Neighbors Celebrate Family and Youth Peace Day

Along with my collaborator Gloria Smith of the Black Star Project, I am pleased to share an update from the 2019 Family and Youth Peace Day.  This project is one of eight projects the Chicago Peace Fellows collaboratively designed and supported to put our principles and insights into practice to build peace over the summer.


What has your team accomplished over the past two weeks?

There were over 200 people participating in the event on June 27! There were several organizations from Bronzeville involved. Chicago Cares coordinated the planning, Chicago Youth Programs on 54th and Prairie was the site of all activities, the Community Builders had a table offering affordable housing, Pastor Chris Harris of the Bright Star Church brought a bus load of youth from Kenwood, Cigna brought 60 volunteers who played games with young people, prepared lunch, and built five raised garden boxes. 2016 Ma’at helped with these projects and helped build planters while seniors from our asset mapping project came and participated. The event started at 10 am and ended at 3 pm.

All Bronzeville organizations described their programs and all present felt the event was successful.


What have you learned?

Organized groups that keep their commitments can be very impactful in very resource challenged communities.

What is coming up that's important?

In the coming week, we will begin installing block club signs and planning for additional Family and Youth Day celebrations. We need all the help we can get.

How can other Peace Fellows or the community support you?

As we complete our asset mapping and begin planning what the community wishes to see built in their community, some of GATHER staff may be helpful in creating the plan!!! If there are Peace Fellows or neighbors who have built housing or created community plans, they also could be helpful.

Peace Fellow Spotlight: Gloria Smith

What are some important updates in your current work?

The Black Star Project is a multifaceted initiative known for its actions with programs on education, culture, economic and workforce development, mentoring, tutoring and youth development, public policy and advocacy and violence prevention. Our programs encourage a holistic, intergenerational approach to community building.

Peace Fellows Gloria Smith (from left), Jeanette Coleman, coordinator Burrell Poe, Pamela Phoenix, Jacquelyn Moore and Robert Biekman pose for photo after meeting with Veterans for Peace.

Phillip Jackson, our founding director, passed away in November 2018. Phillip was a great inspiration to many and we have been challenged to determine how best to continue cultivating and sharing his wisdom with the world. While many of our supporters keep up with our work through the Black Star Project website and Facebook page, we also have a radio program on WVON on Saturdays at 6 p.m. and a periodic newsletter that is shared with a national and international audience.

Some of our recent projects include economic empowerment and non-profit management workshops, Saturday university academic programs, and Becoming Chicago’s Next CEO, a summer program for interns interested in learning investment skills. Most recently, we participated, along with our Young Black Men of Honor, in the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table event by sending a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot sharing their thoughts on addressing violence in the community.

Peace Fellows Gloria Smith (left) and Jacquelyn Moore practice Appreciative Inquiry during a workshop at Breakthrough Ministries.

As Phillip's sister, I along with my staff and a host of organizations and supporters remain very much engaged in “the good work” that Phillip left for us to do and to share with as wide a community as possible.

How has GATHER informed the work that you do? Have you made any meaningful connections between GATHER and your work?

“Gathering” is at the heart of our work at The Black Star Project. We know this: What has always strengthened and encouraged Black and Brown people is our histories of struggle, our creativity, our humanity in the face of trauma, our connection to elders and ancestors, and the love and encouragement we must pass along to our young people.

Peace Fellow Gloria Smith shares the Asset Map she created with her neighbors of the Bronzeville community.

We believe that we need to be together. To spend time with each other – in small gatherings and large, sharing the wisdoms we’ve learned from our experiences. Our programs share the resources of history, spirit and culture that have provided strength and renewal to people struggling for the expression of their humanity in Chicago and elsewhere in the world. This is work we’ve done since our founding in 1996, work we remain committed to, and work that is very similar to the peacemaking efforts of GATHER and the Goldin Institute.

Reflecting on Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson

On Thursday, May 9, 2019, Peace Fellows Velvian Boswell, Robin Cline and I as well as Goldin Institute staff Travis Rejman and Burrell Poe attended the City Club of Chicago's luncheon with Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Superintendent Johnson stated crime in the City of Chicago is down since 2016 and attributed the decrease to 2000 new recruits since 2017, changes in command staff due to promotions and retirements, and upgrades to technology including a new Strategic Support Center.


In addition, the superintendent shared details on various neighborhoods and his plans for the summer. Peace Fellow Robin Cline stated, “I’d be interested in hearing more about the pilot program that kicked off in January in the 25th District where they hired 12 new District Coordination Officers.” Robin provided a link to an Austin Weekly article related to the new strategy which emphasizes problem solving through building and maintaining relationships within the communities.

Velvian Boswell shared:

[quote]“I’m glad he acknowledged that some of our residents, especially those in the African American community, have been mistreated. I wonder how many of the 2,000 recruits he mentioned were African American. I also wonder what he could have done to benefit the community with the dollars spent on the technology center.”[/quote]

When asked about his legacy, the Superintendent stated he wants all of Chicago to be proud of its police department. He also said he's hopeful for a more positive narrative about the city.

I wanted to hear more about the Superintendent’s plans for youth and ways to stem violence and promote peace over the summer. I think there should be summer jobs for every youth who wants to work. After leaving the luncheon, I went to the 35th Street CPD main office to work with a group that’s helping young people expunge or seal their records so that they can obtain work.