Local, Park Forest

Should Park Forest Rename Streets Honoring Confederate Figures? Public Forum This Week.

Jackson Street, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, rename streets, Confederate
Jackson Street, located in Lincolnwood, an area of town meant to honor President Abraham Lincoln, was named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Should Park Forest rename streets that honor those who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War? The question took on new meaning after the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 when James Alex Fields Jr., 20, rammed a car into a group of people protesting a white nationalist rally.

When Fields collided with protestors, he left one women dead, Heather Hayer, 32, of Ohio, and dozens injured. Fields was initially charged with second-degree murder. That charge was upgraded to first-degree murder this week.

It was in August 2017, after the tragedy in Charlottesville,  that Mayor John Ostenburg first charged a committee of the Village Board to explore the possibility of changing street names in Park Forest.

If you have an opinion or wish to have your voice heard on this matter, this is your chance.

The Village of Park Forest announced a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. to discuss streets in the Village named after confederate generals, and if their designations are problematic to residents, according to a release from the Village.

The forum will take place at Freedom Hall, 410 Lakewood Blvd.

“A longtime socially conscious community,” the Village said in a statement, “Park Forest in the summer of 2016 became one of a small number of municipalities nationally to participate in the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Race Equity and Leadership (REAL) initiative. The NLC created REAL in the wake of the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, to strengthen local leaders’ knowledge and capacity to eliminate racial disparities, heal racial divisions, and build more equitable communities.”

mayor john ostenburg, tom mick, mae brandon, street signs
Mayor John Ostenburg reads from a prepared statement regarding street signs in Park Forest at the meeting of the Village Board, August 21, 2017. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

As part of Park Forest’s involvement in the REAL initiative, Mayor John A. Ostenburg over the past two years has overseen a comprehensive review of all of Park Forest’s policies, processes, and procedures to identify and eliminate any outdated or unjust practice that disproportionately targets any group, the statement reads.

“Following the Charlottesville, Virginia tragedy in August 2017, Ostenburg furthered this review by announcing his intent to investigate if streets in Park Forest named after confederate generals were of concern to residents,” the statement continues.

Actually, in August 2017, in the aftermath of the violence in Charlettsville, Virginia, Mayor John Ostenburg charged a committee of the Board with considering alternative names for streets in Park Forest that honor the Confederacy, or consider rededicating current streets. The Mayor made it clear in August, however, that renaming such streets will also be part of the discussion.

A committee consisting of a mixture of residents, staff members, and elected officials has met several times since August to hold preliminary talks, the statement by the Village said.

Park Forest now seeks feedback from residents.

The street names in question include Davis, Lee, Jackson, and Early — all named shortly after Park Forest was incorporated in 1949.

The streets are in West and East Lincolnwood.

For those unable to be present but would like to provide feedback, comments should be emailed to [email protected] by Jan. 31.

Related: Park Forest Explores Renaming Streets Named For Confederate Figures