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Willie Shaw of the Evanston branch of the NAACP joins the Thursday morning YWCA’s Stand Against Racism demonstration along Ridge Avenue. Credit: Rich Cahan. Credit: Photo by Richard Cahan

This year’s 10th annual YWCA Stand Against Racism demonstration was the first time since the start of the COVID pandemic that local residents were able to participate.

Hundreds of people turned out for the event, which was held from 10 to 11 a.m. April 28 along Ridge Avenue. Demonstrators from more than a dozen community organizations and schools held signs like “Honk for Equality,” “Dismantle Racism, Transphobia and Homophobia,” and “No Racists,” encouraging a cacophony of honks of support from late-morning traffic.

“I’m really excited to stand in solidarity with the community saying that we stand against racism, fighting for social justice, activism, and representing the things that we can do every single day of the year,” said Erin Venable, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for YWCA, North Shore, who held signs with coworkers at the event.

YWCA Evanston/North Shore Chief Executive Officer Karen Singer she’s been among those taking a stand along Ridge since 2012, when the YWCA North Shore initiated the local event.

Stand Against Racism demonstrations were also held in Skokie and Wilmette this week.

The nationwide YWCA signature event is held every April “to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities and to build community among those who work for racial justice,” according to its website. The first was held in 2007 in New Jersey.

Over the years the Evanston demonstration has grown to the extent that community members have been able to form a line from Isabella Street south to Howard Street, Singer said.

“Each year more and more people are really coming out for visible demonstrations,” she added.

The RoundTable spoke to longtime YWCA employees and representatives from local groups like Evanston Community Foundation, the Evanston NAACP Chapter, Lake Street Church, Open Communities, two judicial candidates, and students and teachers from Roycemore School, all gathered to raise awareness about the impact of institutional and structural racism.

Lizanne Wilson is a drama teacher at Roycemore, where the entire pre-K to 12th grade school participated.

“We’re really diverse,” Wilson said. “And it’s a core value of ours to honor and celebrate the diversity of our kids, so this is a great way to do it. And to be part of the community.”

Molina, a seventh grade student, said it’s her second year being involved. She said she thinks the signs made by the high schoolers, with text like, “Make racists scared,” were the best.

Molina said she thinks discussing topics like racism, homophobia and transphobia are some of the most important conversations that a school can have to prepare students to help others and themselves.

An elementary-age student jumped up enthusiastically, leading chants of “Black Lives Matter” to her classmates. She told the RoundTable that she enjoyed being outside because, “Everyone is awesome no matter what they look like, and we don’t care what they look like.”

Members of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore celebrate Stand Against Racism Day in a photo from a previous celebration. Credit: Photo provided by YWCA of Evanston/North Shore

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...

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