By Hannah Wiley
When Lynn Bos and her fellow Connect group members in Kankakee, Ill. got together for a meeting two weeks before the national Women’s March, they disagreed on where they should participate. Should they travel 60 miles to be part of the march in Chicago? Or could the activist group make a bigger impact on a local level?
After a lengthy discussion, members decided they would host their own Women’s March in Kankakee.
Kankakee County voted majority Republican during the 2016 presidential election, but the population is politically divided. The city of Kankakee has a nearly 40% black population and is home to a growing number of Hispanic families.
Last year, Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong became the first Democrat elected to that office since 1993. She’s also the city’s first African-American mayor and only the second female to hold the position.
The tense political environment of Kankakee reflects a greater national crisis of division and polarization, something Connect tries to combat through its meetings and community events.
Over 200 Kankakee marchers showed up at the courthouse on the morning of Jan. 20, ready with signs and pink hats to walk the neighborhood. While the number of participants in Kankakee paled in comparison to Chicago’s 300,000 marchers, Connect members said they felt proud that members of their community came together in Kankakee.
“I am very proud of our community,” said Wells-Armstrong. “This event today shows that there are people here who are very passionate, and they care about this city and one another.”