Marching peacefully down 111th Street, demonstrators gathered to advocate for changes to address racism locally and throughout the city.
The Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative (SCDC), a local group that promotes racial, educational and economic justice, hosted its second annual anti-racist unity walk on Oct. 10, with about 150 people participating.
Several attendees said they have experienced racism up-close, and they urged others to vote in the upcoming election—and keep promoting their issues after that.
“Today we march to say that black lives matter,” said LaTanya Robertson, a black woman who is a Beverly resident. “We march to say that racism is not welcome and will not be tolerated in the 19th Ward.”
The walk began at the Beverly Arts Center at 111th and Western Avenue, and participants made their way two miles on the sidewalk to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) at 111th and Pulaski Road. A large contingent of Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers supervised the walk.
Last year’s event was held after racist fliers were repeatedly found in the community and targeted various races and ethnicities, and this year’s featured a “Black Lives Matter” theme.
People of all ages and races participated, with a drum line leading the way as participants chanted slogans against racism, citing the names of black people who have recently died in police-involved altercations. Marchers waved American flags, and signs sent messages such as “Unity, yes, racism, no.”
Robertson said she appreciates local officials distributing signs displaying “Hate has no home in the 19th Ward” in response to racist incidents, but she wants more to be done.
“What we are calling for,” she said, “is anti-racist, intentional effort to eradicate ... the hate that has entrenched the 19th Ward for way too long.”
Jahmal Cole, the CEO and founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, said before the walk that he experienced racism in college at Nebraska. He expressed anger about Chicago’s racist history.
“They want to keep us segregated; they want to keep us separated,” he said. “They say Chicago is the most segregated city in the country, and that pisses me off.”
Vowing to continue to help attendees fight racism, he praised the turnout for the march.
“You don’t have to be a politician to make a difference,” he said. “All you have to do is continue to mobilize like this because it shows the community cares.”
Other groups participating in the event included Arab American Family Services, Beauty and Brains–Beyond the Borders, Black Millennial Renaissance, Coalition for Change-IL 03, Our Illinois Revolution, Palos/Orland Progressives, Southsiders for Peace, Southwest Suburban Activists and Will County Progressives.
Representatives of the participating groups spoke at the end of the march at CHSAS.
Shanya Gray, an SCDC member who organized the walk, said equity is needed in local schools and housing opportunities.
She also called for the formation of a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), and she thanked CPD 22nd District Commander Sean Joyce for his cooperating in supervising the event. Joyce and Gray said the event was peaceful with no arrests, citations, property damage or injuries.
The Rev. Ben Heimach-Snipes, pastor of Morgan Park Presbyterian Church, said a local community of churches is using all its funding for anti-racism training in the 19th Ward.
Mark Kuehner, of Southsiders for Peace, said racism is more than just a neighbor who utters “insensitive things.” Racism is a “system of oppression” that affects everyone, especially minorities.
“We won’t stand for this,” Kuehner said. “It ain’t right. ... This system of oppression is like a disease that affects everything we come in contact with.”
He said voting helps, but he called for citizens to pressure elected officials for better schools and a more fair economy.
He also called for the formation of the CPAC.
“We can go out and vote and support these different policies, but it’s going to take more than that,” Kuehner said. “Everybody needs to be involved. We need to take that pledge that we need to work to end racism.”