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Community members reacted with a mixture of disbelief and sadness to the news of the sudden passing of two Evanston religious leaders in the week before Labor Day. Both played large roles in the fight for more equitable rights.
In the deaths, first of Reverend Zollie Webb, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, and then of Dr. Patricia Efiom, former Pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church and the City’s first Chief Equity Director, Evanston “lost two Herculean community leaders,” said Reverend Michael Nabors, pastor of Second Baptist Church. He was among the many reacting to the news on social media.
Pastor Zollie Webb
Pastor Webb’s death came only days after his church hosted Evanston’s first public meeting on a Restorative Housing program for African American residents or their descendants who were harmed by past City discrimination policies – the first aspect of the City’s local reparations initiative.
“He was committed to our collective betterment until his very last day on earth; let us continue his work together in his honor,” said retired Fifth Ward Council Member Robin Rue Simmons in a posting on FaceBook.
“I will remember Pastor Webb as a great king, a bold advocate, a loving caregiver, wise counsel and a humble servant. He showed up for us, always,” she wrote.
The City’s former Community Services Manager, Kevin Brown, called Webb “both a servant of God and warrior for justice.”
Brown said in his post, “We became fast friends because you were always fearless in speaking truth to power. When I went to work at the City of Evanston we joked about how they gave me your office. … We shared the same spirit, and I appreciate how you supported me personally. You will be sorely missed not only by your family, church family and the people who loved you – but also by me and the many, many, many families and individuals you helped behind the scenes, never seeking self-promotion or adulation.”
Dr. Patricia Efiom
Dr. Efiom, founder of Efiom & Associates LLC, held a doctorate from Garrett Evangelical Seminary, as well as degrees from Indiana University and Christian Theological Seminary.
She was a trained diversity, equity and inclusion facilitator. She had a lifelong passion for racial equity and social justice advocacy and was known for her ability to build and maintain relationships across lines of differences.
As the Chief Equity Officer for the City of Evanston from 2017 to 2020, she led a Citywide effort to develop an equity action plan that would embed equity in all City operations. She also established the City’s Equity & Empowerment Commission.
Ridgeville Park District built on her work in 2020 to create the District’s first racial equity policy. Board member Debby Braun was among the board members expressing thanks to Dr. Efiom.
She expressed hope that community members would read Ridgeville’s climate assessment report, “because I think that it could clear up a lot of misinformation that’s been out there and see what we’re working on and what we’re doing and what we have done.”
Information about services for Pastor Webb and Dr. Efiom was not available as this story was posted.