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Who Shaped and Inspired You in 2020, Evanston?

Dear Evanston,

Last year, Dear Evanston's Uncomfortable Journey to Montgomery, Alabama participants were recognized by Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens as one of the "10 (or so) People who Shaped and Inspired Me

in 2019."

Read Heidi's 2019 column here.

Lachisa Barton and her son Cailher just before we boarded our buses last September.

(Photo: John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

One year later, Tosha Wilson, who was one of the 97 journey participants, made Heidi's list!

Read Heidi's 2020 column here.

Tosha Wilson in downtown Evanston on Aug. 4, 2020. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

After returning from our journey, Tosha, who was born and raised in Evanston and is an officer with the Evanston Police Department said, "I used Montgomery as a motivational tool to understand what more I have to do to succeed in my space--and our space."

Tosha's dream is to open The Laundry Cafe in Evanston’s historically Black 5th Ward.

She also founded the Facebook group (and website) Boosting Black Business, and picks a new Black business on the 20th of each month for group members to sponsor with a donation of $20 or more, and she generally boosts everything Evanston!

Most recently, BBB boosted Evanstonian Verzell James' Awe-Sauce hot sauce company, which he currently runs in the Family Focus Evanston kitchen (read my interview with Verzell).

I encourage everyone to join the group and help boost Black businesses in Evanston and beyond.

I know there's a lot more coming from Tosha for Evanston.

Watch my interview with Tosha from a couple of months ago about Boosting Black Business here.

Congrats, Tosha!


And congrats also to the amazing husband and wife team, Erika Castro and Pablo Sanchez. They've been feeding Evanston residents in need since the start of the pandemic, despite their own family's challenges.

They also made Heidi's 2020 list!

Watch my interview with Erika and Pablo from earlier this year.

So many other Evanston residents, restauranteurs, and business owners deserve to be recognized for their incredible selflessness during this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year!

-- Jennifer's Edibles, Inc and its founder and owner Jennifer Eason. The restaurant has been providing meals to Evanston seniors in need since the start of the pandemic.

-- Soul & Smoke and its owners Heather Bublick and D'Andre Carter. Prepared and provided thousands of meals to Evanston residents.

-- Curt's Cafe and its incredible team. They've been preparing food for our community and will now organize and provide food to Evanston's new pop-up pantries.

-- Feeding The Village Evanston (read my interview with Bruce King and Darlene Cannon). This group has also provided meals to families in need since the star of the pandemic and recently held a food drive.

-- Teertsemasesottehg catering and secret supper club owned by Chef Q (listen to my interview with Chef Q). Chef Q has been feeding families with young children since the start of the pandemic.

-- C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, owned and operated by Clarence and Wendy Weaver (listen to my interview with Clarence Weaver). Each week, the Weavers and their team provide free groceries to Evanston residents on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

-- YoFresh Yogurt Cafe-Evanston, owned and operated by Jean and Larry Murphy.

-- NaKorn Kitchen, owned by Sam Rattanopas and Mina Sudsaard (read my interview with Sam Rattanopas). Early in the pandemic, Nakorn parterned with Lighthouse Rotary to provide meals to families in need at Reba Place housing.

-- ETHS grads Parker English and Grace Sarkor organized three outstanding food drives for the community and were featured by Heidi Stevens for their work.

-- The ETHS graduates at Evanston Fight for Black Lives who arranged clothing drives, fundraisers, and community conversations, and spearheaded a wide variety of actions throughout the summer and fall, beginning with the march and rally to protest police brutality following the death of George Floyd and pushing for police defunding in Evanston;

-- The Evanston Community Foundation's Rapid Response Fund, which has funded individuals and organizations to help get food on families' tables; and

-- Support Evanston Shops, Salons, and Studios, founded and administered by Ande Gaspero Breunig, the brand new Facebook group that within weeks grew to a membership of more than 3,000 and commits to shopping local and sharing tips about which stores sell what and when!

-- Cicely L. Fleming, 9th Ward Alderwoman for bringing her 9th ward residents together with a variety of events and activities--including peace circles and "get-to-know-your-neighbor" postcards, and for working with Reba Place Church to turn violent, hateful graffiti on a viaduct in her ward into a message of inclusion;

-- Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, the reparations subcommittee, Dino Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center, and entire Evanston community for pushing forward to make reparations a reality in Evanston;

The folks at Indivisible Evanston, led by Laura Tanner and Kathleen Johnson, who worked night and day to make sure that the next four years in our nation are an improvement over the last four ...

... and this just scratches the surface! There are so many more heroes--sung and unsung.

Who shaped and inspired you this year?

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