League of Women Voters seeks to be more inclusive

  • Heidi Graham

    Heidi Graham

  • Destiny Peery

    Destiny Peery

  • Hanover Park Deputy Police Chief Andy Johnson, from top left, talks about hiring diverse police officers during a recent town hall discussion on equity in delivering services with village Trustees Herb Potter and Sharmin Shahjahan, and village Human Resources Director Barry Kurcz and Lisa Jackson, assessment and accountability coordinator for Elgin Area School District U-46.

    Hanover Park Deputy Police Chief Andy Johnson, from top left, talks about hiring diverse police officers during a recent town hall discussion on equity in delivering services with village Trustees Herb Potter and Sharmin Shahjahan, and village Human Resources Director Barry Kurcz and Lisa Jackson, assessment and accountability coordinator for Elgin Area School District U-46.

 
 
Updated 7/26/2020 9:15 AM

One hundred years after its inception, the League of Women Voters now seeks to be more inclusive in the wake of rising racial tensions and Black Lives Matter protests.

"We have to be honest," said Heidi Graham, of Arlington Heights, president of the league's Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Buffalo Grove area chapter. "The league, in its founding, the original suffragettes left out women of color. They asked the Black women to march at the back of the parade. That's part of our history. We have to own that, and we have to try to be better."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During a 100th-anniversary virtual state convention in June, the directive to attract more people of color was clear.

Graham, 50, said her chapter has been trying to diversify its membership, currently at 141 members who largely are middle-aged white women. The goal is to attract members who are younger, women of color, and more men, she added.

"If we are going to get our work done, we have to have allies at every level," she added.

Race conversations

Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the League of Women Voters' Arlington Heights chapter has organized a series of webinars on racial injustice titled Anger to Action.

"Conversations around race are uncomfortable," said Graham, an assistant speech coach at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. "We have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations, but we cannot shame people."

As part of its Anger to Action program, the league is organizing virtual implicit bias training by Destiny Peery from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Aug. 6. The program is free to the public and funded through the support of Wheeling Township Elementary District 21.

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The program will be interpreted in American Sign Language and organizers are exploring the costs and feasibility of having it translated into Spanish, Polish and Russian.

Register in advance for the Zoom meeting at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUucuGqrTsqH9JMFso2FtJ3PSHN2nA7Mryv.

Community policing

Recruiting diverse officers is a key component of community policing, said Hanover Park Deputy Police Chief Andy Johnson.

Johnson spoke during a recent virtual town hall discussion on delivering services equitably.

"We serve diverse communities through our recruitment efforts to try to mirror the demographics," Johnson said.

The village's 37,426 population is nearly 55% white, 40% Latino, 15% Asian, 6% Black, and 3% two or more races, census data show. Its police force comprises 99 employees -- 61 sworn officers of whom 28% are minorities and 38 non-sworn employees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We are trying to expand that more," said Johnson adding, the department recently hired its first Indian American and Iraqi American officers. "Not only are we trying to cast a wider net, (but) we are trying to think outside of the box. We are recruiting for the future of the police department."

Bias training

The Hanover Park Police Department will provide implicit bias training to police officers, following in the footsteps of Elgin.

"We are seeking to bring that here within the next six months or so," said Johnson, adding the program will help officers identify and work through those biases.

Village officials also are planning to provide bias training for all employees, whose staffwide makeup is 77% white, 17% Latino, 3% Asian and 3% Black. Last November, the village started training supervisors on culture inclusion.

"This year we will roll that out to the remainder of the (staff)," said Barry Kurcz, village human resources director. "Our goal is to get all employees through the training by the end of the year."

Understanding equity

"When we talk about equity, it's really about access," said Lisa Jackson, Elgin Area School District U-46 assessment and accountability coordinator during Hanover Park's town hall.

Closing achievement gaps, diversifying teaching and administrative staff, and promoting cultural awareness are among the goals of U-46's five-year Equity Plan adopted last year. To view the plan, visit https://sites.google.com/u-46.org/district-equity-plan/equity.

Educational equity is about serving students based on their needs.

"It's really about (for instance) the person who is allergic to peanuts," Jackson explained. "A very small population of students is allergic to peanuts, but because of that, we have created a system in our schools where there are no peanuts. That's what equity work is about. We plan around those kids that have extreme needs (who) have been marginalized."

Of U-46's 38,395 students, nearly 55% are Hispanic, 26% white, 8% Asian and 6% African American.

Catering to a diverse student population involves more than just hiring more people of color. It requires staff leaders who are culturally proficient and can develop relationships with students, Jackson said.

Anti-racism bike-a-thon

The Islamic Community Center of Des Plaines and Muslim Community Center in Chicago are organizing an anti-racism bike-a-thon from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at Linne Woods, 6251 Dempster St., Morton Grove.

The event, funded by a social service grant from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, is open to all ages. Participants must wear masks and observe social distancing. They can bike, powerwalk, jog or rollerblade the route.
Pre-registration is required. To sign up, email mccinterfaithteam@gmail.com.

Drive-through Eid

The Islamic Foundation of Villa Park will conduct a socially-distanced Eid congregational prayer at 9:30 a.m. Friday, July 31, and a drive-through Eid celebration from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1.

The outdoor Eid prayer is limited to roughly 1,000 people wearing face masks and will be held in the mosque parking lot, 300 W. Highridge Road, Villa Park. Congregants are urged to bring their own prayer rugs.

Eid al-Adha -- the festival of sacrifice -- is one of two big celebrations in the Islamic tradition. Muslims worldwide celebrate the occasion with congregational prayers and animal sacrifice symbolically following prophet Abraham's practice and coinciding with the culmination of the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Families gather for food and festivities, which this year has been marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com.

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