Three for economic equity

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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It is disappointing to see that Wednesday Journal has chosen to endorse candidates that do not adequately represent Oak Park values. Oak Park is special because of its tradition of prioritizing diversity, inclusion and equity. Historically, the village has taken radical action to promote racial and economic inclusion. We are in danger of ending that legacy. 

In this era of growing xenophobia and racism, now is not the time to sit on the sidelines. We must elect people who will be leaders on issues of equity and inclusion. Diversity is about real representation, not tokenism, like adding one person of color to the board who may or may not represent the interests of their community, for example. The costs of tokenism are high and include the perpetuation of racism and bias. 

The affordability of living in Oak Park is also a concern. It is becoming increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income families to remain in the village. If this trend continues, we will lose our diversity and our identity as a supportive and welcoming community for all people. 

The only candidates who are centering racial and economic equity in their campaigns are Arti Walker-Peddakotla, Tim Thomas and Christian Harris. All three are people of color with progressive values, and all have experience being a renter or low-income in Oak Park. All three also have records of leading on equity and inclusion. 

Arti is a national leader on veterans' issues and a local leader on equity, well-known in that circle of families and advocates. Christian is already a leader on youth equity issues and at the homeless coalition and other issues, and we don't need to wait to watch him grow because he certainly has not waited. Tim has led local justice work, such as organizing an event to help low-income Oak Parkers fix their taillights to avoid tickets, and has a long history of working with elected officials like Don Harmon to pass legislation. 

Other candidates may make the promise of leading on equity, but these three candidates are way out in front and already leading the way toward an Oak Park that works for all of us. 

For too long our board has been majority white, business-focused men who have put the interests of corporations, big developers and other elites over the needs of the village. We need leadership that reflects the values and the people of Oak Park, not more of the same. 

Mary Dungy-Akenji

Member of the People's Lobby Oak Park

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Reader Comments

17 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Alice Wellington  

Posted: March 29th, 2019 9:32 AM

Ramona Lopez - welcome to the identity politics. Being judged on the content of one's character is so last century!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: March 28th, 2019 4:34 PM

@ Romona lopez: You may be a woman of color. You may not want to be judged by your last name, ethnicity, strong accent, color of skin gender. However the people of petty power have determined you do not count. The date and time and location of your Oak Park Re Education and Attitude Adjustment Camp will be mailed to you. Bring food for 5 days.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: March 28th, 2019 4:01 PM

Let me get this straight. As a woman of color, I don't want to be judged based on my last name, ethnicity, strong accent, color of my skin, gender, etc like most. Now we have candidates who want us to vote for them because of their gender, ethnicity, color of their skin, sexual orientation, etc. It appears the more boxes you can check off of the "victimhood" survey, the more attractive you become as a candidate.

Mary Dungy  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 6:22 PM

I apologize to the Wednesday Journal's endorsed candidates for my letter to the editor accusing the Journal of tokenism. The letter caused pain and harm to at least one candidate, Cory Wesley, and his family. I acknowledge and apologize, along with The People's Lobby, for the pain and harm we caused.

Marty Bernstein  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 11:22 AM

This opinion letter seems to show that the writer has not listened to Cory Wesley, read his positions or in any other way attempted to educate herself about Cory. If she did she would realize how qualified Cory is to be a village board member and able to represent all interests as well as or better than other candidate.

Les Golden  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 9:55 AM

Americans from India have dark skin. They have distinctive accents. Why are there no screams of equity from those who live in OP? What about the Chinese who live here? They look different, too. Why are they not screaming about equity? And what does equity mean, anyway? Will someone define that please and show how OPRFHS and OP in general lacks equity. Please give examples.

Jack Davidson  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 9:18 AM

This is racism, folks.

Les Golden  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 9:15 AM

Equity? Kimberly M. Foxx is the first African American woman to lead the Cook County State's Attorney's Office ?" the second largest prosecutor's office in the country. Kim took office on December 1, 2016 with a vision for transforming the Cook County State's Attorney's Office into a fairer, more forward-thinking agency focused on rebuilding the public trust, promoting transparency, and being proactive in making all communities safe.

Amanda Turnbull from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 8:57 AM

I'm not sure what this opinion hopes to accomplish aside from using questionable tactics to promote the candidates endorsed by the people's lobby of oak park. It's disgusting to assert that Cory Wesley was endorsed by the Wednesday Journal because of tokenism, or that he is somehow less qualified because of the Journal's choice. I am 100% confident that Cory will be a leader for equity, diversity, and inclusion. And Mary should take a closer look at the candidates she says are the "only candidates who are centering racial and economic equity in their campaigns." Because one of them said during a candidate forum last week that she was "the only candidate running on a racial equity platform." Which is the moment she lost my vote. Personally, I'll be voting for Wesley and Harris, possibly Thomas as well. But I'm looking for candidates who are going to work with others to make great strides for the village. And one final "shame on you" Mary for making assumptions you have no way of supporting just so you could blast out some cheap PR.

Jameel Rafia  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 7:26 AM

Mary Dungy-Akenji; you said "Historically, the village has taken radical action to promote racial and economic inclusion. We are in danger of ending that legacy."  Can you Tell me what radical actions this oak park has taking to promote racial inclusiveness.? I mean it it sounds good as a sells pitch, and to outsiders it would appear oak park is all what you mentioned, however as a resident I dont see it nor do I feel it; So perhaps; Mary Dungy-Akenji you can direct me, a black man; to where I can find this utopia you speak of. Bpp

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 27th, 2019 12:37 AM

Edwin: You wrote: "We need elected officials who are intelligent, competent, articulate, level headed, reasonable, prudent and accomplished." That basically describes Cory Wesley.

Edwin Haag  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 11:54 PM

Tim Thomas did not organize the event to fix broken tail lights for low income residents. He was there and helped out that day, but that event was organized and sponsored by the Democratic Socialist of America. If you go to this link, you will see they are essentially all the manpower behind his campaign. Sorry, but I can't vote for a committed socialist. Also, if anyone take a gander at the CPD adult arrest records, they will discover Mary Akenji was arrested on 11/2/2015 for criminal trespassing and on 1/24/2017 for obstruction of traffic by a non motorist. She is also the campaign committee chair for Tim Thomas. In short, she is a social justice warrior activist. We don't need radical activists in elected positions. We need elected officials who are intelligent, competent, articulate, level headed, reasonable, prudent and accomplished. I don't think having experience as a "renter" should leapfrog a candidate to the front of the pack.

Dori Bernstein  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 11:26 PM

Why is an outside agency involved in the Oak Park Trustee election? The People's Lobby is a Chicago based PAC ( The last donor listed is Way to Win, which donated $50,000. I find it outrageous that an outside "progressive" organization came to Oak Park and attacked a candidate based on his race. This is not the kind of hostile campaigning we should have. The candidates that are backed by this PAC should take action to stop their PAC from this type of campaign.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 10:30 PM

I stand with you Mechelle and Cory as well. If Ms. Dungy-Akenji is speaking for the People's Lobby of Oak Park, then she and they are an utter disgrace. They remind me of the those who arise in every generation - cultural cleansers. These folks want to ensure the culture is pure and righteous all according to their definition. And those who don't exactly fit into their narrative - such as Cory - are insulted, slandered, and shamed.These folk can only make themselves look big by trying to make other's look small.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 9:54 PM

We voters SURELY must elect leaders who support equity and inclusion. And the key way to achieve that is to support making this community more affordable so that the diverse population who already live here don't continue to be priced out while some others who want to move here can (we're limited by the amount of housing stock). I do not believe AT ALL that the slate presented by this letter writer will achieve her stated goals.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 8:46 PM

Mechelle, you are correct. To assume that Cory was endorsed through tokenism is probably the most ignorant insult I have seen in this campaign. The writer is desperate, so she must attack. This is not who we are as Oak Parkers. She would have done more for her candidates if she had remained silent.

Mechelle Wesley  

Posted: March 26th, 2019 7:25 PM

So first of all, I find this "opinion article" extremely offensive. To imply that Cory Wesley received his endorsement due to tokenism is a huge slap in the face to his character, intelligence, ability, and his race. For this white lady to say in a political race with four black male candidates, that only two of them are advocates for racial equity is preposterous!!!! Cory's entire campaign is centered around keeping the equity, diversity, and inclusion in Oak Park. He does not have to go around announcing his blackness and fight for racial equity at every turn because he lives it everyday, as does his black wife and black children. He fights for racial equity and inclusion everyday and has done so his whole life in his neighborhood, in his profession, in his very existence! While I am not surprised at this level of attack on his person, this is a new low. I understand the desperation of those who never expected him to get this far. Who doubted his ability to write his own material, market his campaign, find solutions and defend his platform without an army behind him. Why they felt this way is another question. However, despite the HATE, and labels and lies, he has been able to gain endorsements and support on his own merits because his message resonates across multiple groups across this village. So contrary to what this author thinks, you don't speak for everybody. There are black homeowners in this village too and they are not just content to sit back and do nothing. Wanting sustainable taxes does not make them any less progressive, or committed to equity and inclusion than anyone else. Coming from the west side of Chicago we know how unique the community of Oak Park is and how hard is is for minorities to buy into this village. That is why he is fighting. You don't get to tell his story!

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