Cook County turns spotlight on racial equity this week

  • More information about Cook County's Racial Equity Week can be found at

    More information about Cook County's Racial Equity Week can be found at

Updated 9/12/2020 5:15 PM

Cook County's second annual Racial Equity Week begins Monday and runs through Friday, offering a series of interactive virtual events with community leaders, experts, artists and the public.

Its focus is educating the public about racial equity, why it matters, and addressing opportunity gaps and disparities. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle launched the program last September to offer communities and residents a voice in government decision-making and to ensure county services are inclusive and culturally competent.


This year's theme, "Cook County Past, Present and Future," acknowledges past harm, its impact today and a vision for the future. More information is at

Denise Barreto, the county's inaugural director of equity and inclusion, will lead several events. Barreto's role includes coordinating and integrating racial equity principles into county operations, projects and services.

Preckwinkle and Commissioner Alma Anaya also will launch Census Action Week at noon Monday as a final push to drive census response in hard-to-count areas with minority populations. The deadline for census completion is Sept. 30.

Week's highlights

Toni Preckwinkle
Toni Preckwinkle
by signing up you agree to our terms of service

• Preckwinkle tours the newly launched Northwest Portage Walking Museum with Heather Miller, executive director of the American Indian Center of Chicago, 9 a.m. Tuesday. The museum is free and open to the public.

• Virtual equity town hall on environmental sustainability, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Panelists Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green, and Darnell Johnson, CEO and president of Urban Efficiency Group, will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on environmental issues, explore the Just Transition framework, urban agriculture and building sustainable communities. RSVP at Watch on Facebook.

• Folded Map Project short film screening and panel discussion, 4 p.m. Wednesday. Panelists are Asiaha Butler of Resident Association of Greater Englewood; Maria Krysan, University of Illinois at Chicago sociology department head and author of "The Cycle of Segregation"; and Folded Map Project Founder Tonika Johnson. RSVP at

• Virtual roundtable discussion on transportation equity in the time of COVID-19 with a spotlight on Cook County's Fair Transit project, 11 a.m. Thursday. RSVP at Watch on Facebook. Hosted by Active Transportation Alliance and Chicago Community Trust.

• Limited public screening of "COOKED: Survival By ZIP code" documentary followed by virtual panel discussion and Q&A, 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Panelists are Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and film director Judith Helfand. RSVP at


• Storyteller Ada Cheng will present "This is America: Truths Through My Body," 3 p.m. Friday. RSVP at Watch on Facebook.

Celebrating Latinx heritage

College of Lake County will host a virtual celebration of Latinx Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, honoring Latino history, culture and community.

Latinos constitute nearly 35% of the Grayslake college's student population.

"Latinx Heritage Month gives a voice to part of our community that doesn't normally see themselves in higher education," said Gabriel Lara, CLC's new dean of Student Life.

The month's events include learning about the melding of Afro and Latin cultures, a virtual tour of the National Museum of Mexican Art, addressing the ways COVID-19 has affected Lake County's Latino communities, and a collaborative panel discussion, "iYa es el Tiempo! Students Coming Together to Create Change," by CLC, Harper, Elgin, McHenry and Waubonsee community colleges. Spoken-word artist Denise Frohman will provide an artistic interpretation of activism, and Elgin City Council members Tish Powell and Baldemar Lopez will share their personal journeys.

For a list of events, visit

Equity hire

West Aurora District 129 has hired a new director of educational equity whose job is to promote and sustain equity, inclusiveness, and diversity in all facets of the district from teaching methods to hiring practices.

Valerie McCall
Valerie McCall

The school board appointed Valerie McCall to the role last week.

She previously was associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Cary District 26, a member of Huntley Community School District 158's Equity Task Force, and an elementary teacher and reading interventionist at Rondout District 72.

Latino, Black studies:

Elgin Area School District U-46 is forming two committees comprising teachers, administrators, and students to help write new curriculum on Latinx and African American studies.

Courses will focus on Spanish and English language arts, respectively, and social studies exploring Latino and Black identity in America through historical context, nonfiction writing, and literature. The Latinx course will be taught in Spanish and offered to dual language students and students who meet Spanish prerequisites. The African American course will be available to all students.

"Obviously, this year has plenty of challenges to which we can give our limited time. But it is time to engage in this work," Superintendent Tony Sanders wrote in a weekly message.

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

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.