Reading Facebook one day soon after George Floyd’s death, someone in a mom’s group suggested we do something. Me and five new friends in Lombard got together and started a new Facebook group called LARJ – Lombard Allies for Racial Justice. Our mission statement read:
Lombard Allies for Racial Justice (LARJ) is based on the guiding principle that we must take immediate action to dismantle racism.
To this end, the goals of this nonpartisan organization are to:
Raise awareness on issues of racial inequity in the Lombard and Villa Park communities.
Educate ourselves and hold one another accountable through civil discourse and respect. We share a common goal to eradicate racial injustice and white privilege in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our communities.
Support organizations that are already doing important work in areas of racial justice
Hold our elected officials and law enforcement officers accountable, through education,awareness and action to ensure equal justice for all people.
The group grew very quickly and people were eager to do something. My idea was to let leaders emerge on their own — if someone had a particular interest or talent they wanted to pursue, we at LARJ would support them in their goals. This approach led to a number of initiatives that summer, including rallies, book clubs, a group for educators, and a team that met several times with local government officials to gain a better understanding of how our area is policed.
Some other projects I was involved in and most proud of were:
Anti-Racism Bake Sale: Coming from the idea of a baker on hiatus during Covid, LARJ held a bake sale that raised over $3,000 for The Illinois Innocence Project, an organization that frees men and women who are wrongfully imprisoned. It was a great community event and supported by the Village.
Lombard Community Leadership Forum: Incredibly, our brand new organization was able to attract area leaders to take part in the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. Representatives from Lombard Elementary District 44, School District 45, and Glenbard District 87, Helen Plum Library, the Lombard Park District, and leaders from the Village of Lombard all participated in this challenge. Participants attended two live community Zoom meetings, one to learn about the challenges and another to discuss what we’d learned. I moderated these forums.
Running for Local Office 101: We hosted a Zoom meeting with local elected officials and candidates to answer questions for LARJ members with an interest in running for office. Panelists included Andrew Honig, Lombard Village Trustee; Navreet Heneghan of District 45; Kristin Walsh, Helen Plum Library Board member; and Tina Dyson-Dunne, then a candidate for DuPage County Forest Preserve.
And, of course, the often misunderstood DuPage for Progress was born that summer of 2020. We original leaders met through LARJ — me, Sarah Campagna, and Kathy Nash — and identified a need to make running for office easier. It’s almost impossible for many qualified people to figure this out on their own. More on that in my next post!