District 65 Caregivers of Color & Our Village group protest school board candidates with ties to anti-equity group


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Juan Geracaris, members of his family and other advocates walk with signs along Ridge Street toward the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Avani Kalra, Print Managing Editor

About 15 Evanston/Skokie School District 65 parents, teachers and students marched two and a half miles through hail and rain Saturday to oppose recent pushback to anti-racist District 65 curricula ahead of Tuesday’s school board election.

School board candidates and their supporters from the District 65 Caregivers of Color & Our Village group assembled to oppose other candidates with alleged ties to the Evanston chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. FAIR advocates for equal treatment “regardless of skin color” and has campaigned against diversity and inclusion programs and antiracism curricula nationwide.

In a letter sent to District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton last May, FAIR argued that District 65’s programs have taught young children that people were in “‘danger’ because of ‘whiteness.’” They said the curriculum claims without qualification that white people have more opportunities than non-white people. 

“Some candidates in this race suggest that the District 65 board could be improved by adding their diversity,” former District 65 Board of Education President and demonstration organizer Anya Tanyavutti said. “They (people involved with FAIR) say the board will be improved by adding a little right-wing dehumanization, racism, transphobia (and) ableism to balance out human rights and social justice work.”

Tanyavutti encouraged attendees to support incumbents Mya Wilkins and Sergio Hernandez at the polls Tuesday, claiming some of their challengers have ties to the organization. 

Ndona Muboyayi, who is running for District 65 school board, has volunteered for FAIR in the past. Muboyayi told The Daily she no longer works with the organization because she did not believe they were doing the anti-racism work they claimed to do.

Candidate John Martin, who has also been accused of involvement with the group, has said he wasn’t involved.  

Speakers at Saturday’s demonstration urged attendees to vote against these candidates. Tanyavutti opened the speaker portion by talking about her six years of experience on the District 65 board. Tanyavutti said she’s focused on increasing opportunities for equity discussions. Groups like FAIR have risen in direct opposition to her work, she said. 

On the board, Tanyavutti implemented anti-racist work through initiatives like Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, LGBTQ+ Equity Week and Latinx Heritage Week. She also created several affinity group spaces for parents and families in the district. 

“That’s how we got here today. Because the District 65 board dared to care about all human rights,” Tanyavutti said. “Local fascists and KKK, cloaked under the guise of FAIR and Evanston schools updates, are busy trying to undo any investment in human rights.”

Wilkins spoke at Saturday’s rally as well. She said her own family’s history with education motivates her pursuit of the position. 

Her grandfather grew up in a small town in South Carolina, she said, and would walk miles to school, watching white students pass him on the bus. He dropped out of school in third grade to work on his family’s farm. 

“It’s impossible for me not to make comparisons to my son today who is now in third grade,” Wilkins said. “So much has changed. But when I got older and started to understand the opportunity gap in our country, it became apparent that in some ways, kids are still watching the bus pass them by.”

She, like Tanyavutti, said she’s dedicated to continuing to close the racial opportunity gap by working on equity initiatives in District 65 schools. Ignoring that gap and the history behind it will significantly harm students of color and disabled students, Wilkins said.

She also said she will continue to fight the efforts of FAIR representatives, who have said teaching children about the concept of “whiteness” is dehumanizing and unconstructive.

Hernandez, another incumbent and the current District 65 Board of Education president, echoed Wilkins’ sentiments. He was inspired to serve on the board because of his experience growing up in America as a Mexican student, he said. 

In third grade, Hernandez said, he asked his mother to change his name to a whiter name. When he grew older, he wanted to support students in bilingual classrooms and learn to accept themselves and appreciate their cultures. 

Groups like FAIR pose a danger to students because they oppose a heavy focus on minority identities in the classroom, Hernandez said. 

“We want to make sure that we continue and we never go back to the way things were,” Hernandez said. “We never go back to little children coming up to their teacher saying, ‘I’m not proud about who I am. I don’t like my language.’ I want everybody to see themselves reflected.”

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Twitter: @avanidkalra  

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