How did the diversity discussion happen?
Naperville Councilman, Benny White, hosted the “Neighbor to Neighbor: A Diversity Conversation” discussion at Naperville’s Municipal Center.
The event comes in the wake of State Representative Anne Stava-Murray, who represents parts of Naperville within her 81st District, saying in a Facebook post that Naperville had a “history of white supremacist policies”.
White mentioned he had previous plans of having the public discussion, but noted Stava-Murray’s comments accelerated the timeline.
“You know after that there was a lot of conversation taking place on social media and we looked at it and said ‘we need to move this up’,” said White.
Discrimination people have faced in Naperville.
A panel of six, each from different backgrounds, opened up about struggles they’ve faced in their personal lives. Sadia Covert talked about looks she gets when she’s in public with her son.
“The youngest one who’s two years old. It’s hilarious because when we go out to the store together I get stares. I have jet black hair and he has bleach blonde hair and grey eyes,” said Covert.
A presentation by Naper Settlement’s Donna Sack gave a historic look at the struggles blacks faced in the 1900’s. Sack explained it was nearly impossible for blacks to own a house before the anti-discrimination housing law was passed in 1968.
After the presentation, community members had the opportunity to express some of their concerns and share stories about discrimination they’ve encountered.
“My son has gone through the whole you’re a terrorist. I have actually was told by my neighbor that I was a terrorist too,” said Khalid Ghori, a panelist at the discussion.
Maqurell Oliver, one of the youngest attendees in the room, said he would like to see more of his peers at these discussions.
“For us to be not just at the table but included in those conversations are important. For us to prosper and cultivate actual real change that is going to help positively effect infrastructure moving forward,” said Oliver.
Regina Bent, one of the panelist, was pleased to see the diversity of the people in the room.
“We had Sikhs here, we had Muslims here, blacks, whites, Jews, we had females, males, LGBTQ. We had all those people who encompass one grand diverse community. That is Naperville. That’s who we are,” said Brent.
White said the community took the first step to coming together as one.
“As we create that dialogue we can understand each other a little bit better. Which in the end will build trust for our community,” added White.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.