Naperville-area faith leaders come together to combat hate

The Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association recently organized a “There is No Room for Hate” solidarity event at Benedictine University in Lisle, drawing a diverse crowd of more than 300 people.

The Rev. Lynn Pries, NILA president, said if incidents of hate are not taken seriously when first discovered, hate will grow and destroy the community peace. He cited a recent report of a Naperville teen accused of burning a Quran, which when addressed by the leaders of Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and the community, led to the two people involved apologizing to leaders of the Islamic Center of Naperville.

Pries said the primary focus of the solidarity event was to oppose hate crimes and support groups who had been targeted by them. Recently, three suburban men have been charged with hate crimes: a Plainfield landlord accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Palestinian American Muslim boy and severely injuring his mother, and two Lombard men accused of threatening two Muslim men.

Six Naperville-area religious leaders shared their teachings calling on the faithful to treat others with respect and compassion.

Speakers included representatives of Protestant, Catholic, Sikh, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim traditions. They encouraged audience members to take responsibility to stop hateful words, resist blaming groups for the acts of individuals, find common concerns and work together to build community.

“Let's take a moment to consider: we of so many different traditions and backgrounds came together like this in support and solidarity with each other's communities, even in the midst of all the pain, suffering, fear and hate crimes,” said Bernie Newman, former president of Congregation Beth Shalom and a member of the NILA committee. “This is a testament to the strength of our relationships and the development of trust between and among us. Relationships forged in times of celebration have endured in times of crisis, and even strengthened.”

Diversity award

Harper College in Palatine has been awarded the 2023 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

Harper is among six community colleges nationwide to receive the 2023 HEED Award, which recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. It's the third time Harper has received the recognition.

Harper will be featured, along with 108 other recipients, in the November/December 2023 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We are honored to receive this national recognition for Harper College's student-centered focus on diversity, equity and inclusion along with the evidence-based initiatives we've implemented to improve our practices and our institutional culture,” Harper President Avis Proctor said.

As a majority-minority institution, Harper established its Three Pillars of Equity — removing barriers, closing equity gaps and executing focused solutions — while including data-informed equity goals in the college's strategic plan. Harper's “5-10-20” initiative seeks to create a 5% increase in credentials conferred, 10% increase in graduation rate and 20% reduction in equity gaps by 2024.

In 2021, Harper hired its first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Tamara Johnson, and created the new Office of DEI that includes four additional full-time positions. Johnson and the office opened Harper's Cultural Center, a safe space for students, employees and community members to participate in educational programming, events and training.

The office established GLIDE (Guiding Learners to Intentionally Develop Efficacy), a mentorship program focused on the success of Black and Latinx students, the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Faculty Fellows program, helping faculty gain administrative experience in areas of DEI, and the LEAD (Leveraging Equity in Academia through Diversity) Faculty Fellowship.

Harper's DEI work includes the 5-year-old Social Justice Leadership Certificate program for employees and the newly established Social Justice Studies Distinction for students.

Harper also has improved representation among its employees. From 2017 to 2021, the number of Black employees increased by 8% and the number of Latinx employees increased by 12%, officials said.

Dia de Muertos

The Elgin Latino Leadership Alliance for Seniors will host its second annual multigenerational event Día De Muertos, A Celebration of Life from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Centre's Heritage Ballroom, 100 Symphony Way, Elgin.

The free event will feature a community offering, dance presentations, an art station with local artists, arts and crafts for all ages, community resources, music, a dress like your “Abuelito (a)” contest for children up to age 10, and a Catrin/Catrina makeup contest for anyone 10 years or older, and snacks.

To submit a picture of a loved one for the ofrenda, message the Elgin Latino Leadership Alliance For Seniors through Facebook messenger with a photo, full name, and a short message or submit a picture by completing this form:

Day of the Dead

Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin will celebrate Day of the Dead with crafts, face painting and stories from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Main Library's Meadows Community Rooms, 270 N Grove Ave.

Families are invited to view the Ofrenda Day of the Dead exhibit and the Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World exhibit during the bilingual festival. To register, visit, call (847) 429-4597 or in person at any library branch.

The Ofrenda exhibit features more than 250 pictures from community members and celebrates the Mexican tradition of making offerings for deceased loved ones on the Day of the Dead. It is on display through Nov. 9 on the library's first floor next to several tall alebrijes, mythical spirit animals in Aztec folklore.

Indigenous stories

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding will host a webinar on “Native American and Indigenous Muslim Stories: Reclaiming the Narrative” at 2 p.m. Nov. 9.

In 2022, the institute released its first publication in the two-part series highlighting the lived experiences of Native American and Indigenous Muslims in the U.S. That publication, Visions and Voices, is the first photo narrative project. The second report, Trends and Treasures, focusing on the strengths and struggles of Native American and Indigenous Muslims, releases in November.

ISPU Senior Research Project Manager Erum Ikramullah will review the findings with Brennan McDaniel, primary investigator for the project; Ashley Wolford of Chicago, who belongs to the Choctaw tribe; and Xade Wharton-Ali of New York, from the Mescalero Apache tribe.

Register for the webinar at

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The Ofrenda Exhibit for Day of the Dead is on display on the first floor of Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin. More than 250 community members sent photos to honor their loved ones to be part of the ofrenda. The traditional Mexican exhibit will be on display through Nov. 9. Courtesy of Gail Borden Public Library
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