Austin and Oak Park creatives, community leaders and activists will come together to talk about their work and a related exhibition called Everyday Activists at a panel discussion held March 13, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the Austin Branch Library, 5616 W. Race Ave. 

The panel discussion was initially planned to launch the Everyday Activists exhibit, when the exhibit opened inside of the library in December 2021. 

The panel will feature seven activists: Austin businesswoman Tina Augustus, Austin community safety advocate and former 37th Ward candidate Leroy Duncan, Austin Coming Together coalition youth outreach coordinator Dollie Sherman, housing and education equity advocate Sandra Sokol, Oak Park  spoken word poet and anti-racism activist Anandita Vidyarthi and Oak Park Temple

Rabbi Max Weiss. 

The exhibit features the portraits of Austin and Oak Park activists who, one way or another, advocate for their community. The exhibit is designed to break down the barriers between the two communities and let residents of the two communities know what their neighbors are doing.

The exhibit was displayed at the Oak Park Arts League, 720 Chicago Ave., in May 2021. While the organizers always intended to display it at an Austin venue, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process and the Omicron variant surge scuttled plans to host a panel and reception. The exhibit will continue to be displayed at the library through at least the end of March.

Everyday Activists is a brainchild of sociologist Susan Stall, the president of Oak Park’s Arbor West Neighbors community organization. Stall said she realized that activists who are well-known within their own communities may not be known to their neighbors across Austin Boulevard. 

“This was an opportunity for Oak Park to learn about the great community activism that’s going on in Austin and for Austin to learn about the great community activists in Oak Park,” Stall said. 

She quoted one of the featured activists, Pastor Ira Acree, of Austin’s Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Walter Ave., when describing the exhibit’s broader purpose. Acree said the exhibit is meant to “tear down that invisible wall on Austin Boulevard and replace it with a bridge.” 

Stall teamed up with freelance photographer Tameka Wilson, who photographed the exhibit’s 29 subjects. The photos and short descriptions are arranged along the walls of the library’s main section and patrons can pick up a booklet near the library’s front desk that has more information on the exhibit. 

Branch manager Jo Anne Willis said that Stall originally approached her about mounting the exhibit in March 2021, but they got to know each other earlier than that. After several delays, the exhibit opened on Dec. 6, 2021. 

Willis said that the exhibit has been popular, because so many patrons already know the Austin subjects.

“If you lived in Austin for a number of years, if your family lived in Austin for a number of years, you probably know those people,” she said.

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...