Members of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee would like to to share with you these selections they wrote to promote diverse persons, cultures, and awareness. Over several months, they were distributed internally and posted on our website and social media.
Ada S. McKinley was an African American social reformer and civil rights activist. Her welfare work lent itself to several efforts including but not limited to helping Black Chicagoans after WWI, after the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and during the Great Migration, the Great Depression, and the 1919 Chicago race riots. In 1920, she established the South Side Community Service to be able to continue to provide services to poor people of color. This later became known as the South Side Settlement House (SSSH). By 1927, her program had provided social services to over 25,000 needy individuals in the community. Today, her program, now known as Ada S. McKinley Community Services Inc., is one of the largest human service organizations in the U.S. It offers services at over 70 sites across Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana and serves more than 7,000 people annually within the arenas of child development, employment, and mental health, providing services that include mentoring, college placement, foster care, housing support, family counseling, and Head Start programs.
Ada S. McKinley represents the true nature of all CJE’s values. Without pioneers and advocates like her, many of our friends, neighbors, and families would remain in need. Her dedication to her vision and mission is mirrored today by CJE’s own dedicated staff, especially during these difficult times.
—Michele Mangrum, DEI Committee Co-Chair
March 25, 2021 was designated by the United Nations as International Day of Remembrance to globally observe and honor the lives lost due to the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. A permanent memorial called the Ark of Return has been erected at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
European countries built outposts on the west African coast for trading guns, ammunition, knives, and tools in exchange for African people to work as slaves in other countries. Forcefully captured, Africans were chained and crammed into overcrowded quarters aboard large vessels and shipped to North America, the Caribbean, and South America. From the 16th century to the 19th century, it is estimated that up to 12.8 million African people were taken involuntarily from their homeland. In addition, an estimated 1.2 to 2.4 million Africans died during the voyage from the sub-human conditions. The surviving slaves contributed vitally to the growing economy of the Americas at the expense of the African economy of their home countries, with effects still felt today.
It’s important to honor the lives lost in slavery and to learn about the suffering of the slaves from centuries ago because of the residual effects of racism and prejudice, and to raise awareness of the dangers of treating others as inferior through abuse and terrorism. We can see how CJE values apply to this great human rights violation by looking at the early 21st century where several governments have issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade and some have not. It’s possible that we do not like to talk about this part of our history. But we can change the narrative and dispel built-up anger and fear by talking about our past, which will develop better understanding and respect for each other. If we do not talk about it, we will continue to view this part of history as not our problem and become disconnected from it and from one another. When we witness racism, we are inspired by the values upon which CJE was built, and we exhibit compassion, recognize suffering, and act to help. We become more united, advocating for the oppressed, the segregated, and the marginalized. The “not my problem” attitude instead becomes “our problem.” By embracing this challenge, we own it, learn from it, and grow from it. We must be willing to process the truth and reconcile with the past. Together we can promote dignity and respect for everyone’s humanity. Our survival is tied to the survival of everyone.
—Maureen Spathies, DEI Committee Member
Arab and Jewish communities have had long-standing conflicts on the global stage. As we learn a little about the Arab American community through the lens of the CJE values of compassion and respect, we can celebrate many similarities of the two differing cultures.
The Arab world spans western Asia to northern Africa and consists of 22 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen. These countries make up the Arab League that represents the interests of the Arab people. While the people of these nations are ethnically and religiously diverse with politics unique to their countries, they do share a common culture and language.
Arab migration to the U.S. had two major waves: the first from the late 1800s to early 1900s (seeking the “American Dream”) and the second in the 1950s (mostly bi-lingual intellectuals seeking education and jobs). Currently, there are about 3.7 million Arab Americans in the U.S. whose ethnicity spans the Arab world. They are predominantly Lebanese/ Syrian, Palestinian/Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Moroccan. Today, 90% of Arab Americans live in urban centers, with the most in Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Washington D.C., and 170,000 in Chicago. Approximately 63% are Christian, 25% are Muslim, and 13% identify as “other” or have no religious affiliation.
Arabic is the language and it has three forms: Modern Standard (official language and taught in schools); Colloquial (various dialects spoken from each of the Arab countries); and Classic (used in literature, writing, and for religious purpose). Familial bonds are a predominant source of support for individuals. The food of Arab Americans is mainly centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. One ingredient you are not likely to find in Arab American cuisine is pork, due to religious reasons or cultural preferences. Additionally, Muslim Arab Americans require their meat to be halal (ritually slaughtered). Within the Arab American community, 85% have high school diplomas, over 40% undergraduate degrees or higher, and 17% post-graduate degrees.
Each Arab American community is steeped in its own rich culture and has distinct differences from each other. Moreover, some individuals may choose not to partake in certain cultural practices. However, it is recommended that, by keeping an open and curious mind and heart, we can all better coexist with others.
–Cat Miller, DEI Committee Member