Second equity town hall sees low attendance
April 19, 2017
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Rev. Dr. Patricia Efiom hosted the second of five town halls at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center on Tuesday night to discuss issues of access, equity and empowerment in Evanston.
“A big part of my job is to work inside of the city to break down some of the historical racism that exists in the city and the racism that exists in the policies,” Efiom said to a crowd of about 15 people. “It’s a lot of internal training of staff and getting them to understand what equity is.”
Efiom started the discussion by outlining her plan to gain the community’s input on a potential proposal to City Council regarding equity. Though there is no such plan currently in place, Efiom said she’d like to have a proposal ready in June.
The first town hall, held at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, had about 25 people in attendance. Evanston resident Alyce Barry told The Daily she was “dismayed” by the low turnout for both meetings.
“I don’t know why there aren’t more people here,” she said. “I was expecting this to be a huge meeting, because I think it’s the people in this community who need equity and empowerment more than most of the rest of Evanston. I’m sad more people didn’t come.”
Barry told The Daily she wasn’t sure how the town hall was promoted, but said that may have been a factor in the low attendance.
On Tuesday, residents discussed the need to make government more accessible to every citizen. Efiom said she planned to send a survey out to get input for her proposal to City
Council, but the survey has not yet been written. She added that she would work to ensure the upcoming survey was accessible to everyone.
“I’m really tired of hearing, ‘Oh, everyone has access to a computer,’” she said. “That’s simply not true. I don’t want to hear that. I’m going to work to make everything as accessible as possible.”
Efiom was appointed in February as Evanston’s first equity and empowerment coordinator, a new position that focuses on equity in the city. Though she said she thinks the city is committed to fighting for equity, Efiom currently has no staff and no budget.
Cicely Fleming, who was recently elected 9th Ward alderman, was present at both Monday and Tuesday’s town halls. On Tuesday, she addressed potential challenges Efiom may face in her new position.
“Is this another window-dressing opportunity for us to all come together and say we’re a great city and then we check the box and get another award, or is this is an actual substantive position?” Fleming said.
Toward the end of the discussion, Efiom talked about her own experience fighting for equity, namely watching her biracial grandchildren grow up in a challenging environment.
“This is not a joke to me,” she said. “My grandson is 14, and to watch him struggle in the ways that he does in Bloomington, Indiana, it’s why I do what I do. I want you to understand that I have lived this life, and I’m going to fight for change.”
There will be three more town halls: one on Wednesday at the Civic Center at 1 p.m., one on April 25 at 1:30 p.m. in the Evanston Public Library and a final one on April 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Levy Senior Center.