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DISPATCH Newsletter February 2023

 Header image that resembles a distressed postcard that reads "Dispatch official newsletter February 2023" with the Niles Coalition logo portrayed as a postage stamp in the lower right hand corner.

Hello friends, welcome back to the DISPATCH! We have more to say than we can squeeze in this month, buckle up!

Black History & Resistance in Niles

February is Black History Month and this year’s theme is Black Resistance. Mayor George Alpogianis read a proclamation in recognition at the recent Niles Village Board of Trustees Meeting.

That got us thinking about our own Black history, here, in Niles. That may sound unexpected to some for a variety of reasons but this holiday was created to bring awareness to Black people in a society that continually invisiblizes them.

For example, did you know that Farm on Franks was the brainchild of Shawn Phillips? In 2013:

“Niles resident Shawn Phillips brought the idea of starting a community garden to Niles park commissioners last month. Phillips said he envisions a garden where residents could be given small beds to grow their own fruits, vegetables or flowers.”

This is the kind of community engagement that inspired us early in our work at the Niles Coalition and Shawn has been helping us understand the needs of our community.

Jabez Patterson is the creative force behind The Library Scoop Podcast of the Niles-Maine District Library. Utilizing his teaching skills and passion for providing engaging and supportive instruction in his roles in Digital Services at NMDL, his contributions were greatly appreciated by patrons and peers. For four years his podcast highlighted the stories of people in our community; episodes featured his interviews with librarians and other workers, patrons, electeds, businesses, and local history. The podcast lives on at the Niles-Maine District Library so be sure to subscribe and catch up on past episodes. Now a Programming Librarian in Adult Services at Oak Park Public Library, Jabez is recognized for his community-forward in-person and virtual programming.

A foundational element of the Niles Coalition is the community-building by Milcah Baraona. Early in our founding we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Niles Senior Center was cranking out progressive programming already! For example, the Culture Club program Milcah created expanded her work to the broader community for intergenerational events with social & identity topics.

At the last Village of Niles board meeting Trustee Niedermaier reported progress on a Cycling Without Age program which was also a project we were facilitating with Milcah. We were looking forward to a partnership to create events that could bring us all together with our elders. Unfortunately after she brought complaints and a lawsuit for workplace discrimination, she was terminated by the Village of Niles. She is a huge inspiration for us and what was done to Milcah has caused such a great loss to our community.

In our search for more examples of Black history in Niles we reached out to the Niles Historical Society. They also referred us to Milcah’s work and provided additional leads to follow up. They would like to add more to their files and we know people in our community must have more! If you are such a person please reach out to us!

Public Speaking Workshop Recap

Organizer Pam sits on a stage leading a workshop in front of an audience of people in a library conference room.

On February 4th Niles Coalition gave a Public Speaking Workshop. It was attended by around 15 people of all ages who participated enthusiastically. It was a great way to learn or improve public speaking abilities, and was a good outreach opportunity. A number of people asked for the class to be ongoing rather than a one-time event, and plans are in progress to make this a reality.

Niles Senior Center Racism

On Thursday February 2nd the Niles Senior Center held a “murder mystery” luncheon event. Racist symbols were a part of this organized event and photos containing those symbols were posted to Facebook. This is an ongoing pattern for the Niles Senior Center and we have yet to hear a plan on how the Village intends to address this ongoing issue.

Community Relations Commission Update

Community members have been engaging with the Community Relations Commission in good faith with several submitted complaints. Recent history with this commission hasn’t been promising so we are keeping an eye on how they are engaging with the community. The web page was updated with complaint procedures and an online form. What happens to these complaints is still yet to be seen.


#SaveNilesLibrary Horizon

When we first created #SaveNilesLibrary two years ago, getting to the April 2023 election was the goal. In the course of this campaign we learned so much more about this particular struggle. Learning by doing is a crucial piece of organizing and we intentionally made room for it. It is soon time for a refreshed campaign that incorporates this learned knowledge for more impact. The upcoming April election can only offer the possibility of a reprieve. Just enough time to regroup and double-down on protecting our community. Whether or not Joe Makula wins, the motivating factors will remain and we need to grasp them at the root!

More Niles-Maine District Library Board Censorship

On the left stands a woman reading a public comment at a podium, on the right is Trustee Joe Makula shouting her down.

Library board members continue to fail in their duties at what should be boring but productive board meetings. President Carolyn Drblik’s absurd decorum to censor public speech grows seemingly with each meeting. Trustee Makula shouted down our organizer with:

“You’re out of order. Public speaker, you better watch yourself.”

We’ve been here before with our allies at the Citizen Advocacy Center. We will continue to fight against this illegitimate board. You can watch the video here.  Also come see us in person at the next meeting this Wednesday the 15th at 6:30 or catch the live broadcast here. We won’t stand for any more censorship!


CivicLab Set to Illuminate ALL Illinois TIFs

Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF) were the subject of a resolution recently passed at the Village of Niles board meeting. With growing awareness of the harmful nature of TIFs, this resolution in *support* of TIFs is unfortunate. The experts at CivicLab were recently awarded a grant to examine all the TIFs of Illinois for 2020 as a part of their TIF Illumination Project. We are patiently awaiting the results of their finding for Niles!

Libraries at the End of the World

Emily Drabinski, Incoming President of the American Library Association and ally of our #SaveNilesLibrary campaign is being featured in a fantastic upcoming event. It is called Essential to the Public: Libraries at the End of the World and co-sponsored by Project Nia and The Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Libraries are also under attack by organized extremists who use censorship as a bludgeon against one of the few public institutions still standing. From Florida to California, Michigan to New York, book ban attempts are swiftly followed by efforts to defund the library. As progressives, we must be as organized as they are, putting libraries on the top of our organizing agenda.

This is directly related to our struggle in Niles so this is not one to miss! RSVP here.


Sometimes it’s what you don’t hear about that tells the story. Pay attention to what is *not* said.

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