Making black, Latino voices count a focus for suburban groups

Suburban black community leaders are urging African Americans to be counted in the 2020 Census and to register to vote ahead of the November elections.

"A lot of people are not responding (to the census)," said the Rev. Clyde Brooks, of Arlington Heights, chairman of the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

People of color are among the groups with increased risk of being undercounted and groups with low self-response rates in previous censuses include low-income households and those who distrust government authorities and have been or could be targets of law enforcement, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some hard-to-count census tracts are in Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Prospect Heights, Wheeling, Elk Grove Village, Arlington Heights, Elgin, West Chicago, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Glen Ellyn, Aurora, Naperville and Woodridge.

Brooks' commission is working with African American pastors to impress upon their flocks the importance of being counted and with the League of Women Voters to encourage voter registration so the community is better represented.

The Northwest suburbs are now home to more black residents than Chicago, but the population is more scattered, Brooks said. "Churches are not meeting but we are trying our best to get the word out," he said.

The Census Bureau's deadline for counting everyone, originally scheduled to stop at the end of July, has been extended to mid-August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Outreach for Latinos: Volunteers from Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin will be calling Latino households this week to encourage census participation.

Thirty bilingual library employees will operate a phone bank to help improve self-response rates, said Denise Raleigh, co-chair of Elgin's Complete Count Committee.

"We had a really significant rise (in participation) on Census Day and we hope we can keep that up," Raleigh said.

The response rate for Elgin is 48.9% - 47.5% for Illinois as a whole.

Helping immigrants: Mano a Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park is providing financial help with food assistance, rent, utilities and child care for recent Latino immigrants and international students in need from Lake and McHenry counties.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed into law by Congress last week authorizes $2.2 trillion to support individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.

But undocumented community members often fall through the cracks because they are not eligible for government benefits and programs, said Megan McKenna, center director of strategy and development.

"We see that gap exacerbated right now," said Mc­Kenna of the coronavirus crisis. "Undocumented and mixed-status families are locked out of the (federal) stimulus package. Now that everybody is losing their jobs, people are in dire condition."

The center has set up an emergency fund supported by a $3,000 grant from the United Way of Lake County and $18,000 raised through an online campaign. It's launching a #shareyourstimulus campaign this week at

Call for prayers: Linda and Tom Abendroth of St. Charles are reaching out to various Christian denominations, mosques and synagogues to urge a collective moment of prayer at noon on April 11 to pray for "forgiveness" and relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are asking everyone, of all faiths, to lift their eyes and pray for help," Linda Abendroth said. "We hope to reach as many people as we can."

Pope Francis has called for global prayers from Catholic faithful, Abendroth said. She has contacted the Pope, celebrities and Chicago area religious leaders to help spread the word. "We just need every voice," she said.

Understanding mosques: A national survey aims to highlight the effect suburban mosques have on their communities. It's part of a comprehensive study sponsored by various Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America and the Center on Muslim Philanthropy, to identify the challenges American mosques face and their engagement in interfaith activities, outreach and community service.

Previous surveys in 2000 and 2010 showed significant growth in mosques nationwide and noted among their challenges a need for engaging youth through activities and making worship spaces more inclusive and welcoming of women.

The survey allows mosque leaders to share ideas for improving services to better serve their community's needs, said Jaseem Anwer, president of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville.

This year's survey will include questions about security amid a rise in hate crimes and mosque attacks and how institutions feel about Muslims being more politically involved. Survey results are expected to be published this fall.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic with Madhu Krishnamurthy at

Women prepare for prayers in the women's area on the mezzanine of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville. Suburban mosques will participate in a survey this year to identify their challenges and engagement in interfaith activities, outreach and community service. Daily Herald File Photo, 2019
Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy
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