Naperville Neighbors United Discusses Inclusion

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After the success of the first Naperville Neighbors United Diversity Discussion, the group wanted to open the floor to others who have ideas to make Naperville more inclusive.

“The big thing for this one was to make sure we got to the breakout sessions. We wanted to keep a little bit of the flavor of the first one by having some speakers. But this time, by having the breakout sessions, now every voice in the room has the opportunity to be heard,” said Dr. Benny White, a Naperville city councilman and organizer of the event.

Policymakers in Attendance

Representatives from various levels of government, as well as other community and religious leaders, joined in the discussion and listened to residents.

Barbara O’Meara started the discussion with stories about her experience in a same-sex relationship living in Naperville.

“It’s not major things that happen,” said O’Meara. “They’re not overt, they’re not loud. It’s the quiet things that happen. It’s the attorney when we bought our first house who switched ‘joint tenancy’ to ‘tenants in common’ because he was going to protect her family from me.”

She was followed by Will County Boardmember Dr. Mimi Cowan, who discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program. Cowan told a story of a student she taught who was a DACA recipient, and then quizzed the audience about the program.

Small Group Discussion

The crowd then broke off into small groups to discuss what being inclusive means to them and potential steps Naperville could take to become a more welcoming community.

“As we bring in people from different demographics within our community, what that will allow us to do is to have conversation,” said White. “And when we can have conversation, that’s going to spark understanding amongst all these different demographics that we have in our community.”

Feedback from small group facilitators allowed a word map to be generated during the discussion.

“We have to stand up, if we have a platform. If we have a voice, we have to represent those that don’t,” said Saily Joshi, a member of the Naperville Neighbors United committee.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.