DE talks to Karla Thomas, an Evanston anti-racism activist

January 25, 2019

Evanston resident Karla Thomas and I have been friends since we met in 2017 on the corner of Church and Dodge when I called for Dear Evanston supporters to join me in the YWCA Evanston/North Shore's "Stand Against Hate" that year.

 

Karla wore a Dear Evanston t-shirt and held up a sign that said, "Dear Evanston! It's 2017! We don't get brownie points for racing against hate/racism. Let's sprint for equity!"

 

Since then, Karla and I have connected at rallies, marches, and meetings pushing for sensible gun laws, against racism and hate, and she is a dedicated facilitator for Dear Evanston's Racial Justice Book Group.

 

Karla, who (in her spare time), is a real estate entrepreneur and a mom of two young daughters, also organizes and runs many group sessions at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 schools on race and racism.

 

Last month, she founded a Facebook group, Evanston/Skokie Parents Committed to Anti-Racism, which gained immediate momentum and today has 275 members and is a bustling group of parents--white and of color--who share relevant books and videos relevant to race and racism, but, most importantly, feel safe, heard, and validated when they share their own experiences with race and racism.

 

I love talking to Karla because, like me, she is an immigrant: she came to the United States at age 17 from Trinidad and I arrived at age 15 from South Africa. But Karla's Black and says that during her childhood in Trinidad, race and racism were not issues that were ever at the forefront of her mind. And I'm white and grew up in South Africa when Apartheid was still the law of the land and race and racism were the organizing principles of my whole childhood. We both came to the US with our own experiences and perspectives, but she as a Black woman, and I as a white one, have both been on a similar journey to learn about ourselves, where and how we fit in this country, and about racism here, which we now call home.

 

Tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to noon, Karla, along with Tracy Olasimbo, Onnie Willis Rogers, and Suzy Trzakus, will host a workshop called "How To Talk to Kids About Race and Racism." The workshop will take place at Dewey Elementary School, 1551 Wesley Ave., and there is still space available. You can find out more and sign up here. 

 

This series of workshops is co-sponsored by Dewey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School, Washington Elementary, Willard Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, and Nichols Middle School.

 

I'd love you to watch the video of the conversation between Karla and me from earlier this week at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center so you can learn more about Karla and her work. She's a force!

 

 

(Please don't get distracted by my profile, which pops up now and then in the video. I live to learn, and my self-recording skills can only get better from here!)

 

Karla, thanks for taking the time to hang out and chat about important and personal stuff. See you soon!

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