Members of the Speak Your Peace Team posing together at the event

Storytelling for Community Empowerment: 2023 Peace Fellows Hold Speak Your Peace Workshop

Storytelling serves as an important medium for many Chicago Peace Fellows to raise awareness and promote solutions to problems that they face in their community. On October 21, the 2023 Chicago Peace Fellows hosted the Speak Your Peace workshop, dedicated to building power and community through inter-generational mixed-media storytelling. The event was held at the Chicago Center for Arts and Technology (CHICAT) on the West Side of Chicago. Peace Fellows on the Speak Your Peace team included: Nachelle Pugh, Antwan McHenry, Kanesha Walker Amaro, Carlil Pittman, Devonta Boston, Alexandra Auguste, Zahra Glenda Baker, Diane Deaderick DeMarta, Ceola Henderson-Bryant, and Lauryn Collins.

Speak Your Peace was one 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. 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 throughout the year. These lessons culminate in a series of planning workshops where Peace Fellows can apply their newly learned skills and connections to a summer project that builds on the talents of their neighbors and the assets of their communities to make real and lasting change.

The Speak Your Peace Team posing at their storytelling event

 

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. “We were all sitting at the table and picking these projects, and our group felt it was really important for people to tell their story".

"In our community there are so many different things that go on, some of which are great and some of which are harmful and violent. We wanted to give people an opportunity to think about those things so that we can build on their experiences and make changes.” -- Nachelle Pugh

 

Photograph at speak your peace event titled "God Help Me!". Shows a man screaming in the air with the words: anger, frustration, pain, hopelessness

 

The Speak Your Peace team sees storytelling as a way to show people from outside of their communities the challenges and triumphs of their neighborhoods. Nachelle elaborates, “Just looking [from outside] and trying to decipher what is going on is different from someone telling you what is going on. I think that’s what we were able to do with the storytelling at this event.” By providing a workshop and creative space for community members on the South and West side, Speak Your Peace aimed to center voices that are often ignored.

“To me it’s important to speak your piece, because if you don’t speak it, someone else will.” -- Kanesha Walker Amaro

By focusing on affirmative storytelling and highlighting the voices in the community, Speak Your Peace aimed to combat harmful narratives that are imposed from the outside.

Storytelling at the workshop showcased a variety of talents within the community with photography, art, poetry, music, and film working in unison to express a variety of voices. Hip hop artists, filmmakers, poets, and photographers from the community all had opportunities to present their talents. One of the featured artists was a filmmaker who started making films at the age of 17. At the event, the audience watched her documentary, filmed 7 years ago, which captures instances of police brutality that were spotlighted prior to the Black Lives Matter movement and shows the filmmaker’s view as an insider witnessing the violence. Another artist was a poet who used the space to share poems about her refusal to let any disabilities define her and allow her to center her experiences through poetry. The stories shared at Speak Your Peace were inter-generational and mixed-media, allowing for new connections to be generated between a range of communities.

speak your peace flyer

Many of the Peace Fellows involved also had an opportunity to showcase their own artistic talents, which often do not have a chance to take center stage in their community work. For instance, Antwan McHenry curated a photography exhibit that showcased a variety of artists as well as his own work, which included a series of self-portraits he took during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nachelle expressed admiration for his photographs, “Antwan, is an amazing photographer. […] Those pictures told a lot of stories of what was going on in his life, but probably also the lives of many others who were self-isolating. It was depression, it was confusion, it was chaos, it was sadness, it was the happiness at the end of the tunnel. All of those photos told the story of his experience.“ Kanesha, another 2023 Peace Fellow, also had the opportunity to share her poetry and bring in other local poets to perform.

Speak Your Peace allowed for new connections to be made between artists and community activists across the South and West Sides. Reflecting on Speak Your Peace, Nachelle said that the most important thing accomplished was: “Building relationships with the community that was there."

"Working with the folks in our group, we got a chance to know each other, for real." -- Nachelle Pugh

We had been doing different workshops and activities, but we never really had a chance to [...] do the work that we do together and watch each other shine, and to be able to make suggestions with our personal experiences to help each other and make this event amazing. I think that’s the most important part and what I loved the most. Once we were done, everyone was like ‘yeah we gotta do this again and make it into something we do regularly’”. After the event, artists continued to connect and plan collaborations that will continue to center lived experiences for the world to experience and reflect on.


How the Island is Reactivating Their Public Spaces

This summer, the Island Civic Association worked with young people in the Island neighborhood of Austin to reactivate a playlot owned by G. R. Clark Elementary School as a public space. Nate Tubbs, a 2023 Chicago Peace Fellow and president of the Island Civic Association  (ICA), was heavily involved in organizing the project. The work of Nate and the ICA aims to create a more connected, inclusive, and thriving community in the Island. In an effort to activate public spaces, ICA has been working with G. R. Clark and young community members to host Playlot Nights at the G. R. Clark Playlot. These events aim to attract attention towards creating more public outdoor spaces and promoting a healthier and more cohesive neighborhood. 

The playlot provides a large open space for people of all ages to utilize.

Currently, the Island lacks outdoor spaces for young people and families to gather. The ICA has identified this as a problem that often causes people to have to leave the neighborhood for recreation. Nate comments, “The Island is a small pocket of the Southwest Austin community. It is a great little area, but it is kind of land-locked. This means a lot of people have to leave the neighborhood to go to a park or playground.” One way the ICA has worked to solve this problem is by activating existing areas to serve as public spaces in addition to their current uses. 

Young people playing on G. R. Elementary's playlot during Playlot nights.
Playlot Nights provided an opportunity for people to gather in a public space that was previously closed outside of school hours.

In the past, the neighbors within the Island community have worked together to activate vacant spaces through community partnerships, however the Playlot project seeks to activate existing space on a larger scale through partnership with G. R. Clark. Island residents previously created a Nature Play Garden as an intergenerational outdoor space on a vacant city lot. However, the ICA’s work on the G. R. Clark Playlot Project focuses on creating a larger public space where community members can gather for larger events or play sports and is dependent on working cooperatively with G. R. Clark. Up until this point, the G.R. Clark playground has been regularly locked outside of school hours. Many community members have asked whether it can be opened more regularly. In response ICA has been in discussion with the school about how they can activate the space for community events. 

To show community support for opening the Playlot to the public, the ICA and the G. R. Clark Local School Council have invested in its renovation alongside young people and community partners. The Playlot project has aimed to center the voices of the young people who plan to use the space in discussions about the Playlot’s future. Students provided their ideas for improving the playlot and one of their primary concerns was to renovate a fence outside of the school that had become an eyesore. Community members and students worked together to install garden beds, repaint the fence, and add new plants and benches. Their work was aided by partnering with the humanitarian organization Convoy of Hope, as well as John Burns Construction and Christy Webber Landscaping Company which both provided employee volunteers to help improve the space. This spring, students added new signage and lettering to the fence along the playlot. These efforts to beautify the space, showed ownership, and demonstrated that there are people who care and are working on the space. 

The playlot after renovations.
The renovated playlot space, with a repainted fence, new benches, garden beds, and plants.

Following the renovations, the Playlot Nights acted as a proof of concept that the community is invested in reactivating the space. Playlot Nights were held on first Fridays through the summer, in June, July, and August when kids of all ages came together to play. The events incorporated activities for all ages such as chalk drawing, kickball games, music, and cold drinks. Nate noted that each night attracted new crowds. “I think that’s the beauty of doing something outdoors. While some people came from getting flyers and emails, other people were just walking their dogs or riding their bikes and stopped by. Some people drove by and did a double take because they weren’t used to seeing people using the space. So it was really a positive thing with great energy.” 

Adults and young people gathered together at the playlot.
Playlot Nights provided an opportunity for both youth and adults in the community to gather together.

The input of young people is central to the community’s plans for the future of the Playlot project. Six young community members between the ages of 12 and 15 were commissioned by the ICA as Youth Ambassadors and helped organize the Playlot nights. Each Youth Ambassador lives within the Island neighborhood and worked alongside the community to plan the Playlot Nights in exchange for stipends. Youth Ambassadors planned events, distributed flyers, and administered games and activities. By showing that young people are capable of taking action to plan the future of the playlot and administer programs, ICA hopes to generate more community involvement and incrementally work towards a larger scale transformation of the space. 

The Playlot Nights brought the community together to have fun and opened the playlot to connect the community as a whole.

-Henry Ellis, ICA Youth Ambassador

The Playlot Project demonstrates the change that happens as a neighborhood explores their strengths. The Playlot is not something new to the Island neighborhood, but is an asset that is being reactivated through community involvement. Looking towards the future, the ICA aims to continue to maximize its impact in the community through collaboration and investment in existing resources. 


Centro Sanar Team posing at Chicago Beyond headquarters

Chicago Peace Fellow partners with Chicago Beyond to provide Mental Health Services on the Southwest Side

By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate

In August of 2023, Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic organization that invests in organizations working to ensure that young people and community members are free to live full lives, announced a $1.6 million investment in Centro Sanar.

Centro Sanar, co-founded by 2022 Chicago Peace Fellow, Edwin Martinez, provides free mental health services to the southwest communities of Gage Park, Brighton Park, South Lawndale "Little Village," and Back of the Yards. This funding will help support Centro Sanar’s mission of addressing nationwide mental health service gaps in Latinx communities through a replicable model that acts as an alternative to the current mental health industry. 

Chicago Beyond initially identified Edwin and the work Centro Sanar was doing through exploring the value of lived experience in community engagement and mental health services. A Growth Manager at Chicago Beyond found Edwin through an article in The Trace, a media outlet that reports on gun violence. As conversations between Chicago Beyond and Centro Sanar developed, it became clear that Centro Sanar had cultivated deep connections with both community members and organizations that serve the Southwest side. This ultimately resulted in a lasting partnership between the two organizations. Speaking to Chicago Beyond’s philanthropic philosophy, Lisa Caldeira,  Growth Manager at Chicago Beyond, notes:

As an organization, Chicago Beyond deeply values Centro Sanar’s founders’ lived experiences and believes that in consultation with their partners and with those that they serve. Centro Sanar is serving the community’s needs,  addressing systemic harms, and delivering a lasting impact. 

Centro Sanar is made up of social workers and therapists who have around 50 years of collective experience. When asked about the quick expansion of Centro Sanar, Edwin responded: “A lot of our success has been due to the community uplifting our work. We started off as volunteers in March of 2020 under the incubation of the Port Ministries. That provided us with a space to start the work and provide clinical services, which started to blow up in November of that same year when we started to receive funding. Fast forward to May of 2022, we were able to quickly launch a 501(c)(3) due to our relationships with stakeholders and community residents who were able to bring on state funding which let us meet the needs of folks in the community.”

By facilitating the development of lasting relationships between clinicians and community members, Centro Sanar has been able to expand its services rapidly and offer new forms of mental health services to an underserved population.

Centro Sanar takes a non-medicalized approach to mental health care, which the team credits with the success of its programs. Edwin has seen mental health programs that take a medicalized approach fail due to the way their systems were funded and their way of reporting services to the government: “Our clinicians don’t have a fifty patient caseload, they don’t have a specific productivity guideline like in a medicalized system. They don’t have to do thirty five hours of clinical work for billing purposes. They are able to do community-based presentations and different levels of engagement so that they meet with community members when they are not in a state of crisis. This also means word of mouth referrals increase.”

The majority of Centro Sanar’s patients enter their care through word of mouth referrals, which means that neighbors and family members are sharing and promoting mental health care resources and are trusting Centro Sanar’s model of care. Word of mouth referrals also reduce the stigma of seeking out mental health care as friends and family members in the community encourage individuals to seek out preventative care prior to a mental health emergency.

By functioning outside of a medicalized mental health care model, Centro Sanar is also able to extend its mental health services outside of times of crisis. Whereas many medicalized mental health services are designed to tackle mental health emergencies, Centro Sanar expands services to preventative forms of mental health care. When asked what separates Centro Sanar from traditional mental health services, Edwin replied,

Consistency and presence. We’re one of the few organizations that provide free long-term care, consistent care that is not just twelve to twenty four 30-minute sessions over the course of six weeks. We’re doing what community members want, which is consistent and quality care. Even as a small organization we are making sure that we are providing long term service at different clinical modalities that tend to be inaccessible to our population and providing them in the language that they speak. That’s something that is often inaccessible in the current mental health  landscape that we are in.

One way that Centro Sanar is tackling the problem of helping underserved populations is by working with other organizations that complement their mental health services.  For instance, their partnership with Port Minisites not only provides Centro Sanar with a space to operate from, but also allows for a co-location of services. Port Ministries, run by peer Chicago Peace Fellow Alumni David Gonzalez, offers services that complement Centro Sanar’s such as a free health clinic and an afterschool programs that can assist with child care. Centro Sanar has also been able to co-locate with PODER, an immigrant integration center that works primarily with Spanish-speaking adults. PODER provides a space for Centro Sanar to operate from and also allows for a co-location of services. PODER offers programs that complement Centro Sanar such as workforce development and immigrant integration services.  Offering behavioral health and workforce development with the same space increases the capacities of both organizations by streamlining referrals, access to care, and improving different areas of wellness.

There is no shortage of work for Centro Sanar, they currently have a 10 month waitlist for individual therapy with close to 300 people waiting to receive services. This need is largely amplified by a systemic disinvestment of mental health services for BIPOC communities. As a young organization, the investment from Chicago Beyond will allow Centro Sanar to sustain their work and establish themselves as an organization. The funding provides financial flexibility for Centro Sanar to focus on what they know to be most critical for their organization and their clients. Financial security also allows Centro Sanar independence in establishing itself as an organization and figuring out what is needed in their infrastructure. 

Both Chicago Beyond and Centro Sanar are especially excited at the prospect of serving as a blueprint for alternative mental health services in the future. Edwin in particular is hopeful that some aspects of Centro Sanar’s model of care can be extended into the public space, emphasizing that he would like Centro Sanar to, “give an example of an organization that is being creative, that is being innovative, and that is researching its work. This has always been a passion of mine, how can a public mental health clinic adapt this model to be implemented in its work.”  

Central to both Centro Sanar’s growth and to its future is its ability to weave in partners to its mission and strengthen the community fabric. Lisa of Chicago Beyond emphasizes: “The team at Centro Sanar have carefully crafted combinations of ways to engage community members toward healing, not just towards dealing with instances of loss and grief, but towards a deep intergenerational wellness. For communities that have experienced generational harms and systemic oppression, receiving care that is long-term, free of charge, and accessible — culturally, linguistically and physically — leads to individual and familial healing, which in turn leads to community healing.” 


Father's Day March Brings Community and Connectedness to Englewood

By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate

On June 17, Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club held their fifth annual Father’s Day March in Ogden Park. Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club was founded in 2017 by Joseph Williams, a 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow, to get fathers and male-mentors actively involved in their childrens’ lives. Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club uses literacy and mentorship to nurture the social-emotional learning of Chicago youth so that they are better equipped to handle the world around them. This year, they held their fifth annual Father’s Day March, a family-friendly event filled with food, music, games, and giveaways.

Over the past five years, the Father’s Day March has grown in scale and has gained the attention of local businesses, community organizations, and political figures. All food, entertainment, and services at the parade were provided for free and local businesses donated meals, haircuts, and more. When asked about the development of the Father’s Day March, Joseph noted, “I will never forget when we started the event. We used to do it inside of the park and then we expanded out to the track field. We added dance teams, the Jesse White tumblers, face painters, and so on. Now it’s at the point where last year we had the mayor and superintendent come out, this year we had the superintendent come out again, so it has continued to expand.” As attention to the Father’s Day march has increased, the services provided have also grown in scale with more options for food and entertainment being delivered to the growing audience. In total, over 25 vendors came out to support the event and over 500 people attended.

We were really able to tie together businesses, nonprofits, elected officials under one event, for one cause. Every year we come to bring together peace and unity throughout the community… Each year I think the event might be more difficult to put on as it grows in scale, but it actually gets easier, because the more folks know about it, the more support we get.

With over 500 people attending this year’s Father’s Day March, it became a site where members of the Englewood community could receive free resources and services while also spending time with their families. This year, Josephine’s Southern Cooking and White Castle donated food, while Michael Airhart of Taste for the Homeless cooked free meals. The Father’s Day March also distributed 50,000 free diapers and provided 100 attendees with free haircuts. By providing free food and entertainment, the Father’s Day March allowed family members to focus on connecting with one another in a fun environment. Attendees were also happy with the resources that the event provided. Tabling organizations provided opportunities for individuals to apply for jobs on the spot, receive phones or tablets with service for free, and other similar services. 

A central goal of the Father’s Day March was to bring attention to fathers’ continued involvement in their children’s lives. The event provided an opportunity to fathers and their children to relax and enjoy free face painting, balloons, an ice cream truck, crafts, and more. At the event, fathers approached Joseph and mentioned how they enjoyed the opportunity to not only spend time with their children, but also to have fun and to have a space in their neighborhood to relax. 

For the future, Joseph imagines expanding the Father’s Day Parade to have themes, which would bring more attention to the event and complement the programming. He imagines bringing a carnival to the next Father’s Day March, providing rides, popcorn, ICEEs, and similar fare. As Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club continues to hold Father’s Day Marches for the Englewood community, they will continue to provide foods, services, and entertainment to the neighborhood. This celebration of community and family is the joint effort of community organizers, businesses, and other neighborhood organizations collaborating on a common goal. 


Goldin Institute Summer GATHERing: The Power of Solidarity

We invite you to join us for the 2023 Goldin Institute Annual Summer GATHERing on XX from YY to ZZ at ABCD place. This year we'll celebrate those on the front lines of building the trust and solidarity necessary to defuse situations when they arise. More and More.


Students pose in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas

Students Visit Little Rock to Explore the Civil Rights Movement

By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate

On March 28, the LUV Institute arranged for 60 middle and high school students to travel to Little Rock, Arkansas, to learn about the Little Rock Nine, the group of nine Black students who enrolled at the formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. The Love, Unity & Values (LUV) Institute has been working with underserved youth since 2012 to inspire hope and empower them with economic opportunities while building resiliency and social-emotional competencies. Cosette Nazon-Wilburn, Executive Director of the LUV Institute and a 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow, formed partnerships between the LUV Institute, local schools, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and a community of teachers to facilitate the trip.

Students at University of Chicago Charter School and Ariel Community Academy participated as a part of LUV Institute’s bi-weekly Media Empowerment Program. LUV was able to expand the program this year through funding from the ISBE’s Phillip Jackson Freedom Schools Grant.  The LUV Institute has held Journey to My Better Self programs for the past eight years, but this is the first year that the program has included an out of state trip. The programs prepare youth and young adults ages 16-24 to be job-ready for economically sustainable employment in high-growth industries and occupations. The Media Empowerment Program focuses on training students in journalism and storytelling.

The LUV Institute also hired teachers from University of Chicago Charter School and Ariel Community Academy with funding from theFreedom Schools Grant. The grant is intended to fund a Freedom Schools network, offering a research-based, multicultural curriculum during the summer and/or school year to improve outcomes for low-income students. This funding allowed the LUV Institute to pay particular attention to hiring teachers from neighborhood schools to take part in the program. Each teacher was paid $60 an hour, which is higher than what teachers are usually paid to work for afterschool programs. By hiring neighborhood teachers, the LUV Institute not only contributed to the community of teachers but also invested in the schools they teach in. Teachers, deans, and administrators also learned restorative practices, which provided them with tools to improve their classrooms. 

Leading up to the trip to Little Rock, the LUV Institute taught a six-week course on the Civil Rights Movement. The curriculum for the program aimed to teach students how to tell stories under the lens of racial healing and grasp the idea of looking at history as a way forward. The curriculum was provided by nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves, and was designed to create a pathway for young people to explore Little Rock Nine narratives within their own lives. One of the books offered as part of the curriculum is ”Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High” by Melba Patillo Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine. “Warriors Don’t Cry” emphasizes the role media played in theLittle Rock Nine and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, making it a strong tie-in to the program. Students were also provided with iPads to document their experiences and participate in the curriculum.

There was an additional layer of opportunity for high school students who took part in the program as they received leadership training and served as mentors for the middle school students. Both high school and middle school students took the course side-by-side to learn history and create their own narratives. All of the high school students who participated attend University of Chicago Charter School in Woodlawn. The next phase of their project is to create a mosaic that will be at the school and serve as a reminder of their experience.

When it came time to visit Little Rock, the students had a full day of activities, visiting Little Rock Central High, the Arkansas Capitol building, as well as various memorials. Central High is now a National Historic Site and students were able to visit  a memorial park, the historic Mobil/Magnolia gas station, and the visitor center. On their trip, students watched a documentary about the Little Rock Nine and also got a chance to see memorabilia and purchase souvenirs. The trip included a visit to the Arkansas Capitol Building, which features a statue of every member of the Little Rock Nine, as well as quotes from them.

The visit to Central High revealed the resources offered by the school's campus and how the diversity of the school has advanced since the integration of the Little Rock Nine. They met with two assistant principals from Central High who provided updates on the current status of the school. The assistant principals emphasized the diversity of Central High, which now accommodates students internationally who speak over 30 languages. Today, young people all over the world attend Central High, since it is a large school with the resources to support a diverse student body. 

As students visited Central High and other historical sites related to the Little Rock Nine, they reflected on their own experiences and the current opportunities they have to address social injustice.  Cosette emphasizes that the trip was intended to have the students ask, “What are the Little Rock Nine situations in my life? What have my parents and grandparents had to do? And when have I had to stand up to injustice?” 

Visiting Little Rock will hopefully inspire ongoing leadership within the students. By focusing on the Little Rock Nine, who were kids between the ages of 14-16 when they transferred schools, the curriculum focuses on young peoples’ capacity to be change makers. 

Opportunities for reflection were extended to the families of students. One of the adult chaperone’s is the grandmother of one of the children in the program. She stood on the street in front of Central High and provided testimony of what happened when the Little Rock Nine were escorted into the school by the National Guard. She noted how the neighborhood around Central High used to be an entirely white neighborhood and has now become a Black neighborhood. She also talked about how the Little Rock Nine saw Central High School as an opportunity for educational advancement. Central is a large high school close in size to a college campus, which was a stark contrast to the much smaller all-Black Horace Mann High School that was built during the same period.

Following their visit to Little Rock, the students’ experience of the trip will be used to tell their own stories. They used their iPads to create narratives about their trip. A documentarian accompanied them and will work with the students to combine their narratives and footage to create a documentary. Through connecting with history and actively applying it to their lived experiences, the students will see the importance of telling their own stories and engaging with their community.


A Reflection on Black History through Handwriting: An Interview with Dr. Dorothy Thompson

2021 Chicago Peace Fellow, Dr. Dorothy Towns-Thompson and her daughter, Antonette Parker, a teacher, recently co-authored three books on Black history and handwriting for children of all ages. Dr. Thompson has over three decades of experience as an educator, alcohol, and drug prevention professional, administrator, and ordained minister and has used the skills she acquired community activist and teacher to author these books. 

The books cover arts, social studies, and social-emotional learning. They also include a motivational word for each letter of the alphabet, a definition or explanation of the word, and historical locations and personalities. The author also focuses on the importance of inter-generational connections and the need for communication within families and schools. 

A unique aspect of these books is their spotlight on cursive writing and handwriting as a way of inscribing and honoring Black history. Dr. Thompson stresses that the books are not only a step further in bridging the educational gap in our society, but also inform future action-oriented strides. 

Flipping the Pages 

The facts, photos, and biographies encourage youth to do more research on Black history once they read the books. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the books, released in February in connection with Black History Month, are for children of all ages, focusing on the experiences of Black people. "One reason I thought to write this is that I did not want just to have a book dealing with history or writing. My daughter and I also added inspirational messages. The book is divided into three volumes: primary, intermediate, and upper,” she elaborates. Each book cover has a distinctive color influenced by the Ghanaian Flag.

"The first Book is for primary students (Grades Pr. K - 2) and has a golden cover. It begins with “A stands for Africa,” with pictures on that page. It continues, “Africa is a continent, and America is a country.” We know that some children often cannot read books in the primary grades. Still, adults can read to them, drawing that emotional connection between the youth and adults." She adds, “The African diaspora spans from sea to sea and connect. And, through the books, people can see the connection. "There is also a sense of unity in this," Dr. Thompson added.

Book two is for intermediate students (Grades 3 - 5), and its color is green. It has the exact format followed by the book one, but the handwriting practice is in cursive. "To me, there's a need to be able to use the pen and paper where students are learning cursive writing because many young people don't know how to write in cursive. They have difficulty reading cursive." She shares that cursive writing is helpful to learn because it not only helps younger people decipher others’ handwriting, but also it is usually helps them to write a little faster.

The third book is burnt orange, representing the red of the Ghanaian flag. Dr. Thompson explains that "This book serves students in upper grades or higher (6 and up), and each letter of the alphabet includes two noteworthy historical figures." She further talks about how they chose specific people from the Black community while considering the goal of increasing connectedness and celebrating accomplishments: "You have famous Black people that people heard about like Dr. Martin Luther King, or Jennifer Hudson and George Foreman. But we also have people who were in art, or who were scientists. We have Eleanor Samuel, a scientist, and physicist. Or, the mathematician, Walter Mosley. " Dr. Thompson explains that they wanted young people to see Black people who are historians, politicians, performers, and athletes too. "It varies. We picked different people who have contributed to the history of Black people." The inter-generational connections are vital to her; she says adding they want to keep it going. 

A Better Understanding of Black History

Dr. Thompson and her daughter also reflected on the relationship of their books with Black history overall when writing them. “A lot of times, young people, sometimes even people in general, do not see the connection between the relationship of Africans and African Americans. [...]. Because of the history and slavery, and how we represent people from different parts of the world and continents." 

Dr. Thompson designed her books to highlight the need for people to see the rich history and how Africans and people from the African diaspora contributed not only to America but to various places worldwide. "Many times, young people and other people just see the negatives of Black people. That is why I say the book is not just for Black children, our children, or people in general. It's just to show that contributions have been made and continue to be made by Black people." She believes that having opportunities for communication within families or even in schools is so important. "I do not see my book only being used in schools. I see my book also part of family relationships." she adds. 

The Meaningful Mother-Daughter Cooperation 

Dr. Thompson and her daughter Antonette adopted a division of labor concept as they collaborated on the book. "We selected different portions of what part of the book we wanted to manage. And then we came together to see what worked, what we should include, and how it should be shaped." She emphasized her daughter’s work as a primary school teacher aided in their ability to communicate and collaborate as they both have experience working as educators. Further, she adds that this will not be their last cooperation. "Since we are focusing on anti-bullying, that's one of the things that we are looking at creating a book for. We were ironing out some ideas. It would be another collaborative work."

Check out their website for book signings and more on A Handwriting and Black History Book. 


Meet the 2023 Chicago Peace Fellows

by Travis Rejman, Executive Director

The Goldin Institute invites you to learn about each of our 2023 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.

2023 Chicago Peace Fellows Meet at the Chicago Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Cecil McDonald, Jr.

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
Learn about the GATHER Platform

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 2023 Chicago Peace Fellows is the fifth all-Chicago cohort to utilize the GATHER platform, an online learning hub built by the Goldin Institute to empower grassroots leaders.

The Chicago Peace Fellows 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.

OUR PARTNERS

A special thanks to the Chicago Community Trust, the Conant Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Frankel Family Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, the Racial Justice Pooled Fund, the Seabury 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.


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.