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home : community forum December 3, 2016


Posted: Friday, December 2, 2016
Community forum entry by: Ghada Talhami, Catherine Buntin. and Carol Muskin

Free Speech., the Northwestern MENA Program, and the Evanston Public Library
Many in the community were shocked and dismayed to learn that several books at the Evanston Public Library were defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti last week.

The graffiti was discovered as staff were preparing for a program offered by Northwestern's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) studies department, titled "Is the Qur'an a Good Book?" In a statement, Evanston Public Library director Karen Danczak Lyons deplored the damage as an attack on free speech, and held up the library’s partnership with MENA as “One effective way to combat fear, hate and ignorance [which provides] access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others".

As Evanston residents, we agree that it is crucial for our institutions to provide spaces in which “public education around a complex and frequently misunderstood region can help address misunderstanding,” to quote Brian Edwards, the director of MENA.

However, we question how strongly the Evanston Library and MENA are committed to creating such open spaces, given that this program series has largely ignored possibly the most controversial and emotionally charged issue in the Middle East: Israel and Palestine.

Looking at the past three years, during which MENA presented 11 programs on Iran or Iranians, and 10 on Turkey only 5 mentioned Palestine even tangentially. Only one of these programs featured a Palestinian speaker... as part of a 4 person panel.

MENA has offered several programs with Israeli speakers, including faculty from the Crown Center of Jewish and Israel Studies both on campus and at the Library. Yet no MENA programs relating to Palestine have been presented at the Evanston Public Library.

How are EPL and MENA "fostering dialogue on the Middle East," when they clearly avoid one of the most significant issues in the Middle East, and do not present any thinkers representing a Palestinian viewpoint?

As residents of Evanston who support peace and justice for Palestine and Israel, we are puzzled as to why this extremely important issue is so rarely discussed in the MENA Mondays program. If MENA and EPL truly support access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others, then they should add lectures on Palestine to the program roster.

It’s important to recognize that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has often been a catalyst for anti-Muslim expression, and in some cases has led to the demonizing of Muslims and those perceived as Muslim. Islamophobia is hardly a simple matter of “misunderstanding” or “lack of dialogue.” It is often deployed to achieve particular political ends, as happened recently at the University of Chicago where student activists for Palestinian rights were described as “terrorists.” To condemn Islamophobia while ignoring one of its causes is a poor form of solidarity indeed.

We encourage the MENA program and the Evanston Public Library to collaborate on a program series that will provide thoughtful perspectives on Palestinian life, and on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which include Palestinian voices. Commitment to free speech and solidarity with the targeted and oppressed is most important and significant precisely when it is most difficult. It is easy to see the censorship in defacing books, but we should also beware the soft censorship of merely avoiding difficult or unpopular topics.

Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Community forum entry by: Jeremy R. Wilson

Results of the Illinois 2016 Statewide Testing are now available on line. Again, District 65 fails to educate black and Hispanic children. Standards of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PAARC) are high, based on prediction of success as a freshman in college, but the standards are the same across the district and across the state. (44% of District children are white, 24% are black, 19% are Hispanic, 4% are Asian and 9% are multi-racial.) The results for the Spring of 2016 include:
While 67% of white third-graders in District 65 met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts, only 19% of black third-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts and only 22% of Hispanic third-graders met or exceeded the standards.
While 80% of District white third- graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics. Only 25% of black third-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics 33% of Hispanic third- graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics.
Sixth-two percent of District white eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts. Only 18% of black eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts 27% of Hispanic eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts.
While 72% of District white eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics, only 8% of black eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics 28% of Hispanic 8th graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics.
In January 2017, District 65 will present its annual Achievement and Accountability Report.
It will blame children because they come from low income families.
It will blame children because they enter without adequate pre-child program preparation.
It will demonstrate that it is doing as well as other failing districts.
What it will not do is allocate more reading and mathematics instructional time to black and Hispanic children so they can read and cipher as well as white children.
(Data for other class levels, and by school, are available at the state website:

Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Community forum entry by: Barbara Lyons

Racism and Hate in Chicago And Evanston
In late November I went to a rally in Mt. Greenwood, a far southwest Chicago neighborhood that was previously unknown to me. As a white person, I felt I had to stand up against the rising tide of white supremacy that is turning to actual fascism under the new America as envisioned by Donald Trump. If any of you do not know what transpired in Mr. Greenwood a few weeks ago, go to the internet and click on Joshua Beal. Mt. Greenwood could actually be called “Coptown,” as a huge number of Chicago cops live in this more than 80% white community.
The fact that an off-duty cop killed Mr. Beal, an unarmed black man, is no longer news, but the fact that white residents were caught on camera dancing and cheering around the body and screaming racist terms at his family made it to the public arena because of social media.
On that Sunday, a group of more than 100 of us held a rally at an intersection in the middle of Mt. Greenwood, and, I kid you not, there were hundreds of cops lining both sides of the street of the intersection. Behind the barricades were screaming people with signs saying the vilest things you can imagine. They kept chanting meaningless slogans, such as “CPD” (Chicago Police Department) and “U.S.A.”
They made no move to attack us, but as we marched back to the parking lot of St. Christina Catholic Church, which had graciously allowed us to park, I did feel a bit scared. The mob moved along the sidewalk alongside of us. As we drove out of this community, I said naively to my fellow passengers, “I will be glad to get back to Evanston.”
I say “naively” because of what I found out last night, while attending a lecture on the Koran, the holy book of Islam, at the Evanston Public Library. Before the lecture, a member of the Library staff explained to us why there had not been books on the lecturer’s topic available in advance. A person or persons unknown had defaced many of the Library’s books on Islam. Swastikas had been drawn on the pages, as were vile racist comments. This happened in my welcoming town. As a Jew, I find this reminiscent of the book burnings in Nazi Germany, with crowds dancing around the bonfires.
I hope this will be a wakeup call to everyone who has enjoyed the fruits of white supremacy to stand up and say “White supremacy, no/Diversity, yes,”

Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Community forum entry by: Saul B WExler

Shame on the City's Law Department
I just read the article in the November 17, 2016 RoundTable, titled “A Nightmare Leak,Judgment Against City of Evanston.”
I am horrified at the way the City Water Department, and particularly the Legal Department, treated Evanston homeowners Ethan and Sara Chatfield.
I do not know either of them nor where they live, but as a longtime Evanston resident who has been involved in litigation with the City in times past, I know that former Corporation Counsel, Jack Siegel, and Assistant Corporation Counsel, Herb Hill, would never have taken this cavalier approach to treating citizens this way or in running up legal fees and costs on something that should have been dealt with quickly.
This is particularly true when the Water Department’s employees confirmed that one of the leaks fixed was the City’s responsibility and on the City’s property.
Whoever is responsible for this sea change at the Legal Department should seriously question the tactics used in this matter. This was a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money and resources in an attempt to defeat a justified and small claim against the City.
Where is the sense of proportionality?
I would hope that the members of the City Council will take a look at this matter, consider some recourse for the Chatfields and an admonition and/or reprimand to the Legal Department for their tactics.
They are fortunate not to have had sanctions entered against them for reason of this conduct, sanctions which the City’s taxpayers would have to pay.
The City’s attorneys have an obligation to do justice.
That they utterly failed in this instance is clear.

Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Community forum entry by: Jerri Zbiral

Wear a safety pin if you want to combat hatred, bigotry, sexism.....
Buy a bag of safety pins, print out and make multiple copies of the following. Give to anyone who will listen.
Safety Pin Manifesto:
If you wear a hijab, I’ll sit with you on the train
If you’re trans, I’ll go to the bathroom with you
If you’re a person of color, I’ll stand with you if the cops stop you
If you’re a person with disabilities, I’ll hand you my megaphone
If you’re an immigrant, I’ll help find you resources
If you’re a survivor, I’ll believe you
If you’re a refugee, I’ll make sure you’re welcome
If you’re a veteran, I’ll take up your fight
If you’re LGBTQ, I won’t let anybody tell you you’re broken
If you’re a woman, I’ll make sure you get home OK
If you’re tired, me too
If you need a hug, I’ve got an infinite supply
If you need me, I’ll be with you
All I ask is that you be with me too.

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