I met Aaron Washington, a member of the advocacy group Black Workers Matter, during a June 15 demonstration the organization launched with Oak Park activists in west suburban Forest Park, which recently voted to opt out of Cook County’s minimum wage ordinance.

Forest Park is home to Ferrara Candy Company, the maker of Lemonheads and Now & Laters, which employs hundreds of temp workers who live in Austin. Currently, Washington is unemployed.

I’m a volunteer for Black Workers Matter. We’re trying to get good jobs and get a raise. It’s been a bad experience looking for work because I have dreadlocks and people look at me like I’m a Chief Keef or something. They automatically throw my application out the window although I’ve been to college — I’ve been to Wilbur Wright College and taken radiology.

It’s been rough but I wanted to tell the mayor something.

He begins to recite a poem he wrote for an anticipated encounter with the mayor that never happened (instead the activists were calmly greeted by the town’s unelected administrator).

Oppressed and subjected, controlled and sent in the wrong direction / Searching for answers to construct a correction / Show a little affection / Seem like a decoy of American infrastructure, power structures and social structures / Reading the Bible scriptures as I’m being tortured / red, white and blue suited and tied vultures … if a true American means to give up one’s culture, I don’t want to be in America / Send me straight to Africa, with my ancestors …

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