Obama Foundation Launches Diversity Council

The Foundation is committed to maintaining an environment in which diversity and inclusion are valued and respected.

By Greg Ross

On October 11, the Obama Foundation announced the creation of an advisory board to promote diversity in the Obama Presidential Center’s future community engagement and programming initiatives. 

The announcement of the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council comes as planning continues for the Presidential Center, which will be built on the western edge of Jackson Park.  

“The Foundation is committed to maintaining an environment in which diversity and inclusion are valued and respected in all aspects of its operation, and the Inclusion Council will help us accomplish that goal,” Obama Foundation chair Martin Nesbitt said.  

While the Foundation said the council will “regularly communicate with the community,” it was not made clear exactly how the council aims to achieve its goals.  

The Presidential Center has sparked hopes among residents of neighboring communities for economic and educational boosts. A study commissioned by the University said the center will have a $220 million annual economic impact. 

The council will consist of seventeen Chicagoans, most of whom are civic and corporate leaders. The University’s representative is Nadia Quarles, assistant vice president for business diversity. The only other member from a South Side institution is Perri Irmer, president of the DuSable Museum. 

“It’s troubling that this inclusion council is made up of more corporate executives than neighborhood residents,” third-year Rob Hayes said. Hayes is a member of the Prayer and Action Collective, an RSO working with local organizations for a community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation. “If the Obama Foundation actually wants a diverse set of opinions about the future of the library, they should start listening to South Side residents.”  

The Chicago Tribune has reported that the City of Chicago is creating a committee to promote ties between the center and surrounding communities. The center is expected to be completed in 2021.