Why we are exploring our diverse suburban mosaic

  • Anthony Gholston, Jr. from Triton College listens to J. Luke Wood during Elgin Community College's first Men of Color summit dealing with equity in education and the experiences of men of color at community colleges earlier this month.

      Anthony Gholston, Jr. from Triton College listens to J. Luke Wood during Elgin Community College's first Men of Color summit dealing with equity in education and the experiences of men of color at community colleges earlier this month. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • AMC South Barrington is the best-performing theater in the Chicago area and among the best-performing nationwide for Indian films.

      AMC South Barrington is the best-performing theater in the Chicago area and among the best-performing nationwide for Indian films. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • AMC South Barrington is showing the Indian movie "Tanhaji" in theater two. It's among the best-performing theaters in the nation for Indian films.

      AMC South Barrington is showing the Indian movie "Tanhaji" in theater two. It's among the best-performing theaters in the nation for Indian films. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/9/2020 9:59 AM

A confluence of cultures, languages and peoples of varying ethnicities, races and national origins creates a rich suburban mosaic.

To better understand and portray the variety in this picture, the Daily Herald is launching this column exploring news, issues and reflections involving minorities in the suburbs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With each column, I'll offer an entertaining and enlightening range of vignettes depicting the cultural, ethnic, racial, gender and demographic diversity of our communities. Together, these items will present broader perspectives of people's lives, experiences, challenges, struggles and accomplishments.

Today, we begin in Wheaton ...

Remaining accountable:

For nine years, Larycia Hawkins bore the mantle of being Wheaton College's first tenured black female professor -- until her controversial departure in 2016 after a Facebook post in which she declared "religious solidarity with Muslims" created a firestorm. Now, her story is featured in the documentary film "Same God," directed by Wheaton alumna Linda Midgett.

"Teaching makes me accountable to live the things I believe," Hawkins said at a recent screening at the Zakat Foundation of America in Bridgeview.

Organizations interested in hosting a screening of the 95-minute film can visit samegodfilm.com/screenings.

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Remembering MLK:

The Five Blind Boys of Alabama gospel troupe will regale attendees at the 52nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Dinner and Concert on 7 p.m. April 11 at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg.

Sponsored by the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations, this event will commemorate the 52nd anniversary of King's death and is expected to draw more than 1,000 representatives of public- and private-sector organizations.

Challenges for students of color:

It's usually not overt racism, but rather the unconscious and implicit biases that affect how students of color perform and succeed.

That was the message J. Luke Wood, who codirects the Community College Equity Assessment Lab, delivered last month at Elgin Community College about the challenges students of color face at suburban schools and colleges.

Wood says a culture of disrespect and microagressions against men of color permeates educational institutions, negatively affecting outcomes from elementary grades through college and professional careers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He says some black and Latino male students have trouble asking for help from teachers, whether at K-12 school districts or community colleges, because it goes against their masculine pride. For others, it evokes fears of being perceived as troublesome, stupid or lazy, he says.

Unlearning bias:

In the aftermath of an offensive online post, a Naperville Unit District 203 administrator talked about the difference between racism and implicit bias, and she had a particular message.

Rakeda Leaks, executive director of diversity and inclusion, told a gathering that racism stems from the belief that one's own race is superior to another's. It often manifests itself in prejudice, discrimination or antagonism. Implicit bias, she said, involves unconsciously activated stereotypes that may give advantages to some and disadvantages to others.

Her message: Even the most unconscious of biases can be unlearned, if identified.

Popular pictures:

Indian language films in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu -- popular with South Asian immigrants and Indian Americans -- have proliferated and broken into mainstream cinema houses across the suburbs and nation.

Among those is AMC South Barrington 24, the "best-performing theater in the Chicago market for Indian cinema ... and among the best-performing theatres in the country," says Nikkole Denson Randolph, vice president of content strategy and inclusive programming for AMC Theatres.

It's a cultural phenomenon that has exploded over the past decade at movie theaters across Chicago and area suburbs, Randolph says.

Since 2017, nearly half of all AMC theatres in the greater Chicago area have been playing Indian films. Eight theaters, including several in the suburbs, play movies in multiple Indian languages regularly.

Fan favorites:

Recent Bollywood blockbusters include "Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior," a "Braveheart"-esque historical Hindi film epic starring three of Indian cinema's marquee actors: Saif Ali Khan and power couple Ajay and Kajol Devgn.

Some film topics have broader appeal, such as "Gul Makai," a drama based on the life and struggle of Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

Movies in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog and Korean -- such as Academy Award Best Picture-winner "Parasite" -- also have made inroads into Chicago-area theaters.

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

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