Organization works toward peace in Evanston

Alex Kane Rudansky

Eleanor Jo Rodger wants to hear your voice.

The acting executive director and co-founder of PeaceAble Cities Evanston is working in collaboration with the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., to host a forum next week about the creation of a completely peaceable city by 2020.

The Nov. 20 event will be an intergenerational conversation where residents can share their concerns about the community and visions of a peaceable city, she said.

“Everyone who lives in Evanston has a unique experience of what it is to live (here),” said Rodger, also a chaplain for the Evanston Police Department. “For some that’s a good experience, and for others it’s a challenging experience. We want to hear it all and work from there to fix it.”

Rodger chose the library as the location of the event because of the library’s role as a community facilitator, she said.

Library Director Mary Johns said the library is an ideal place for this type of conversation because it fosters the exchange of ideas in a neutral manner while representing the diversity of the community.

The year-old PeaceAble Cities Evanston is not looking to become a new community service provider, Rodger said. The organization is working to support and publicize existing community services and resources while assessing what services are still needed in the city, she said.

PeaceAble Cities Evanston is taking form just as crime rates in Evanston are declining. Rates of robbery, theft and arson have all decreased by more than 20 percent within the past year, according to an EPD crime index report. This decrease is in line with the main goal of PeaceAble Cities Evanston, which is to create a community of peace and nonviolence, said EPD officer Loyce Spells, who is also a crime prevention specialist.

Both Rodger and Spells emphasized the organization’s goal of establishing a new “we” for the community.

“We need to tear down the things that have divided us,” said Spells, also a founding board member of PeaceAble Cities Evanston. “If it happens in Evanston, it happened to you.”

The organization is not working to create a new utopian community, Rodger said. Rather, the goal is to make a utopia out of the existing situation and not to work exclusively with those who already agree that change is needed, she said.

“People say you can’t eliminate violence,” Rodger said. “In response, I ask, how much is okay? One battered spouse a week, a month or a year?”

Rodger said she believes Evanston’s size and set of values make it the ideal place to work toward complete peace. Her ultimate goal is to make violence obsolete in Evanston and create a city of respect, kindness and courtesy, she said.

“There is a lack of peace in some people’s experience living in Evanston,” Rodger said. “Nobody should wake up in the morning afraid or worrying whether or not they will be treated respectfully.”

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