A new organization has emerged in Oak Park and is urging women of color to run for various boards up for grabs in the municipal election scheduled for April 2.

Arti Walker-Peddakotla created the group Oak Park for Racial Equity to get more voices of women of color into positions of power.

Walker-Peddakotla is running for one of three open seats on the Oak Park Board of Trustees – she faces 10 opponents in that race. She said a lot of women of color don’t run because they don’t have a support system.

“We don’t have a huge network of people who are influential at a higher level,” she told Wednesday Journal.

Her group held a ballot petition signature signing party at Live Cafe on Nov. 30. Five candidates for local office – Walker-Peddakotla; Cheree Moore for Oak Park Elementary School District 97; Gina Harris for Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200; Erika Bachner for River Forest trustee; and Virginia Bloom-Scheirer, Oak Park Library Board – attended the signature-gathering event. Jung Kim, another District 97 candidate connected to the group could not attend the event.

Bloom-Scheirer said in an interview at the event that all of the Oak Park for Racial Equity candidates have different backgrounds but have the shared objective of getting women of color on boards.

“We all have a goal we’d like to see reached, and having a government that looks like the population is a way to do that,” Bloom-Scheirer said.

If elected, she said she wants to help cultivate an environment that is welcoming to all library patrons.

Bachner said she was motivated to run in part because of marginalized people targeted in River Forest by anti-Semitic statements. She also wants to focus on affordable housing in the village and “see if it makes sense in River Forest.”

Bachner is not officially connected to the group but said she will assist them with their initiatives and efforts to get candidates in office.

Moore, who works as a recruiter and talent acquisition manager, said she’s running for the District 97 board in part to help better engage families of color in the conversation.

“The district can do a better job of meeting people where they are,” she said.

Working parents face barriers to getting involved, and she hopes to use technology to help include them in school board decisions.

“I want to make sure that regardless of race, you’re given what you need for students to be successful,” Moore added.

Harris, who is running for the District 200 board, said she was planning on running prior to learning of Oak Park for Racial Equity; the topic of equity is among her top priorities.

She is a teacher at Emerson Elementary School in Maywood and a restorative practices facilitator there and at other schools. She wants to bring more student voices into the conversation at District 200, she said.

Harris also wants to focus on how all the village’s boards are “connecting and aligning,” she said.

“How do we grow what the community needs and students need and do it in a responsible way?” she said, noting that the tax burden in Oak Park is of great concern to many families.

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