This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded June 10, 2014, and is presented here in full.
Gilo Kwesi Logan is the proud father of two sons and a native of Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Logan is an internationally recognized diversity consultant, educator, writer, and speaker. As President of Logan Consulting Services, LLC, his mission is to help organizations and leaders meet the challenges of working and living in a global society. Dr. Logan has over 20 years of K-16 interdisciplinary experience in education, is a member of the National Diversity Council, and serves as adjunct faculty of diversity and social justice in Chicago, IL. He founded SOUL Creations, is a doctor of education with research expertise in racial/ethnic identity development, and has seven years’ experience living in 23 countries throughout North and Central America, the Caribbean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and West Africa.
Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:
TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):
Gilo Kwesi Logan: I was born at Community Hospital so I’ve been in Evanston my whole life, which is 48 years—fifth generation Evanstonian actually, and I live in the fifth ward.
Interviewer: Wonderful! Wow. So, one of my questions is what brought you to Evanston, but that doesn’t quite apply to you!
GKL: I can say what brought my family here… in short, my maternal line of my great-great grandmother. Apparently her family escaped on the underground railroad from the South into Canada…Windsor Canada, which is on the other side of the river of Detroit.
So from Windsor Canada they came to Evanston in the late 1890s, approximately around 1897. And then on my father’s side, the paternal line, my grandfather came here when he was three, in 1903. Though, apparently in that time there were busloads of African-American Evanstonians who were family clans, in a sense… the Logan clan is apparently a clan who came out of the area of Greenwood, South Carolina. And apparently, as a result of lynchings that were happening down there—and the burning of property, because this was just after the abolishment of slavery and our family acquired land that we lost, as well—apparently there were a number of these families who… escaped up here in the middle of the night.
And that wasn’t that uncommon at that time in history in that region of the country; but apparently, from my grandfather’s family [there] were victims [who] came up here as a result of that… escaping that form of oppression and racism.
Int: And since your family’s history is so unique—I mean fifth generation, that feels so very significant—what does Evanston mean to you, or how does that affect your view of Evanston… having been here for five generations?
GKL: There’s a lot of what we would call transplants to Evanston. People who’ve come from a variety of places come to Evanston. They fall in love with it for a variety of reasons and they [become]: blood, sweat, and tears Evanstonians. But I feel, being a fifth generation Evanstonian on both lines of my family as well… I feel that roots me. That gives me a groundedness in the community that, just from my personal experience and observation, not a lot of transplants have, or don’t feel, as well as a lot of Evanstonians who have been here for multiple generations. Because it’s more than numbers, it’s more than a chronological “how-many-years,” it’s a rootedness in the community.
And I find a number of families have been here for a long time but they don’t share that rootedness. And that, I feel, gives me that type of groundedness, particularly after traveling overseas and coming back. I feel that Evanston is my village. That’s how I approach it. So when I reflect back on my life growing up, I look through the lens of myself as a child in the village, and the elders in the village who played their role, and [the] role that the community centers played, and hence my community, and so on and so forth. So I feel it’s given me a groundedness and a rootedness into the community of Evanston, not just the city of Evanston.
And so understanding the history, seeing the changes in my lifetime, but also hearing the stories of Evanstonians like my grandfather who lived to be 94, just next door, and he passed away just over 10 years ago; people born in the 1800s, who I was able to know and love, and who loved me and raised me—to hear those stories and to feel their passion to the community, to see their connection to the community (because I was exposed to a lot of community servants and community activists), I think that exposure growing up really has given me a sense of ownership.
And with that accountability, I feel responsible for what happens and what doesn’t here in Evanston. I understand how it impacts all of us, despite these silos we kind of live in, in Evanston, in these different Wards. But I feel a connectedness and a rootedness. And being born at Community Hospital—which at that time, for the most part, African-Americans were almost all born at Community Hospital. So my parents, my brother, my sister, myself… we were all delivered by the same doctor: Dr. Hill at Community Hospital.
So even though it’s not Community Hospital any longer, I still feel that sense of community every time I walk past there. I know where Dr. Hill lived on Darrow, you know: the doctor who delivered me into the world. I mean, I saw the barracks where my parents used to live, and [grew up] hearing the stories of horses going through here. And so from that time to this time, to see the changing development, it’s easy to get lost or to have a shifting perspective of Evanston. I mean it’s going to shift and evolve, but it’s anchored in a history that I was able to experience and be a part of. So it’s still very close to me. So to me, living here and having that history here gives me a sense of ownership, and accountability, and belongingness to the village, the community, the people. You know, the passion and the hearts, the souls of Evanston.