Originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Gazette, by Holly Marihugh
Last June 6th on the Village Green in Winnetka, the same ground where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke 55 years ago, an estimated 2,000 Winnetkans gathered to denounce racism. This year marked an explosion of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Across the country, scores of Americans demonstrated in the streets, carrying signs demanding that people of color be treated with dignity and respect.
Two marches took place in Winnetka: One started at Dwyer Park and the other at New Trier High School. Both groups converged on the Village Green where Illinois State Senator Laura Fine challenged those gathered to be “Up-standers” instead of “Bystanders” when it comes to speaking up for justice.
Sarah Ko, a Winnetka resident took her two daughters, Elliot, 13, and Avery, 9, to the march.
“We live in a zip code that’s very homogenous,” Ko says. “I went mainly to show my kids that racism is a systemic issue that we might not face day-to-day, but just down the road in Evanston or 40 minutes away from where we live, racism is such a prevalent issue.”
A professional in healthcare strategy and innovation, Ko says that racism has real health consequences.
“A lot of the oppression that Black Americans feel day-to-day leads to physiological ailments like hypertension and stroke,” Ko says. “Coming from a public health background, I know that there are real situations when you look at zip codes and life expectancy across Chicago. There are widespread inequities.”
As an Asian American, Ko herself is part of an American minority group. “We tend to be on the fringe as bystanders to a lot of these oppressive acts,” Ko says. “I want to be part of a movement that says we have a role to play, and we should rise as an up-stander, to use Laura Fine’s term.”■