Something remarkable and wonderful is being crafted on the second floor of Euclid Avenue Methodist Church in Oak Park. The Echo Center is a collective of local non-profits doing the work of equity in this village. They are sharing space provided by the “radically inclusive” congregation at Euclid Avenue.

But it is not the collaboration among non-profits that is most notable here, though it is always welcome. It is not simply the focus on equity though that, too, is vital.

The singular distinction, one so long overdue that most of us did not even recognize it was missing, is that the Echo Center is a space created and led by people of color. 

Let it sink in. 

Fifty years into the Oak Park experiment in racial integration there is now a common space in this community where the agenda is being set by people of color, specifically African Americans. That is radically inclusive.

This is a village that has long talked strong about its openness but has village boards that traditionally tilt heavily white; where the high school tinkered for decades around the edges of racial equity; that two decades ago found an alternative buyer to keep a black congregation from buying a landmark church in the center of town; that has, for any number of reasons, lacked a black power structure. 

Now a coalition of vital non-profits helmed by people of color will share space, build community and welcome all of us to join in the work — the satisfaction and the frustration of that work — to make Oak Park more truly welcoming, more determinedly focused on facing up to falling short.

Congratulations to the Echo Theater Collective, One Earth Film Festival, Race Conscious Dialogues, Revolutionary Oak Park Youth Action League, Oak Park Call to Action, Ase Productions, Reparations Working Group of Euclid Avenue UMC, Live Café, Black Residents of Oak Park and Workout Warriors as early members of this project.

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