Celebrating the 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows Graduation

By Jamika Smith, Tina Gulley-Augustus, Don Williams, Jacqueline Williams, and Cree Noble

On September 29th, 2022, 14 grassroots leaders from across Chicago gathered at the Chicago History Museum to celebrate their achievements as the fourth cohort to graduate in the Chicago Peace Fellows program.

The Chicago Peace Fellows (CPF) program spanned over six months with over 25 workshops, partnership meetings, and discussions that helped Peace Fellows to deepen their shared understanding of grassroots leadership, violence prevention and community driven social change.

Some of the greatest learning experiences were the collaboration of the Peace Fellows in developing community asset maps and recognizing how rich our communities look when we viewed them from an asset standpoint instead of a deficit. Our communities are so rich in knowledge, resources, and talents.” -- Tina Gulley Augustus, 2022 Chicago Peace Fellow

This was the second year that the Chicago Peace Fellows Graduation was hosted at the Chicago History Museum. The space was filled with laughter, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and music by a performance from a youth band from Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center playing Caribbean Jazz. The balcony gallery, just before you enter the great hall, was lined with pictures of the 2022 Peace Fellows. The gallery is named after the late Mrs. Josephine Baskin Minow, a community organizer, and advocate, who fought for many years for social justice and equal rights, to improve the quality of life for others much like the Chicago Peace Fellows. 

Gallery displaying pictures of the 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows

The graduation program was created by the Fellows to highlight their experiences, learnings and accomplishments. They incorporated personal testimonies, group facilitation, spoken word, asset mapping, and interactive programs into the design of the agenda. These activities were chosen due to the influence they had on each Fellow and how they allowed us to connect to our communities, family, and friends who were all in attendance at the graduation ceremony.

The ceremony began with a welcome remark from the Director of the Chicago Peace Fellows, Burrell Poe, who spoke about the impressive effort, work and conversations this group of fourteen leaders had undertaken over the past five months. Following Burrell, Fellow Lindsey Joyce opened the space with a prayer and reflection. After this opening reflection, Chicago poet Brynn Baltimore offered a powerful spoken word piece performance. The fourth speaker was CPF Don Williams, who provided a personal testimony about the loss of his son and how he had turned pain into purpose.

“​​My tribute to my son Deon J. Williams left me with a lot of mixed emotions about March 9, 2019… getting up there speaking about it brings some comfort and steps of me getting some closure. Deon was my baby. I wish things would have been different that day and that he would still be here. But that is why I started the Deon J. Williams Foundation, so that I could bring some awareness to juvenile law to change. I want to give a special thanks to my newfound family, the Peace Fellows. Thanks for allowing me to share my story. I hope I can impact someone.” - Don Williams (2022 Chicago Peace Fellows)

After Don’s powerful testimony, all 2022 CPF joined on stage to introduce themselves and the community they serve, and answer the question: “If violence disappeared tomorrow, what would be possible in my neighborhood?”, group presentation which was led by 2022 CPF Syliva Del Raso. Once the Fellows had shared their answers, they invited the audience to contribute to the question by writing it on a sticky note and placing it on a poster board. 

The second part of the ceremony was an explanation and presentation of what asset maps were. Fellows presenting their asset maps included Maria Pike (representing Pilsen), Edwin Martinez, and Sylvia Del Raso (representing Little Village), and Jackie Williams, Jamika Smith, Xochtil Hubbell-Fox, and Tina Gulley-Augustus (representing Austin).

Chicago Peace Fellow Maria Pike presenting her asset map

Then CPF Pha’Tal Perkins and CPF Edwin Martinez made closing reflections on what they hope to accomplish as they put their new learnings into practice. Lastly, Jamika Smith unveiled a project she wanted to gift to the 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows. 

"Because I gained so much from the overall experience, my Spirit moved me to return the favor by sharing with my cohort and the Goldin Institute leadership a little piece of my heart. I took a skilled craft that has been around since the Middle Ages and I metaphorized it -- did I just make up a word? My cohort and I took an old worn-out chair and told our story, addressing the question “If violence disappeared tomorrow, what would be possible in my neighborhood?” One by one, we discussed the challenges, barriers, and limited beliefs our neighborhoods are struggling with today. Next, I asked them to share with me, if violence was rid from our communities tomorrow how would you feel? And what image and color will represent that feeling for you? After gathering all 18 responses I incorporated them into a design that represented the voices of our 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows. Our Peace Chair will always be an attribute of our journey together. My goal is to take our peace chair on tour in 2023, giving each Peace Fellow the opportunity to house it for a period of time in their organization, as a reminder that we are all connected and still have work to do…Together!” - Jamika Smith (2022 Chicago Peace Fellow).

All Fellows contributed messages to the Peace Chair.

Upon graduation, the 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows now join the Goldin Institute’s Global Alumni Network which consists of over 150 Fellows from over 40 countries around the world. 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows Jacqueline Williams says “I plan to continue to stay in touch with as many people as possible. I have really enjoyed talking and connecting with everyone!


Three children who received gifts during the Universal Toy Drive

A December To Remember: Mutual Aid Collaborative Organizes a Toy Drive

By Michael Henderson, Director, Mutual Aid Collaborative

Juliet Jones, a 2021 Chicago Peace Fellow Alumni and the Co-Founder and Director of  The Original Sixty Fourth Street Drummers, Inc. “wanted to bring children back to play” due to the set back and effects COVID-19 had on kids during the holidays. She thought holding a toy drive to benefit children in under-served communities would be a good way of accomplishing this goal.

Juliet, passionate about making a difference for children, proposed The Universal Toy Drive to the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative. The Mutual Aid Collaborative consists of 60 Black and Brown leaders and committed allies who live and work in the communities they serve on the South and West sides. They have raised over $100,000 to support several active projects, including The Universal Toy Drive. 

Juliet organized the Universal Toy Drive along with Dr. White, the TEECH Foundation, Clarity Clinic and Bethany Union Church to bring toys to disadvantaged children on the Southside of Chicago. Members from The Mutual Aid Collaborative, including Cosette Nazon-Wilburn of the LUV Institute, Jamila Trimuel of Ladies of Virtue, Gloria Smith of the Black Star Project, and Margaret Murphy-Webb of the Southside Jazz Coalition, all came together as a community to support Juliet. These leaders organized quickly by sharing  flyers, sending and processing invitations, and reaching out to their network of parents. 

On December 21, 2022, the Universal Toy Drive became a safe space for 113 children to play and receive gifts. The Universal Toy Drive was more than just giving toys away. Juliet knew the children who would be at the toy drive “normally missed out on a lot of things, not just toys, toys were the medium.” It was the intent of Juliet and the Mutual Aid Collaborative to bring joy to the lives of the under-served children and provide them with an opportunity to be kids. 

Juliet was overwhelmed with joy as she got an opportunity to witness a village  of children from a variety of places. Families who are dealing with HIV, children from the foster care system, children whose parents are incarcerated or in recovery, and other children from the community received all sorts of different toys, gift cards, coats, and other bags of goodies. 

The 113 guests with their families that attended The Universal Toy Drive played board and video games, watched YouTube videos, played hopscotch and jump rope. They drank apple cider, hot chocolate, ate cookies and took pictures with Santa. The energy in the room was so amazing and filled with joy that the children received their gifts but, “didn't leave, they stayed and played, it was great”.

The collaborative efforts to touch the lives of children went beyond the imagination of Juliet’s and the village of local leaders. The Universal Toy Drive was a great success, providing 113 children with toys and gifting additional toys to The Universal Family Connection to use in their playroom for foster children. Juliet is ready for 2023 and has plans to continue to collaborate and organize with other community organizations to hold another Universal Toy Drive.   


Celebrating 20 years of grassroots leadership and social change

By Jassi K. Sandhar, Global Research Fellow

It is very rare to find organizations like the Goldin Institute. As an employee of the Institute, I promise this is not a biased opinion. Having worked in the non-profit sector for 12 years, being involved in various social justice and human rights projects, the Goldin Institute has stood out as an organization which embodies principles of justice, fairness, equity, and kindness both within the Institute itself and in the work we do.

https://vimeo.com/778229580
Messages of congratulations on 20 years together from Fellows around the world

The importance of adopting grassroots approaches in social justice work is becoming increasingly recognized, but the approach taken by the Goldin Institute over the past two decades goes beyond that. It is grassroots-led and embedded in compassion, kindness and learning, from everyone but most especially those closest to the issues. We promote the voices of those often excluded who have the most at stake in making progress and ensure that they have leadership roles in every social change movement. Which is why it is extremely exciting to celebrate 20 years of the Goldin Institute. 

Security and Sensitization Team in Port au Prince, Haiti

Our commitment to community-driven social change was foundational from our very inception. In October 2002, grassroots leaders from over 25 cities around the world convened in Chicago to learn from each other to collaboratively determine the mission, values and strategy of what became the Goldin Institute. The Goldin Institute was born through this conversation as an enduring platform to provide grassroots community organizers with tools and support they need to build meaningful partnerships within and between their cities. Fast forward to today, the Institute has expanded its reach to 150 Alumni leading change in 40 countries (and growing)! 

Founder Diane Goldin with Community Based Oral Testimony Research Team in Bangladesh

The last 20 years have taken us on an inspiring and incredible journey. We have worked with grassroots leaders in over 50 countries on issues such as:

  • Child Soldier Reintegration in Uganda: In the discussions about disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children used as soldiers in the conflict in Northern Uganda, the voices and perspectives of former child soldiers have too long been ignored. Former child soldiers themselves led a ground-breaking oral testimony process by interviewing over 150 of their peers and together reflecting on common concerns and shared aspirations that led to the creation of YOLRED, the first reintegration and support organization designed and run by former child soldiers.
  • Addressing the Water Crisis in the Philippines: In war-torn Mindanao, over 70% of the population lacks reliable access to safe drinking water. Through the leadership of Global Associate Susana Anayatin and her team, over 40,000 people now have access to safe water in the region through the installation of water wells at over 140 local schools. In addition to providing a critical resource, this project brings together all sides of the conflict who are working together to “win the peace”. 
  • Tackling Gender-Based Violence in Haiti: Since the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, women and girls living in the internally displaced persons camps face alarming rates of rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Through the leadership of Global Associate Malya Villard’s and KOFAVIV, men have joined the movement to provide security and advocacy to end all forms of gender-based violence in Haiti.
  • Improving Microcredit in Bangladesh: The current global debate about the efficacy of microfinance is marked by the absence of those who have most at stake in the controversy: loan recipients. The Goldin Institute worked with partner organization Nijera Kori to lift up these voices, most often marginalized women, and restore their perspectives, insights and aspirations to the discussion, leading to the return of indigenous community support systems and greater regulation of the microfinance industry in Bangladesh.
  • Mutual Aid Collaborative in Chicago, USA: Today, Chicago is stained by an enduring legacy of racial injustice that is laid bare by the disproportionate impact of the twin pandemics of violence and COVID-19 on our communities on the South and West sides of Chicago. In response, the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Mutual Aid Collaborative as a model of the structural changes they seek, practicing a model of shared leadership, collaborative decision-making and collective action.
Providing Safe Drinking Water in the Philippines

In 2018 we made significant strides in facilitating a global network of community leaders through launching GATHER, a tablet-based mobile learning tool to empower communities of practice. GATHER allows peers to learn, work and reflect together using practical tools. That same year, the Institute launched the Global Fellows program, an international cohort of 20 Fellows who collaborated with one another through a progression of learning about new theories of community engagement, practicing these ideas in their own areas, and reflecting together as a global community of practice.

Planning the launch of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development in Uganda

The success of the 2018 pilot has seen the GATHER course run annually with the Chicago Peace Fellows program and the Global Fellows program and, to date, we have trained 150 grassroots leaders in 40 countries in the GATHER curriculum. These grassroots leaders are local community or civil society leaders and practitioners, and represent a diverse group of backgrounds, ages, genders, and locations, and work on a range of pressing and urgent social justice issues. We are excited to continue this international Fellows program and excited to see what we can achieve together in the next 20 years. 

Goldin Institute celebrates the graduation of 150 Fellows in 40 countries

We thank you for sharing the last 20 years with us; we are particularly thankful for the continued commitment of our supporters who have stood beside us and ensured the vital work of our global network continues. 

“Malya Villard Appolon, the founder of KOFAVIV (women's commission of victims for victims in Haiti), wishes the Goldin Institute a happy 20th anniversary for the good work it is doing around the world. It is because of the Goldin institute that KOFAVIV still exists today. It is still helping women who are suffering from tragic violence under armed gangs who are doing violence in all forms especially sexual violence that does not give chance to neither women nor girls. I will never regret that day Goldin Institute came our way. I am very proud of the Goldin Institute. I urge all organizations in the world to support Goldin to continue to bring change to the most vulnerable people within the Haitian society and other global communities. Thank you.” - (Malya Villard Appolon, Global Associate from Haiti).


Mutual Aid Collaborative Launches Safe Cycling Project

By Zeki Salah, Mutual Aid Collaborative Facilitator

On April 14 at 6:15 am, Juliet Jones received a call from her son and was surprised to hear a police officer on the other end of the line. He asked if she knew a man named Julien Jones. When she replied that Julien was her son, the officer notified her that he had been hit by a car while riding a bike to work and was on his way to the emergency room.

Julien resided in North Chicago and did not have an affordable way to get to work, leading him to use a bicycle and become seriously injured in his accident. When Juliet first saw Julien after his accident, he was bruised, unconscious, and required a cranial operation. She nearly fainted after hearing the news. Julien was in the hospital for three weeks, from April 19 - May 2. Then from May 2 – May 23, 2022, Julien received inpatient therapy at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. He is out of the hospital now but sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Juliet, a 2021 Chicago Peace Fellow, reflected on the accident that affected her son and wondered what would have happened if Julien had worn a helmet. The thought of averting similar tragedies motivated her to launch a Safe Cycling project through the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative. Regarding her decision to begin the project, Juliet stated:

Violence is violence. A traffic accident or bike accident are not the same as gun violence, but those accidents are violent and traumatic and I want to do something about that.

Juliet and her organization, the Original Sixty Fourth Street Beach Drummers, Inc., are now working with the Mutual Aid Collaborative to distribute helmets throughout Chicago. The Mutual Aid Collaborative consists of 60 Black and Brown leaders and committed allies who live and work in the communities they serve on the South and West sides. They have raised over $100,000 to support several active projects, including the Safe Cycling project. The Mutual Aid Collaborative met and collaboratively voted in May to fund the Safe Cycling project and their effort to purchase helmets and distribute them to communities around Chicago.

The Safe Cycling project focuses its resources on the South and West Sides of Chicago and aims to partner with community leaders to help distribute helmets. Their first event was at the 27th Ward Community Day on August 27. Juliet found a table at the Community Day by messaging Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., who she had previously met through her time as a Chicago Peace Fellow.

At the Community Day, Juliet was able to hand out 55 helmets:

People were really excited and surprised they could get a helmet for free. Some people were on roller skates, some people were on motor scooters, and they all got helmets.

Juliet also brought other safe cycling activists to the community day by contacting the Chicago Department of Transportation’s SAFE Ambassadors program. Though the SAFE Ambassadors typically work with schools to provide bicycle safety programs, Juliet reached them and discovered they also do other community-based events. Together, both the Safe Cycling project and SAFE Ambassadors made sure everyone at the event interested in receiving a helmet got one. Juliet was ecstatic with their partnership and spoke about how the two tables complemented one another: “When the SAFE Ambassadors didn’t have helmets that fit, they sent people to my table because I bought helmets of all sizes.”

On September 17, the Safe Cycling project partnered with Margaret’s Village to offer helmets to residents of South Chicago. Margaret’s Village is a shelter that provides transitional housing for homeless women, children, and families. Juliet connected with the organization through her work doing HIV education and testing at a social services agency. She spoke with Angela Hicks, Executive Director of Margaret’s Village, and offered for the Safe Cycling program and SAFE Ambassadors to attend their annual Peace Fair. The Peace Fair, a block party that offers violence prevention programming, was an ideal venue to provide bike safety materials and education. When Angela accepted her offer, Juliet organized another table for the Safe Cycling project and gave away 28 helmets and other cycling accessories.

The future of the Safe Cycling project will bring even more collaborations between organizations to distribute helmets in their communities. So far, Juliet has used a range of connections to bring helmets and bike safety instructions to the South and West Sides. She hopes that in the future, she can find even more collaborators and bring more attention to the project. Juliet would like to continue expanding the Safe Cycling project to host an annual event. Through creating grassroots networks with the help of the Mutual Aid Collaborative, the Safe Cycling project has brought needed helmets, bikes, and other resources to people who lacked them. Their work together has played a part in creating safer and healthier communities in Chicago.


Meet the 2022 Goldin Global Fellows (English Language Cohort)

The Goldin Institute invites you to learn about each of our 2022 Goldin Global Fellows coming from across the globe, from Albania to Zimbabwe. This diverse group of fellows will learn and work together as a Community of Practice, building on the talents of their neighbors and the assets of their communities to make real and lasting change around the world.

ABOUT GATHER

Peace Fellows participate in GATHER, an online asset-based community engagement course, as well as in-person training, collaborative action projects, and networking experiences with civic leaders, academic researchers, and policy makers. The Chicago Peace Fellows reduce violence by building relationships, engaging youth, collaborative peace building projects over the summer and by creating new networks among residents, families, schools, and nonprofit organizations.

The Fellows are learning together through GATHER, which is both a mobile platform for shared learning and a curriculum for people who want to build on the talents of their neighbors and the assets of their communities to make real and lasting change. Gather Fellows learn and work together through an innovative curriculum that comes pre-loaded on a tablet device with all the connectivity, materials, videos, practices and tools necessary to provide a mobile classroom and toolkit for community leadership.

https://vimeo.com/338756918

The Goldin Global Fellows connects and equips grassroots leaders across the world to lead community driven social change. The 2022 Goldin Global Fellows is the third international cohort to utilize the GATHER platform, an online learning hub built by the Goldin Institute to empower grassroots leaders. They will engage in a 22-week course of intensive shared learning as well as group projects, culminating in a graduation event in November 2022. The curriculum has been designed and refined in collaboration with the Fellows themselves, based on their practical knowledge and hard earned wisdom, with input from a wide range of civic leaders. 

To follow along the learning journey with the Goldin Global Fellows, please sign up for our newsletter and follow up on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Building Safer Communities with the Chicagoland Vaccine Partnership

By Zeki Salah, Mutual Aid Collaborative Facilitator

Goldin Institute Peace Fellow, Annette Kelly, is helping host a series of workshops on Violence Prevention through her work with the Chicagoland Vaccine Partnership (CVP). Annette is the founder of FOUS Youth Development Services and was connected to the CVP through a funder of her organization. The CVP work focuses on sharing quality information about COVID vaccination in the communities hardest hit by COVID by mobilizing community leaders, educating community members and elevating multi-sector collaborations.

From left: Kimberley Smith, Jesus Salazar, Annette Kelly and Vaughn Bryant

The CVP launched a learning community platform called the Learning Community in June 2021 that offered a unique virtual space for over 600 contact tracers, resource navigators, and concerned community members. In this space, community members could support each other in doing outreach about the COVID-19 vaccines and having open dialogue about health inequities and community organizing more broadly. This work was expanded by the CVP with the founding of the Learning Community Fellows, 11 members of the Learning Community that were hired to expand the outreach of the Learning Community and assist in curriculum development. Annette was selected as a Learning Community Fellow in October of 2021.

Chicagoland Vaccine Partnership at work. Photo credit: Chicago Vaccine Partnership

Prior to becoming a Learning Community Fellow, Annette had 15 years of experience running school based mentoring and violence prevention programs in the West Pullman community through her work with FOUS Youth Development Services. Through her work with the CVP, Annette is expanding her organization’s community impact by addressing the public health concerns regarding both COVID-19 and violence and their disproportionate effects on communities of color.

The goal of CVP’s Violence Prevention series is to invite the CVP Learning Community participants to see gun violence through the public health lens. The series aims to protect and improve the health of people and their communities and shows how community partnerships can address these issues. Two events have already been held, focusing on multi-sector collaborations and crime reporting and data. In the first event, Vaughn Bryant and Jesus Salazar of Metropolitan Family Services shared a network of community organizations that practice trauma-informed care and restorative justice practices. In the second event, Kimberley Smith of the University of Chicago Crime Lab showed how data about gun violence could be used to redirect resources to target populations most affected by that violence. Both events drew strong responses from the participants and provided a space for community dialogue and opportunities for collaboration.

The CVP’s Violence Prevention series will include two more workshops on violence intervention strategies and the impact of block clubs. The first of these events, Giving Hope: Innovative Violence Intervention Strategies, will occur on May 4th. It will aim to address the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic by linking communities to trauma-informed mental health resources. The second event, Word on the Block: A Conversation About the Impact of Block Clubs, will be held on May 11th. This event will bring in people working with local Chicagoland Block Clubs to learn from them and provide space for community dialogue. Both events will continue the Violence Prevention series’ theme of illuminating how both violence and the COVID-19 pandemic affect public health on a broad and overarching level, while providing solutions that are community based and hyper-local.


Meet the 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows

The Goldin Institute invites you to learn about each of our 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows representing 14 community areas across the city.  Founded in 2019 in collaboration with the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, the Chicago Peace Fellows program is the only leadership development program that is built by and for grassroots community leaders on the South and West sides of Chicago.

https://vimeo.com/754780766

2022 Chicago Peace Fellows

ABOUT GATHER

Peace Fellows participate in GATHER, an online asset-based community engagement course, as well as in-person training, collaborative action projects, and networking experiences with civic leaders, academic researchers, and policy makers. The Chicago Peace Fellows reduce violence by building relationships, engaging youth, collaborative peace building projects over the summer and by creating new networks among residents, families, schools, and nonprofit organizations.

The Fellows are learning together through GATHER, which is both a mobile platform for shared learning and a curriculum for people who want to build on the talents of their neighbors and the assets of their communities to make real and lasting change. Gather Fellows learn and work together through an innovative curriculum that comes pre-loaded on a tablet device with all the connectivity, materials, videos, practices and tools necessary to provide a mobile classroom and toolkit for community leadership.

https://vimeo.com/338756918

The Chicago Peace Fellows project connects and equips cohorts of past grantees of the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities to reduce violence and promote peace. The 2022 Chicago Peace Fellows is the foyrth all-Chicago cohort to utilize the GATHER platform, an online learning hub built by the Goldin Institute to empower grassroots leaders.

The participants have been selected from past grantees of the Chicago Fund. They will engage in a 22-week course of intensive shared learning as well as group projects, culminating in a graduation event in September 2022. The curriculum has been designed in collaboration with the grantees themselves, based on their practical knowledge and hard earned wisdom, with input from a wide range of civic leaders. Fellows will reflect on their past summer work, identify successes and lessons learned, and improve their abilities by sharing strengths and learning new skills.

The Goldin Institute and the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities have aligned missions that value authentic community leadership. The Chicago Fund is uniquely effective at finding motivated problem-solvers and community-builders. By connecting Chicago leaders through GATHER, their efforts to nurture safer and more peaceful communities will be more effective, interconnected and lasting.

A special thanks to the Chicago Community Trust, the Conant Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Frankel Family Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, the Racial Justice Pooled Fund, the Seabury Family Foundation, the Walder Family Foundation and the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities for making this program possible.

To follow along the learning journey with the Chicago Peace Fellows, please sign up for our newsletter and follow up on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

If you would like to apply for the next cohort of Gather Fellows, please email gather@goldininstitute.org.


Deepening Our Bonds at the Peace Fellows Retreat

By Zeki Salah, Mutual Aid Collaborative Facilitator

Last summer, the 2021 Chicago Peace Fellows collaboratively designed and launched seven peace building projects geared towards serving and building community with people throughout the Chicagoland area. The Peace Fellows Retreat was one of those projects and was designed to give back to the Fellows in return for all their hard work serving their communities and to strengthen relationships between the Peace Fellows.

During one of the summer project meetings, Peace Fellow Bertha Purnell expressed the need for the 2021 Fellows to take a retreat out in the woods to relax for a bit:

Sometimes things are so fast paced I need Post-it reminders as well as a calendar. The retreat was a time to slow down, breathe deep, and smell and feel the air.

Another Peace Fellow, Andrea Reed, couldn’t have agreed more:

Although, I love the work that I do and the fulfillment it brings...I am also very mindful that I need to unplug to take care of myself so that I can continue to feed into others.

During the fall, Bertha and Andrea took the lead on organizing the Retreat. Collaborating with a group of Fellows, their first goal was to find a space. In years past, other Fellows cohorts held retreats at hotels in downtown Chicago, but Bertha liked the idea of having the Fellows in nature and outside of their typical environment.

Andrea recommended the YMCA Camp Duncan Site because she had the opportunity to attend a leadership retreat there when she was student at DeVry University:

It was such a beautiful, restful and peaceful place. I always wanted to go back there, but never did. When we were discussing the need for a retreat, the words that kept coming to the surface were rest, peace, serenity which triggered my memory of Camp Duncan.

The logistics of the Peace Fellows retreat were negotiated collaboratively. Andrea showed the team pictures of the campsite to convince them it was a good location. In early December, a survey went out to all the 2021 Chicago Peace Fellows and March 18-20th was selected as the date. After a joint discussion, Fellows decided that the Retreat should focus on providing rest and reflection. Andrea and Bertha planned out snacks, activities, and other necessary supplies before sending out another survey to see what activities Fellows were interested in doing. Responses to the survey helped the Peace Fellows Retreat group plan time to enjoy nature, rest, and reflect on their time as Fellows.

Getting into nature was restorative for the Peace Fellows and helped them relax, connect with one another, and imagine new ways of engaging their communities. Andrea reported “the full breadth of this place is breathtaking and could never compare to the glitz and glamor of a swanky hotel.”

As the Fellows breathed in the fresh air they could not stop imagining the benefits this site could bring for kids. The next plan for this group is to take a few students to the campsite before the school year so they can relax and reflect as well. Andrea suggested:

“When we look for ways to reach our youth, I believe that exposing them to Camp Duncan with youth advisors who have the skill and experience in reaching our youth would prove to be very beneficial and most transformative.”


LOV Day Hosted by Ladies of Virtue, Chicago

By Cree Noble, Team Coordinator

On Saturday, February 5th, and Saturday, February 12th, the Ladies of Virtue hosted their annual LOV Day Celebration as an expression of their mission “to instill purpose, passion, and perseverance in girls, ages 9 to 18, while preparing them for college, careers and to become change agents in their communities". Ladies of Virtue is a Chicago-based non-profit founded by Chicago Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel in 2011 with the goal of becoming the premier mentoring and leadership training organization for Black girls in the world.

LOV matches their participants with mentors and prepare them for leadership through our culturally relevant character building, career readiness and civic engagement curriculum. The team at Ladies of Virtue provides project management, collaboration and communication training via their two to four-month project experiences to empower girls to lead in the modern workforce. After graduating from high school, with successful completion of LOV's leadership program, participants are mentored and supported for six additional years as LOV 4 Life alumni.

LOV Day was birthed because “many Black girls feel that their concerns go mostly unaddressed and overlooked. Research confirms what our girls have been telling us all along. Due to stereotypes, a 2017 Georgetown Law Study showed that adults believe black girls ages 5-19 need less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort than their peers of the same age".

"We know that this perception is not reality. We want Black girls and young women to know that they are seen, heard, and loved." - Jamila Trimuel, Chicago Peace Fellow

This unfortunate reality mixed with a couple of years into the pandemic, LOV Day was more important than ever before. Since Black girls are oftentimes seen as older and less nurtured than their peers, many Black girls experience higher rates of detention and suspension than most. With the pandemic, more Black girls are reporting they feel depressed and isolated. Founder of Ladies of Virtue, Jamila Trimuel, expressed the importance of “LOV Day is to show love to our Black girls!”

The love that the Ladies of Virtue showed to the girls for this LOV Day started on February 5th with a pamper party. At the pamper party, girls came together to play games, receive manicures, masks, and overall receive a self-care day to show their appreciation to the ladies. The second gift the Ladies of Virtue created for girls was 350 LOV boxes that they would pass out to girls across the South Side of the city.

These boxes included Black History Facts, teddy bears, hair care products, and PPE. This event was sponsored by the Goldin Institute - Mutual Aid Collaborative. In addition, product sponsors included: University of Chicago, Mielle Organics, Renee Ramore, Ferrara, and Ms. P’s Gluten Free!

Jamila loves the impact LOV Day has on girls who are not a part of the Ladies of Virtue mentorship program. One of the current mentees of the program found out about Ladies of Virtue when she received a LOV Day box last year. After receiving the box she wanted to join the program.

Ladies of Virtue is currently in the middle of programming for their mentees. Upcoming events are the College Expo which will take place on April 2nd, a community service event with mentees on April 16th, and their Juneteenth event. Ladies of Virtue is also accepting donations for upcoming graduates of 8th grade and 12th grade to help them be prepared for high school and college. Lastly, they are seeking mentors! For more information check out their website at https://www.lovchicago.org/ .


Principles of Kwanzaa Can Unite Us

By Cree Noble, Team Coordinator

Last December 2021 Chicago Peace Fellow Pastor Victoria Brady and members of Big Mama Movement Chicago (a coalition which she co-founded) hosted The Black Family Reunion on the last 3 days of Kwanzaa. Big Mama Movement Chicago is a group of Black women who are calling for the unification of the Black Family. Pastor Victoria conceived the idea of hosting a global Black Family Reunion and thought, what better time to call for unity than during Kwanzaa.

Photo from Left: Yvonne Pugh, Pastor Victoria Carol Brady, Dr. Gale Frazier, Yaa Simpson

Pastor Victoria (nicknamed Pastor V.) and six other Big Mamas embarked in the planning of the celebration, realizing that the principles of Kwanzaa can be used as a powerful instrument to bring Africans and the African Diaspora together. Also realizing that people right here in the United States do not understand Kwanzaa, Pastor V. states:

"There are so many misconceptions about Kwanzaa including that it is designed to replace Christmas. This is not true. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of the best of Blackness; it is a cultural celebration that uplifts families and the community.” - Pastor Victoria Brady

Pastor V. is continuing the work of creating safe spaces for civic and community engagement, making peace, and bringing a greater degree of peace and unity within the Black community. With the goal of building unity in mind, she plans to conduct a series of highly engaging and innovative teach-ins/workshops to share the importance of the Nguzo Saba which are the pillars upon which the principles of Kwanzaa are built. She is preparing to share this information with leaders in the U.S.A. and in different parts of Africa who can, then share the information within their communities. Pastor Victoria’s efforts are expanding to include Peace Fellows in Chicago and across the globe. The Nguzo Saba, which are shared here, has the potential to spark lasting changes in the way that Africans and the Diaspora view itself and our sometimes fragmented relationships stemming from chatel slavery where families and communities were ripped apart.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Kwanzaa is a time of learning, family, and celebration...families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor the ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day they light a candle to highlight the principle of that day and to breathe meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings or writings of great Black thinkers and writers, reciting original poetry, African drumming, and sharing a meal of African Diaspora-inspired foods.

The table is decorated with the essential symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the Kinara (Candle Holder), Mkeka (Mat), Muhindi (corn to represent the children), Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest), and Zawadi (gifts). One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the physical space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African Diaspora by The Honorable Marcus Garvey. The seven principles of Kwanzaa to be put into daily practice are listed here:

“The teach-ins are designed to bring a greater awareness of Kwanzaa, demystify it, and to seek ways to improve the quality of life by incorporating the seven principles into the lives of Africans and her Diaspora rooted in Umoja (Unity) and Imani (Faith)” says Pastor V.

More information go to: https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/seven-principles-kwanzaa