On September 17, the 2023 Chicago Peace Fellows held their first summer project, Healing Oasis, at the Children’s Garden of Hope in West Humboldt Park. The event emphasized healing on both an individual and community level, bringing in artists, musicians, healers, and other vendors together with the West Humboldt Park community.

Peace Fellows on the Healing Oasis team included: Antwan McHenryBeria HamptonDiane Deaderick DeMartaErnest DawkinsJonathan JohnsonNate TubbsYaritza Guillen, and Zahra Glenda Baker. Healing Oasis was part of a series of Summer Projects organized and hosted by the 2023 Chicago Peace Fellows to apply lessons learned through the GATHER curriculum to build peace within their communities.

2023 Chicago Peace Fellows Diane Deaderick DeMartra and Nate Tubbs welcome guests to the Healing Oasis.
2023 Chicago Peace Fellows Diane Deaderick DeMartra and Nate Tubbs welcome guests to the Healing Oasis.

Throughout their fellowship, the 2023 Peace Fellows had a series of planning meetings where they set the scope of their Summer Projects: determining which beneficiaries to target, choosing potential community partners, and drafting a program. After determining projects and team members, the Peace Fellows met on their own to plan.

The eight-member Healing Oasis team met consistently leading up to their event, which Antwan says played a large role in the success of the project:

”One thing that worked well was that we decided a planning time and stuck to it. We met consistently on the same day and same time and that helped us.” — Antwan McHenry

In their planning meetings, the Healing Oasis team chose to use the Children’s Garden of Hope as the location of the event due to its existing connection to the West Humboldt Park community. The Children’s Garden of Hope has a long history in the West Humboldt Park community. The Garden was created by NeighborSpace and West Humboldt Park neighbors to be a place where children can learn gardening skills and come together as part of the community to appreciate the beauty of growing things. Antwan has been on the board of Nobel Neighbors for the last five years, which have seen a host of improvements to the Children’s Garden of Hope as NeighborSpace has revamped it. Since then it has become a nexus for activities hosted by Nobel Neighbors.

The Children’s Garden of Hope also acted as a place that intersected with many of the Peace Fellows’ interests. This is in part due to Peace Fellows’ connections with NeighborSpace gardens, with Antwan acting as a steward for the Children’s Garden of Hope, Nate being involved in the Island Oasis nature play garden, and Yaritza working as a Stewardship Coordinator for NeighborSpace. This combination of community connections and the idea of having an outdoor space of health and healing made the Children’s Garden of Hope an ideal setting for the event.

Healing Oasis featured live music and dance, spoken word poetry, a drum circle, food and drinks, and art and wellness activities. All of those programmatic elements were bound around creating a space of refuge and refreshment for members of the community. Healing Oasis provided a space of healing and refuge for both residents of West Humboldt Park and the greater Peace Fellows community. The Peace Fellows involved in planning the event were each able to tap into different assets within their community networks, bringing in drummers, jazz musicians, clay workshops, tea, and more.

“Everyone has lots of different skills, strengths, and connections. I liked how the whole event represented a collaboration between all of the people involved […] each of us was able to leverage relational connections to pull together the different pieces. It’s the kind of thing where no one of us could have pulled that event together.” — Nate Tubbs

The investment of the 2023 Peace Fellows into Healing Oasis led to the event being larger than any event the Children’s Garden of Hope has seen recently and brought about deeper connections in the community. While the Children’s Garden of Hope is a regular space for Nobel Neighbors to host events, the larger scale of Healing Oasis attracted even more attention.

Antwan noticed that neighbors who had never been to the space were attracted by the scale of the event:

“I saw people from the community and word starting to pass. Word passed along and folks came by, plugged in, and enjoyed the space. […] New neighbors came down and mentioned that they didn’t know what was going on, but wanted to see.” — Antwan McHenry

By tapping into existing assets, the 2023 Peace Fellows were able to activate a deeper sense of community in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood and provide members of the community with an opportunity to heal and rest.