In a worthy and revealing conversation, the four Black mayors in Proviso Township gathered March 26 at the village hall in Broadview to talk about their range of experiences as elected Black officials in 2022.

Mayor Rory Hoskins of Forest Park, Mayor Andre Harvey of Bellwood, Mayor Katrina Thompson of Broadview and Mayor Nathaniel George Booker of Maywood gathered under the auspices of Delta Sigma Theta sorority to discuss firsts and to open up about experiences of racism they have felt in their lives.

Hoskins is distinguished as the first elected Black person in Forest Park when he was elected village commissioner in 2007 and as the first Black mayor from his election in 2019. And as Harvey pointed out with some emphasis, Hoskins is the only mayor in this group to have been elected in a town that does not have a predominantly Black base of residents. 

Hoskins talked about having been stopped by police in his hometown of Galveston, Texas when he 15. Hoskins said he was jogging and was actually in sight of his family’s home when he was stopped. Further, he noted, his dad was the first Black mayor of the Texas city.

While Hoskins traces his affinity for leading the long-time celebration of Juneteenth in Forest Park to his Galveston roots, he has been quite reticent in discussing race as a critical aspect of his service in Forest Park.

In the discussion among the four mayors, Hoskins acknowledged that being mayor has allowed him to intentionally appoint a number of Black and Brown people, and notably more women, to a range of Forest Park commissions. That is a legitimate accomplishment in a village where previous leaders did not see growing diversity as a priority. 

We’d say Hoskins gets credit for not only stepping up the diversity of local commissions but also the overall quality of appointments to these commissions. In many towns, citizen commissions are effectively the bench where future leaders emerge. That has not been Forest Park’s intentional history. So this is a notable change.

Always it is interesting when Black and Brown leaders gather in a space away from their direct responsibilities and talk more openly about the satisfactions their elections bring them as well as the challenges they continue to face as leaders of color. 

We are in a moment of possibility in Proviso Township even as we are in troubled times in a wider world where too many white people feel emboldened to diminish our collective historical and systemic racism.

This conversation was a worthy moment of honesty and grace.