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Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission met virtually Thursday evening to discuss the upcoming YWCA Stand Against Racism event and the city-wide racial equity survey.
Karla Thomas, Chair of the commission, said the survey will be the first of its kind to be conducted by the City of Evanston.
Officials are close to sending out the survey and commission members brainstormed ways for Evanstonians to get access to it, suggesting community engagement opportunities such as parks and recreation events, summer concerts and connections with local organizations.
“Part of the goal of the survey is to recognize that the survey in itself is not an equity action,” Thomas said. “Right now, we are not measuring how people are experiencing living in Evanston and we have to get that baseline.”
Vice-chair LaShandra Rayfield said it will be key to use easily understood terms in the press release about the survey that residents will get from Mayor Daniel Biss and their individual City Council members. The press release will explain to residents the need for the survey and how it will aid in achieving equity.
Commission member Darlene Cannon said it is important for potential participants to feel like taking the survey is worthwhile and that the stories they share will be heard.
“People want to see we are working on the things that come out of the survey,” Cannon said.
Cannon has found 70 organizations, including church communities, small business owners and nonprofits, willing to distribute the survey.
In addition to being distributed via newsletters from Biss and council members, the survey also will be shared with the organizations through email and QR codes to ensure that it is as accessible as possible to all Evanston residents across wards, race, class and ability.
The survey will tentatively launch on April 19 near the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism event on April 28 to highlight anti-racism events the YWCA Evanston/ North Shore is hosting the following week.
Eileen Hogan Heineman, Manager for the Equity Institute at the YWCA, said the YWCA is encouraging participants to do more internal work this year on equity and racism. Traditionally, people stand on Ridge Avenue and “stand against racism,” which Hogan Heineman said can often be seen as “performative activism.”
“There is no sense of change and nothing moving the needle on becoming a non-oppressive society, so we are really encouraging people to think if standing on Ridge makes any sense for them,” she said.