All posts by Mary Anne Mohanraj

St. Pat’s

Plan for today — wear some green, teach my classes and meet with my four independent study students (they’re all working in the same rough area, so we formed a working group this semester, which has been pretty effective, I think), home by 3. Then a quick hour straightening up, then I get to just relax and cook for two hours while watching superhero shows.

I’m hosting the Suburban Unity Alliance dinner-with-friends tonight — meeting a few new people, also having a few already-friends join us for Sri Lankan food. I’m not sure how many dishes I’ll actually cook, but definitely eggplant, lentils, mushrooms, chicken, rice. Possibly kale, salmon, bell pepper. We’ll see! It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to cook properly; looking forward. I figure I’ll just keep chopping and sautéing until people show up. 

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Plan for tomorrow — bake banana bread to give to campaign volunteers, straighten house which has gotten a bit chaotic these last busy few days, meet with a local woman thinking of running for office, and also with one of my volunteers who is also interested in the artspace idea, meet with trainer at gym to find out just how much strength I’ve lost in the months since the last surgery, sigh, pick up the backyard which is a bit of a disaster and maybe prune the climbing roses, if I’m feeling restless go check out the Outtaspace in Berwyn @ 4 when the bar opens, swing by the library for the writing workshop to campaign a bit, then go to S’s girls’ night.

I know it’s a long list, but it’s actually mostly domestic / relaxing sorts of stuff, so it looks quite light compared to most of my other days recently. :

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So You’d Like to Help Mary Anne Win an Election

(the big list of what’s coming up in the last few weeks before April 4th!)

1) Attend one of my meet-and-greet events! There are three more left!

a) Saturday March 18, 2-4 p.m. at my home: D97 referendum info session (non-partisan), plus candidate meet-and-greet with several local candidates. Confirmed attendees: Simone Boutet (trustee), Deno Andrews (trustee), Maya Ganguly (D97 school board) Charity Ann Caldwell (D97 school board), Christian Harris (library board), Brandon Spurlock (library board), and Elia Gallegos (village clerk). Light refreshments will be served; RSVP’s appreciated here, so I have enough snacks:

b) Monday, March 20, 5:30 – 7:30 at Oak Park Arts League: A rapid-fire reading celebrating local writers, along with a meet-and-greet for library board candidate Mary Anne Mohanraj. Featuring Allison Baxter, M.G. Bertulfo, Amanda Daly, Mary Ann Eiler, Russell Jaffe, Rebecca Keller, Karen Su, Carleen Tibbetts, and Victor Yipp. Light refreshments will be served; RSVP’s appreciated here:

c) Tuesday, March 28, 5:30 – 7:00 at L!ve Café: Meet and greet with me, with a knitting / crocheting theme. I’ll bring mine, and you should feel to bring yours, if so inclined, or just come hang out. Celebrating this great new café addition to Oak Park – refreshments will be available for purchase. RSVP’s appreciated here:

“But Mary Anne, I’ve already met you, and I have all the info I need about the D97 referendum, and I don’t want to swap any of my boring old books for exciting new ones, and I don’t like listening to awesome writers read their work, even with free wine, and I prefer to knit in silence by myself.

(Or maybe I just don’t live in Oak Park.)

But I do still want to support your campaign — what can I do?”

2) Yard signs and other paraphernalia: I have about 15 yard signs left – if you’d like one, please let me know! My goal is to use every single one. I also have too many buttons (oops – mis-estimated there) and lots and lots of bookmarks; please let me know if you’d like some to distribute to your neighbors, workplace, stick in your little free library, etc.

3) Precinct captains – about a dozen people have kindly agreed to walk their neighborhood and distribute little bags of bookmarks, etc. onto doorknobs – if you’re willing, please let me know – there are about 25 precincts left! If you have time to stuff your own bags (usually between 60-100), that’s great, but if not, I can deliver stuffed bags to you, ready to go. Julie Chyna, who walked the first precinct for me, said it took her and her girls about 90 minutes, and it can be done in small batches between now and April 4th.

4) Letter to the Editor of the Wednesday Journal. If you’re an Oak Parker who really, really likes me, you can tell the world by writing a 500 words or less letter in support of my candidacy and submitting it by going to, looking at the column on the right, and clicking on ‘Submit a Letter to the Editor.’

5) Alternatively, you could say nice things about me on Facebook, on your own page or in whatever local groups you hang out in. That’s always good.

6) Most importantly, vote for me on April 4th – or sooner! Early voting starts March 20th!

“But Mary Anne, I don’t live in Oak Park, or even a nearby suburb or the city. I can’t walk for you, or put up a yard sign, and I don’t think any of my Facebook friends are Oak Parkers who can vote for you. Is there anything I can do?”

Donations are gratefully accepted here:…/mohanraj-for-oak-park-library-bo…

“But I’m not an American!”

Ah. In that case, you’re legally not allowed to donate to my campaign. But once all this foofaraw is over, I’m going to be fundraising for various arts-related projects, and I would very much like your support for those. So just stay tuned. 🙂

Thank you!!

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Thinking about civic duty — from the PTO to the presidency, so many people dislike the job that’s being done, often complaining that it’s always the same insiders, doing things the same old way. And that’s true, and when you take that truism and cross it with histories of oppression, you’ll notice that there are a lot of straight white men in the center of those power hierarchies. (Well, maybe straight white women for PTO, but same basic principle.) I went to the high school school board candidate forum today — five men who looked white to me, one black woman. It was a little stark.

But at the same time that we should be paying attention to that inequity, maybe even a little angry about who’s in charge (the high school board allocates over 80 million dollars annually) and what they’re prioritizing, there’s also the truism that the people who show up are the ones who get to make the decisions.

And where we have to be very, very careful here is to not assume that the *reason* people who aren’t straight white men (and sometimes women) haven’t historically shown up to run for office, serve on committees, etc., is because they don’t care or aren’t invested in their community. We *have* to take into account the weight of all the barriers to people’s participation, and then work to undo those barriers.

The single mom, or the married mom from a historically impoverished ethnic community — how is she going to serve on the school board? Even the main monthly meeting is going to cost her hard cash she may not have on hand for sufficient childcare; she may not have easy transport to the meetings either.

Never mind all the other committees she’d like to participate in, the other bodies’ board meetings she’d like to attend. And what about the cost of the annual luncheons, the club dues, the fundraising cocktail hours — all the little elements that go towards your body being very visibly active in your community, that let you have conversations over a pleasant meal and maybe even a drink or two that facilitate you working smoothly with other officials?

Oak Park recently raised the stipend for its village trustees and people complained. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the school boards or library board get any stipends. I didn’t check in advance, because Kev and I are financially comfortable enough that I didn’t *have* to check; I knew that we could afford the cost of any childcare needed, or an occasional luncheon ticket or cocktail. And *that* is how economic and ethnic and etc. inequities get perpetuated; you can be damn sure that if I do ever have the chance to vote on modest stipends for serving officials, I’ll be voting yes, not for me, but so that everyone who wants to participate in civic life *can* participate.

This message brought to you by my considering serving as Head Coach for Kavi’s soccer team that she just joined, because none of the other parents in the group volunteered, and the organizers sent us all a plaintive e-mail this morning. Communities run on volunteers, and someone has to step up. Even though I’m busy, I’m not juggling two minimum-wage jobs and deciding whether to pay for food or medicine next month. And heck, it’ll probably be fun chasing ten screaming little girls around a soccer field.

Yet I wonder whether maybe the league shouldn’t ask everyone who can, to chip in a little more towards a childcare fund, so that more parents have the option of being involved, no matter what their economic circumstances. It probably won’t happen at this level, and maybe it shouldn’t — maybe it’s too onerous even to organize that for something relatively low on the civic totem pole.

But this month’s soccer mom is next month’s elected official. We need to pay attention to where people are getting shut out of the process.

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My library board campaign has reached its goal of raising $5000, and I am just so grateful and pleased and honestly, a little stunned. I don’t really know what to say except thank you. I’m about to sign the form and send it in for Friends of Mary Anne Mohanraj to become an official PAC (a requirement at this stage), and if we don’t spend all the money for this run, it’ll be held safely in trust for the next one. I kind of think there’s going to be a next one. If you donate at this point, odds are, it will go towards convincing me (and others) that I would be a viable candidate for higher office in a few years. But we’ll leave the fundraising for another day. For now, thank you, thank you.

thank you to the progressive women
who were my main initial impetus for running
thank you to old friends (and old boyfriends)
who still like me, it seems
thank you to my neighbors (one of whom
donated because she likes my garden,
and another, because she likes my kitchen)
thank you to minor celebrities
who lent their name and gave money
(Gaiman and Martin carry weight, it turns out)
thank you to the ones who gave anonymously
too, and thank you to Facebook which extended
my reach to all of you lovely people who have
for whatever reason, listened to me ramble
and found something there worth supporting

most of all, thank you to Kevin and my children,
who have not give me a penny, but
have given up a little of my time and attention.

i hope you’ll all think it worth it
in the end.

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This was the packet I put together for campaign friend Laura S. to pick up, to stuff and then walk around her precinct — bags and bookmarks and a button and banana bread. 🙂
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Meeting and greeting

Yesterday was a very political day. From 10 – 12 was the Democratic Party’s candidate meet-and-greet. The room was pretty packed; that photo I took is near the end of the event, as people were heading out, many of them going on to the League of Women Voters’ annual State of the Villages luncheon, which was supposed to be 12 – 2, but ended up running ’til 3.

A lovely event, and honestly, I would’ve gladly stayed and listening to the three village representatives (from Forest Park, River Forest, and Oak Park) talk longer — who knew that TIF districting would be such a fascinating (and contentious) topic?

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International Day

International Day at the kids’ school, one of our favorite events, always a joyous celebration. Yesterday was packed with campaign events, but Kavi wanted to dress up as a Sri Lankan princess, and it is basically impossible for me to say no to that. It was a fun time walking in the fashion show. Taking selfies of two people of still significantly different heights while incorporating a Sri Lankan lion flag high on the ceiling is quite challenging!

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