It is disappointing to see that Wednesday Journal has chosen to endorse candidates that do not adequately represent Oak Park values. Oak Park is special because of its tradition of prioritizing diversity, inclusion and equity. Historically, the village has taken radical action to promote racial and economic inclusion. We are in danger of ending that legacy. 

In this era of growing xenophobia and racism, now is not the time to sit on the sidelines. We must elect people who will be leaders on issues of equity and inclusion. Diversity is about real representation, not tokenism, like adding one person of color to the board who may or may not represent the interests of their community, for example. The costs of tokenism are high and include the perpetuation of racism and bias. 

The affordability of living in Oak Park is also a concern. It is becoming increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income families to remain in the village. If this trend continues, we will lose our diversity and our identity as a supportive and welcoming community for all people. 

The only candidates who are centering racial and economic equity in their campaigns are Arti Walker-Peddakotla, Tim Thomas and Christian Harris. All three are people of color with progressive values, and all have experience being a renter or low-income in Oak Park. All three also have records of leading on equity and inclusion. 

Arti is a national leader on veterans’ issues and a local leader on equity, well-known in that circle of families and advocates. Christian is already a leader on youth equity issues and at the homeless coalition and other issues, and we don’t need to wait to watch him grow because he certainly has not waited. Tim has led local justice work, such as organizing an event to help low-income Oak Parkers fix their taillights to avoid tickets, and has a long history of working with elected officials like Don Harmon to pass legislation. 

Other candidates may make the promise of leading on equity, but these three candidates are way out in front and already leading the way toward an Oak Park that works for all of us. 

For too long our board has been majority white, business-focused men who have put the interests of corporations, big developers and other elites over the needs of the village. We need leadership that reflects the values and the people of Oak Park, not more of the same. 

Mary Dungy-Akenji

Member of the People’s Lobby Oak Park

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