Over the last several weeks, we have received a variety of questions, concerns, and comments from residents about sidewalk chalk messages in the downtown. At the July 16 Village Board meeting, I shared the Village’s approach regarding sidewalk chalk messages and urged all people to engage in thoughtful dialogue on the important topics of racism and social equity.
As I stated last week, the Village does not have a practice of removing chalk from sidewalks throughout the Village. In the past, especially the very recent past, there have been many chalk messages written expressing support for healthcare workers and first responders and support for our business community during the pandemic. More recently, chalk messages have been focused on statements about equality. The Village does not consider chalk to be graffiti due to its temporary nature and therefore the Village has not taken steps to remove it at any time in the past.
This does not imply agreement or disagreement with any specific messages that have been written. The use of sidewalk chalk, whether thanking medical professionals for their service or supporting social equity, does not violate any Village ordinances. The Village neither encourages nor discourages the use of chalk. The Village Board and I continue to stand by this interpretation.
Let me be clear: chalk may be used in the Village, but it doesn’t provide the opportunity for conversation in the way that an open dialogue would. In fact, given the sudden increase in chalking, I received numerous inquiries from Village residents recently about the use of chalk on sidewalks as inappropriate and concerning irrespective of the resident’s view of the message. Unfortunately, when the means of delivering the message becomes the focus of the discussion, disagreement about the medium – chalk, in this instance – seems to inhibit conversations about the broader issues of racism and social equity. Whether one agrees or disagrees with messages that have been chalked, it is important to respect that such messages are heartfelt and legitimate perspectives regarding the deep and profound issues of racism and social equity that exist in our society. I am calling upon our community to seek to hear and understand one another, and not to engage in back-and-forth escalations about chalk or its removal. Conversation, listening and empathy are far more fruitful for affecting change.
It should go without saying – though I have stated on several occasions lately – that hate has no home in Glencoe. The lives of Black people are important. Racism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism and the unequal treatment of any people are important issues that must be discussed within our community and our society to help us continue growing as a welcoming and inclusive community. I worry that the continuation of carrying on the discussion in chalk rather than through dialogue with the Community Relations Forum or other community organizations leads to concentrating focus on the medium used, rather than constructive dialogue about the profound issues of racism and social equity.
Therefore, I am calling upon our community to move our focus to the broader issues of equity and inclusion, and to come together in meaningful dialogue and discourse. I continue to believe that dialogue, focused on listening to understand, empathy and openness is the best way for us to grow as a community.
For those of you that may be unfamiliar with it, the Community Relations Forum is a group of engaged Glencoe residents appointed by the Village Board whose primary purpose is to develop opportunities for dialogue about issues like racism, bigotry and inclusion. The Forum has already taken up the issues of racism and social equity and has been meeting regularly to discuss how our community can promote improving our understanding of and continued progress on these issues. In their work to support dialogue in our community they are joined by many of our civic, cultural and faith organizations around the common goals of supporting dialogue and promoting equity and inclusion in our community.
The Forum now meets twice a month – on the first and third Wednesdays at 5 p.m., and these meetings are open to and encourage public participation (and as we still deal with the COVID-19 restrictions, these meeting are held virtually). I encourage all who seek to achieve progress in advancing an end to racism and the accomplishment of greater social equity to reach out directly to the Forum’s staff liaison, Assistant Village Manager Sharon Tanner at (847) 461-1103 or via e-mail at email@example.com so that you can more actively participate. The discussions the Community Relations Forum is having are central to Glencoe’s efforts to address racism and social equity.
I encourage those who truly believe in promoting equity and inclusion to move beyond counterproductive discussions about the chalking of messages and to join the Community Relations Forum’s programs which engage participants in opportunities to listen, learn from each other and share experiences. Such conversations may not be easy and each of us may not get them right every time. However, I remain convinced that listening, dialogue, and empathy are the best ways for us to grow together as a community.