Peace is Blooming in Chicago

On Sunday, May 3rd the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Peace Flowers campaign by delivering over 75 flower bouquets to mothers that have lost children to violence.

The Peace Flowers campaign is a collective response from the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative comprised of 38 peace organizations throughout Chicago who are working togehter to address the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and violence in Chicago.

Violence is rising in Chicago in the same south and west side neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19 where the Peace Fellows live and work.  With funding for frontline peace-building organizations often diverted to respond to the coronavirus, the Mutual Aid Collaborative is building sustainable social impact models to raise funds and create jobs.

"Peace Flowers is an innovative and easy way to fund these organizations while also investing in sustainable job creation on the south and west side of Chicago where these lovely blooms are grown."

Quilen Blackwell, Chicago Peace Fellow, Chicago Eco House

Pamela Bosley, Co-founder of Purpose Over Pain, works with mothers to connect them with each other to build a community of support.

“Many of the moms have a hard time with Mother’s Day. With the pandemic, it’s been even harder. Many mothers are reporting problems with depression and other issues related to being disconnected.”

Pamela Bosley, Chicago Peace Fellow, Purpose Over Pain

Quilen Blackwell, Owner of Southside Blooms, a social enterprise that helps youth in Englewood find opportunities in urban farming. They work to build a sense of entrepreneurship to help youth see opportunity and way out of drug trade. Quilen saw an opportunity to support Pamela’s group by providing them with beautiful bouquets in honor of Mother’s Day and to help lift their spirits. “The flower market is in huge disruption right now. 80% of flowers are imported from overseas and due to the trade issues related to the corona virus, most flowers need to come from domestic sources.” Quilen noted.

AnnaMaria Leon, Co-owner of Homan Grown, saw a collaboration in the making. She noted how this idea can be more than just a single action but, can be a part of a broader strategy to support mothers and fund projects for the Chicago Peace Fellows. She contacted her friend, Pascal Sabino, a local reporter for Block Club Chicago who wrote a powerful article about the project.  The story was also featured by ABC7 in this compelling feature.

Once the funding and logistics were done, the team came together to prepare and deliver the flowers. The flowers were delivered to families across Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The deliveries added a personal touch because they were distributed by Southside Blooms, Annamaria, and myself as Director of the Chicago Peace Fellows.

"I personally got the witness the joy and gratitude of the moms who received bouquets. It was a very moving experience to hand out flowers and cards that reminded the moms “You are not forgotten.”

Burrell Poe, Director, Chicago Peace Fellows

The deliveries were bittersweet, acknowleging the loss of family members but also because the deliveries were contact-less. No handshakes, no hugs, and at least 6ft of physical distance. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer made this gesture different that it would have been prior to COVID-19. However, it made it all the more important because, people are suffering on top of the suffering that has already befallen their lives.

"Wonderful. Wonderful, it really made my day," said Elizabeth Bolden, a mother who received the bouquet.

The project has thus far raised over $5000 on GoFundMe and is entering into the next phase of it's social impact model where the public can purchase a subscription for flower delivery that also funds violence prevention work through the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative.

Project oragnizers at Southside Blooms and Homan Grown will hire local youth to grow and arrange the flowers and donate a percent of their sales through the Peace Flowers campaign to support this network grassroots peace organizations on the West and South sides of Chicago plagued by the twin epidemics of violence and COVID-19.

"The goal is to create a long term sustainable funding stream for peace organizations in Chicago so that these groups have greater freedom at doing what they do best: making Chicago a more peaceful and beautiful place to live!"

Learn more about the Peace Flowers program at SouthSide Blooms