Evanston residents stand against racism

 More than 2,000 Evanston residents participated in the second annual Stand Against Racism on Friday.

Jia You/Daily Senior Staffer

More than 2,000 Evanston residents participated in the second annual Stand Against Racism on Friday.

Jia You, City Editor

More than 2,000 people joined millions nationwide to pledge to fight racism Friday afternoon in Evanston.

The YWCA Evanston/North Shore organized the annual Stand Against Racism for the second year to raise awareness for racial inequality. About 40 other Evanston organizations, including the city, Evanston Township High School and the Evanston Community Foundation, participated in the activity.

Eileen Heineman, the YWCA’s racial justice program manager, told The Daily after the event the Evanston branch joined the national movement to demonstrate community solidarity against racial prejudice.

“What we are trying to help people understand is that first of all, nobody is in this alone,” Heineman said. “And part of it is also just to say that we know racism exists. … We want to acknowledge that, and we want to say that we’re going to keep standing against racism until we don’t need to do it any more.”

Participants lined the sidewalks of Ridge Avenue and Church Street shortly after 12:30 p.m., holding signs and cheering at passing cars. At 12:50 p.m., they read out a pledge to eliminate racism together, saying, “I take this pledge, fully aware that the struggle to overcome and eliminate racism will not end with a mere pledge, but calls for an ongoing transformation within myself and society.”

About 50 people — including state Rep. Robyn Gabel, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Ald. Jane Grover (7th) — gathered outside the YWCA, 1215 Church St., during the stand.

“You can’t not be part of this,” Grover said. “Every conversation we have about race is a step forward.”

The city has hosted a series of race dialogues since last fall to address institutional racism in the community. The city’s Human Relations Commission is discussing the next steps in these conversations, Grover said.

Burgwell Howard, NU’s assistant vice president for student engagement, also participated. Howard said the University has worked on a number of initiatives to promote diversity on campus, such as proposing to add a diversity requirement to curriculum.

“This is a process,” Howard said. “We all need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Although the stand itself is a symbolic event, it demonstrates the community’s determination to fight racism, Heineman said.

“I know standing on the sidewalk for 15 minutes is not going to eliminate racism,” she said. “But standing on the sidewalk for 15 (minutes) with over 2,000 other people is going to say eliminating racism is something we’re all working for.”