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Program exploring ‘America’s White Cancer’ headed to Oak Park library

An event set at the Oak Park Public Library is looking to open a dialogue to explore how racism, and its history in the village, touches upon the lives of residents in today’s world.

The program, “The Klan: America’s White Cancer,” will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 26 at the library, featuring a presentation followed by small and large group discussion. Community members are invited to drop in for the event, and it is free to attend.

The presenter, Dr. Michael Luick-Thrams, is expected to guide an exploration of stories behind the three waves of the Klu Klux Klan, with attention to wave that took place during the 1920s.

Cossy Ksander, co-clerk for Oak Park Friends, said many residents may not be aware of the Klan’s traces to Oak Park.

“This was information many people didn’t have,” she said.

The Oak Park River Forest Museum has a display, featuring the charter for the Women of the Klu Klux Klan of Oak Park dated 1926, right next to a poster congratulating Marjorie Judith Vincent, the 1991 Miss America winner from Oak Park.

“It makes a very striking display,” Ksander said.

Ksander urges people to sit in on the program, adding “more people need to know about this.”

Luick-Thrams said he hopes people will receive his presentation well.

“It is my hope—and I assume it’s the case—that some of the audience members will learn things they didn’t know before and when they leave the program, they think over what they’ve learned and can apply it to their own lives now,” Luick-Thrams said.

Luick-Thrams is an Iowa historian and the director of TRACES Center for History and Culture, an organization focused on bringing “people of different backgrounds and perspectives together to speak with each other, respectfully and expectantly, in order to exchange experiences and opinions.”

He said his great grandfather was an active member of the Iowa Klu Klux Kan in the mid-1920s, and Luick-Thrams said he feels it is his responsibility to help stop the spread of hateful attitudes.

The program will be made possible thanks to the collaboration between Oak Park Friends and the Oak Park Public Library.

Ksander said the program is hoped to open a timely discussion on race.

“We’re a community that tends to poke away at our problems to see what we can do about them,” Ksander said.