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Posted: Sunday, June 18, 2017
Community forum entry by: Dee Hannan

I am puzzled and confused by the article, "'Metrics" the Key to Library's Equity". It says she was disciplined for silencing and removing a black man from a library program. What are the details? It also mentions that her supporters are not from Evanston. Evidence?
I've attended many library programs and book clubs led by Lesley. She's been nothing but respectful and inclusive. And yes, I live in Evanston. Seems to me there's more to this story we're not being told.



Posted: Friday, June 16, 2017
Community forum entry by: Abdel Shakur

Dear Editor,
I was encouraged to read the District 65 Equity Consultant’s recommendations for educating students of color in a more equitable way. It may come as a shock to some, but the report’s troubling assessment of racial inequity in the system is no myth. As a parent of a young black girl, I can attest to Corrie Wallace’s findings. By most measures, Lucy’s first year of kindergarten was lovely. She had an awesome teacher. She made good friends. She became a more confident writer and reader. She made incredible art and was generally excited about going to school. These were all the things my wife and I wanted when we moved to Evanston a few years ago. But there was also something in the classroom that worried us, something that should worry all parents who send their kids to D65 schools: pilgrims and pioneers.
Lucy came home one day excitedly telling me all about the pilgrims one day. About how they came to America. And wore funny hats. And were fleeing oppression. And then they found some Indians. And then they all had a feast called Thanksgiving. The end. As a teacher myself, I understand that often students lose the nuance of a lesson, but the central message my daughter received was that the pilgrims were cool and were good friends with the people they found in America. Nothing about the Native American experience, about what their lives were like before they encountered the Pilgrims. Nothing about the land and lives that were lost, taken. My daughter gave me a perplexed look when I laughed in disbelief.
“What, Daddy?” she said.
The what is that in a city where bumper stickers and lawn signs loudly proclaim liberal values, we have an ahistorical social studies curriculum oriented around a Eurocentric view of history. A view of history that is unjust, inaccurate, and harmful to our young learners.
Later in the year, we learned that 3rd graders were engaged in a multi-disciplinary study of the Westward Expansion. Students read about the experiences of pioneers and learned about how they overcame adversity to settle the West. There was some mention of Native Americans having to surrender their land, but again, students were asked to put themselves in the shoes of the white agents of history. A black boy in 3rd grade is asked to pretend he is living in the time of pioneers, despite the fact that many of those same pioneers enslaved his ancestors. Unfortunately, this is nothing unusual because so many times black children are asked (forced) to climb inside the white supremacist mind and somehow see themselves. This little boy, with soft hair and curious eyes, is taught to think like a white pioneer so he can understand what about himself? What about where he came from? What about his place in the world? What about his future?
The Stanford study that was released last year showed that white students are given education opportunity at a rate four grade levels above their black peers. In fact, white students in D65 are given more educational opportunity than any other district in the country. This eurocentric focus of our history curriculum is an artifact of that opportunity gap. But even if you think the conversation around equity doesn’t affect your children, consider the fact that this view of history is outdated and incomplete for ANY child in the 21st century.
The latest academic discourse around early American history is not framed simply around pioneers and pilgrims. To start with that as a framework is to fundamentally misread this country’s history and miseducate students. If you don’t want Creationism taught in the schools, why teach children to believe in Manifest Destiny? This type of pseudo-history has caused as much human suffering as any pseudoscience. Often, they work in concert.
At a time when people are concerned about the specter of “fake news” and misinformation, it’s vital that we not center our understanding of history in a European perspective. History should help our children understand not only the past, but more importantly what is to come next, the new day we can’t imagine. Failing to rise to this challenge leaves ALL of our children unprepared to deal with a future beyond White Supremacy. Our political moment is held captive by a president whose imagination can not get beyond the pilgrim and pioneer mentality. What do you think Donald Trump learned in elementary school?
Of course this shift is not easy. History is complicated and, in many places, quite stark. But we need to stop underestimating our children’s ability to make productive meaning when things are not so nice and not so simple. The material needs to be presented with clear intention, sensitivity, and love, but they can handle it. I wonder sometimes if our concerns are more about the fragile and impressionable adults than the children.
I’m also not suggesting that we wipe pilgrims and pioneers from the history books. Understanding those groups (who were not all white, by the way!) is essential to understanding who we are and why we’re here. But their perspective needs to be decentered for our kids to really begin to ask the questions that will drive them to higher order thinking. The type of thinking that will really help them learn, really help make this a more equitable world. I hope our community will take this opportunity to live up to its signage and, as Ms. Wallace suggests, overturn our outmoded social studies curriculum.




Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Community forum entry by: David Rubman

Huge Attorney Fees at EPL?

As a long-time Evanston resident, I am disturbed by the revelations coming from the Lesley Williams disciplinary proceedings at the Evanston Public Library. Clearly there is a personality conflict between Ms. Williams and the library director. Observing from the sidelines, I have concluded that the current war of attrition will lead to only one result: huge expenditures of attorney fees. That is unacceptable.
Ms. Williams is a well-respected veteran librarian. The latest disciplinary proceedings are based on her criticisms of the library, which is constitutionally-protected speech. Leave her alone to do her job. Don’t spend the library’s budget on futile and costly disciplinary proceedings. I urge all taxpayers to make it clear to Mayor Hagerty and the Library Board that this war must end.



Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Community forum entry by: Ellen Alexander

What can I do for you, young lady?
asks the store clerk.
In jovial forced greeting and knowing lie.
In his offered fantasy I have no trembling hand
no halting walk or grey hair.
Children gaze at me curiously as they run past,
sturdy legs flying toward their personal fate.
I move off their path, alert to this
and other new dangers:
a fallen branch, a pavement crack, an abandoned toy.
My past is expressed in measures no longer true
but today the lilacs and lilies retain their fragrance
And I am alive.



Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Community forum entry by: Geraldine Palmer

I feel compelled to respond to the issue regarding Lesley Williams and the Evanston Library.
It might seem strange that I am responding to this issue, because I must be honest and share I only met Lesley Williams twice, once at the library to inquire about a book for an upcoming African American Literature Book Club meeting. Then I did participate in that meeting that she led. The two times that I interacted with Ms. Williams, I certainly could not see how the charges brought against her could remotely be possible.
In a town where nearly 20% of its population is black/African American (City of Evanston, 2017), the fact that there is only one black/African American librarian is inequitable in the very least.
I don’t need to have been in the room where the alleged acts of misconduct supposedly took place to know this is skewed. This practice already reeks of what we continue to deal with as a nation and City: discrimination – socially, economically, and politically. Thus, for her to speak out, have community members support her and garner a petition to the new mayor, and have newspaper articles written indicates something is going on. In any case, I say it’s an opportune time to take the hard look-see, do some probing, and undergo the examination.
The City of Evanston should engage in the equity audit, and depend on the findings, take the onus, and make the corrections. It’s better than digging in and declaring no wrong has been committed.
Here is why: Wrong has been committed a long time ago, and it is not been corrected, pretty much by Evanston and the United States in general. As a student shared at a recent racial justice conference, “There’s no new racism. It’s the same old racism we’ve always had.”
I moved to Evanston in 1994 and appreciate living here. For the most part, the City has met my family’s needs, but I give back as well. Evanston’s good and the blessing it has been for many, does not negate there is much work still to be done.
I support Ms. Williams, and I don’t really know her. But I support Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many more soldiers, and I don’t know them either.



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