This past summer, the village boards of Maywood and River Forest each unanimously approved the Twin Villages Covenant, which commits the neighboring suburbs “to the principles of humanity, equity and inclusion,” according to a draft of the document. “The covenant will guide the overarching spirit of our distinct towns to think as one and to interact in more collaborative ways.”
On Oct. 17, community members and elected officials from both suburbs gathered at Maywood Fine Arts, a nonprofit arts organization in Maywood, to talk about what that Covenant looks like in practice.
Roughly 30 people were broken into groups of around five or six each to brainstorm ideas for collaboration and how the Covenant can become reality. The list of programmatic possibilities seemed endless — from a Broadway-style musical produced by members of both communities to joint Juneteenth celebrations to parades in honor of war casualties that would process through both villages.
“I like the concept of examining our presuppositions always,” said River Forest resident Johann Buis. “Tied to that is humility — mutual humility. As somebody once said, ‘Think more highly of someone else than yourself.'”
Buis and others said that for the Covenant to work in practice, the relationship between the suburbs that it helps build must be based on honest and open communication, transparency and democratic (“coming together as friends and neighbors, not based on a hierarchy”).
Erika Bachner, the River Forest trustee, worked on the Covenant with Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones, who conceived of the initiative over the summer in the wake of civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
The local officials said Saturday that getting buy-in from residents in the community will be critical to its success.
“Although I spearheaded this, this is not something I want ownership over,” Jones said. “What will make this sustainable is us getting buy-in.”
Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins and River Forest Mayor Cathy Adduci were both in attendance and expressed enthusiasm for the Covenant.
“This is a historic moment for River Forest,” Adduci said. “We’re really excited.”
Shakan Kirksie, an Oak Park and River Forest special education teacher who grew up in Maywood with Trustee Jones, her younger brother, said that the Covenant will allow both villages to build some mutuality after years of alienation.
“We went to church in Forest Park, but even just driving through you always felt uneasy coming through [River Forest] and you shouldn’t feel like that,” said Kirksie, who now lives in La Grange. “There’s so much that can go on between the two communities.”
Maywood resident Dan Perkins, a member of the village’s Chamber of Commerce who has been working with Bachner and Jones to flesh out the Covenant, drew a tentative outline of how the Covenant might be institutionalized.
He said each village would create a task force responsible for developing a preliminary list of ideas and concepts. Those task forces would then merge into a joint task force that would hone in on more concrete and final ideas for collaboration The task forces would present to the village boards of Maywood and River Forest from time to time, he said.
“The trustees of River Forest and Maywood would hear the concepts, review the concepts and ultimately, with the necessary revisions, support those initiatives going forward,” Perkins said.