The year 2020 has been brutal for many struggling with the coronavirus. The year also brought to the surface the racial inequities that have long plagued the city of Chicago. But before 2020 comes to an end, Chicago officials are calling on residents to take part in a citywide racial healing initiative.
“2020, I think, has produced a moment unlike really any other that we’ve experienced as a city,” said Candace Moore, the city’s chief equity officer. “I think the case for healing is deeply apparent to everyone.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the city’s deep segregation and stark inequities. Protests swept through downtown and many neighborhoods over the summer after the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people at the hands of police. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was not immune to criticism in her handling of city protests this year. Residents rallied outside her Logan Square home earlier this summer calling to defund the Chicago Police.
But Moore said historical traumas, inequities, and harms existed in Chicago and the rest of the country well before 2020.
“We’re really at a place in which, fundamentally, we’ve got to start building relationships and being in dialogue with one another,” she said, adding that conversations around specific policies, like reparations, are much more difficult without a shared understanding of history.
The city’s healing initiative is similar to one launched by the state’s Department of Human Services and the Chicago Community Trust, which doled out $4.5 million in grants to community groups to work on racial healing. There are no grants associated with “Together We Heal.” But Moore said the racial healing work could lay the foundation for more concrete policies and budget priorities in the future. Moore said she sees city government as a “connector” bringing together other local efforts.
There are six groups partnering with the city, but Moore said the effort is open to all.
“We’re going to be challenging every Chicagoan to participate in this in some way,” Moore said.
The city’s Together We Heal website has a toolkit for people to use if they want to hold conversations with friends, family and neighbors. It also includes a “healing map” where people can share experiences and follow what others have done. By the end of January, Moore said she hopes every neighborhood is represented.
“I think people have big hopes for 2021, but what does that look like?” Moore said. “As we move into thoughts about recovery, dreams about a world post [COVID-19], who are we going to be?
Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.