Locals to host an evening for Black lives


Patrick Murphy

Hopkins Park Bandshell

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKLAB Three locals are organizing An Evening for Black Lives, honoring the life of Elijah McClain and other Black lives who have suffered due to police violence. The event will take place at 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Hopkins Park Bandshell, 1403 Sycamore Road. Those attending are encouraged to bring their picnic blankets and pets, according to the organizers.

An Evening for Black Lives, welcoming 23 artists to come perform, is an effort to take part in the violin vigils sweeping the nation in honor of 23 year old Elijah McClain. A vigil is a period of time, typically when people are asleep, when people come together to either observe in devotion to someone or something or pray. 

On Aug. 30, 2019, McClain was walking home from a convenience store in Aurora, Colorado after buying his brother some iced tea. Someone thought he looked suspicious and called the cops, Shrestha Singh, organizer and racial justice advocate in the community, said. 

The Aurora Police confronted Elijah, who was unarmed, and tackled him, putting him in a chokehold that blocked the arteries to his brain. After calling first responders, who injected him with a sedative that led to him having a heart attack on the way to the hospital, he was declared brain dead. 

McClain loved music, and during his lunch breaks as a massage therapist he would visit local animal shelters to play the violin or guitar to calm anxious cats and dogs, Singh said.  

Singh organized this event with two others: Chantel Charis, who graduated this spring with their Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance, and local music teacher Carla Robinson.

“[The organizers] wanted to do something similar [to the vigils] here in DeKalb, a place with plenty of racism of its own,” Singh said. 

On Aug. 24, 2019, Elonte McDowell, 25, of Aurora, was choked by police officers in DeKalb. An Illinois law signed in 2015 prohibits officers from using chokeholds in performing their duties “unless deadly force is justified,” according to Northern Star. McDowell was taken to the DeKalb County Jail and charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis, criminal trespass to property and resisting a peace officer, according to the Star.

A grand jury decided not to indict Weese in December, despite forensic evidence proving he used an illegal, unjustified chokehold.

Red and blue spray paint were used to stencil “Patriot Front US,” representing a white supremacist group, on two vacant buildings in the Potawatomi Woods Forest Preserve near Kirkland, WLBK Radio DeKalb said. This is just 24 minutes from DeKalb. 

“Our city manager claims that Black Lives Matter, and that he understands the demands of the protestors, but then hires a former cop as assistant city manager,” Singh said.

Effective on July 1, the hiring panels to fill the position of Assistant City Manager and Police Chief included a person of color, according to Northern Star. The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ensured that no candidates violated “use of force” protocols adopted by the DeKalb Police Department, according to the Star.

In August, Josh Boldt, former DeKalb police officer, was hired as the new Assistant City Manager.

Attendees can expect artists from poets and rappers, to percussion and string performers. There will be hand sanitizing stations, required face masks and people monitoring social distancing for the safety of others, Charis said.

“The collective goal is to have a peaceful and respectful gathering with the community to celebrate Black lives and their joy, and to also honor the Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality,” Charis said.