It seems so obvious to me: until we can open schools completely, it makes common sense to allow children in Evanston who are marginalized, whose families are lower-income (in Evanston that's predominantly Black and brown families), who may not have the supports at home to provide a conducive virtual learning experience to be prioritized for in-person learning in school buildings.
But that plan, pushed forward by Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton and the D65 school board headed by Anya Wiley Tanyavutti, has elicited letters of hate locally and nationally--including death threats.
Yesterday, Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, president, Evanston/North Shore Branch NAACP, along with local clergy and community leaders, held a news conference to show support for the District's plan and to condemn racism and hate.
Channel 5 covered the news conference. You can watch it here.
I was there too. Here's my video. The sound (masks, background noise, iPhone) is not good. So here too is a transcript of some of the folks I spoke to, and Pastor Nabors' statement.
Monique Brunson Jones, President and CEO, Evanston Community Foundation:
"The Foundation obviously supports district 65, obviously supports Dr. Horton and his work to make sure that we close up the achievement gap."
Rabbi Rachel Weiss, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation - JRC:
"I am here because access to public eduction, economic justice, and antiracism are all Jewish values, to make sure that those in our community are taken care of who need it the most. We are a community that is so broadly diverse, if we don't embrace it and actually stand up for equity and making sure that everyone who really needs resources can get them first, then who are we?
Part of our mission as human beings, and part of my mission as a rabbi, is to say that as a community we have a responsibility to make sure that everyone is taken care of.
There is terrible systemic racism in our country. And all of us who have white skin have in one way or another benefitted from is the privileges that come with this systemic racism. And so it's our responsibility to stand up and say, other people have not benefited in that same way. In fact, they've been oppressed and enslaved and incarcerated and denied economic opportunity. And so the heart of that reparation work is to stand back and let everyone else get access.
Over the last four years in particular, this country has given a really loud microphone to bullies and bigots and those who are spewing hatred, and what we have to do is fill it with love and just to say no, this is not about denying anyone what they might need. It's about really having to give up something that many of us can live without and have the resources to be just fine.
My own children are in remote school right now. They are in District 65. They are struggling with remote school like everybody else. But we can have them at home, I can work from home, I can support them. And there are hundreds of children in the school system who can’t do that.
And so if we really believe in equity, then we have to support our school district in what they are doing. So we support Dr. Horton. We support the school board.
You know that there's that saying that 'equal rights for everybody doesn't mean less rights for you--it's not pie.' Well, equity actually is saying, I got to eat pie for generations, and my family benefited because someone else let me eat pie. And now it's time to say I don't need any more pie, everybody else does.
Willie Shaw, NAACP civic engagement and political action chair:
"I’m here in support of justice and against injustice. We’ve had information in several forms, from different groups, negative information that’s come to the district. The NAACP is always against any type of injustice. We always willing to sit down and talk to folks, be a mediator. So, unless we're able to meet, if they're willing, to find out what their issue is, we’re here to support fairness for our children, to support the leaders in our district."
Dr. Devon Horton, D65 superintendent:
"The community said out of the gate that they wanted to focus on equity and close the achievement gap. I really feel like this is an example of not just the board speaking, but the community saying this is what we prioritize."
You can hear Pastor Nabors statement in the video and read it below.