Evanston groups rally against racism

Stephanie Kelly, Reporter

Signs and honking cars crowded Ridge Avenue on Friday as the YWCA Evanston/North Shore held its third annual Stand Against Racism.

Individuals, school organizations, churches and other groups from around the area met at about 1 p.m. along Church Street, Ridge Avenue, McCormick Boulevard, Howard Street and Isabella Street. People stood next to the streets, waving signs and cheering while cars drove past. After, participants read a pledge, renewing their devotion to defeat racism.

“It’s an opportunity for communities to show the various ways that they are standing against racism,” said Eileen Hogan Heineman, director of the YWCA’s racial justice program.

Heineman said Stand Against Racism saw increasing participation in its first two years. The event drew about 2,000 participants in its first year and 2,200 the second year. Heineman said she hopes the cause will extend to include Skokie participants in the future in addition to the usual Evanston and Wilmette attendees.

“We understand that there’s power in numbers,” she said.

Stephanie Quan attended the event as a member of the Second Baptist Church. Quan said as a child, she grew up in a culture where she could interact with individuals of all races. She said she has focused on the importance of equality her entire life.

“That’s the way I was raised, and that’s the way the world is, so let’s get on board, folks,” she said.

Heineman said she is looking forward to a new exhibit on race this year at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, which she said would make people more aware of racial issues. She also said people already involved in the Stand Against Racism would spread the word to increase participation next year.

Word of mouth also drew Northwestern’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access to become involved this year. Elizabeth Brasher, the office’s program assistant, is also involved with the YWCA. When she started working at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, Brasher rallied her colleagues around the cause.

“I made them aware of it, and of course they were eager to get involved,” Brasher said.

Schools also attended the rally on Friday. Heineman said although attendance from students at Evanston Township High School is optional, the high school’s attendance doubled this year.

Although she understands the event is only a “symbolic part” of standing against racism, Heineman said she wants the event to keep the issue on people’s minds.

“What we really want is for all of these people to be thinking about how do they stand against racism every day,” Heineman said. “It’s good for people to know that they’re not doing this hard work alone.”

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