Chicago’s First Chief Equity Officer Offers Definition of the Work: “We’re Talking About Love, Really, and Community.”
April 16, 2021
Candace Moore serves as Chicago’s first ever Chief Equity Officer in the Office of Equity and Racial Justice established by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019. In conversation with Jenan Mohajir, Senior Director of Leadership at IFYC, Ms. Moore discusses what an Office of Equity and Racial Justice does, how she and her team adapted amid the pandemic, and how religious communities are crucial partners for social change, connection, and healing.
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Candace Moore: “in being the first chief equity officer and in establishing an office to combat a challenge that has been baked into the DNA of how our society works is completely overwhelming, right? … What is this opportunity that we have in front of us? I think it’s to start something; to lay a foundation, to begin something that hasn’t been in place before. To understand how city government works and begin to lay a set of practices, a set of changes, a set of learning, which means that, fundamentally, I don’t know how much we’ll “complete.”
“Faith communities can be very, very powerful and very, very important vehicles by which we have conversations about the way our world works and the way that we are trying to improve or change or advance different issues.”
“When I try to explain equity work to folks when I really boil it down, we’re talking about questions of justice, talking about questions of fairness, we’re talking about questions of love, really, and community.”
“We have witnessed the murder of George Floyd. We have been going through a powerful and profound historical reckoning moment around race and racism. We are seeing Covid lay bare the cost of racism and racial inequity. What happens when you ignore the fault lines in society? Something that is race-neutral like a– like a virus can… in racialized ways because of how our society is set up. Because of where the fault lines exist. Because of where the resources to protect and to mitigate infections exist within your community. The case is clear. We have to do something. Racial inequality costs us all.”
“I am very intentional about the people that I surround myself with, the friendships, the family, and trying to give myself some time, some space, to like, soak up that love, because I need that to keep on moving.”
Jenan Mohajir: Welcome, everybody, and welcome Candace, we’re so excited to have this conversation with you. As you probably know, I’m one of your fangirls. I’ve been admiring your work from afar for a number of years. We’re just really grateful to have this time and with you. So, thank you for being here.
Candace Moore: Thank you for having me. I’m excited for the conversation.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah. Thank you. And as I mentioned, as we were chatting earlier, you know, IFYC is really anchored in the tradition of storytelling and the tradition of narrative. So, to honor that practice, I would love to just invite you to tell us a little bit about yourself. I know, like myself, you are a Chicago-land citizen and have various experiences here. So, I would love to kind of, for our listeners to hear a little bit about who you are and where you grew up and where you come from.
Candace Moore: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you the speed-read version, so we don’t take all of our time here. But, yes, I am born and raised in the Chicago-land area, shout out to my hometown of rural Illinois. That’s where I was born and raised, and much of my family, so I think of it still as home. I’ve been in the city, well, over… 10 years, let’s say, it’s more than that, but this is where I went to undergrad, where I went to law school, where I began practicing civil rights law and where, ultimately, now I serve in the city government. You know, my journey to this moment has been rooted in injustice and thinking about advocacy and thinking about voice and thinking about the community that I come from, the people that I love, the opportunities that were afforded to me as well as the opportunities that I know haven’t always been afforded to everyone.
You know, it’s interesting, listening to my bio again, this note about the trials and triumphs, right? I think both of those things go hand in hand to create the person I am today, but also how I think about service, and how I think about the role that I find myself in right now, helping to lead out what the– how the city will take its first steps towards institutionalizing equity and racial justice in that work. So, that’s kind of the spirit I come to the work and, you know, each day, it’s a new challenge, but also a new opportunity.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah, absolutely. I actually remember, it was probably just under a year ago at mayor Lightfoot’s inauguration, where she sort of outlined her vision for Chicago. She had just announced at that point, just before the inauguration, had announced the new office of equitable and racial justice, of which you are the chief executive officer. It was such an exciting moment because I remember being in conversation with the friends around the city who are really committed to this work, who was so full of hope to see that announcement come out. I would love to hear from you. What is your vision for this work? You’ve been in this work for about a year now with the city. What does it look like to pursue equity from your perspective?
Candace Moore: Yeah. It is hard to believe, it’s actually going on two years in July. It doesn’t feel like– it doesn’t feel like that given all the things that have happened. But, you know, I had this moment, when I was asked, you know, would I be willing to serve in this role, I was just asking myself, what is it going to look like for me? I was probably as excited as anyone that the city was getting an equity officer. Actually, I was helping to frame out what the office looked like before I got asked.
So, I wrote all these things, about what the chief equity officer would do for somebody else. Then, when the offer was extended to me, I was like, you know, “can I take a look at that again to make sure I can do all of it?”
But I think what is really important is that you know, in being the first chief equity officer and in establishing an office to combat a challenge that has been baked into the DNA of how our society works is completely overwhelming, right? So, I stopped and asked myself, what is my role? What is this opportunity that we have in front of us? And I think it’s to start something. It’s to lay a foundation. It’s to begin something, to begin something that hasn’t been in place before. To understand how city government works and begin to lay a set of practices, a set of changes, a set of learning, which means that, fundamentally, I don’t know how much we’ll “complete.”
Because we’re starting something and just giving– liberating myself a little bit and saying that the job right now is to start something. Although two years can be quite a long time relative to the challenge in front of us, it’s a drop in the bucket. I try to remind myself of that and think of a chief equity officer, not as the place you go to go get some equity. I can’t–I don’t have a magic wand to make equity happen, but what I can do is be a thought partner to folks across our enterprise who are thinking about different challenges or who need to have deeper conversations about what it means to be embed equity, to shift our work, to be accountable to results, to problem solve around challenges. That’s kind of how I come to work.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I remember, actually, I think the first time we met in person was at an early forum in 2019, that the mayor was hosting with faith community leaders across the city, to come together to talk about gun violence in the city. And we just happen to be at the same table. So, it was very… that I got to meet you that day. And one of the things that we think a lot about in IFYC is, really, this intersection of interfaith work, faith communities coming together to hold common action together, to work on social change together in their communities, whether it’s a particular issue or a set of different issues. And the intersection of that initiative was also the workaround racial justice and where those two things meet. Oftentimes, I think people are very hesitant to talk about race and religion and class because those things seem so big and difficult to do.
As a Muslim, I know that you know, one of the verses in the Quran, in our holy book, that I often turn to in those moments, is when that says, you know, “Be people who speak for justice, even if it’s against yourself, and your family, and your community.” And that’s a responsibility that we hold. I’m curious to hear about your– sort of, your personal reflections on that, you know, how to bring those different things together, and also, how you see this work happening through your office, where the engagement of racial equity work and racial justice work is happening in partnership with faith communities or alongside faith communities.
Candace Moore: Yeah. I think the short of it, is that… I think faith communities can be very, very powerful and very, very important vehicles by which we have conversations about the way our world works and the way that we are trying to improve or change or advance different issues. And I — I’m a Christian and I grew up in a Christian tradition as well as I went to a college, I went to Loyola. So, that was the first time I went into a Catholic school. I didn’t really know much about Catholicism. And so, I kind of had this learning experience of really kind of learning a lot about Catholicism, even in juxtaposition to the Baptist denomination that I was sort of born and raised in.
I think one of the things that have always impressed upon me is there are these core tenets of so many different faiths, that ultimately, when you boil it down and call out a question of justice, a question of fairness, conversations around love and conversations in our community, right? And when I try to explain equity work to folks, I think when I really boil it down, we’re talking about questions of justice, talking about questions of fairness, we’re talking about questions of love, really, and community.
And so, we learn so much of the bones of what that means to us and to our families and to lives through our faith and through the upbringings we have. And so, half of the battle is explaining to folks that, yes, equity work is rigorous and intentional, but sometimes I joke and say, “it’s not that deep, though, right?” You also have, you know, this notion of what does fairness–What does it mean to be harmed? What does it mean to repair? What does it mean to forgive? And I think the really powerful conversations you can have when we put race on the table as one of the challenges that we have to deal with in society. You know, how do we understand the challenges around racism what we see within the context of our faith, of our morals, of our values? How can we find alignment? And ultimately do work, right? And hold ourselves accountable to – what does it takes to change that, I think it can be really powerful. I get excited when I get to get in partnership with faith leaders. They are really cored to so much of the work we do at the city, because that is–that is a powerful communal space of folks who have shared values, shared vision and who want to contribute to the world around them and so, we are always very grateful for our faith leaders that bring insights to the work that can lift up the experiences that folks are having, that they hear from their congregations and their networks, who can also be great messengers and conduits of bringing folks together, to process challenges and to make meaning out of some of the– you know, quite frankly, the unfairness that can happen in community. But also hold us accountable to what can we do more to build, to change, etcetera. So, it’s a powerful piece of our civic discourse to the engagement.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I would love to, actually, ask about any of the initiatives that you have been running over the last two years. My apologies that I said a year. I feel like 2020 has just been canceled in my brain, so, I’m so–
Candace Moore: No apologies. Sometimes, I don’t know how long I’ve been working. It could have been 10 years. It could have been ten days. I don’t remember. It’s all a blur at this point, so no worries. I just had to stop thinking, I was like, I think it’s going on two years now.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah. You’re right. It’s 2019, that’s when you started. Yeah So, I would love to kind of hear a little bit about– I know the “Together we heal” initiative, the logo which is right behind you.
Candace Moore: My little commercial here.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah. I love it. You know, I was really privileged to be part of one of the conversations hosted by that. I would love to hear, sort of, some of the work that your office has been doing and who you’ve been engaging through and what successes you’re seeing triumphs, and trials that you’ve been seeing?
Candace Moore: Yeah. I’ll share a little bit of– sometimes I joke and say, “there are the BC times, Before Covid, and then, you know, after covid.” But when I first started, on of the things that were really important to me was, how do you begin to build something in a massive enterprise, that has existed for a very long time before you? I thought a lot about institutional change, so, most of my work is– work focused internally. And really thinking about our department strength, make sure I even understand how they work, who they are, what they do, what do they see as their biggest justice, fairness, challenges? How do they think about race in their work? What do they know? What have they done already? So, in some ways, the first part is just a big exploration of me trying to understand this. And so, my vision was to begin and take that sort of curiosity into understanding, and foundation of assessment where we are at and then build in the capacity building, through the operations, the planning, to setting goals and then ultimately, like, work in plans to get that result across the enterprise.
And then life happens. Life gets in the way of any best laid plans. So, Covid hit and so much of what we thought about and how we thought about shifted. You know, there was a moment where we were just all hands on deck. You know, and so, I began reaching out to a lot of community members, just say, “how are you doing? What information are you looking for right now that you may not have? What’s happening on the ground? What more could we be doing?”
Then we got data around the racial disproportionalities that we were seeing in terms of Covid infection rates. So, me and deputy mayor Sybil Madison, in partnership with many, many others, got together and formed what ended up calling “Racial equity rapid response team,“ which was a table of community leaders, government leaders, hospital leaders, altogether saying,” what more can we be doing? What resources do we have available to us and how do we hold ourselves accountable to action?” This is not going to be a talking and thinking table. This is going to be a– we’re gonna talk, we’re gonna think and then we’re gonna do. And we’re going to learn and we’re going to do more and keep that movement. I’m really, really grateful to this beautiful collaboration that we were able to build that has had really profound results to our both Covid response as well as right now, our vaccination response.
Chicago has made great gains when it comes to equity in the Covid response And we have been able to close gaps around infection rates. We are having– we are distributing vaccines in some of the most equitable ways that you’ll see across the country, meaning, in particular, that the rate in which we’re getting black and brown folks vaccinated are much closer to the percentage of the population that they represent.
And so, it’s not just a game of how fast can you get people vaccinated. It’s like, who gets vaccinated. It’s not equitable if you look up and you miss whole communities, but, you know, a lot of people have got vaccinated. If the people who need it the most, people who have been affected by Covid the most during the pandemic, if they don’t have access to it, there’s a question of fairness, a question of justice, as we think about that–I’m really, really proud of the work we have been able to do there, which leads me to, in addition to that, sort of thinking about what does that internal capacity building, operational work look like in an environment where we have gone through a lot?
We have witnessed the murder of George Floyd. We have been going through a powerful and profound historical reckoning moment around race and racism. We are seeing Covid lay bare the cost of racism and racial inequity. What happens when you ignore the fault lines in society? Something that is race neutral like a– like a virus can… in racialized ways because of how our society is set up. Because of where the fault lines exist. Because of where the resources to protect and to mitigate infections exist within your community. The case is clear. We have to do something. Racial inequality costs us all. But how do we come together to try to begin to build or rebuild? What does that look like when there’s been so much harm that has happened? So much challenge in front of us. It’s all very urgent and none of it is enough.
How do you begin to heal, not as a destination, but as a process? That’s what birth “Together we heal,” this idea that, while we were thinking about a lot of these things, there were communities that had already started doing the work. They’ve been doing the work. Covid was a crisis of many that they may have experienced. So, we couldn’t pretend, like, we’re starting the healing process. Many people have been on the journey much longer. How can we wrap our arms around the moment, add more momentum, bring more people to the fold? And then use the momentum to actually serve as the foundation to change the work that needs to happen? How do you route your work around systems change in healing? So, you know, A lot there.
I’ll sort of pause, just so we can keep the conversation going, but that was the spirit of “Together we heal,” bringing our communities together, to talk about what this healing looked like, but then also, what does change and transformation look like in both the systems and practice as well.
Jenan Mohajir: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And I think, at IFYC, we’ve also sort of ventured into the work, specifically work around vaccine access and hesitancy, we’re launching a cohort in Chicago with hopefully 30-35 communities, who are either faith-based or faith-inspired or work with faith communities, who are thinking about vaccine access and hesitancy. As we were putting together those programs a couple of months ago, we were having some of those same conversations that you’re mentioning, which is– it’s impossible to remove a conversation around race and racial equity when talking about public health.
When talking about access to health care. When talking about how communities are ravaged by Covid and up until recently, haven’t necessarily been able to access what they need to push back on that. So, thank you for your work on all of that. I know “Chicago protect plus” is a plan that’s been so successful in reaching those people in those communities, who are most affected by Covid and we’re hoping to contribute that in our own way, through our work at IFYC.
Hopefully, the outcome of all of that effort will be– we’ll see the fruit of that in the next year or so, as we can hopefully push past the virus at some point. I wanted to kind of pull back a little bit Into– and talk a little bit about sort of the different experiences that you have in your work with the city and also now working, you know, as somebody who represents the city. So, to be completely transparent, I first learned of your work and admired from Afar, during a conversation that was happening in the city. I want to say, now, three years ago? Maybe four years ago. Around a school in the South Luke area called MTA, it was an elementary school that had been tagged to close and yourself and other parent activists were really committed to keeping the school open, the school served mostly black and brown families. It was a successful a-plus 1 school, however, the cps is rated. It really was a big, a long fight to keep the school open and running and you were amongst, you were on the legal team, you were amongst the people who were leading that fight, and really challenging the system and challenging the city to do right by this community and to keep this school open.
And, on the other side, and for the last two years, you’ve kind of been part of the administration. You’ve been part of what it means to create change from within the system. And I would love to hear your thoughts on those two viewpoints and your thoughts on your journey from one to the other and also, how you see those roles as distinct and different or how you see the roles as in community with one another to create larger systemic change?
Candace Moore: Yeah, yeah Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I come to this work by way of being a civic rights attorney. I would joke– like, “y’all know what I did before this, right?” I just want to be clear, like, no one is shocked to learn–what I did before, I held systems accountable. I challenged cities, schools, institutions around practices and policies, but with the same ethos of… justice and fairness, right? You know, we can do better. We must do better. We have young people’s lives that are at stake and we ought to be accountable to them.
And I remember being a lawyer feeling like, you know, I was privileged that I had this ability, this access, this opportunity to challenge systems to make a case,to, you know, hold folks accountable. At the same time, I still felt challenged by the fact that I was dealing with the issue after it already happened. The harm had been created and we’re trying to mitigate or solve or address something or, I’m right on the cusp of a crisis trying to advocate. I just kept being somewhat haunted by this idea that, man, I wish if we would have made a different decision earlier on, we wouldn’t even be in the situation. Yes, I’m advocating for this young person to maintain access to school, but so much harm has already happened. Relationships have been broken and it’s so hard to rebuild in the space.
And so, I became more interested, even in that work of what does the upstream conversation look like? What does it mean to have a conversation with educators and administrators before things happen? To say, what does it look like to actually understand and look at our data and understand the outcomes that are happening? And what can we do about it before anything else happens? And so, it’s that spirit that ultimately led me to say yes to a job at the city, because I’m a person– If I’m gonna preach about it, I’ll be about it.
It was a challenge to say, I got a lot of thoughts and opinions about how institutions should work. What is it like to actually be in the seat where you’re accountable to actually try to change those things? You’re accountable to actually try to produce the thing that you’re asking for. And the reality is, it’s a different role. In this role, I am not an attorney, I am not an advocate in the same way that I was before, and so the way I do my work is different. But I still think the way I do my work has a lot of power. I have to think about, what happens after someone has asked a city representative or official, like, to make a change? Who– You know, it’s kind of like the story of chicken little.
Who… who does this? Who actually sits back and says, Ok, what can I be doing differently? What does that look like? What does that team look like? Yes– has to come out there and confront a challenge upfront, but also is tasked on thinking about, what are we going to do differently? And that’s a space that I think is so important for us not to forget about. Our calls for justice and calls for change. There are different roles that many of us must play. For some, it is the advocacy role, is the push, it is–demanding the systems and practices go beyond what they even think is possible, right? You know, carving out, like, the impact, highlighting that, and that work is pivotal, it pushes us more, and makes more room in the space.
There are also the roles of the folks that need to build it. What does it look like to actually build something that can get us closer to that vision? I’m not saying that those are always distinct people, but they are distinct roles.
What does it mean to say, ok, what do we have to work with? What are the resources? What will this look like? What does efficiency, what does success look like in this? How are we gonna be accountable so– how do we build the practice? Because, ultimately, we need those things in society. We need systems. We need practices to govern and to support us in the community. So, that work is not without its merit. That work has justice implications for it.
And it’s so important to kind of know your role and do it well, right? There’s a liberating– prayer that I often think about when I get overwhelmed. I think I did a little bit more research, and it’s not written by Oscar de Romero but it was said, I think, at his funeral. It’s called “Stuff along the way.” There’s a portion on it that says, you know– I’m paraphrasing, but we all have a specific role to play. And as part of a longer arc, A longer story of justice, you have a specific role. And your job is to fulfill that role. And If you don’t do it, then the person, you know, after you, can’t do what they are asked to do. And what their role is. And you should be somewhat liberated knowing your job is not to solve it all. The progress that you sit in right now is based on the progress that someone else made, and the progress that’s going to come is gonna be based off of what you’re– so, kind of identity, know your role, know your work and do your work well, because it is required for the long thread of justice, the long thread of progress that we want to see in society.
And that gives me a lot of intellectual relief in thinking, this issue of racial injustice is huge. It’s not mine to solve. I just have a role and my job is to do my role well in this moment so that someone else might come in after me and be able to work from that place.
Jenan Mohajir: Thank you for sharing that. It actually made me think of a recent experience that I had in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Obviously, we saw protests across the country, including in Chicago. And on the second night of the protest, some of the protest came south to where I live, to the Hyde park sort of neighborhood. And I remember we got a call.
My husband– he serves in the local neighborhood board. And he got the call from an activist organization in city basically saying, we need a safe house for protesters after curfew comes into play, just in case they get stuck, can you help us?
And we were in the middle of Covid, so, none of the religious institutions that we would normally turn to had been open for about four, five months. So, we were quickly scrambling to figure out, and basically, between him and my husband’s network and myself, called you know, about 10-20 pastors, imams, rabbis, to basically, be like, would can open? Who can have– who has space? Who is able to move really quickly?
Who can do this? And eventually found a faith community here in Hyde Park, that was able to do that. And another faith community who was able to send water and a few supplies. And another faith community—other neighbors who kind of saw our social media call and showed up with their cars to be like, we can drive people, if folks are stuck.
And It’s one of the moments where I realized that all of us have these really rich networks, that if we can kind of tap into them in a moment of crisis, that we are able to kind of bring together some really positive action. And also, it made me think about the fact that the reason we have those networks is that of all of the relationship-building that has happened prior to that moment of crisis, and prior to that call to action that needed to happen. As you are doing this work in your office and you’re connecting with communities across the city, and for us, you know, faith communities are a huge part of that civic fabric. I’m curious to hear from you, you know, what are you seeing happening in faith communities locally in Chicago that’s connected to racial equity work, that’s really inspiring you at this moment, and that you’re noticing and would love to uplift here?
Candace Moore: I’ve been very inspired and encouraged by, I think, the faith communities that are stretching themselves to talk about race much more explicitly. Recognizing that they have congregations in front of them that often don’t have these conversations or may not be confronted.
I’ve seen it from very explicit conversations, organizations that we’re having around anti-blackness, around immigrants, around–all sorts of things. I’m also seeing some faith institutions, actually, partner and pair out right with the faith tradition that is either very different than theirs, slightly different, but basically represents different racial demographics.
And intentionally creates these spaces, where they are building community together. I think that’s deeply powerful work, right? Racial injustice is able to thrive in an environment of division. And in the environment of other, “that group over there.” If I don’t have to feel it. If it doesn’t personally impact me, If I don’t know the person, then it’s a lot easier for me to maintain, ignore, feel like, that’s somebody else’s problem or feel disempowered. But it is when we get into relationship with one another, when the person who is impacted is actually a person that I see, that I respect, that I love, someone that I’ve contributed and experienced with, it gets harder to ignore, it gets hard to be comfortable with it.
And I think change requires a certain level of discomfort, right? Confronting the way things are right now doesn’t quite work. You see that most changes happen in moments of discomfort. And so, I think, you know, I’m encouraged by the faith leaders and the leaderships that lean into those conversations– people through those conversations, that allow and lift folks up to have reflections about what they may be currently experiencing within the context of their faith, right? There are many– whether they’re parables or stories, or examples that we find in our faith traditions that have rooted for the same conversation we’re having today– My grandmother says, “there’s nothing new under the sun, “right? It’s just different kids manifestations of it. So, I think that work is incredibly powerful. And that leadership is very powerful. And ultimately, the ability to build, confronting injustice is–can be stripping work, right?
It’s traumatic work. It– it can take so much from you as a person. Take away your faith in the world and in people, take away your hope. And so, if you can’t find a place to renew, to nourish, to believe, it’s awfully hard to give something back the next day to build. I think, you know, our faith can be a powerful source of power and energy.
Jenan Mohajir: Thank you for that. And I think I want to follow-up and ask you, you know, we’re still kind of in this Covid haze, hopefully coming out of it soon, but still in the Covid haze. And I know there’s been incredible work happening. In some of these hard moments, you know, as we’re seeing the new surge coming out of Indianapolis this morning. In these really difficult moments, where do you go for inspiration? Where do you get– How do you get restored? How do you continue to do this work, which is very difficult and very, you know, it’s all-encompassing and asks a lot of you. What are the mechanisms for yourself in renewal and in restoration in these moments?
Candace Moore: You know, I think a very honest answer that I’ll give here is that there are some times where I just have to be unapologetic about cutting myself off intellectually around some things. I can’t take on every issue for my own, you know, preservation. I can’t lean into everything. You know, I have – like, I’m human, So, I have some guilt around that but at the same time, I also know that if I’m going to be here the next day, and the day after that, I can’t absorb it. I’m not super human. I’m a person. I have a job, but it is not my job, you know to solve everything. I’ve come to– just be really apologetic about that, and it’s a discipline because it’s very, very hard, there are times when I don’t even realize something has happened, my head is so deep into the work sometimes.
But I also recognize that if I don’t have things pouring into me, then I don’t — I don’t have much to give to others. And so, I am very intentional about the people that I surround myself with, the friendships, the family, and trying to give myself some time, some space, to like, soak up that love, because I need that to keep on moving.
I always joke, that most people–my friends may disagree, but I’m an introvert at the end of the day. You know, people think I’m an extrovert, but I’m an introvert. It means for me that I draw up energy and produce it out. So, I’m just making sure that whether it’s stuff I’m reading, whether it’s stuff I’m watching, things really encourage me, as in being in community, with stories of resiliency, laughter, you know, other people building the world they want to see, all of those things pour into me. And there have been very, very beautiful moments of that throughout the haze of Covid. Make no mistake. We are a beautifully resilient city. In the midst of so much pain, we birth and continue to build so much beauty. And it is there, if you look for it. If you give your space, time to see it, it’s completely renewing and keeps me hopeful in the midst of whatever challenge that we start facing.
Jenan Mohajir: Thank you for that. It actually reminds me– one of our families’ sort of refuge spots in the last year, and some has been a park close that’s to my house here, on the south side. It’s actually a park that’s named after Gwendolyn Brooks. And has a, you know, a bus of Gwendolyn Brooks in front and center, and little tiles of her poetry kind of embedded in the grass around. As you were speaking, it reminded me of one of the couplets from one of those tiles on the grass that says, “True there is silver under the veil of darkness, but few digs in the night for the possible treasures of stars.” And I think so much of your work and so much of our work is really about looking in the difficult spaces and looking in those dark moments to see what possible, what is possible, and what gifts lie under the way that relationships and the way that this work sort of manifests in communities and I know we’re really grateful for all that you do, and we’re grateful to continue seeing your work come into success through the city.
I want to– the last question, I sort of had. You started this role two years ago. I’m wondering, what are some things, what are some things that have changed in that process? Coming in, and looking at the list that you wrote for this role and then coming into the role. How have those responsibilities shifted, how have they grown and what are some things that you’re looking forward to as you look to the future?
Candace Moore: Yeah, I mean, the world changed a lot from when we wrote that– the initial plans. It’s funny when I go back and look at it–One of the big things I was looking forward to was going to different neighborhoods all across the city and bringing together folks in space and in place, and talking about what does equity look like within their communities. And the realities of Covid–that is not the way the work looked. But that doesn’t take away from, I think, the deeper point, which is, you know, being in connection with folks all across the city, about, you know, what our lives are looking like right now and I think we have been able to do that in really profound ways. I’d also say, there’re some things I never would’ve imagined doing. I never wrote in my plan I would be doing some racial equity, rapid response team, and it has been some of the most beautiful work that I’ve been able to be a part of in my ten years here at the city.
“Together we heal” is not anything that we imagined doing. It’s grabbing some of the work that we have planned, and trying to meet the moment that we are in, and find a path forward. And so, I’m deeply proud of that work, that’s much different than what I expected. You know, I knew this work was going to be hard. I feel how hard it is now. I knew I would be tired and it would be exhausting, I feel it now, so… I actually have some gray hairs to give me a lasting proof. But as challenging as this job is, as challenging as the moment is, I step back and think about the privilege and the honor that I hold in being in this particular space. And I treasure that. I feel accountable to that. I don’t profess that I do the work perfectly, but one of the things I will do is I will do the work. And I try to do the work in a way that isn’t about just me, but creates space and capacity around me. In some ways I’m planning for and trying to think about the next chief equity officer that comes after me. How does the work that I do today work in service of that person?
Jenan Mohajir: Thank you for that. I’m so grateful for your time. I’m so grateful. I feel like I could talk to you forever. I’m grateful for the opportunity. I hope that we get see you in person and host you in person, hopefully in our office post-Covid at some point. I hope that we continue to be in partnership in some ways, it’s been our pleasure to host this conversation, we at IFYC like to dream big, so we’re really appreciative of the vision that you’re setting forth for the city and the work that you’re doing. And we’re really grateful. We’re grateful for you. So, thank you for being here and thank you for being part of this.
Candace Moore: Thank you so much. I know I can’t see everybody’s face, but I am just excited for the work that you all do, and it just goes back to what I was saying earlier about, you know, we may have slightly different roles, may have connected roles. I’m just excited knowing that I exist in the community and that network of folks believe in this. And I believe in justice, believe in fairness, and believe in love and in working in the build that in whatever space that they are in, because who knows– what work will be in one another. I’m so thankful for all of you and the work you do day in day out.
Thank you for having me.