When the mayor of this small, overwhelmingly white town said there weren't enough blacks to justify a Martin Luther King holiday, he was faced with a minority that wasn't so silent.
Blacks in neighboring Kankakee boycotted Bradley businesses. Now, merchants are worried and village officials are offering an apology and a holiday.But the holiday would leave village offices open, and blacks say that is not enough.
"I think they are sincere and we are making progress," said the Rev. William Copeland, a leader in Kankakee's black community. "But we're not there yet."
Bradley Mayor Kenneth Hayes may not have realized just how close Kankakee was when he rejected the idea of a holiday on King's birthday, which falls on Jan. 15 but is being observed on Jan. 21.
"Martin Luther King was a great man for the black people. . . . We have five or six blacks in Bradley. Why should we close down services for the other 11,995?" he told the Kankakee Daily Journal.
Just across the town line, some 10,000 blacks live in Kankakee, a city 50 miles south of Chicago with a population of about 32,000. Some of them shop in Bradley.
At least 2,000 people - black and white - have pledged not to cross that line in protest against the mayor's remarks, Copeland said.
Bradley leaders met with Copeland and other black ministers Thursday. They offered an unsigned apology from Hayes, hospitalized in Chicago for lung surgery, and a resolution proclaiming a King holiday but leaving village offices open.