Participants find personal connection during fifth annual ‘Stand Against Racism’ march


Keshia Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

People line the sidewalks at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Church Street for the annual “Stand Against Racism” action.

Keshia Johnson, Reporter

Thousands of people joined YWCA Evanston/North Shore in a demonstration to fight racism on Friday, an event that some locals said carried particular weight in light of three homicides of black men in the city’s area during this year alone.

Event participants, including police officers, local school teachers and members of the Northwestern community filled the sidewalks at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Church Street with orange signs asking people to “Stand Against Racism.” Last year’s event in Evanston drew about 10,000 people, and YWCA officials estimated a similar turnout this year.

University Police officer Lisa Jackson, a first time participant, said she was “touched” by the event because of the support the community showed her as a black female police officer. Jackson said people seemed more willing to approach her and engage in dialogue about race than when she began working as an officer in Evanston more than a decade ago.

“I’ve been working here for approximately 12 years, and I can feel the shift in a positive direction … not only in my department but in the University as a whole,” Jackson said.

Eileen Heineman, co-director of the Racial Justice Program at YWCA Evanston/North Shore, said this is a national event that is held across the country by local chapters of YWCA, allowing participants to take initiative to raise awareness about racism.

“All across the country today, in many sorts of ways, people will be standing outside, hearing speakers, doing programs,” Heineman said. “It’s an effort to unite us in saying we know racism still exists.”

Heineman noted that people can collectively work together to help transform inequity. This was the fifth year that YWCA Evanston/North Shore participated in the initiative, she added.

The event is an opportunity for people to realize they are not alone in working to raise awareness about racism, Heineman said.

“It gives the young people from Northwestern and the people who have been doing it for 50 years (the opportunity to) look down the street and say, there’s a lot of us trying to do this and it gives us some hope,” she said.

Njoki Kamau, associate director at the Women’s Center at NU, said this was her second time attending the event. Last year, she recalled, attendees stood on the intersection of Sheridan Road and Foster Street without signs, but this year she said she came more prepared.

Kamau said she was pleased to see many of her colleagues take time out of their days to come support the cause.

“It just gives me joy just to know that there are that many people at least who are aware and who would take time from their very busy schedules to come to do something like this,” she said. “I felt my community from Northwestern, it was a great moment.”

Jackson said participating in the event made her feel supported by the Evanston community in that people were not only acknowledging that racism still exists but were actively taking a stand against it.

“(The event) made me reflect on the pain that I experienced as a black female officer and the resilience that I have,” Jackson said. “It shows that we not only acknowledge racism but that we are taking a stand against racism.”

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