If you ask Oak Parkers why they moved here or choose to stay, they’ll often say they value the racial diversity and progressive community. Our village’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” statement reflects these values.
Several times, our village stepped up with bold actions — such as the 1968 Fair Housing Ordinance, the 1997 Domestic Partnership Registry for LGBT couples, and the 2017 Welcoming Village ordinance to protect immigrants and Muslims.
But we’ve also been complacent while inequalities persist. Our schools face opportunity gaps, residents struggle with housing affordability, there’s hidden hunger and homelessness, racial profiling in policing persists, and women and minority-owned businesses struggle.
Municipalities around the country have adopted racial equity policies to systematically approach equity and inclusion. They result in more accessible and affordable services, increased workforce diversity, inclusive contracting and procurement, expanded civic engagement and many other community benefits.
Professionally, I work for a national racial justice organization and provide equity consulting to government agencies, school districts, philanthropic organizations and social justice organizations around the country. Four generations of my family have called Oak Park home and I’d love to see us truly lead on racial and social justice.
Four years ago, our Community Relations Commission (CRC) recommended that the village trustees adopt a “Governing for Racial Equity” model. Unfortunately, a majority of the trustees often stalled or obstructed efforts. Last summer, six CRC members resigned together out of frustration. We still have no racial equity policy or comprehensive plan.
Now there’s an opportunity to move forward. Three trustee candidates — Juanta Griffin, Anthony Clark and Chibuike Enyia — backed by a new community formation called Represent Oak Park, are ready to bring capable and committed leadership.
Juanta has spearheaded local school equity initiatives with the PTO Diversity Committee. She’s our public library’s Multicultural Coordinator with a history of community engagement. An Oak Park renter, she grew up in Austin and understands the needs of working people and youth.
Anthony, an admired OPRF teacher, has worked with equity organizations to help drive District 200’s efforts to adopt and implement a new Racial Equity Policy. He’s all about action — whether fundraising for families in need, organizing a vigil for a young life lost to gun violence, speaking out against local hate crimes, helping young people find work or supporting small businesses.
Chibuike, the son of Nigerian immigrants and a father and business owner, is also an active community volunteer, serving on Irving School’s Diversity Committee and mentoring youth. He listens acutely, with a deep commitment to make lives better for all Oak Park residents.
Together, they have solid proposals for expanding community engagement, advancing a Race and Social Justice Initiative, and paying attention to renters and those struggling to afford to live here.
The “Represent Oak Park” candidates represent the best of us, with proven community experience and deep commitment to the values we hold dear.
I urge you to elect these leaders to represent and uplift our entire community.
Terry Keleher, Oak Park