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“The Saints are marching in!” by Yolanda Wallace

“The Saints are marching in!”

By Yolanda Wallace

Oh when the Saints Go Marching In!”  This song is often referred to as “The Saints”, an American gospel hymn. Though it originated as a Christian hymn, it is often played by jazz bands.

This song was first recorded on May 13, 1938 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.  It has inspired many to think about heaven!  It has inspired us to think about wanting to be in that number, of the Saints that are going to be marching.

In thinking about what that means. Who are our Saints in Peoria?  The definition of Saint is a virtuous person.  My definition is a person that selflessly serves his/her community in the full capacity of serving others as the word of God says to: by mentoring, feeding the poor, taking care of the fatherless etc.  “And this I do for the gospel sake,” as a Christian not to gain a name for themselves.  It’s tough work but they are committed to being a servant of the most high God.

I moved here in the late 80’s and the same situations that happened then are more prevalent today. The family is breaking down. Teenage pregnancy is on the rise, no fathers in the home, politics, crime and some Saints have marched in.  There are fewer and fewer Saints amongst us today. I just want to give honor where honor is due in the African-American community.

When raising children back in the day, the church was the place to go.  It was safe. It loved teenagers, it helped the fatherless.  It fed the poor, it was a place of repentance, it let the Word of God judge and had soldiers that went out to help.  Today I’d just like to highlight just a few who made a difference.  There were others but these are just a few that stood out to me.

Rev. Hightower from New Morning Star Baptist Church was holding the state Baptist convention in Peoria in the 70’s.  I was just a young girl from Champagne IL here to attend.  (The late Reverend Lundy Savage of Mt. Olive Baptist church in Champaign IL was my home church.)  As a young lady who moved here later and raising children, I learned quickly who to go to for help.  Raising boys was tough. Reverend Hightower walked the streets of Peoria trying to do what he felt God had him here to do.

Reverend AJ Guyton walked side by side, praying families through. He did many things, mentoring programs for underprivileged youth, assistant pastor, served in leading marches to stop the violence, and was also a crossing guard.

Marie Swafford- assisted youth with employment and taught life skills, helped many to achieve their educational goals.

Dr. Pendleton– A Bradley University graduate who volunteered at her college, the area schools and at the Tri-County Urban League.

Geraldine Mitchell- Fed the poor, helped them buy affordable housing and didn’t know a stranger.  She was concerned about PHA (Peoria Housing Authority) and assisted residents in creating programs to aid them.

Christopher Stewart – Minister, electrician

It doesn’t matter what vehicle was allowed to take them home, I know these few Saints are marching in and there are more before them!  All I know is that I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in!  Only the things that you do for God will last.