Days after thousands of us marched for Black Lives, we, a caucus of concerned Evanstonians, propose that the Evanston beaches of Lake Michigan be made open and free to all people with the goal of racial equity at the forefront. Though the cost and effort to get a beach token or pay a daily fee may seem minimal, it is a barrier to a natural recreational resource that we believe should be easily accessible to all. We don’t want to further amplify the idea that suburbs harbor exclusion. All are welcome in our city and at our beaches.
Fees, tokens, and fencing though seemingly innocuous, act as tools of unofficial segregation reinforcing the status quo of white privilege. Though our beaches are not officially segregated, we know that racial segregation has continued along our nation’s waterfronts throughout history. For this reason, we need to actively work to change the status quo. We believe all lifeguards should participate in anti-bias training. Signage acknowledging and apologizing for historic racism at the lakefront should be put in place.
This moment of national outrage demands forward thinking positive ideas to rebuild trust with Black and Brown communities. Slight tweaks, reviews, and calls for calm will not be enough and exacerbate the pain. We believe that making the six city beaches more welcoming would be a small step of progress on the cities’ beginning path of reparations and racial equity. We believe that the formation of ‘Friends of Free Beaches’ group could raise money to support the city in this effort. Once established as a priority, creative solutions could be found.
This idea is bubbling up as the water has been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. We affirm the caution with physical health in mind and appreciate that it has highlighted the irony that the closure makes accessing the beach easier and more affordable. As city officials, you do have the power to change the rules we sometimes grow accustomed to without thinking about new possibilities. We ask that you consider this idea as an opportunity to consider new possibilities for our city.
This idea is in loving honor of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery who deserved love and a wonderful day at the beach not senseless murder. More locally, this proposal is dedicated to all the Black and Brown people who have to deal with more barriers to enjoying this city than white people. This is especially obvious in their frequent negative interactions with police. We want Evanston to be livable for them. It is not livable for us until it is more livable for them.
We will pin our expired beach tokens around town in hopes that they become a thing of the past. We are inviting people to join us in supporting this effort with a petition. Thank you for your service and for initiating a reparations process. We write this with hope and progress in mind. In solidarity-
Kate Bierma, Maia Robinson for Evanston Fight for Black Lives, Clare Tallon Ruen – LakeDance, and Celina Varela