2019 Chicago Peace Fellows Report

For nearly two decades, the Chicago-based Goldin Institute has worked to build the capacity and amplify the voices of grassroots organizers in communities contending with the most challenging circumstances on Earth. In late 2018, the Goldin Institute was asked to design a course for grassroots organizers by the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of 40 Chicago-based foundations who are aligning their investments to support proven and promising approaches to reducing gun violence. The Goldin Institute relied on its extensive global experience to create the Chicago Peace Fellows.

The Peace Fellows is a curriculum and fellowship designed to support individual organizers who are prior grantees of the Partnership’s Chicago Fund and are working to stop violence and create opportunities for their neighbors to collaborate in promoting more peaceful communities across the city. The inaugural class of 18 Peace Fellows graduated in November 2019 after more than six months of collaborative learning and joint projects.

The Goldin Institute designed the Peace Fellows course in collaboration with previous Chicago Fund grantees and input from a wide range of civic stakeholders. Based on the advice they received, staff adapted GATHER, the Goldin Institute’s tablet-based curriculum that teaches a series of core social change concepts and tools for authentic community engagement for grassroots leaders across the globe, to fit the newly formed group of local neighborhood changemakers, enhancing the online course with in-person workshops and meetings with a wide range of civic leaders in Chicago.

The 18 Chicago Peace Fellows were selected from a pool of over 50 applicants who all live and work in community areas on the city’s South and West sides that are disproportionately affected by crime and violence. Each Peace Fellow received a stipend and an iPad pre-loaded with the GATHER software and curriculum. Connecting Chicago leaders through GATHER allowed Fellows to explore key concepts around social change and leadership development digitally while they continued playing key roles in their community organizations as they completed the course.

On March 8, 2019, the Peace Fellows convened at DePaul University for the launch of the program where they discussed their leadership styles and got to know their peers. Over the following several weeks, the Chicago Peace Fellows developed deep bonds and determined together the principles and practices that would enable them to learn and work together as a community of practice.

The experience continued through the exercises in the curriculum and a wide variety of in-person workshops highlighting key violence prevention skills and introductions to other organizations doing important violence prevention work in the city. Fellows also had access to elected officials and institutional leaders in Chicago and beyond.

Throughout the program, Fellows participated in over 50 events and workshops hosted by partner organizations, including:

These face-to-face meetings augmented the curriculum Fellows explored together using the GATHER digital platform specifically designed to enact the course’s pedagogy of learning as a community. Rather than a traditional teacher-to-student course, GATHER is made up of highly interactive chapters that guided Fellows through key concepts for social change. It then provided them space for shared reflection after they put those techniques into practice in low-stakes exercises with peers and assignments.

Towards the end of the curriculum, the Fellows planned and implemented community projects within their neighborhoods. The Goldin Institute assembled $30,000 in special funds for the Peace Fellows to execute these collaborative projects between July and September with the goal of involving community residents, creating peace, and promoting healing.

The planning process for the summer projects was likewise collaborative, beginning with the establishment of principles based on the key concepts explored during the GATHER course. The Fellows generated a wide variety of ideas together which they took back to their communities and organizations, and went through several more levels of review before they proceeded on the allocation of the funds. Moving in concert, the Fellows settled on eight summer projects, deciding how to fund each project with the $30,000 pool, acting as grant-maker as well as grantee.

Innovative, enlightening, powerful, sometimes spiritual and deeply emotional, the summer projects included an outdoor youth retreat that brought young people from different neighborhoods to an activity camp in the Wisconsin forest, a family and youth peace day in Bronzeville, a healing fair for senior citizens with yoga, tai chi and peace circles, and Passport to Peace events in parks and public spaces on the city’s South and West sides.

The 18 Peace Fellows graduated from the course on November 14, 2019, in a ceremony that they designed collaboratively, of course. Approximately 100 family, friends and supporters came out to celebrate the Fellows’ accomplishments.

The Goldin Institute’s Founders, Board Chair Diane Goldin and Executive Director Travis Rejman, welcomed the Peace Fellows to the Institute’s global community of practice, adding that the program brought home to Chicago everything they had learned around the globe.

“Over the past 17 years working in over 50 countries, we’ve seen that real and sustainable change is always rooted in the power of communities building on their assets and inviting voices people on the front lines to make decisions,” Travis said.

The Fellows took the opportunity to share “What they did,” “What they learned,” and “Where they are going.” In groups of 4-5, the Fellows relayed the most meaningful moments of their time together and inspired all those in attendance with their passion as well as the kinship and respect they had come to feel for each other.

We all come from different points in life and we got to hear from people using resources and what they know in their communities to make a difference,” said Peace Fellow Frank Latin, founder and executive director of the Westside Media Project. “We all come together regardless of our backgrounds and what we’ve been through to try and make a better place to live.”

A 12’ long graphic timeline hung in the graduation space displaying all the events the Fellows had attended and all the workshops in which they had participated, illustrated with pictures from their highly successful summer projects.

Upon their graduation, the Peace Fellows officially joined a growing network of Global Gather Fellows currently representing 14 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America. They have access to an international network for mutual support, ongoing learning and global cooperation.

Systemic and adaptive challenges facing our communities will require new approaches to see and change the system by building on our local assets and unlocking the potential of emerging leaders. To address these dynamic issues, the GATHER Global Alumni network meets online each month for workshops and discussions on themes selected by the alumni themselves. Recent workshops have included trainings on metrics and evaluation; children and armed conflict; and preventing violent extremism.

The overwhelmingly positive response from the inaugural cohort of Chicago Peace Fellows has inspired the Goldin Institute and the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities to expand the Peace Fellows program in 2020.

The Goldin Institute thanks the Conant Family Foundation, the Polk Bros. FoundationChase Bank, the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communitiesand our generous network of champions for community-driven social change for their support of the Chicago Peace Fellows.

The Goldin Institute extends its deepest appreciation to the following organizations and groups who provided critical assistance, hosted workshops, collaborated on peace building projects and shared insights to make the Chicago Peace Fellows an inspiring and productive experience:

2016 Ma’at, Academy for Global Citizenship, Alliance for the South East, Agape Werks, Asset Based Community Development Institute, Atonement Church, Automotive Mentoring Group, Be Different, Black Star Project, Blocks Together, Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Bright Star Church, Brothers Standing Together, Chase Bank, Chicago Alternatives to Incarceration Collaborative, Chicago Cares, Chicago Community Trust, Chicago CRED, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Foundation for Women, Chicago Knights Robotics Team, Chicago Park District, Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Libraries, Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, Chicago Youth Programs, CIGNA, City Bureau, City Club of Chicago, City Colleges of Chicago, Chopin Theater, Churchview Senior Living Facility, Community Builder, Conant Family Foundation, Crossroads Fund, Cure Violence, CNI Group, Crown Family Foundation, CWAP, Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices, David Lynch Foundation, DePaul University, DePaul University Egan Office of Urban Education, DePaul University Steans Center, GodTess, Graphics 2020, Grow Greater Englewood, Healing Home, Heartland Alliance READI Program , I Am My Brothers Keeper, Imago Dei, Imani Community Development Corporation, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Kids Off the Block, King of Glory Tabernacle, Ladies of Virtue , MacArthur Foundation, Maple Park Community Association, Maple Park UMC, Marion Nzinga Stamps Youth Center, McCormick Foundation, Metropolitan Family Services, Metropolitan Peace Academy, Metropolitan Planning Council, Mikva Challenge, Missionary Baptist Church , M.I.T. School of Urban Planning, NeighborSpace, New America Foundation, New Eclipse Community Alliance, Northeastern Illinois University, OperaMatic, Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, Phoenix Life Solutions, PNC Bank, Polk Bros. Foundation, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Project, R.A.G.E., Rebuild Foundation, Resurrection Project, Restore Justice Illinois, Stony Island Arts Bank, Studio Gang, Taylor Investment Partners, Teamwork Englewood, Technology for Social Good Lab, Ten Point Coalition, Indianapolis, Telpochcalli Community Education Project, ThinkInc., TREAD, UCLA Department of Black Studies, United Way, University of Chicago Crime Lab, University of Chicago Law School, University of Chicago Trauma Center, University of Illinois, Urban Labs, US Bank, Veterans for Peace, Westside Justice Center, Westside Media Project, Woods Fund, Young Chicago Authors.

Special acknowledgment to those partners, mentors, consultants, friends and colleagues whose ideas and expertise made the Chicago Peace Fellows possible:

Marshan Allen, Michael Aguhar, Daniel Ash, Shannon Barr, Abraham Bendheim, Chris Bennett, Deborah Bennett, Esteban Bey, Mecca Bey, Gia Biagi, Garenne Bigby, Quincy Bingham, Eddie Bocanegra, Vaughn Bryant, Mary Scott-Boria, Bliss Brown, Walter Burnett, Asiaha Butler, Elena Calzada, Jacob Campbell, Annmarie Chereso, Linc Cohen, Daniel Cooper, Kevin Coval , Tara Dabney, Vanessa Dereef, Katherine Elmer-Dewitt, Stacy Erenberg, Jessa Dickinson, Alejandro DiPrizio, David Doig, Anders Donskov, Lisa Dush, Leif Elsmo, Kahil El’Zabar, Sheena Erete, Derrick Faulkner, Gary Feinerman, Ghian Foreman, Christian Forman, Craig Futterman , Theaster Gates, Joseph Genslak, Teny Gross, Janet Hanley, Troy Harden, John Hardy, Nekenya Hardy, Charles Harrison, Damion Heron, Jeffrey Hodges, Khari Humphries, Shruti Jayaraman, Frankie Johnson, Tonika Johnson, Terence Keel, Jody Kretzmann, Teddy Krolik, Rebekah Levin, Keith Lewis, Eric Ljung, Dan Lurie, Kristen Mack, Mallory McClaire, Cecil McDonald, Ceasar McDowell, Delano McIntyre, Tawa Mitchell, Michelle Morales, Sheelah Muhammad, Amalia Nieto-Gomez, Mark Orthman, Ashley Perkins, Jobi Peterson, Christy Prahl, Julian Posada, Tony Raggs, Leslie Ramyk, Kim Redding, Robert Rejman, Raymond Richard, Art Richardson, Jose Rico, Robin Robinson, Jane Saks, Anton Seals, Kimberly Smith, Alexis Smyser, Rahmaan Statik, Justice Stamps, Arny Steiber, Ole Qvist-Sorensen, Arloa Sutter, Bruce Taylor, Tess Torziata, Susana Vasquez, Edgar Villanueva, Cortez Watson, Alaka Wali, Artimmeo Williamson, John Wolf, Lora York, John Zeigler.


Celebrating the Graduation of the Chicago Peace Fellows

By Ethan Michaeli, Senior Advisor for Communications

For Velvian Boswell, being a Chicago Peace Fellow transformed the way she saw her own neighborhood. Speaking to a room packed with family, friends and supporters at the Peace Fellows’ graduation, Boswell, who works as a recovery specialist for the Chicago Women's AIDS Project, recalled the component of the curriculum in which they were asked to create asset maps of their own neighborhoods. In the beginning, Boswell didn’t think there were many assets in her community, Englewood on the city’s South Side.

“At first, I thought of all the liquor stores,” Velvian said, “but I had to take a step back.”

“We have a lot of history, a lot of people, and a lot of resources in Englewood. That is what I learned as a Chicago Peace Fellow.” -- Velvian Boswell

Boswell was just one of 18 grassroots organizers who graduated from the first cohort of Chicago Peace Fellows on November 14 at an event space on Division Street in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Each of the Fellows lives and works in neighborhoods dealing with disproportionate rates of crime and violence, and they celebrated months of work sharing their experiences, learning new techniques, and expanding their networks as well as acquiring new contacts and resources.

The Fellows will join the Goldin Institute’s international cohort of grassroots organizers around the world who are developing innovative strategies for empowering their neighbors and fostering healing in areas torn by war and natural disaster. The Peace Fellows were trained through GATHER, which is both a software and a curriculum designed by the Goldin Institute to facilitate peer-to-peer learning.

“This is one of those moments when life comes full circle,” said Travis Rejman, the Goldin Institute’s executive director, introducing the Peace Fellows at the event.

Travis described the Goldin Institute’s origins in 2002 during a week-long conclave in Chicago that brought together an unprecedented roster of grassroots organizers from around the globe. Participants studied the city’s rich history of community organizing, and shared the wisdom they had acquired in their work in different cities before collectively conceiving of an organization that could help grassroots organizations foster conversations, build their networks, and tap new resources.

“We’ve been pursuing those principles and putting them into practice over the last 17 years in over 50 countries. The key to our mission to create spaces for grassroots leaders to learn and work together so they can connect around issues they care about and collaborate across borders.” -- Travis Rejman

The Peace Fellows program, Travis explained, was built on the lessons learned through these years of work and especially through the international GATHER Fellows. The asset map Velvian described is just one of the exercises designed to “understand power, privilege and race, and the intersectionality of how those forces intersect with our peace building.” All of the components of the curriculum were calibrated to “center voices of those who are often excluded, knowing that those who have the most at stake and the most wisdom.”

Overall, the Peace Fellows participated in 50 workshops, trainings and meetings with civic leaders, at least one event every two weeks and many weeks with multiple events. In addition to the shared learning sessions, the Peace Fellows collaboratively planned 8 projects in the summer and beyond with special funding from the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

“Over the past 17 years working in over 50 countries, we’ve seen that real and sustainable change is always rooted in the power of communities building on their assets and inviting voices people on the front lines to make decisions,” Travis said.

Goldin Institute Program Coordinator Burrell Poe praised the Peace Fellows for their dedication and assiduity, and welcomed them into the “community of practice” with the GATHER Fellows. An organizer himself, Burrell said the mutual support was essential for effecting change.

“It’s really about how do people who do the work stick together, how do they support each other,” Burrell said.

“At the end of the day, if I’m someone who’s working hard in Englewood, it’s nice for me to know someone who’s working hard in Austin. That connection is powerful because we’re doing the work in our own communities and sometimes we can feel so alone and being together a community of practice is so important.”

Peace Fellow Frank Latin, the founder and executive director of Westside Media Project, recalled one workshop at the Institute for Non Violence Chicago, where they spoke with case workers and others engaging with young men in the community at high risk for being both perpetrators and victims of violence. Many of the case workers have personal experience with street violence, and Frank remembered the conversation as robust and incisive, piercing the myths that cloud the picture of what is actually happening in neighborhood like Austin on the city’s West Side.

“I got to hear directly from people who look, quite frankly, just like me,” Frank said.

“We got to hear directly from people working on the front lines, some of the challenges that don’t make the news, like why are people carrying guns. Not everyone who is carrying a gun in Austin is a predator. A lot of people were trying to protect themselves, but once you get arrested, you’re going to same jail cell.” -- Frank Latin

Frank continued that it as a resident of another neighborhood handling high levels of violence, he knew already that it was a “no brainer necessity” to work with those whose past includes criminality. But often, the prevailing narrative in mainstream media, the academy, and even among social services are wary of direct contact with those most likely to be involved in violence.

“We all come from different points in life and we got to hear from people using resources and what they know in their communities to make a difference,” Frank said.

“We all come together regardless of our backgrounds and what we’ve been through to try and make a better place to live.”

Peace Fellow Dawn Hodges, executive director of Imani Community Development Corporation in South Chicago, talked about the collective planning process for deciding how to fund the summer projects. It took several rounds of very active conversations and lots of sticky notes as well as a few digital tools, but in the end, the Peace Fellows had decided on eight innovative initiatives, each of which involved multiple Fellows.

The summer projects included “Passport to Peace” events, community fairs with peace circles, tai chi classes and other services for community residents, the “Youth Exchange,” an overnight retreat at a Wisconsin camp site for young people from different neighborhoods, and a retreat for the Peace Fellows themselves, a rare opportunity to reflect and discuss.

“The powerful part was those who got funded less but needed more and those who got more we all ended up sharing, so all the projects that were going to be funded got funded,” Dawn explained.

Maria Velazquez, executive director of Telpochcalli Community Education Project in the Little Village neighborhood, admitted that she was not particularly tech-savvy when she received the iPad preloaded with the GATHER software. But she quickly got help both from the Goldin Institute staff and from other Peace Fellows.

That sense of camaraderie was key to the GATHER curriculum’s success for Maria. After 17 years at Telpochcalli, a mostly volunteer organization, she focused on learning new techniques that will make collective decision more effective. But overall, Maria was thrilled to find a new cohort of peers with whom she can share her experiences and challenges.

“Often, we feel very isolated like we are the only ones doing it. Now I have a team of people I can turn to.” -- Maria Velazquez

The event continued with comments from other Fellows as well as supporters including Conant Family Foundation Executive Director Leslie Ramyk, who collaborated closely with Travis to fund the first class of Peace Fellows and pledged to do what she could to make sure there would be additional cohorts.

"Thank you for being the inaugural Chicago Peace Fellows. I’m so excited with everything that happened this year. The least I can do – and what I must do – is raise the money so we can do this again.” -- Leslie Ramyk, Conant Family Foundation

The graduation celebration closed with a rousing – if slightly off-key – group sing-along led by Peace Fellow Gloria Smith, who wrote new lyrics under the title “We are building up a new world” to the tune of the traditional song “Jacob’s Ladder.”

The Goldin Institute thanks the Conant Family Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, Chase Bank, the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities and our generous network of champions for community driven social change for supporting the Chicago Peace Fellows

Download the Graduation Booklet to Learn More


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Peace Is a Journey, Not a Destination


On a balmy and breezy Saturday in early September, the fragrance of peace filled the air. The scent of patchouli and music of meditation greeted more than 200 residents as they entered Cooper Park located in the historic Maple Park neighborhood on Chicago’s far South Side. They journeyed to this urban ashram for a “Passport 2 Peace.”

CPFP2P274

Through a series of strategic, community engagement conversations, Maple Park residents acknowledged that community safety was their number one quality of life concern. Out of these conversations, a local design team was created composed of residents, the Maple Park Neighborhood Association, Chicago Police 5th District CAPS, the Chicago Park District and area communities of faith, and it was out of this team that a “Passport 2 Peace” was born. Significant collaborative input from the Goldin Institute’s Chicago Peace Fellows and the Chicago Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) Collaborative’s Neighborhood Interns helped shaped the event. The Maple Park Passport 2 Peace Neighborhood Summit is one of 3 such events in different locations on the South Side.

CPFP2P279

The concept behind the Passport 2 Peace is that peace is an “inside job” that begins within each of us. The Passport 2 Peace is an inward journey to promote the place of peace that resides in every person and an outward journey to build community. Massage therapy, mediation, yoga and tai chi demonstrations and reflexology stations staffed by certified experts provided the tickets on the journey to inner peace. One participant remarked, “It was amazing to see children doing tai chi.”

CPFP2P270

As participants moved from station to station, Peace Ambassadors clad in sky blue t-shirts applied stickers to individuals’ passports and served as hosts for each activity. The children played on the playground and did face painting while the adults explored their inner peace. After sharing a community meal to promote community peace and facilitate relationship building, more than 50 people participated in three Inter-generational Peace Circles led by Nehemiah Trinity Rising, a grassroots consultancy specializing in restorative practices leadership training.

CPFP2P271

On the Sunday prior to the Passport 2 Peace, a Peace Makers’ Sabbath Celebration was held at Maple Park United Methodist Church. The event organizers were invited to come and pray for peace. The Peace Makers’ Sabbath encouraged participants to pray, preach and act for peace. Passport 2 Peace was the action step.


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Passport to Peace Draws Together 200 Neighbors

On Saturday, September 7, the Chicago Peace Fellows gathered in Cooper Park in the West Pullman community on the Far South Side to spread peace. Hosted by Pastor Robert Biekman, this event was the second of the Passport 2 Peace series, one of the Chicago Peace Fellows’ summer projects. Each event in the series is being held in a different community but all include peace building activities such as intergenerational peace circles, yoga, mediation and entertainment. The final event will be held Saturday, September 28.

Chicago Peace Fellow Robert Biekman (right) poses with volunteers at the Pathways to Peace event.

 

The Cooper Park event was attended by over 200 community residents who participated in activities such as Tai Chi, reflexology and meditation. Each guest received a “passport” with the task of visiting booths and participating in the activities, which would earn them a stamp. One Peace Fellow, Robin Cline, came very close to visiting each activity, and many at the event went from station to station learning more about what peace feels like.

Chicago Peace Fellow Velvian Boswell shows off the first stamp on her Peace Passport.

Fellow Gloria Smith, executive director of the Black Star Project, commented, “I loved every minute of it, including the tai chi exercises and the intergenerational peace circles. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie among the people in attendance.” Gloria was part of the planning team for the event, and worked closely with Robert to put the event together.

Chicago Peace Fellow Robin Cline (second from left) meets with volunteers at the Pathways to Peace event.

Robert noted that several years ago, the Cooper Park playground had been the location of a horrific incident in which two young men were shot. Because of that incident, the park was saddled with a reputation as a violent place and many neighborhood residents refused to utilize it. Robert envisioned hosting Passport 2 Peace in the park, therefore, to challenge that narrative and have people actively think about peace in that park.

“Passport 2 Peace exceeded our expectations!” Pastor Biekman reflected.


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

UNSUNG HEROES: Becoming a Chicago Peace Fellow

The part of the South Shore community that I represent has a large number of multi-unit apartment buildings with a very transient population. The need for family services was explored by our late pastor, Dr. Ronald J. Behm, who instituted day care services at both the church and our community center. With the increase in violence, our outreach initiative I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER UNITY DAY, founded by the Rev. Bailey M. Gant, sought to address this issue believing we could “change the culture, stop the violence.”

In other words, if we provide safe, positive alternatives for our youth, they will have more of a chance to be productive members of society.

Chicago Peace Fellows Jamila Trimuel (from left), Dr. Pamela Phoenix and Jackie Coleman discuss violence as an adaptive challenge in meeting with the Violence Recovery Team at the University of Chicago Trauma Center.

 

[quote]Becoming a Chicago Peace Fellow is a timely, refreshing opportunity in that it has helped me to learn more about myself and my leadership style, validated my life’s work, and connected me with passionate community leaders throughout the city who are dedicated to providing a unified approach to understanding and promoting positive initiatives to combat violence. Our collaborative efforts will surely make a difference.[/quote]

The Chicago Peace Fellows share their personal learning styles using the Leadership Compass approach: Dr. Sokoni Karanja (from left), Dawn Hodges, Maria Velazquez, Jeanette Coleman, Velvian Boswell joined by John Zeigler of DePaul University's Egan Center.

As we take the time to connect with our community peace partners through neighborhood walks, I have particularly embraced the theory of Asset Based Community Development. This paradigm shift encourages us to consider the assets in our community rather than the deficits. I immediately was drawn to this concept and explored ideas of how I can approach community members, civic leaders and businesses as we work toward our unified goals of peacemaking.

Chicago Peace Fellows Dawn Hodges (from left), Robin Cline, Jeanette Coleman, Pamela Butts, Johnny Coleman, staff member Oz Ozburn, Executive Director Travis Rejman, Velvian Boswell, Jamila Trimuel, Coordinator Burrell Poe, Jacquelyn Moore and Gloria Smith participate in the CrimeLab presentation at the City Club of Chicago.

I very much enjoyed attending University of Chicago Crime Lab Executive Director Jens Ludwig’s presentation at the City Club of Chicago with other Peace Fellows. Ludwig cited crime statistics and inferred that a stronger, more positive relationship with the police department could make a difference. After that, I had the opportunity to engage in several conversations with policemen in my district, resulting in my agreement to be more active in CAPS meetings to address the concerns and present ideas of how we can build a stronger presence in our community.