Advancing equity, specifically racial equity, has been a central principle of Offices Under the President (OUP) under the leadership of President Toni Preckwinkle. Historically, government has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequities. Despite progress, racial inequities are still deep, structural and pervasive and racial anxiety is on the rise in our current political climate. At its core, our focus on racial equity centers around ensuring residents can enjoy the full array of recognized civil and human rights, and includes work to protect those rights regardless of immigration or documentation status. While governmental bodies need strong partnerships with nonprofit, public and private sector stakeholders to address inequities, we have a unique responsibility to reduce inequity by ensuring policies and fiscal decisions consistently meet the needs of all residents, especially residents who are often marginalized and excluded from decision-making.
Approaching our work through a racial equity lens will strengthen Cook County government's institutional ability to apply a structural approach to other forms of marginalization. This framework will also help us address compounding inequities, such as the intersection of race and disability, the intersection of race and gender and the intersection of race and economic status. As part of our commitment to advancing racial equity, OUP has officially become a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to help build capacity, connect with peer organizations and receive support in advancing our equity work.
In addition to joining GARE, OUP will mandate implicit bias and diversity and inclusion training for all OUP employees to ensure shared definitions and understanding, and formally adopt a diversity and inclusion statement to elevate our commitment to and raise awareness of the importance of racial equity.
President Preckwinkle established a Racial Equity Leadership Council to plan and advance equity work internally. The Racial Equity Leadership Council consists of a core team and several working groups composed of diverse employees across Cook County government. The core team of the Racial Equity Leadership Council held its first meeting in June 2019.
On July 25, 2019, President Preckwinkle announced the inaugural Racial Equity Week would be held September 16 - 20, 2019. During this week of learning, listening and engagement, Cook County held 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.
On Monday, Sept. 16, President Preckwinkle delivered a City Club Address on the importance of approaching government work with a racial equity lens and highlight key projects promoting equity in her administration. The address is titled “Advancing Racial Equity: Closing the Gap Through Policy and Practice.” View the address on the City Club of Chicago's site, or read on medium.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, President Preckwinkle hosted Envisioning Equity: a forum at the National Museum of Mexican Art with Commissioner Alma Anaya (7th District), residents and community partners to envision how Cook County can achieve racial equity and how government can provide the framework to achieve that vision.
On Thursday, Sept. 19, President Preckwinkle hosted a Showcase to celebrate the work of government fellows who recently completed the Chicago United for Equity 2019 Fellowship Program.
On Friday, Sept. 20: President Preckwinkle moderated a discussion on the intersection of public policy and public art in advancing racial equity with artists Faheem Majeed and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford of the Floating Museum collective at EXPO Chicago on Friday, September 20 at Navy Pier in view of their large-scale sculpture, Founders Inflatable. Learn more about their work here: (https://floatingmuseum.org)
Additionally, Offices Under the President officially adopted a Diversity and Inclusion Statement:
We believe in the dignity and worth of all people and the strength in the diversity of all perspectives.
Cook County commits to cultivating equity, inclusion and opportunity within County government and the diverse communities it serves—where we celebrate employees, residents and visitors and welcome diversity of perspectives. Empowered by an inclusive workforce, Cook County is dedicated to equity and fairness in governance—in all its forms—to strengthen and serve our communities to the best of our abilities.