President Toni Preckwinkle Announces “Racial Equity Week” as Region Commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Chicago Race Riots

July 25, 2019

CHICAGO – Nearing the 100th anniversary of the Chicago race riots, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has announced today Offices Under the President (OUP) will host an inaugural Cook County Racial Equity Week.

Additionally, the President announced that Cook County has joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (G.A.R.E) and has established a Racial Equity Leadership Council.

To commemorate this work and spark a week of learning, listening, and engagement, Cook County will celebrate inaugural Racial Equity Week from September 16 - 20, 2019.  During that time, Cook County will hold a series of events to hear from residents and community partners, and educate the public on why racial equity matters and how we can work together to close the gap.

“Historically, government has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequities,” said President Preckwinkle. “We want to be a leader in addressing these inequities and having a diverse, compassionate workforce that reflects the communities we serve. Through the work of the Racial Equity Leadership Council, we can make racial equity part of our policies, our practices, and our people. I am excited to contribute to the outstanding work that the Metropolitan Planning Council and others have begun to address racial inequities in our region.”

The announcement comes as Cook County prepares to commemorate the Chicago race riots, noted as the most severe of approximately 25 riots throughout the United States in what was dubbed as “Red Summer.” The incident was sparked on July 27, 1919, when a black teen, Eugene Williams, was murdered for attempting to swim in Lake Michigan and floated against the ‘invisible line of race’ when he was stoned to death and drowned by a mob of white teenagers.

In the week that followed, about 40 people lost their lives, hundreds of Chicago citizens were slain, and more than 2,000 people lost their homes.

“Ten decades later, we still have work to do—not just in the county—but also in the state and throughout our nation,” President Preckwinkle said. “The rhetoric coming from Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t helpful.”

President Preckwinkle Makes Equity a Priority

When President Preckwinkle released the Policy Roadmap: Five-Year Strategic Plan for Offices Under the President in November 2018, she made equity one of the foundational values of her administration. Because of her commitment to racial equity, in April 2019, Offices Under the President officially joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), an organization that forms a national network of local and regional governments to advance racial equity.

“Becoming a member of GARE is an important step forward in advancing this work at Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said. “GARE provides invaluable technical assistance, resources, best practices, and connections to a peer network so that we can learn from each other and give feedback. I look forward to working with GARE and making lasting change in Cook County Government.”

In addition to becoming an official member of GARE, President Preckwinkle has convened a Racial Equity Leadership Council (RELC) to advance the work in her administration. The Council is composed of a core team of equity champions throughout Offices Under the President. The core team chairs several working groups focused on policies, training, engagement, and operations. Working groups are open to all, including staff throughout Cook County Government and valued community partners.

“For too long, our government has been complicit in maintaining systems of racial oppression. Under President Preckwinkle’s leadership, Cook County is taking active steps to reimagine how government can be a partner and advocate in the pursuit of a just and equitable society,” said Niketa Brar, Executive Director of Chicago United for Equity. “Chicago United for Equity was proud to select three government Fellows working across the Offices of the President last year, and their work to establish a Racial Equity Leadership Council has set a new standard for what we should expect from government leaders committed to boldly addressing structural racism.”

For continuous updates and to learn more about Racial Equity Week please visit https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/racial-equity.