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March 21, 2018

2/21/2018 5:02:00 PM
Room for a View: Do 'Black Lives (Really) Matter' in Evanston?
By Peggy Tarr

It’s February, Black History Month in the U.S.A, a federally proclaimed month to reflect on the history, struggles, and contributions of black people.

“Black people have always been America’s wilderness in search of a promised land.” (Cornel West, 1953-; African American; 1953) philosopher, political activist, social critic, author; “Nihilism in America,” Race Matters, 1993)

For several months, residents in Evanston’s 2nd Ward (and beyond) have voiced objections to the proposed HOW (Housing Opportunity for Women) 16-unit project in their neighborhood.  Objectors feel that this project was approved for their neighborhood because it will be located on a minority/predominantly black street and not on a predominantly “white” street in Evanston.  Really?

Residents in the aforementioned ward (and beyond) have also raised questions about/objections to the rezoning of a Dempster/Hartrey Street building for an Evanston Township High School (ETHS) alternative school in their neighborhood that they allege was rezoned by the City of Evanston without complying with Evanston’s Zoning Code (e.g., allegations that the City violated the Open Meetings Act by not notifying residents within 500 feet of the building of a meeting on the proposed rezoning).  Although some say the rezoning was through a “text amendment,” others say it was through a “map amendment.”  According to a City of Evanston Community Development staff’s communication, both amendments include “notices sent to owners within 500 feet of the property.”  (see City Code:6-3-4-6. Procedure for Review and Decision of Proposed Amendments)  I was told that the City posted a notification of the text amendment meeting in the Chicago Sun Times in October 2017.  Really?  The Evanston Review does have a “legal notices” section.

When I spoke to my 4th Ward alderman about concerns about the school, he commented on how the students would be kids from the neighborhood.  Really?  Since the surrounding neighborhood is predominantly minority/black, is the assumption that the school will only house minority/black kids?  Residents ask: Will minority (black and Latino) students make up the majority population of the school? Will the ETHS Alternative School students come from other areas/communities?  Is this alternative school another way of discriminating against minority students by removing them from the main high-school campus?

Residents in the area of the HOW project and the ETHS Alternative School (and beyond) complain/lament that these two projects further marginalize the Second Ward’s minority neighborhood and that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears as far as their 2nd Ward alderman and the Evanston NAACP are concerned.  Really?  Do “Black Lives (Really) Matter” in Evanston?  No matter what, people should speak out against what they perceive as discrimination/marginalization/racism.

“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything... that smacks of discrimination or slander.” (Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955; African American; U.S. educator and civil rights leader; “Certain Unalienable Rights,” What the Negro Wants, edited by Rayford W. Logan 1944)

“Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty…Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won…(James Weldon Johnson, 1871-1938; African American; U.S. poet and essayist, author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. First black to occupy top Executive Secretary post of the NAACP. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” became known as the Negro National Anthem. 

Post script: It is unfortunate that the Black Evanstonian History Makers Up Close meet-and-greet evening with former mayor Lorraine H. Morton, former City of Evanston Council member Delores Holmes, and entrepreneur/activist Hecky Powell and others” was held at the same time as the City of Evanston committee(s) and council meetings.  This prevented City Council members and staff as well as some residents from attending.


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