was at Oak Park Village Hall Monday night for the biennial “ceremonial” board meeting, held to swear in new board members and thank old ones for their service.

Since 1973, three years before I moved to Oak Park, this has been an opportunity for the new board to affirm our Village Diversity Statement. As the residents and leadership of the village became more inclusive and diverse, this statement was revised to intentionally include the village’s commitment to welcoming all and including them in the fabric of our community. This act of affirmation was no big deal for us but it resonated with those who were being named. It always made me proud to be an Oak Parker. 

This past two years has been the first time in decades without a person of color, LGBTQ person and only one female board member. 

Over these two years, residents of Oak Park and our other village governments have made real progress toward the inclusion and equity, which were always implied by our Diversity Statement. Our Community Relations Commission saw this and prepared an updated Diversity Statement 18 months ago to recognize Oak Park’s growing awareness of ongoing issues of exclusion and unwelcome. Diversity is not enough. Inclusion and equity must be a part of our commitment as a village. 

Over the past year the CRC has called at the board meetings for the board to consider the issue of equity. The village administration and leadership stonewalled all efforts to bring this to the board for consideration (too busy with other issues, too tone-deaf to notice this was the key issue over the past year). They then said this could not be approved at this time and actually promised to “rehash” the work of the CRC. 

This is what happens when the whole community has not had representation on the board. This is why the “no” votes to the current statement were so important.

All those who can, should attend the special meeting of Community Relations Commission, May 15, 7 p.m., Room 101, village hall, to show your support for inclusion and equity. Let’s not go backward on our commitment to welcome all.

Teresa Powell is a former Oak Park village clerk.

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