Many people in Evanston feel shaken by the results of the Nov. 8 election – not only shaken but threatened by the incendiary rhetoric and menacing actions surrounding the candidacy and election of Donald Trump. Others feel satisfied by the results, either because they enthusiastically supported Mr. Trump or they vehemently did not want to see Ms. Clinton in the White House.
Ten days into the aftermath, many passions have not cooled. But here we are, faced with the necessity of going forward. The RoundTable asked several community leaders for their message to the community about how to move ahead. Their suggestions are below.
At the same time, we call upon the president elect to take action: to own up to his responsibility for inciting some, but not all, of the violence and unrest sweeping our country; to tone down his own rhetoric; to listen to the concerns of the people he has marginalized and demeaned – in short, to call off the dogs of war. We urge him to take a lesson in governance from a former U.S. president – any one of those still living. We ask, finally, that, as he contemplates the solemn oath of office he will take in a few weeks, he try to understand the breadth and depth of this country, its fragility as well as its richness.
From Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl:
It is a confusing time in Evanston. Dreams and hopes are being derailed, replaced by anxiety and fear. What does it mean to be an immigrant in America, a Muslim, a woman, an African American, Latino, LGBT, or someone with a chronic disease? What values do we share with the rest of the country? Most importantly, what should we do?
Pluralism, inclusion, equality, do these ideals still bind America together? Is a nation of immigrants ready to build walls? We in Evanston need to reach out, test the depths of our tolerance, and listen carefully to views that are different than our own. Where there is common ground, find it, affirm it. Where there is not, speak out against bigotry and hate. Speak up for religious freedom. We may be a blue bubble in a sea of red, but that blue bubble stands for something. All are welcome here.
Evanston will be what we are now: inclusive, welcoming, challenging exciting, and diverse. We will grieve and we are doing that in conversations with friends, strangers and acquaintances. The school crossing guard wants to talk, as do the checkout lady at the grocery store and the locker room attendant at the health club. Evanston is eight square miles. We are all neighbors. We will grieve with one another and then we will get back to work.
Evanston is more than geography. Evanston is home to Jews, Muslims, Christians. It is home to religious freedom. Evanston is home to Asians, Irish, French, Africans, Italians, and Greeks, the homeless and the privileged, the able and disabled. Evanston is an example, an always- imperfect and always-striving-to-do-better example of ideals in action. It is important to show the country what our community is and what we can become. It is important, now more than ever before, to do the work each one of us is doing and do all the good we can.
From District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren:
I have heard from many families across Evanston and Skokie asking how we have supported our children in the wake of the recent election. This election season has undoubtedly been one of the most emotionally charged in recent history.
Our teachers, social workers, support staff, and administrators have been proactive in their support of our children, as they are every day. After the election we encouraged our team to provide guidance and activities to help students with the range of feelings they may have as a result of the election. A number of our schools and classrooms facilitated “Sharing Circles” or other informal conversation methods to help students process their emotions in a respectful and thoughtful manner. We will continue to use these practices as part of our emphasis on social and emotional learning. We are also engaged in working with our teaching and support staff on school climate issues, focusing specifically on safety and relationships. Any time there is a local, national, or global issue that may cause anxiety or concern, our dedicated and well trained team of teachers, social workers, support staff, and administrators proactively support children during these times.
Our schools will continue to be welcoming and safe places for all students. We recognize that our children come to us from a wide range of backgrounds with many different experiences. In District 65, we value this diversity and the unique strengths of every child. It is what makes our schools and our community so special. As educators, and as community members, we embrace the dreams and possibilities of every child and must live up to our responsibility of helping every student reach their full potential – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, special needs, citizenship status, gender identity, or political affiliation.
We are committed to serving every child, every day in a safe and supportive environment and we will not waiver from this stance. We stand behind the words of a District 65 student, quoted in our Strategic Plan, who stated, “School contributes to our success by teaching us to make better decisions. It also helps us meet people we maybe wouldn’t and to hear and respect other voices and learn how to disagree.”
Our schools are and will remain welcoming places for all.
From Latino Resources, Sergio Hernandez Jr., Chairman of the Latino Engagement and Action Council
I have had a chance to meet several of our Latino neighbors and fellow parents from our home school at Dawes and other District 65 schools through my work at Latino Resources’ Latino Engagement and Action Council.
In conversations about the elections, many in our community, as did others, underestimated Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. My Latino neighbors and I have been offended and angered by his racist and bigoted rhetoric against Latinos and our families throughout his campaign. And we have been afraid of what would happen to our families if he were to become president.
Well, it has happened. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America.
Nationally, since 9/11, we have seen an exponential increase in families being ripped apart by deportations. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2014 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, at its inception in 2001, DHS deported 1.3 million undocumented immigrants.
Otherwise hard-working immigrants, who despite their undocumented status have followed the laws and contribute billions to the economy through their work and taxes, are systematically being incarcerated in inhumane detention centers and are being separated from their children while they await deportation, for “crimes” such as broken tail lights or driving without a license to work.
Trump stated on his first television interview as president-elect he intends to see through on his promise to deport 2 to 3 million so-called “criminal” immigrants as one of his first acts as president.
What can we, in Evanston, do as a community to ensure our Latino community is safe from what Trump has promised to do to immigrant and refugee families?
One thing we should consider as a community would be to strengthen our Sanctuary City policy through our city council to ensure our police department is not used as a deportation force. Most major cities and towns that have designated themselves Sanctuary Cities know the value of the cultural and economic contributions that immigrant and refugees bring to their communities. After Trump’s election, many of these same cities have vowed to resist any efforts to harm their immigrant and refugee community.
Another way to help Latino neighbors would be to consider volunteering with Latino Resources’ work around student success, civic engagement and participation. Its scholarship program is one of the few, if not only, scholarships accessible to undocumented immigrant students in the Evanston/North Shore area.
We at Latino Resources are committed to continue the struggle in the face of Trump’s bigotry, racism, and hatred to ensure the Latino voice is never silenced and is an active part of the Evanston/North Shore community.
From Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), Sue Brenner, President; Seth Green, Executive Director
An elementary school boy fears that his relative may soon be deported. A middle school girl worries about being bullied because of her religious views and practices. A young woman who has experienced dating violence feels anxious that such violence is dismissed as locker-room banter.
The 2016 election was traumatic for many children and their families. At Y.O.U., we have spent the week following the election building community, delivering trauma-informed care, and encouraging dialogue.
On the morning after the election, more than 50 members of our staff came together for a spontaneous discussion about how we can best support our youth. The discussion was powerful as we prepared ourselves to move forward so that we could help our youth to do the same. Inspired by Dr. Eric Witherspoon’s message to Evanston Township High School students that morning – “All Are Welcome Here” – we decided our most important goal would be to ensure that youth in our programs knew that we valued their diversity, that we believed in their bright futures, and that we were committed to being a safe space in their lives.
Alongside building community, we offered our families critical support. With a mental health counseling team that speaks three languages (English, Spanish, and Arabic), we supported families of all backgrounds coping with the unknowns of this election.
We also engaged our youth in discussion about the election, focusing especially on why their voice matters and how they can be the change they want to see in the world. These dialogues aimed both to comfort youth and to remind them that “democracy is a verb” (to borrow the language of the late Abner Mikva). These dialogues will culminate on Jan. 16, 2017 (Martin Luther King Day), when we expect more than 150 youth to share their powerful visions for the future through poetry, art, and performances as part of our annual Diverse Communities United. We hope this gathering – taking place just four days before the inauguration – will serve as an important opportunity for our youth’s voices to resonate in our community and beyond.
Amidst the change in this election, we remain steadfast in our commitment to close the opportunity gap and prepare youth for post-secondary and life success. As author Wes Moore powerfully said. “Potential is universal. Opportunity is not. Our job is to fill the gap.” We look forward to continuing to embrace that job in the years ahead.
From Evanston Cradle to Career, Sheila Merry, Executive Director
Evanston Cradle to Career is proud to be part of a City that, despite our flaws, is working passionately to confront racism and injustice to create a community that is inclusive and equitable and we promise to be unwavering in our resolve to achieve these goals. Our country and our community have undoubtedly been deeply challenged by this presidential election and its often hateful rhetoric. Sadly, it has left many of our youth feeling frightened and uncertain about what its outcome means for them. Never has it been more important for our community to stand together and embrace one another ensuring that each and every one of us is valued – whatever their race, gender, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation.
For all its vitriol and divisiveness, the 2016 election may have given us one thing that we needed: a profound reminder of the work that remains to be done; the fight that still needs to be fought to achieve equity in our own community.
That fight is the very essence of Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C). Through EC2C, the City of Evanston, 40 partner organizations, and over 200 individuals have come together to acknowledge that we as a community have failed too many of our children, particularly black and brown children, and to commit to changing the systems that have contributed to that failure. Our ultimate goal is to fundamentally change how our community addresses the multiple needs of all of our families to achieve more equitable outcomes.
Evanston Cradle to Career partner organizations are coming together specifically to address issues of inequality and to build our skills toward creating greater equity within our own organizations. We are also looking carefully at EC2C’s policies and practices to ensure that our efforts include the diverse perspectives, voices, and life experiences of this multi-faceted community.
Evanston Cradle to Career partners have made a long term commitment to completing the daunting work necessary to create a community that prepares all of our children and youth for satisfying, productive lives. In this challenging time for our nation and community, we invite you to consider joining this effort. We need the unique skills and insights you bring to this cause.
From the McGaw YMCA: Mark Dennis, CEO
In 1905, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written by two brothers (James W. Johnson and J. Rosemond Johnson) as a way to give hope to young school children in the segregated schools of Jacksonville, Florida. Community leaders had failed to offer sage advice and inspiration sufficient to encourage the masses. So, the responsibility fell upon the Johnson brothers to write a song of freedom, hope, perseverance, and resiliency.
“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.”
Last week’s presidential election showed us yet again that we are still a long way from a truly free and equal society. Today, hate, inequity, and injustice abounds and noticeably, people feel hurt and are angry, bewildered, and confused. Indeed, the divisive rhetoric of the recent presidential campaign has sadly contributed greatly to an “us against them” mentality across our country. As a people, in this post-election moment, we must decide to not allow one political campaign speak for who we are and where we stand.
Throughout Evanston, let us affirm our diversity, but more importantly, let us be intentional in accepting and embracing each other. Let us become the centers of inclusion, embracing everyone while providing solace for those who are hurt, peace to those who are confused; and comfort to those who are distressed.
As a long-standing community organization, the McGaw YMCA does just that. We strive to strengthen community life by providing access, equity, and opportunity in concert with our core values: Honesty, Responsibility, Caring, and Respect. This post-election era is our defining moment to stand tall and clearly demonstrate our character; and to say genuinely, “Everyone is welcome.”
From YWCA Evanston/North Shore, Karen Singer, CEO
We walk through our doors at YWCA Evanston/North Shore each morning determined to make our communities more just and equitable, determined to work for women’s empowerment and equality, for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, for freedom from violence, and for people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultures, and religions to feel that they are embraced, have opportunity, are respected and that their lives are valued.
Many individuals have experienced this election as a loss of their vision of what America could be. Many others celebrated it as a welcome reorienting of their America..
We have heard but not fully appreciated or understood the deep anxieties and lived experiences of others as profoundly as we should. We need to build bridges across what seems, right now, like a vast chasm. The more we talk about the divisions, without finding common ground, the more polarized we become as a nation.
Regardless of whom you voted for, the question now is how to move forward and build in this time a more just community.
We are uncertain of what lies ahead and that can feel very scary. But let us not react in fear. We need to reach out, build connections and coalitions, build a more inclusive and united voice that brings out the best in who we all are. We need to move to action and double down on creating more just communities, a more just country for all. At the same time, we must never lose sight of and stop fighting for the values we uphold, and we must resist any encroachment on our fundamental human rights and notions of justice.
Our work is as relevant and necessary as ever. We must and will continue to eliminate racism and empower women, listen with empathy and act in solidarity, and reaffirm the values that are the foundation of our mission: dignity, justice, and respect.
As we struggle to understand what lies ahead and what our individual and collective actions should be, let’s reach across our differences, learn more about one another’s lived experience, and find new opportunities to create a just community.
From Evanston/North Shore Branch, NAACP, George P. Mitchell, President
Contemplating the results of the 2016 National Election, several issues become apparent, not just locally, but rather across the nation: enthusiasm, turnout, commitment to the American creed, respect for others, unencumbered access to the ballot, job erosion.
Contrary to expressed opinions, I believe that “Washington” is not dysfunctional. Rather, the political process has been corrupted through petty bickering, obstructionism, selfishness, and disrespect. We have not had enough open discussion and action about the Elephants in the Room: racism, sexism, income disparity, educational gaps. It’s more than just job loss. Some jobs have been lost overseas. But where is the realization that mechanization and computerization have had an impact on employment? Instead we blame only cheap labor, regulation, and other vague issues rather than the apparent change in the compact between the employer and the worker.
I have received a lot of complaints and disappointment about the results of the election. The results are a firm indication of the emotions of the electorate as finger-pointing, vulgarity, and name-calling, not to mention the impact of the FBI’s old last-minute news “revelation.” More importantly, I pity those who didn’t bother to vote yet are unhappy and complaining about the results.
There will be other national and local elections. A large impact on our daily lives is what happens daily in the schools and on the street corner, etc. We have local and municipal elections approaching this spring. We must not be casual about voting this spring. Rather, we must assert our collective preferences and ideals in the arena we most directly control. Regardless of individual national and local candidates, the representative democratic process continues.
The nation was not developed nor prospered by one election outcome. Our interests are best represented by the NAACP’s 21st Century Game Changers: Economic Sustainability, Education, Health, Public Safety & Criminal Justice and Voting Rights & Political Representation. This is the focus of the nation’s oldest civil rights advocacy organization. These Game Changers should be the focus of all of us in our community. During the 107-year history of the NAACP, our nation has had many ups and downs. However, we continue through faith, commitment, membership, perseverance, and personal strength. In the NAACP, “we don’t have permanent friends or enemies; we have permanent interests,” including hope for the future.
The civil rights struggle continues.