After seven years of work toward achieving racial equity in Evanston, OPAL disbands.
"All good things come to an end," began the email to its members and friends. "The OPAL Board has voted to disband the organization, due to life changes and other commitments. We want to thank you for your outstanding support." Founded in the fall of 2014 by a group of Evanston''s Black residents who were concerned about the success of Black children in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, OPAL (Organization for Positive Action and Leadership) worked hard to push for racial equity in the schools and in the city through advocacy, voter education, civic engagement, and candidate development. OPAL's most recent board of directors comprised: Tameka Jackson; Alyce Barry; Cicely L. Fleming, 9th Ward Alderwoman (co-founder); Oliver A. Ruff (co-founder); and Roger N. Williams. "We are proud of the work OPAL has done over the last seven years," said the letter.
The letter continued: It was OPAL's leadership that compelled District 65 to issue in April 2016 a Black Student Achievement Report, disaggregating academic achievement by race and thereby bringing the District's historic racial disparities into stark relief. OPAL was instrumental in advocating for the District's equity audit; for its requirement for racial equity training for all employees; and for its adoption of a Racial Equity policy by which its policies and actions can be assessed. OPAL collaborated with District 65 Board members to create a new cabinet position to oversee Black student success, a position later redefined as Deputy Superintendent. In local elections in 2019 and 2021, OPAL endorsed candidates committed to racial equity. OPAL raised money for and contributed money to their campaigns and provided campaign advice. Almost 70% of our endorsed candidates won their races. OPAL has pursued its objectives publicly and through private advocacy. Not all of its accomplishments have been made public. Thank you to our founding members and to all those who have served on our Board of Directors. Your hard work has made our accomplishments and our impact possible. Thank you to all who have taken action with us to make Evanston more equitable. Together we have made a difference. Thank you for your financial support. Illinois State regulations will govern the disbursement of remaining funds to an educational advocacy group. Thank you.