Some ETHS students notice dip in antiracist activism, but continue to fight


Daily file photo by Sneha Dey

Evanston Township High School. Evanston Township High School will adopt a block schedule with no semester exams and detentions, tardies and social probation will be cleared from student records by August.

Laya Neelakandan, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Evanston Township High School students are continuing to educate the Evanston community and press on racial equity in the city, even as they say the momentum behind last summer’s wave of antiracism action has fizzled.

Since the police killing of George Floyd last spring, ETHS senior Mika Parisien has been working as a board member of both Students Organized Against Racism and Evanston Fight for Black Lives.

Through these organizations, Parisien is leading equity workshops to discuss antiracism, at her school and at other Evanston schools. EFBL has also met with City Council, organized protests and redistributed donations through a mutual aid fund.

“In Evanston, the people who are organizing and carrying this movement are young people, and I want to make that super clear,” Parisien said. “Looking back at everything I’ve been able to do, it shows young people have a lot of power to make the change they want to see in their communities.”

Members of Evanston Fight for Black Lives at a September fundraiser event following the shooting of Jacob Blake. (Courtesy of Anna Grant-Bolton)

While many White Evanston residents attended protests and events immediately following Floyd’s death, Parisien said she has since noticed attendance shrinking.

On a national level, the Pew Research Center found a significant decrease in Americans’ support for the Black Lives Matter Movement since June 2020. While 67 percent of American adults supported the movement in June, only 55 percent support it now.

“It’s upsetting, honestly,” Parisien said. “It’s difficult to want to continue maintaining this work and maintaining that drive for change when so many people in my community…haven’t sustained their determination for this work at all.”

ETHS senior Anna Grant-Bolton said she finds the loss of momentum frustrating.

A member of both SOAR and EFBL, Grant-Bolton said she has recently seen fewer people coming to events and having the “courageous conversations” that are central to the fight against racism.

“Every White person needs to critically think about their position in the movement and how we can fight to make it a movement with longevity, rather than a reactionary movement,” Grant-Bolton said.

She said defunding the Evanston Police Department and establishing antiracist public education systems in Evanston are her top priorities, and she’s met with candidates running in the city’s local elections to ensure the needs of minority communities are prioritized.

Carmiya Bady, the District 202 student representative, has been working with the school board to offer additional support for young Black men before they arrive at ETHS.

Bady said she sees racial divides within ETHS, from clubs to where people sit in the cafeteria, and hopes to see the school become more integrated.

“I want to bring people together and cross lines that aren’t usually crossed,” Bady said. “(ETHS) is diverse, but it’s segregated — everyone stays in their own little bubble.”

Ultimately, all three students hope their organized efforts will create an antiracist community in Evanston. Parisien said she hopes to see more inclusivity, but knows it will take time.

“Evanston has a lot of diversity, and a lot of the time people think diversity equates to equity,” Parisien said. “But I hope people see the issues and try to learn about experiences that aren’t their own.”

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Twitter: @laya_neel

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