How George Floyd Protest Sparked Creation Of Local Activist Group
Originally published in Journal & Topics: By Lauren Barry
Each week, members of a Des Plaines activist group meet virtually to discuss equity and political engagement in the city.
Supporting Positive Efforts of Action and Knowledge (SPEAK) Des Plaines members created the group this summer after a peaceful protest supporting racial equity and an end to police brutality was held at Lee and Oakton streets, said member Jessie Maag. That event was held in response to the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Most SPEAK members were part of another community group focused on police related issues and decided they wanted to branch out to cover more topics, Maag said.
Before the group was officially established in August, organizers reached out to local Facebook groups such as Des Plaines Forward for input.
A nearly lifelong Des Plaines resident and Maine West High School graduate, Maag decided to dedicate herself to local activism after leaving her job last year.
“I wanted to find a way to help others,” she said.
According to the SPEAK Des Plaines website, it is “is an anti-racist nonpartisan community group and open to anyone who wants to work together toward our mission regardless of race, religion, age, ability, citizenship status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political beliefs.”
Group goals include: keeping community members informed about current events, facilitating solutions to local issues and keeping residents engaged in local government and elections.
Around five to 10 residents participate in each weekly meeting, according to Maag, and more interact with the group through its Facebook page, website and in-person events.
So far, group members have been able to inspire change in the community through meetings with Mayor Matt Bogusz, Police Chief William Kushner, City Manager Mike Bartholomew and local aldermen. Following the meetings, the Des Plaines Police Dept. published the “DPPD Commitment to Community message”, said the group.
“We’re really focused on action,” Maag told the Journal & Topics in an interview Friday (Oct. 16).
Group members organized Saturday’s Women’s March event called “Speak Up. Vote. Dissent” at Lee and Oakton streets, the same spot where more than 1,000 showed up for the racial inequality protest this summer.
“It’s important that girls know they can speak up,” said march organizer Anita Vaughn, who hoped the event would also have a considerable turnout.