Two Wheaton churches unite for racial reconciliation
A program born out of hate has unified two Wheaton churches -- one white, one Black -- whose members gathered on Juneteenth to mark the completion of a three-month racial reconciliation initiative called Be the Bridge.
Roughly 30 members of Hope Presbyterian Church and Bethel New Life Church, whose congregations share worship space in Wheaton, participated in the dialogue prompted by vandalism of Black Lives Matter signage at Hope Church last summer.
Lay members from both churches have been meeting virtually via Zoom for months to talk about race and their hopes for the future. The discussions touched on historical injustices against Blacks, racial profiling and unjust killings of Black people, and how to constructively deal with racism and racial division.
It was an eye-opening experience for some, said the Rev. Ron Beauchamp, pastor of Bethel New Life's predominantly Black congregation.
"People just didn't know how the other side was living," he said. "People who were asleep became woke. It was emotional. It was intense."
Beauchamp said they were uncomfortable conversations, but he applauded Hope Church members for having the courage to have them.
"There is no conclusion. It's a continuance," added Beauchamp, who expects to carry on the dialogue with more groups of church members. "There's more work to do, but I know that we accomplished something. It's brought our congregations together."
A new beginning
Bethel New Life has been in existence for only six years and has been renting space to worship at Hope Church, a much older congregation.
Despite worshippers sharing the building off Wiesbrook Road for prayer services and occasionally gathering for Palm Sunday brunches, Sunday communions, an annual solidarity picnic and Christmas season festivities, members of both churches rarely crossed paths before the Be the Bridge program.
The Rev. Jay Moses, pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, said George Floyd's death and last summer's Black Lives Matter protests prompted the need for better understanding, and was the beginning of a more intimate relationship for both churches.
"For a white person or majority culture to sit back and say Black Lives Matter ... that's not enough," Moses said. "It's in the day-to-day interactions ... the subtlety of our shared life together. Obviously, our commitment to each other has deepened through this. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of humanity shared, and that's where you want to get to."
A group of art teachers from across Illinois is working to create a resource list of Latino artists to be included in classroom curricula.
Jonathan Pruc, a visual art and photography teacher at Mundelein High School, is leading the charge after creating a similar teacher resource list of Black and Indigenous artists last year to help diversify classroom materials.
The Black Creatives Matter project is a growing digital document featuring information about more than 600 artists broken down by medium and anti-racist resources. Pruc founded the initiative with Deanna Sortino, a visual arts teacher at Niles West High in Skokie. His goal is to add 100 artists each year to the list.
Pruc now is curating a "Latinx Creatives" list to be rolled out this summer. By June 30, he hopes to have more than 100 Latino artists on that list.
"We have obviously some historical references, like a Latinx creatives list wouldn't be complete without Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo," Pruc said. "(But) we wanted to highlight contemporary artists or artists who aren't known in the art community universally."
Among them is Karen Navarro, an Argentine-born multidisciplinary artist living and working in Houston. Pruc followed Navarro on Instagram and participated in one of her photography projects.
"She made a collage of America just on different skin tones," Pruc said.
Another name on the list is Brooklyn, New York-based Puerto Rican artist Angel Otero, who creates abstract oil paintings and is Pruc's classmate from the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Latinx Creatives and Black Creatives lists will be available through the Illinois Art Education Association's website.
"A long-range goal is that we wanted to take a turn and focus on a certain culture, certain heritage," Pruc said. "We were also talking about starting an Asian American and Pacific Islander one this summer."
Latino brain health
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America will host a free virtual Latino Healthy Brain Summit: Una Mejor Calidad de Vida (A Better Quality of Life) for Chicago area residents from noon to 4 p.m. July 23.
Participants will learn about the warning signs of memory impairment and dementia-related illnesses, tips for communicating memory concerns, the importance of early detection, and taking proactive steps to improve brain health. The summit also will highlight resources available to help Latino families.
Latinos face the largest increase in Alzheimer's disease and dementia-related illnesses of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of Latinos 65 and older with Alzheimer's is projected to nearly triple by 2060, said Luisa Echevarria, a foundation board member from Chicago.
Oakton Community College President Joianne Smith, right, and Chief Diversity Officer Juletta Patrick, center, accept the Illinois Community College Trustees Association's Equity and Diversity Award from ICCTA Treasurer Mandy Little during the association's annual banquet earlier this month.
- Courtesy of Heartland Community College
Oakton Community College in Des Plaines has earned the Illinois Community College Trustees Association's 2021 Equity and Diversity Award.
The honor recognizes exemplary commitment to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in the college's education programs.
Oakton was honored for its nationally recognized Persistence Project, which mobilizes faculty members to boost student success, and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic providing online learning, technical support and financial aid to students in need. The college loaned Chromebooks and mobile hot spots to nearly 300 students and launched the Oakton CARES project providing more than $900,000 in aid to students not eligible for federal funds.
This is Oakton's fourth ICCTA Equity and Diversity Award in 11 years.
Oakton was named a Leader College by Achieving the Dream in 2020 -- one of only four community colleges in the nation to earn the distinction for improving student success and equity, and for its President's Council comprising 80% people of color.
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