Carrying signs decrying racism and promoting diversity, about 200 people participated in an anti-racism march through Mt. Greenwood, Morgan Park and Beverly on Sept. 7, and they recited an anti-racism pledge to continue to oppose bigotry.
The march was coordinated by the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative (SCDC) in response to racist fliers being distributed several times in the community during the last year.
At Beverly Park, 2460 W. 102nd St., where the march ended, Arnie Bernstein, a longtime Beverly resident of the Jewish faith, said diversity will always win the day against racism.
“Our neighborhood is often called ‘The Village in the City,’” Bernstein said. “Today, you reflect the diversity of that village. We are Jews; we are Christians; we are Muslims. We have many faiths and many beliefs. We are African-Americans; we are Hispanics; we are Asian; we are Middle Eastern; and we are people of European heritage. We are gay; we are straight. We are united as a community.”
The march streamed down 111th Street from Kedzie Avenue to Western Avenue, then north to Beverly Park.
Dozens of residents joined local organizations including Southsiders for Peace and the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA), as well as state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and Marie Newman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. representative of the Third Congressional District of Illinois.
Bernstein called out the 2018 Republican candidate for the Third Congressional District who is a former neo-Nazi and believes accounts of the Holocaust have been exaggerated.
“Your hatred is not welcome here,” Bernstein said. “We reject your bigotry. We reject your racism.”
He said the people responsible for distributing racist fliers are “cowards.”
Fliers promoting white supremacy were found in West Beverly and Mt. Greenwood in mid-July, and similar fliers were found along the route of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17 and in Mt. Greenwood last summer.
In response to racist propaganda, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea distributed signs to be displayed throughout the community.
The signs display a simple message: “Hate has no home in the 19th Ward.”
O’Shea’s office organized a community meeting at St. Barnabas Church in August that featured two guest speakers who have worked to fight racism: Christian Picciolini, a Blue Island native who is a former white supremacist, and Nora Flanagan, a Morgan Park native and Chicago Public Schools teacher who published a “toolkit” for fighting racism.
At that meeting, SCDC members announced the anti-racism march. According to Scott Smith, an SCDC board member, the march was a success.
Margaret LaRaviere, of Beverly, said she and other marchers would not tolerate racism in the community, whether it’s through actions or words on social media.
“The march today is a statement and a stand,” LaRaviere said. “It’s a stand against hate, racism, fear, isolation and anger. But, it’s also a pledge and movement toward unity, toward understanding, toward diversity, toward strength and toward love. We love our community.”
LaRaviere said she believes racism impacts how residents interact, and in the same way that police urge citizens to call 911 if they see something suspicious, people should do the same in opposing racism.
“If you see something,” she said, “say something.”
Protestors at the march, LaRaviere said, are dedicated to a better world for all.
“Today, Beverly Park is also ‘Unity Park,’” she said. “We’re going to learn more about each other. We’re going to stand and support each other. We’re going to speak up for each other against harmful and hateful words and treatment meant to divide and conquer us, treatment that’s meant to invoke fear and silence in the face of hate.”
Organizers encouraged local residents to attend several upcoming events, including on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m., when a town-hall meeting on racism will be held at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Township. Sharon Brannigan, a Palos Township trustee, has been criticized by opponents for over a year after her anti-Muslim posts on social media.
Southsiders for Peace will hold a rally at 127th Street and Western Avenue on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 1 p.m., to protest U.S. immigration policies.
The SCDC will host its next monthly meeting on Oct. 2, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., in the community room of the Beverly Area Planning Association, 1987 W. 111th St.
To end the march, Shanya Gill-Gray, an SCDC member, led attendees in reciting an anti-racism pledge, vowing to defeat bigotry “on all levels.”
“I pledge to speak up against racism, prejudice and discrimination,” they said, “in all forms and in all places.”