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Alderman Rainey must apologize.

Dear Evanston,

I'm sharing my interview with Devon Reid from 2016 when he ran for (and won) the position of Evanston's City Clerk. Today he's running for 8th ward alderman.

I am compelled to share this interview now because last week the sitting 8th ward Alderman, during a The League of Women Voters of Evanston, IL Zoom campaign forum, called Devon, who is a young Black man, "very scary," a racist trope that has its roots in hundreds of years of racism in this country. She also complained that Reid always talks about the fact that his parents were incarcerated when he was a child and that it was "enough already."

These statements were racist and simply not acceptable, and Ald. Rainey must apologize.

In addition last week, false accusations about Devon were posted and shared on social media by Evanston residents in an effort to dissuade others from voting for him.

This too was completely unacceptable.

When I met Devon four years ago, I was blown away by his intelligence, his drive, and his resilience.

I still am.

We each have a story. Some of us have had life experiences no one would wish for. How many times during the presidential campaign did Joe Biden refer to stories about his father struggling through the depression and the later tragic losses Biden himself suffered?

These stories make us who we are, help people understand where we come from and what drives us, and when they compel us to give of ourselves, to serve without reward with an eye toward progress and justice, they SHOULD be told. Over and over. Especially when we're from a group that, in this country, has spent centuries having their stories erased at most and ignored at least.

We should tell our stories even when we're not running for office or succeeding in the face of adversity. We should tell them when we're low, or feeling defeated, or when we're afraid, or stuck in a situation we're not sure how to move past.

Because it's only through our stories that we have any chance of connecting, understanding, and empathizing across our differences. Of seeing our humanity reflected in someone else.

It's only by sharing our experiences that we learn compassion.

And the more diverse our communities become and the more inclusive we must fight for them to be, the more we need to hear each other's stories across racial, religious, socioeconomic, cultural, and gender divides, and across our unique and specific human experiences.

We can never know when our story will change the trajectory of someone else's life, when someone who is struggling might gain courage from hearing about our experience and choose to push on instead of giving up.

It takes courage to tell one's story. Especially out loud and publicly.

Our stories are precious, and when they're shared, they're a gift.

Thank you, Devon, for sharing some of your story with Evanston.

May we all keep sharing, and may no-one's story be erased, shamed, or belittled.


DE: Have you lived anywhere other than Evanston?

DR: When I was 12, my mother made a mistake in her life, and was incarcerated. My mom was the breadwinner for the family, so my grandmother and I were forced to leave Evanston and move to Roseland on the south side of Chicago. We lived in a homeless shelter for a period of time. I left what I consider a fairly privileged black life here in Evanston.

But I see my story of struggle as a story of love in many ways. Through our homelessness, there were many people who stepped up and helped us wherever they could, whether they gave us a place to stay, found an apartment for us to rent, or helped us with groceries. Families took me places with their kids, just to make sure I was on the right path and had the support that I needed.


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