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Ceremony honors essential workers, Brown and Black communities affected by pandemic

Church bells rang during a moment of silence, followed by a performance of “Ave Maria,” and then a wreath was laid at the fountain on the plaza.

(From left) Xavier Nogueras and Cesar Rolon, of Illinois Unidos, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Iris Martinez and Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, lay a wreath near the Eternal Flame Memorial at Daley Plaza in honor of essential workers and the Brown and Black communities hit hard by COVID-19, Monday, April 12, 2021.
Xavier Nogueras (from left) and Cesar Rolon, of Illinois Unidos, joined Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez and Dr. Marina Del Rios, to lay a wreath near the eternal flame at Daley Plaza on Monday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“Taps” echoed across Daley Plaza Monday at a ceremony to remember the Black and Brown communities devastated during the pandemic, and the essential workers who put their lives on the line to keep others safe.

The bells of First United Methodist Church tolled during a moment of silence, followed by a performance of “Ave Maria,” and then a wreath was laid at the plaza’s eternal flame.

“As the coronavirus shut down the nation, our streets were silent, yet our essential workers continued to report to their jobs,” said Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez.

“Over the past year, death has hit hard in nearly every community, but the most affected have been our Latino neighborhoods — Brighton Park, Pilsen, Little Village, Hermosa, Humboldt Park, Belmont Cragin, Berwyn, and Cicero, just to name a few.”

This was partially due to a lack of inclusion, gaps in data collection, and segregation of social demographic information on the local and national level, she said.

Illinois Unidos, also known as the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative, organized the ceremony.

“We’ve lost more than 560,000 people in the last year due to COVID-19,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. “That’s more than we lost in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam put together. And our Brown and Black communities have been disproportionately impacted both by the disease and those who have succumbed to the disease.”

Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director at the Chicago Department of Public Health, said equity has been the guiding principle as the city and health department try to bridge the gaps between communities and get everybody vaccinated.

“The most pressing question right now is: How many people will continue to die because they refuse to take the vaccine or follow preventative care?”

A wreath-laying was part of a ceremony on Monday, April 12, 2021 at Daley Plaza to honor essential workers and the Brown and Black communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A wreath-laying was part of a ceremony on Monday at Daley Plaza to honor essential workers and the Brown and Black communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times