by Kristen Kucharski
FEATURING RESIDENTS WHO INSPIRE THE COMMUNITY IN THEIR OWN UNIQUE WAY
Each year Glancer Magazine features a distinct group of residents who are doing extraordinary things, making a difference in the lives of others by giving them hope, guidance or inspiration. Each is so talented and has persevered through all that COVID-19 has presented this past year. Their stories will touch your heart and awaken your spirit. Here are Glancer Magazine's 15 Fascinating Faces of 2020.
NAPERVILLE–Benny’s commitment to his country began many years before he was the first Black elected to Naperville’s City Council. He is a Retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Army, as well as the Department Chair/Senior Army Instructor at Joliet West High School JROTC.
The words of John Lewis have never meant more to Benny than they have this past year after witnessing the murder of George Floyd.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.
As a Black man and father of two Black kids, he was in a lot of pain and worried about the place he has called home for the past 15 years. He felt compelled to be a voice and sounding board for the Naperville residents.
Earlier this year, Benny marched alongside Mayor Chirico and other peaceful protestors, personally stopping at different places to listen to passionate speeches from community members who expressed their sadness and frustration at the injustices they witnessed or had experienced firsthand. At each stop, he joined many in taking a knee to remember the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that the Minneapolis police officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Benny also shared his personal experiences and encouraged people to continue to take the peaceful path forward and reminded them that in order to create change, more needed to get involved in their community by joining civic organizations, local government commissions and committees.
“We have made tremendous strides in our community to mitigate inappropriate behavior when it comes to diversity and inclusion,” Benny says proudly. “I was glad to have had a hand in having language added to the City’s mission statement that now includes, an inclusive community that values diversity.”
He and the council also recently approved the creation of a Human Rights & Fair Housing Commission, and are currently in the process of hiring a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager. Benny encourages members of the Naperville community to challenge their own biases, confront their inner circles when inappropriate things are said, and to discuss and learn from one another while getting involved in organizations that are trying to make a difference in our community. Be a voice by joining organizations like Naperville Neighbors United, Unity Partnership, Indivisible Naperville, Naper Pride, and the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association and join him in being a part of the solution.
Photos by Mike Catuara