Thursday, June 18, 2020 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Earlier this month, a prominent River Forest developer was charged with one count of a hate crime and one count of aggravated battery by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office after he allegedly assaulted an African American woman in the parking lot of the River Forest Jewel. The incident, which the woman recorded on her cellphone, went viral on Twitter and put at least one Maywood resident on edge.
The woman approached Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones at an anti-racism rally at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Fred Hampton Way, on June 7, to tell the elected official that the Jewel incident was partly why she often refuses to venture into the mostly white, wealthy suburb just east of her.
“Talking about that incident prompted me to think how I could respond to this,” Jones said during a phone interview this week.
The trustee said that the conversation resulted in his proposed Maywood/River Forest Twin City Covenant initiative, which commits the neighboring suburbs “to the principles of humanity, equity and inclusion,” according to the Covenant language Jones drafted. “The Covenant will guide the overarching spirit of our distinct towns to think as one and to interact in more collaborative ways.”
Possible areas of collaboration include the two suburbs committing to “a regional perspective on commercial and residential investment/development,” the “recognition of multicultural holidays” like Juneteenth and Cinco De Mayo, the “exploration of partnerships for procurement with local business,” the collaboration between the Maywood and Oak Park-River Forest Chambers of Commerce and possibly sharing facilities.
Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones, right, speaks with Illinois Senate President Don Harmon during an event in June outside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center in Maywood. | File
“I think this is huge,” Jones said. “We need to have a formal relationship. By doing that, we’re saying that Maywood’s problems are River Forest’s problems and River Forest’s problems are Maywood’s problems.”
Jones said his proposal is likely to appear in the form of a resolution at a River Forest trustee board meeting on Monday. The resolution could appear before the Maywood trustee board when the board, which is currently in summer session, meets next month. Jones said that he has oral commitments from River Forest officials, including River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci. He added that he’s sent the proposal to all of his colleagues on Maywood’s board.
“First Avenue is at River Forest’s back door and River Forest is landlocked, so it would make perfect sense to develop this relationship that shows that the two suburbs are willing to stand with each other as it relates to economic empowerment.”
Jones was interviewed a few days after Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon organized an anti-racism march on June 15, when nearly 1,000 demonstrators walked along Washington Boulevard, from Bellwood through Maywood and River Forest before ending at a school in Forest Park. Jones and President Adduci were both among those who marched that day.
Jones said that the Twin City Covenant would also allow both towns opportunities to re-brand themselves as, in the case of River Forest, a community that is not as welcoming to minorities, and, in the case of Maywood, a community that is lacking in economic development and well-known for its blight.
“The reason I got into politics was because I’m trying to figure out a way to take a lower-income minority community, particularly Maywood, and make it a more affluent and middle-/upper-middle-class, black and brown community without displacement and gentrification,” Jones said. “I’m hoping that this sparks something to the point where people will maybe see it as a good opportunity to move back to Maywood.”