June 4, 2020
Dear Landmarks Illinois friends,
Throughout our nearly 50-year history, Landmarks Illinois has worked side by side with advocates to create safe, resilient and healthy communities across Illinois. This work has continuously revealed inequities and injustices that are embedded in our designed and natural environments, as well as in preservation’s own practices. The past week’s protests demand that our work be dedicated to breaking down systems of racism and injustice and ensuring equity in our approach.
We support today’s courageous protesters as well as the generations of activists before us who built the foundation for change. The death of George Floyd has rightfully continued the anger, outrage and deep sadness over historic injustices against Black Americans. This, on top of the already volatile economy and public health crisis. The protests continue to raise the need to address biases and inequities in our own work as we support community recovery.
We have already committed to this work. We envision our 50th anniversary in 2021 as a point of organizational evolution. We’ve formed a think tank of diverse perspectives to identify, reckon with and develop solutions to build a more equitable, inclusive and relevant organization. Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (CROAR) will host a critical cultural competency training for our volunteers and staff this summer as the beginning to understanding our own biases. We’ve spent the past 10 months interviewing thought leaders nationwide about needed change in preservation and how to build our movement of the future. But, we know that so much more needs to be done.
Landmarks Illinois describes our work as people saving places for people. One of our core values is empowering people and improving lives. Our staff and board are dedicated to maintaining that commitment to all of the people of Illinois. This is especially true today as we experience incredibly challenging and uncertain times. We have taken steps in recent months to create new resources partly directed toward organizations serving constituencies of color, including:
- Granting $26,000 in emergency financial support to 13 Illinois nonprofits through the Landmarks Illinois COVID-19 Organization Relief Fund. This program provided essential organizational funding to our partners in Illinois who work tirelessly to preserve community heritage, culture and the places that hold value to residents. (Recipients of this grant fund were announced today – Read more here)
- Created the Landmarks Illinois Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side to support people in their effort to preserve and promote the history, culture and architecture of Chicago’s South Side. Our newest grant fund was named in honor of civil rights activist Timuel D. Black Jr. (Nonprofit community organizations are welcome to apply for funding through July 15.) You can donate to this fund by contacting me at email@example.com.
I want to identify partners we work with throughout Chicago and the state where your engagement could directly support alleviating racism and inequity, as well as providing resources for community rebuilding.
- Artists ReEnvisioning Tomorrow (ART Inc.) (Peoria)
- Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (Chicago)
- Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives
- Greater Chatham Initiative (Chicago)
- My Block My Hood My City (Chicago)
- Route History (Springfield)
- Springfield NAACP
- Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities (Edwardsville)
- National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and Illinois NOMA
- National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Grant Fund
This is just the beginning. Our work to address the systems of inequity in preservation is ongoing. We recognize there’s much to learn from the people we serve and that this righteous work is not easy. We promise to be active listeners today and every day and amplify the voices that must be heard in order to create a truly fair and just society for all.
Thank you for being a part of the Landmarks Illinois community. We, the Landmarks Illinois staff and board, are all personally committed to the well-being of our neighborhoods in Chicago and throughout the state. We hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe.
Sandra Rand, Chair, Board of Directors
Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO