Rayna & Marvin Miller Community Justice Award
Through the Rayna & Marvin Miller Community Justice Award, Open Communities recognizes an individual or individuals who took bold steps for open communities over the past year, hopefully but not necessarily resulting in concrete changes in Chicago’s northern suburbs.
Rayna and Marvin Miller, long dedicated to civil rights and open housing in Wilmette and surrounding North Shore communities, were founders in 1972 of what is now Open Communities. Rayna Miller was Open Communities’ first dedicated Executive Director from 1975 until her retirement in 1986.
Rayna and Marvin, along with Jean Cleland, were also part of the North Shore Summer Project, a grassroots campaign founded in 1961 which coalesced local north suburban residents, religious leaders, and students to open housing markets to “Negroes, Jews, and Orientals.” Their high point was a 1965 rally featuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attracting more than 10,000 supporters on the Winnetka Village Green.
Their work over the decades ranged from picketing real estate offices, to finding homes for African Americans in virtually all-white suburban neighborhoods and ensuring an atmosphere of welcome, to passionately testifying for fair housing rights and affordable housing developments.
The Millers’ credo can be summed up in Rayna’s words:
“If you have the spirit to struggle, you will have the power to prevail.”
Previous Housing Justice Award Winners:
2008 Betsy Lassar
2010 Lee and Nancy Goodman
2012 Ann Airey, Jen McQuet, Nancy Pred, Katie Seigenthaler, and Surrosh Shakir of Winnetka Is Neighborly
2013 Gail Schechter
2015 Father Bob Oldershaw
Jean R. Cleland Social Action Award
Newly renamed in 2014, this award honors those who made a difference “one family at a time” regardless of income, disability, and race above all.
Jean R. Cleland was a life-long leader at the forefront against racial discrimination, as a founder of the North Shore Summer Project (1961) and, with her husband, Bob, an early fair housing tester. Jean worked for the North Shore Senior Center for over 35 years until her passing. She chaired the Wilmette Housing Commission when the Village created it in 1977 and was instrumental in pushing through two major housing initiatives for seniors: Gates Manor, the suburb’s first low-income rental building, and the Housing Assistance Program. In 2001, she and Marvin Miller helped organize the Mixed Use for Mallinckrodt campaign in Wilmette and succeeded in getting an affordable housing set-aside in that historic building, initially threatened with demolition. Jean and Bob were about, and embodied, welcome.
Whether it was as a large family with six children, as next door neighbors, as community, interfaith and church leaders, or as people who would shelter families during the Sanctuary Movement, they were clear, grounded and warm.
Jean Cleland is an example to all who seek inspiration from people of faith or high moral principle in the difficult but most deeply essential cause of racial and economic justice.
Jean lived the credo:
“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Previous Housing Action Winners:
2010 Jack Henkin & Louise Pearson
2012 Eve & Sherman Beverly and Butler Sharpe
2013 Jan Marsden-Johnson and Gerald Howar