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When a Playdate is a Protest

On Sunday, June 3 at 2 p.m., on the south side playground at Lincoln School, a large and enthusiastic group of parents and children will show up for a playdate. It will be fun, but more than that, it will be an act of protest.

Fuschia Winston-Rodriguez, a fourth-generation biracial Evanston resident and mother of four multiracial children, is spearheading the event. She announced the "Anti-Racism Playdate" on Facebook last Friday, and it has spread like wildfire, garnering support from many parents and community members.

She conceived of the event after reading a Facebook post by another mom, who, along with her biracial son and his biracial friend, were harassed at the Lincoln School park in the early evening last Tuesday by a white child and his father.

"I was so upset when I read the story," says Fuschia. "We definitely need to hold people accountable. Evanston should be better than this."

According to the mom, who is white, her son was at the park with his friend, video-chatting with his cousin.

"My son called me to tell me that a white boy grabbed his phone and threw it because he thought my son was recording him," she says in her post.

"He told me the boy told them to go back to their side of town, that they don't belong here, and then punched my son's friend and ran home down Judson."

The boys then followed the other boy home to tell his parents what had happened, according to the mom. But, the boys told her, "He slammed the door in their face."

The boys came back to the park to play basketball, and half an hour later the mom came to call them in for dinner.

"As I'm walking up, I see this grown white man talking to the boys nasty. Calling them little thugs trying to ruin our neighborhood," she says.

After she told him that she was the mother of one of the boys, she says, "He tells me I need to go back to where I came from and stay out of his neighborhood. I ask him where he thinks I'm from and he says, 'Mexico. Take your sons back,'" she says.

"I asked him when he moved to Evanston and he says, 'About five years ago,'" the mom remembers. "I told him to go back to where he came from because I was born and raised in this town, three blocks down."

In just two days, 93 people have expressed interest in the playdate, and a community member has offered to provide free ice-cream. On the event page, people are offering to volunteer, and suggesting a variety of activities for the kids to do--including making an anti-racism 'quilt' with chalk on the sidewalk, and peace-and-love rocks on which kids can paint or write anti-racism sayings and leave them around Evanston.

As for Fuschia, she grew up in south east Evanston, where she and her husband now raise their kids. She went to Lincoln, Nichols, and Evanston Township High School (ETHS).

"Given that I went to Lincoln, the incident is even more devastating to me," she told me. "I don't remember Lincoln being like that at all. I never felt unwelcome by my friends, families, or neighbors."

Fuschia's great-grandparents Edward and Ada Matthews migrated to Evanston's fifth ward from Amite, Mississippi, along with some of their children, and some of Edwards siblings and cousins.

"My grandfather, Bill Matthews, owned a bodyshop on Church and Darrow, which he opened on October 29, 1929 the day the stock market crashed," says Fuschia. "The shop remained open until the mid-1980s."

Her grandmother, Shirley Matthews migrated here from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin to train as a nurse at The Cradle.

In a recent post on the event page, Fuschia wrote, "Thank you everyone for showing interest in attending this playdate, and sharing our Anti-Racism event! I'd love to take this playdate on the road to the other side of town, because there's quite a few schools that NEED an Anti-Racism Playdate! #OurTown."

If you're interested in participating or volunteering for this event, click here.

I love this grassroots effort! Kudos to you, Fuschia!

PHOTO: Fuschia and her family.

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