Abigail Aziza Stone, mother of two, has lived in the Evanston community for nine years now. During her teen years, Abigail brought together Black and Latinx youth at a local youth center. Walking through Evanston, she noticed how the neighborhood was racially segregated, especially between the communities of color.
With Black families living on one side and Latinx families on the other, it was an observation she couldn’t hide from. Despite living nearby and facing similar socio-economic struggles, Abigail noticed these families didn’t talk to each other. Therein lies the problem and solution.
Anya Tanyavutti, Evanston-Skokie District 65 School Board President, and Sergio Hernandez, Evanston-Skokie District 65 School Board Member, also recognized this racial division after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Together, they partnered with Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C), a United Way Neighborhood Network lead organization, to form Seeds of Solidarity.
Seeds of Solidarity is an anti-racist training for Black and Latinx residents in Evanston. This training consists of four virtual sessions where participants are provided various cultural dishes and a stipend each session while they build relationships over conversation.
Participants explore how racism, anti-Blackness and colonialism have shaped the interactions between the two communities. Other topics of discussion include the American Dream, white dominant culture and the Cycle of Socialization. Through these group discussions, trainees share about the personal impact that racial trauma has had on their lives and walk away with stronger community ties.
“I hope that through these types of conversations the community recognizes the power we have among us. We are powerful among ourselves, in our existence, in our resilience and in our capacity to work in solidarity with one another,” said Anya.
Solidarity begins with centering the experiences of those impacted. That’s where our Neighborhood Networks come in. Community organizations play a pivotal role in initiating and facilitating these uncomfortable conversations for residents, community partners and stakeholders alike.
In addition to holding space, four of EC2C’s Advocates for Action participated in this critical dialogue. Advocates for Action is a community leadership council, where residents identify necessary resources and establish projects to support the neighborhood. Ultimately, this training is an opportunity to better understand each neighbor’s responsibility in the fight for racial equity.
“I hope that we will enable communities to know and understand that they do have a voice in their community and their voice matters,” said Bettye Cohns, Executive Director for Reba Early Learning Center and lead of Advocates for Action Board. “You give people power and confidence when you listen to what they’re saying and they feel valued and respected.”
As a lover of justice and outreach, Abigail believes that conversations like those hosted by Seeds of Solidarity are the first step to bringing communities of color together. With continued effort, she hopes that Evanston will grow stronger through solidarity.
“Coming together, having dialogue, eating together and playing together makes a difference,” Abigail said. “I’m not saying we are the same, but we are brothers and sisters. Especially in the struggle against racial inequity in this society. We are stronger together.”
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By Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist