Children wave and cars honk as people line Ridge Avenue from Church Street south to Main Street during the annual YWCA Evanston/North Shore Stand Against Racism. RoundTable photo

Nearly 10,000 people joined the YWCA Evanston/North Shore for its fourth annual “Stand Against Racism.”  This YWCA USA initiative is aimed at raising awareness that racism still exists in our communities and that it can no longer be ignored or tolerated. This year, Skokie and Niles Township were included in the event for the first time, bringing the total number of participating organizations to more than 100.

“We have just had an outpouring of commitment and support for what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Karen Singer, President/CEO of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. “Schools, businesses, faith groups and community organizations have taken this opportunity to demonstrate our collective vision of values. Thousands of people taking the time to stand together is an expression of something really important.”

The community-wide “Stand” took place from 12:30-12:55 p.m. in Evanston and 10:25-10:50 a.m. in Skokie. Participants lined major streets holding handmade signs, reading a pledge to stand together against racism and cheering while cars honked in support. Many participants also wore stickers that read “I stand against racism,” distributed by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

In Skokie, the Stand Against Racism was the culminating event for 2015 Coming Together in Skokie & Niles Township: Voices of Race, an event featuring months of programming around the issue of race.

Northwestern University, which was represented by 25 student groups, Greek organizations, and departments, was a major force in north Evanston. Students, faculty and staff, most of whom participated for the first time, were excited to join so many community members in such an important public event.

“What we hope is that the power of being together helps us realize how many of us are interested in changing the way people deal with race in our country,” said Eileen Hogan Heineman, director of Racial Justice Programs at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. “That experience encourages people to go back to their dorm room or their home and continue the conversation.”

Stand Against Racism is one part of the Racial Justice Program at the YWCA Evanston/ North Shore. Other initiatives include the Racial Equity Trainings, Let’s Talk @ Lunch, “Reel” Talk movie nights, and the Equitable and Inclusive Institutions program. The YWCA Evanston/North Shore also sponsors the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate, which drew more than 5,000 participants last year and is set to take place this year on June 21.