LOV Day 2023 Instills Purpose, Passion, and Perseverance

By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate

On Saturday, February 11th, 400 self-care boxes were distributed to 400 girls across the neighborhoods of Bronzeville, Englewood, North Lawndale, and Austin areas. The boxes were distributed by Ladies of Virtue as part of their 3rd annual celebration of LOV Day. LOV Day was sponsored by the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative as a partnership between 2019 Chicago Peace Fellows, Jamila Trimuel, Executive Director of Ladies of Virtue, and Dawn Hodges, Executive Director of Imani Community Development Corporation. Ladies of Virtue is a Chicago-based non-profit founded by Jamila in 2011 with the goal of becoming the premier mentoring and leadership training organization for Black girls in the world. LOV Day was established in 2021 to further 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 mentoring and leadership program for girls, ages 9 to 18. Over the last 11 years they have served over 2,000 girls and families. LOV matches their participants with mentors and prepares 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, from 18 to 24, as LOV 4 Life alumni.

LOV Day was a community effort, obtaining funding from the Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative, drawing in fifty-five volunteers from 12 Corporate/Community Partners, and hosting events in six different schools and community centers. Jamila brought the proposal to fund LOV Day to the Mutual Aid Collaborative alongside 2019 Peace Fellow, Dawn Hodges.

The Mutual Aid Collaborative consists of 74 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. The Mutual Aid Collaborative met and collaboratively voted in January to provide LOV Day with funding to support the distribution of LOV Boxes filled with self-care items. Each LOV box included a teddy bear, chocolates and candy, a painting kit,  hair care products, and Black history facts.

LOV Day served as a way to celebrate both Black History Month and Valentine's Day. Themes of Black history and culture were interwoven with the idea of providing girls with the space and opportunity to rest and care for themselves. LOV Day featured a self-care experience called “Black Girls Rest”. This event served 100 girls, twice as many as the previous year. Black Girls Rest included workshops on how to maintain healthy hair, skin care, and feminine care. Hair care stylists, cosmetologists, aestheticians, and an OBGYN all attended to provide guidance. Speaking to the themes of Black history and rest, one Lady of Virtue stated, ”All throughout Black history, slavery and during the Great Migration, Black people were constantly on the move and still to this day heavily dipped in GRIND culture. We need to STOP and REST.”

While 2022’s LOV Day centered more around the distribution of boxes, this year’s LOV Day focused heavily on programming, with Ladies of Virtue visiting six schools to hold self esteem and confidence workshops. Events include hair and makeup demonstrations, pillow decorating, mental health workshops, feminine and skin care tips, and candle making. The programs were conducted by program facilitators for the Ladies of Virtue and aimed to show Black Girls that they are and should be loved, nurtured, and protected. For instance, one workshop had girls identify what they love about themselves and encouraged their peers to support that expression of self-love. 

Jamila attended one of the LOV Day classes where girls were discussing when they were at their best. One girl that Jamila was working with said “Oh I love my smell because it reminds me of how my dad smells,” but then noted “ I really don’t talk about my dad much.” When Jamila asked why, the girl mentioned that he died a few weeks ago.  Jamila reflected, “that really let me know that she felt like this was a safe space for her to express herself; that we were establishing a safe space for girls to just be themselves.” 


To continue their mission of instilling 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 Virtues is always looking for volunteers.  Volunteers serve as role models for their  girls, parents, and the community. You can find volunteering opportunities for LOV at: https://www.lovchicago.org/volunteer 

Chicago Youth Exchange Builds Trust in the Great Outdoors

Six thirty a.m., Sunday morning, teens ages 15-21 wait in great anticipation for the bus that will take them away from the Windy City, Chicago, with the bright lights, loud noises to the serene shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - the Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School (OWLS) in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.


[quote]For many of the youths, this is going to be their first experience camping and the questions are non-stop, from “What type of bus will we ride on?” to the physical layout of the facility, all of which I can’t answer since this is my first experience camping as well.[/quote]

During our initial encounter as Chicago Peace Fellows, several of the fellows talked about their work with young people during the summer and the possibility of hosting an overnight camping trip for youths from the various communities. As one of the eight funded summer projects, the cohorts from the New City, South Shore and Little Village communities collaborated on a Youth Exchange 3-day camping trip which would allow black and brown youths from the various communities to get to know one another, explore similar experiences, and create an ongoing bond which would facilitate additional collaborative activities.


The Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School welcomed our group with open arms. They excitedly celebrated our arrival as they asked the youths to settle in and grab lunch because then it was activities planned from the moment we arrived until the time we left. Our first afternoon began with building trust activities. The youths were divided into three random groups, each decided on a name for themselves, and then continued on with activities accordingly. Activities included talking circles, trust exercises, high ropes, low ropes and general recreational activities. On Monday, the youths participated in rock climbing, archery, fishing, swimming, canoeing, nature walks and sports and recreation. All the activities were geared toward establishing a bond among the youth. And what's a camping experience without a night adventure walk and toasting marshmallows by the campfire?

In addition to the relaxation and fun, the youths were challenged to address life challenges and, in some cases, had emotional moments related to their personal fears and frustrations as well as mistrust. Some recounted criminal activity and family involvement with DCFS. The opportunity to address the youths in these situations proved to be a rewarding experience for both the youths as well as the Fellows, who assured the youths there were adults who were there for them to help them on their journey. In some cases, youths were purposefully invited due to the overburdensome responsibilities they faced as older siblings. The opportunity to be among their peers away from the city and a break from their home life was most rewarding.


Fellow Pamela Butts was the coordinator for the event, and she was exceptional in her leadership skills and generosity to make sure the youth had a pleasant experience, nothing lacking. Several of the OWL counselors expressed how their lives were changed by having someone take the time with them to show them a different path such as what we were doing, and applauded us for our efforts. The experience resonated with them so much that they returned to become counselors after having the experience as a youth participant. Before we left, several of our youths also expressed a desire to learn more and possibly apply to work with the camp next year.

Our thanks also goes to Burrell Poe, who made sure every youth had a backpack and flashlight for their journey. Collaborating with the Chicago Peace Fellows has opened so many doors for the residents of Chicago, and given these youths opportunities they would not have otherwise experienced. I would also like to thank Fellow Gloria Smith, who provided Chicago Sky tickets which we were able to offer some of our youths who were unable to attend the camping trip.

Overall, we will continue to “Change the culture and break the cycle of violence” in our communities by providing positive opportunities for youth to strive toward productive citizenship.