize and get involved in some of the issues.  We do have some inequality and some diversity issues that we need to work on in our community, and I think people are stepping up to do that,” says Stephens.

Cheryl Clay is the President of the Springfield NAACP. She says for the most part, Springfield is a very welcoming community, but she would like to see more people in the community become leaders by sharing their time and skills to fight back against racism, poverty, and inequality.

 “I want to encourage people in our community to look around and see how they can be involved. We have a horrible poverty rate in our city, to see what we can make a change in that. Get involved. There are different organizations; the Kitchen and the Missouri Hotel are always looking for donations and volunteers,” says Clay.

For longtime Springfield resident Jim Stiles, Clay’s message speaks to another one of the signs he and his wife brought with them Monday. This one reading, “Together we can do more.”  

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.