Pastor and Community Activist Appointed to D87 School Board


James Shannon speaking at Peoples Community Church. Him and his wife founded the Glen Ellyn church 15 years ago. Courtesy of Peoples Community Church website

James Shannon has always fought for what he believes in, getting involved in the Civil Rights Movement at a young age through his church in Montgomery, Alabama. 

“Out of the things that were happening, the bus boycott and the Freedom Rides had such an indelible effect on me,” he said. 

On August 8th, 2022, Shannon was appointed as the newest member of the Glenbard School Board. He was chosen because of his extensive involvement in the community and his work in fighting for racial equality. 

Shannon serves as a pastor at Peoples Community Church in Glen Ellyn which he founded 15 years ago. He is also involved in various local organizations in the county. 

Shannon applied for the opening, he said, to help students of all backgrounds get the same opportunities and because of recent culture attacks on school boards across the country, and book banning. He wants to prioritize students and equality over misinformation. 

“This is a culture war. A lot of emphasis now has been on not so much politics, but to take over school boards and to form this racist attitude where they would restrict what type of books read and they do have no clear understanding of what critical racism is. So many people have formed attitudes and things based on false information. And we can learn to live better,” said Shannon. 

Joining the school board is not the pastor’s first involvement in Glenbard. For 6 years he ran a mentoring group for disadvantaged students. This gave him insight into the disparities in Glenbard on a district level. 

 Shannon was raised in Montgomery Alabama, the center of the civil rights movement, went to Dexter Avenue Church, and his pastor was Martin Luther King Jr. 

“I grew up there under Dr. Kings leadership. And, from there, growing up at Dexter and seeing all of the different things that were not equal, had an effect on me and in growing up in Montgomery and being part as a young age being part of the civil rights movement,” said Shannon.

Shannon’s passion for equality, activism and community outreach stems from his childhood. He said that his whole life was predetermined because of his race. Where he could attend school, who he could marry, and where he could live.

 But Shannon did not just see discrimination in the South. He said he has experienced it even in Lombard. When he wanted to buy a condo in the building he resided in, he was barred from doing so. It soon became clear that it was due to his race. 

“We encountered discrimination when our rental apartment complex went to condos and the people refused to sell to me but that was based on discrimination. So one of my biggest things has always been to learn how and why discrimination needs to happen,” said Shanon. 

Jamya Witman, a Glenbard East graduate of 2021 and member of his church said that his experience and background will help improve the district. 

“It’s kind of cool that he actually has that experience of seeing Martin Luther King preaching. So I feel like having someone that has that type of background is very valuable, seeing different sides of not only the black community, but also he’s a very intelligent man, and I know that he’ll be able to bring a lot,” Witman said. 

His experience is not his only value. Witman said that he has been a mentor to her since she was 8. He has encouraged her in her faith, academics, and life. 

“Dr. Shannon, he has given me probably some of the best advice that I’ve ever heard, like definitely a lot of the things that I have learned have come from him, not just like spiritually, but in life lessons as well,” she said. 

Outside of Glenbard, Shannon has done work in the community such as police reform through an organization called One Community. The goal is to ensure dialogue between the community and the police. 

Mary Floyd is a member of Peoples Community Church. She says the reason she joined was the truth in their motto through considerable charity work. Every year the church hosts a walk for the homeless and works with local politicians. 

Peoples Community Church on a Sunday where James Shannon is the head pastor. Courtesy of Peoples Community Church website.

“One thing that stands out for me is the way other churches in the area of community work and community organizations. The way they reach out to him and have included our church and him in so many activities,” she said. 

Shannon said that he is excited to serve the community and help implement new ideas to ensure a better future for all students.  

“I would like to see the Glenbard mission carried out to its full extent, as a school board member. They have done a great job in coming up with goals and learning programs,” he said. “So I would like to be a part of the implementation of that mission. And that’s what I see as a role for me. And that’s been a role for me my whole life.”