It was a disheartening but not surprising way to start a new year in Oak Park, America.

A brick wrapped in a racist message was hurled — and notably repelled — at the front door of Live Café, the coffee shop and gathering space on Oak Park Avenue. 

Live Café, pre-pandemic Oak Park’s most actively, consciously diverse retail space, is a Black, woman-owned business. It is also serving this election season as the headquarters for the slate of three Black candidates running for Oak Park’s village board. The message on the brick was “No n—–s on the ballot.”

This brick was clearly delivered with intent along with hate, fear and ignorance. Oak Park police continue to investigate the incident.

The response to this attack on Live Café, Reesheda Graham-Washington its owner, and the candidates for office, was swift and energized. From a press conference outside the cafe the morning after the crime to a street-closing vigil that same evening, thousands have shown their support. The incident drew wide news coverage both locally and on Chicago TV news programs. 

Graham-Washington, one of several speakers at the vigil, was typically powerful and eloquent. On issues of equity and systemic racism, of the virulence of racism in this community and in our country, Graham-Washington overflows with insight. She is one of Oak Park’s most critical voices. 

The cafe, closed for a time during the pandemic, will reopen for take-out very soon. Supporting this voice and this space is essential to Oak Park’s forward progress.

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