During September 14 – 18, 2020, Cook County held its second Racial Equity Week to delve deeper into the need to advance racial equity, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cook County held a series of interactive virtual events with community leaders, artists and the public. Last year’s theme was Cook County Past, Present and FutureAcknowledging past harm, reckoning with impact today, and casting a vision for our county’s future. Denise Barreto, the County’s inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion, facilitated several events during the week. 

Event lineup


  • Cook County Census Action Week Kickoff Event: President Preckwinkle joined Commissioner Alma Anaya as she kicked of Cook County Census Action Week during the Cook County Complete Count Census Commission Meeting. With the federal government shortening the census response time by 30 days, September 30 was the new deadline and we were making a final push in all the hard to count areas of the county with Commissioner-led activities to drive census response. Watch a livestream of the meeting at http://cook-county.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2903



  • Folded Map Project Screening and Conversation: President Preckwinkle introduced an event with the Folded Map Project, including a short film screening and panel discussion featuring Asiaha (Aysha) Butler of Resident Association of Greater Englewood, Dr. Maria Krysan, Professor of Sociology and co-author of The Cycle of Segregation, and Folded Map Project Founder Tonika Johnson. Watch the conversation on YouTube
  • Racial Justice Teach-in: Working Family Solidarity gave a presentation and discussion called: Civil Rights: Past, Present, & Future. This was the first in a Three-Part Racial Justice Teach-in Series, which then followed with three Racial Unity Dialogues in Nov., Dec., and Jan. 

  • Racial Healing Circle: Free online Racial Healing Circles took place, sponsored by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s office with support from the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation initiative of the Woods Fund. Racial healing is an experience and a tool that can facilitate trust and build authentic relationships that bridge divides created by real and perceived differences. This session included both group interactions and intimate conversations between two participants. Trained Racial Healing Circle practitioners co-facilitated to help ensure a confidential, safe space for participants to have truthful conversations with one another. 
  • GreenTown: Climate Crisis Screening: Viewers watched COOKED: Survival By Zip Code presented by GreenTown: Climate CrisisCOOKED: Survival by Zip-Code examines the 1995 Chicago record-breaking heatwave that resulted in over 700 deaths. It provides a look at the people most affected by natural disasters and the politics involved. Learn more about GreenTown at www.greentownconference.com


  • Recovery Roundtable on Transportation: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Active Transportation Alliance in collaboration with the Chicago Community Trust convened a virtual roundtable discussion on transportation equity in the time of COVID-19, with a spotlight on Cook County's Fair Transit project. The discussion centered on how COVID-19 has impacted transit and highlighted that it is more important than ever to make transportation accessible to essential workers, who are predominantly people of color. The conversation was moderated by Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President of Government Affairs, Center for Neighborhood Technology. 
    Panelists included:
    • Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
    • Illinois Sen. Bill Cunningham, 18th District
    • Illinois Rep. Marcus C. Evans, Jr., 33rd District
    • Illinois Sen. Ram Villivalam, 8th District
    • Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller
    • Mayor Rick Reinbold, Village of Richton Park.

Watch the roundtable on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PresidentPreckwinkle/videos/cook-county-recovery-roundtable-paving-the-road-to-equitable-transit/632207057484435/

  • COOKED: Survival By Zip Code Screening: a limited public screening of the documentary, COOKED: Survival By Zip Code, was offered and included a panel discussion and live Q&A. Panelists included President Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, MacArthur Foundation President John Palfrey, IMAN Executive Director Rami Nashashibi, and the film's director, Judith Helfand. Watch the panel discussion on YouTube.


  • Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff Event: Camino nuevo por la comunidad Latinx del Condado de Cook | A New Path for Latinx Cook County. La directora de Equidad e Inclusión de Condado de Cook y líderes Latinos dan inicio del mes de la Herencia Hispana en una discusión bilingüe en Facebook En Vivo relacionado con COVID-19 y el impacto que causa en las comunidades Latinas y cuál es el trabajo estamos haciendo como representantes para este cambio. Cook County’s Inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion and Latinx leaders in Cook County kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month in a bilingual discussion on Facebook Live about how COVID-19 has impacted Latinx communities and what these powerful change agents are doing to help.
    Panelists included:
    • Alma E. Anaya, Cook County Commissioner (7th District)
    • Rodrigo Carrillo, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Planning at the Illinois Housing Development Authority
    • Ivette Trevino, Senior Director of Business Development & Strategy at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    • Jose Muñoz, Executive Director of La Casa Norte.

Hispanic Heritage Month continued from September 15 - October 15, 2020

President Preckwinkle held a conversation with Ozzie Guillen, former manager of the Chicago White Sox and Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Watch highlights from that conversation and other videos from the week on our YouTube playlist.



Advancing Racial Equity in Cook County Government

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.

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. The core team and working groups meet regularly and are overseen by Denise Barreto, Director of Equity and Inclusion.

Racial Equity Week 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)


Diversity and Inclusion Statement


Offices Under the President officially adopted a Diversity and Inclusion Statement during Racial Equity Week 2019:

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.