In 1970, on the heels of a post-Civil Rights Act United States, the Village of Oak Park made the courageous decision to declare itself an open and inclusive community and officially welcomed people of color to live in the Village. This bold declaration was fueled by the actions of community leaders, who with empathy and foresight, undertook a series of initiatives to create an environment where Black people felt welcomed and safe within the Village. One such initiative was the creation of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, which was founded to address the racial tension and residential segregation as the Oak Park community became more racially diverse. However, despite the many men and women fervently dedicating themselves to the Village’s mission of equality, sadly this promise remains unfulfilled.
Many area residents know the history of Percy Julian, a renowned research chemist and Oak Park resident, whose family home was firebombed twice, a story that became national news. In the 50 years since, we have seen, and heard, countless instances of violence and bigotry towards Black residents in the Village. Yesterday, a hateful and heinous act mirroring those instances was committed as an unknown person attempted to break the window of L!ve Cafe and Creative Space, a Black and woman-owned beloved staple in the community.
We continue, and shall continue, to show our solidarity with the owners of L!ve Cafe as well as our Black and brown residents who call this vibrant neighborhood home. We as an organization, and as a community, will not tolerate these cowardly acts that are designed to intimidate Black residents and evoke memories of our painful past. In fact, these actions have done the opposite. We remain unwavering in our steadfast commitment to being a part of a thriving community that welcomes and sustains people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Hate has no home here. It never has and it never will.
We encourage all of you, residents, business owners, community partners and visitors to stand with us and our communal mission of diversity and equity, with an undying urge of safety for all residents. Ultimately, this community is once again called to make a decision: to stand for the commitment made of ensuring a welcoming and safe home to BIPOC residents. This is our community. Our home. We can do better.
With faith in our community,
Executive Director, Oak Park Regional Housing Center