Evanston NAACP hosts Black History Month event, highlights equity initiatives


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle.

Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Evanston’s NAACP chapter hosted a Black History Month event highlighting equity initiatives in Evanston’s municipal institutions Monday.

Wendy Klunk, Reporter

Evanston’s chapter of the NAACP celebrated Black history and discussed local racial equity initiatives in education, policing and healthcare at their virtual Black History Month event Monday.

The event featured a brief video showcasing the importance of teaching Black history and honoring historic figures like Charles G. Woodson, who ensured Black history would not be left untold in the country’s chronicles. Virtual participants included representatives from Evanston/Skokie School District 65, Evanston Township High School District 202, Evanston Police Department and the Health and Human Services Department.

Additionally, Lucia Luckett-Kelly, creative educator at Phantasy Staircase Education, recited Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton emphasized the importance of supporting marginalized students as the district moves to a hybrid learning model this Wednesday. While most students will attend school on a half-day schedule, priority student groups will be able to remain in the building for the whole day.

Horton also discussed the need for a gradual but substantial overhaul of the district structure in order to address historic educational inequity within the district to better serve the needs of all students.

“We’re going to potentially have to close some schools, one or two,” Horton said. “We’re going to have to find a way to build a school in the 5th Ward.”

D202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon discussed the importance of retaining a strong virtual learning experience for ETHS students. The district has not returned to in-person classes but is integrating some small in-person experiences.

Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook acknowledged the harm police have inflicted on Black and brown communities and said he hopes department reforms, as well as state-level criminal justice reforms, can lead to better relationships in the Evanston community.

“We’re really committed to community policing,” Cook said. “As a policeman I should be looking to solve problems in all our neighborhoods in Evanston.”

Health and Human Services Department Director Ike Ogbo said the city has seen a low turnout in Phase 1B of the vaccination rollout among Black residents over 65. He said the nation’s history of medical racism has contributed to hesitations about the COVID-19 vaccine within Black and brown communities.

“We understand that there’s mistrust and what we want to do is get people… to a mindset whereby they are confident to eventually get these vaccines,” Ogbo said.

Ogbo said the city has launched targeted outreach for these residents, including making direct calls to residents and working with community organizations to build vaccine trust.

Rev. Kalif Crutcher from New Hope CME Church led a prayer at the event, which summed up the message of the night.

“We are most human when we see the humanity in others,” Crutcher said.

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Twitter: @WKlunk

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