Author: chicagobeyond

Recap: Unpacking White Privilege

How to Be a White Ally and an Anti-Racist

When we choose to be anti-racist, we become actively conscious about race, racism and anti-Blackness AND take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. Being anti-racist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it. There is no neutral.

We hosted this conversation, a first in our series, with two leaders about their own anti-racist journeys and the actions others can take to be a White ally and take action now.

Watch the hourlong discussion below and click the link below to download our resource toolkit and continue your own journey. 

Recap: Incarceration and COVID-19 with the University of Chicago Institute of Politics

On Tuesday May 26, 2020 The University of Chicago Institute of Politics hosted a virtual panel to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 across the country, and how the pandemic might shape our views of incarceration moving forward. Our Leader in Residence, Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia was invited to be a panelist along side Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance; Host of the CNN Podcast “Incarceration Inc.” the panel was moderated by Cheryl Corley, Correspondent, NPR National Desk.

When asked by Corley, how optimistic they are about seeing some of the operational changes that have happened in result of COVID-19 actually become permanent Dr. Tapia responded, “the more that we continue to push these conversations and indict not people, not the people who are the elected officials, but the criminal justice system itself, we can turn this thing around.”

Watch the full panel discussion below.

Read our Leader in Residence Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia’s published op-ed in the Chicago Tribune calling on leaders to show more consideration to those inside jails and prisons during this unprecedented time. Click here to read the full op-ed.

To read more about our Beyond Incarceration initiative click here.

Chicago Beyond Joins #WeMatterToo Campaign

Today Chicago Beyond has announced its partnership on the new #WeMatterToo campaign launched by Imagine Justice, the social impact organization founded by award-winning artist/activist and Chicago-native Common.

Unveiled this week, the #WeMatterToo campaign aims to help incarcerated people as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout America’s jails, prisons and detention centers at an alarming rate. In Chicago’s Cook County Jail, the infection rate is reportedly higher than most anywhere else in the country, underscoring the urgency of addressing the rapid spread of the virus amongst system-involved men, women and youth.

“COVID-19 has both highlighted and exacerbated the deep systemic inequities that existed long before the crisis hit, heightening the importance of finding solutions and building coalition across sectors to support individuals and families,” said Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond. “People of color across the country continue to be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, those of us in social impact spaces have a moral, social and economic obligation to act with urgency and compassion. Chicago Beyond is proud to stand with Common, Imagine Justice and the many partners who have joined forces behind the #WeMatterToo campaign. Now is the moment to demonstrate solidarity and exercise our humanity by showing up for all of society.” 

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Chicago Beyond partnered with The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital to launch Beyond Incarceration — a program to reconnect incarcerated individuals with their children and loved ones in a safe, family-friendly environment. The growing public health crisis has heightened concerns about the high risk of exposure to COVID-19 that currently incarcerated people, as well as those who are returning home to their families and communities, face. As part of the Going Beyond COVID-19 relief initiative, Chicago Beyond focused part of its efforts on providing hygiene supplies and food for individuals being released from Cook County Jail.

“The reality is that far too many people remain unnecessarily incarcerated in our jails and prisons, where social distancing and preventive measures like handwashing with soap and use of hand sanitizer are difficult to implement and sustain. This truth combined with the fact that many of these men, women and children have compromised immune systems makes the exposure risks that much more dire,” said Nneka Jones Tapia, Leader-in-Residence at Chicago Beyond and former warden of Cook County Department of Corrections. “Our hope is that the #WeMatterTooCampaign will help to further amplify the obligation to drastically reduce the number of people who are incarcerated using guidelines for safety and improve the living conditions within correctional facilities for those who remain.”

The #WeMatterToo campaign kicked off with the premiere of a new short film produced in collaboration between Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Imagine Justice and the MacArthur Foundation that is directed by filmmaker Savannah Leaf and executive produced by Common. The film showcases the voices of those currently incarcerated at facilities around the country to amplify their stories and illustrate what’s going on behind the walls of the U.S. criminal justice system as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“Let this time show us that we are all interconnected. We have to be there for our vulnerable communities including our people who are currently incarcerated. Our fates are tied together so we must be courageous and act now. I’m proud to launch #WeMatterToo today alongside 60+ organizations who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. Every single life matters,” said Common, Imagine Justice Founder and Emmy, Grammy and Academy Award Winning Artist.

Chicago Beyond joins a coalition of local and national organization supporting the #WeMatterToo campaign, including Color of Change, ACLU, Alliance For Safety and Justice, Chicago Votes, For Freedoms, The Gathering For Justice, The Sentencing Project, United We Dream, Vera Institute For Justice, and many more.


#WeMatterToo is a grassroots movement, started by Imagine Justice and Anti-Recidivism Coalition, composed of organizations, artists and thought leaders who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. #WeMatterToo will look to change the national narrative around COVID-19 and our criminal justice system, pressure public officials to take action to remedy the situation, amplify the voices and stories of people who are incarcerated and empower communities to be agents of change. For more information, visit


Centered at the intersection of art and activism, Imagine Justice is dedicated to leveraging the power of art to advocate for communities around the country, to fight for justice and equality and to stand united against injustice wherever it appears. Common’s Imagine Justice focuses on criminal justice reform, coalition/community building, immigration, bringing humanity to communities who are often dehumanized in society, civic engagement and leveraging the power of art to inspire and spark change. For more information, visit

Recap: Tech on the Block -Educational Tech Inequities and COVID-19

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On Thursday, April 23, 2020, Chicago Beyond hosted Tech on the Block: Educational Tech Inequities and COVID-19.   

Chicago Beyond’s Founder and CEO, Liz Dozier, moderated a conversation with Jennie Magiera, the Global Head of Education Impact at Google, and Miyoshi Knox, the Principal at Stagg School of Excellence in Englewood, Chicago.  These education leaders provided us with insights on educational challenges that many young people faced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are now exacerbated during COVID-19 due to a number of inequities.  They also shared strategies and opportunities for taking radical change right now to shift the playing field for all young people, especially those in the hardest hit communities of Chicago and other cities like ours.  

You can watch the conversation above.

In addition, please see below for thoughts to some of the questions raised during by the audience that we were not able to get to during the actual conversation.   

Technology Access 

Several questions were asked on the availability of technology access for our students. For example,  

How many students in Chicago currently have laptops? How many are lacking devices and/or internet access? Have students been able to learn remotely? 

As of April 22, 2020, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has given out 61,000 computers that were in stock and will hand out the remaining 43,000. There will be 100,000 computers and tablets distributed. CPS has also ordered 10,000 more devices. 

Estimates show that 115,000 students need devices. CPS reported that about 146 schools out of its 640 schools had a device for every student. 

SourcesWBEZ, Chicago’s NPR News SourceChicago Tribune 

Resources for Teachers, Parents and Students 

What are some resources for people to help find specific information and ideas for learning at home, teaching via technology, creating learning opportunities for low-income, etc.? 

Google for Education has provided numerous tools and resources for parents, teachers, and students. A good starting point is: 

Additional resources could also be found at: 

How to get involved 

What can I do right now to help kids who are facing challenges with online learning? 

Becoming more aware of the challenges and the inequities is critical to supporting our youth and our communities.  Some additional reading: One in Five Chicago Students Lack Broadband 

Explore ways to close some of the divides, such as donating to organizations that are providing hotspots and internet services, e.g., Children First Fund’s Compassion Fund

A Letter from Our Founder & CEO

Calling Out

New data released in the past week on the COVID-19 crisis has exposed what many of us working for racial equity and justice had felt in the pit of our stomachs for weeks: that people whose household income is low and people of color, specifically African Americans, would suffer disproportionally and in great numbers. In Chicago, Black people make up a staggering 70 percent of those dying from COVID-19, yet represent less than 30 percent of the city’s population. 

Along with those statistics, it is important to understand why this is happening: there is no vaccine that will insulate one from the effects of structural racism.

Like a virus, the impacts of structural racism have permeated parts of our city for generations, where vast disparities in health, economic mobility, education access, and housing set the stage long ago for the devastation we’re seeing now.

In fact, by laying over the latest map provided by the city on COVID-19 infection rates by zip code to a historical map showing Chicago’s history of redlining, you can begin to visually see the linkage of past discriminatory practices and the compounded effects of what we’re seeing today.

Watch the moving visual to see inequities in plain sight. 

This, of course, is true not just in Chicago, but in hundreds of communities across the country. As we worry about the near-term implications of COVID-19 and meeting people’s basic needs, we must also look to the long-term. We must plan for recovery. Not just recovery in the aftermath of this virus, but a holistic recovery. We must plan a recovery that affirms a transformative shift for our fellow humans inside those red lines on the map above. 

Seemingly overnight, the world has fundamentally changed, giving us the opportunity to throw out the playbook for “how it’s always been done” and completely shift our way of thinking and doing. While disruption is revealing deeper problems, it has also created opportunities.

The point is this – we have a chance to call out and take on the red lines – a chance to truly build an equitable playing field.
The map shows in full color where our systems have fallen short over time.
Systems are made up of people.
People have choices.
People also create opportunity with those choices. 
Let’s not squander our opportunity. 

In solidarity and strength, 

Liz Dozier 
Founder & CEO, Chicago Beyond

P.S. Chicago Beyond launched Going Beyond to support those on the front lines, not merely in times of crisis, but as a matter of course. It’s also reflective of six core equity principles that anchor our COVID-19 approach, which we hope can also serve as a tool for others forming their approach right now. Click here to learn more.

Six Core Equity Principles in Responding to COVID-19

Edo, Freedom. 2019. 

We have been asked: How have you pivoted to respond to COVID-19? And what about the work that was planned before?  

We have been spurred to move with even greater urgency due to the crisis, but the work that needs to be done is still what always needed to be done.  We have asked ourselves though – how can we re-orient?

Below are some of our reflections as it relates to this movement, and what guides us as we respond to not only this current, urgent moment, but as we think about the collective work in the long-term.

The foundation is trust—recognizing our relatedness—and consciousness that our own assumptions and biases determine what is possible.

1. The full potential of all humans remains our north star, with equity as our light.

Chicago Beyond has always been dedicated to the fullest potential of young people, focused on those up against the most barriers.

Implications with COVID-19:  

Who does not have the privilege of “staying at home?”  What about those who do not have homes?  How do we reach those who are not otherwise reached?

The so what:

Simply put, if we do not intentionally focus on equity, we are almost guaranteed to generate more inequity.

Therefore, we are hyper-focused on who we can reach, and who is employed in the process.

2. May we lift up workers who have always been essential – who risk their lives, well beyond their job description – remembering how essential relationship support is.

We have seen again and again – outreach workers, social workers, organizers, counselors, teachers – they are the frontline for our young people. These are the people who often build and tend to relationships with young people. 

Implications with COVID-19:  

In this age of having to be physically distant, with many important community structures and safe spaces for our young people needing to physically close down, these essential workers are critical to maintaining and intensifying relationships with those who institutions often find difficult to connect with. Disruptions of these relationships, especially those nurtured over time, will exacerbate challenges as these connections are hard to replicate once interrupted.  

The so what:

While we do our duty to be less physically proximate wherever possible, we must invest in, strengthen, and deepen social connection. We have intentionally focused on delivering basic needs supports through hyperlocal organizations, like IMAN, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, RAGE, and more. We believe that investing in keeping networks and relationships alive between organizations and residents will help more people over the long-term.  

3. Fully step into what we can control, and have the humility to understand the limits of what we can see.

At our core, our organization is designed for adaptation, for challenging dogma (i.e. the way it’s always been done), and practicing something new. To us, this is essential to equity work—because the systems we have inherited are designed to reproduce inequity. If we were to adopt their practices, however good our intentions, further inequity is the result.  For example, please check out our approach to evidence and knowledge.  

Implications with COVID-19:  

With COVID-19, we have seen many moments of the “we never do this” and “we can’ts” falling away.  At the same time, given the novel nature of this virus, we are learning new things every day, and being challenged to quickly adapt.  

The so what:

We are getting out of our own way, leaning into the energy of “just get started.” This week, we collaborated with a hotel supplier, American Hotel Register to get hygiene supplies to street outreach workers to start conversations about the virus of COVID-19 and violence.

We are in supply chain relationships we could not have imagined at the start of the year, connecting to diapers and food and trucking. 

We are taking this chance to go deeper on challenging dogma and “how things get done.”

We have assembled cross-domain, flat teams with authority to move with the working assumption that in a few weeks needs may be different, and our response must adapt.

4. Approach the long-term with wisdom, understanding the slow crisis beneath the fast crisis, and embracing that the long-term starts now.

There is a fast crisis we are focused on, and there is a slow crisis beneath it. This virus shows us how we have been doing on building an equitable society. The long-term work was always crucial, and we have an opportunity to re-orient.

Implications with COVID-19:  

Especially in a time when we may be unsettled, grieving, looking for something familiar or something to distract ourselves, it is easy to just recreate on videoconferencing platforms, like Zoom, patterns from before. It is easy to jump to a solution.  

The so what:

Start from clarity of thought. 

We are having structured, intentional discussion on equity and history of crises with our team, as we act.

We have always developed our strategies acknowledging uncertainty and the importance of learning and pivoting. We do quick-and-dirty strategy updates: knowing what we know now, what do we change? What are new opportunities to serve? How do we just get started? And design our actions so we learn as we go?

The focus stays on the long-term ecosystem, on holistic work. 

Complexity sometimes gets confused with diversity. Coordination is important, but monoculture solutions are partial. Who is left out? Who are the smaller nonprofits that might have the critical trust, but are not necessarily perceived as “having capacity,” particularly in crisis? 

We are cognizant that we must be vigilant in our support for hyper local non-profits, especially during this time. There is imbedded knowledge and relationships that can help ensure no one is left behind in the immediate or long term.

5. Be thoughtful in calling in and collaborating, while we are unwavering in speaking up—against racism, our narratives of “us” and “the other."

We have a chance to take on our history and our present – a chance to truly disrupt society.  The map of the virus’s impact shows in full color where our systems fall short.  

Implications with COVID-19:   

With COVID-19, old narratives of “us” and “other” are reborn and new ones created. In personal conversations, in public policy, in public narratives.    

The so what:  

We must fall together, so we are paying attention to coordinated efforts throughout the city, and seeing how we can contribute.   

And, we must not entertain assumptions that drive us apart. We endeavor to use our voice, for example this Op-Ed piece about those in the jail whose voices are muffled.  

There is no “other”. There is only us. 

6. May we heal. May we exhale what does not serve us. May we re-become whole.

Human relatedness and healing was the core of the restorative justice models at Fenger, in how Beyond Incarceration brings children and incarcerated parents together, in the holistic work of many of our investments. It is critical in how we move forward from here.

Implications with COVID-19:  

COVID-19 and the shutdown adds just another layer of stress and complexity.  How can we heal holistically during and after COVID-19?  

The so what:

Healing is not a self-centered act or a luxury. This is part of taking seriously the work of liberation. Taking seriously the idea of self-determination and fullness of potential in every human.

In our investing, we are focused on healing of adults who support young people, their families, our communities.  

We are holding space in our personal interactions and many texts, calls, Zoom calls, messages with partners for breathing, and for love. This was always the case, but all the more important now.  

Click here to download the six principles.


Op-Ed: Jail detainees need more consideration during coronavirus crisis

Photo by Isaac Joel Torres

This opinion piece was written by Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia and appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 20, 2020. 

Our Illinois state and local officials have been leading the nation in their response to COVID-19 by decisively shutting down restaurants, theaters and everywhere else people congregate and spread this new contagion. Yet, there is deafening silence when it comes to one of the vulnerable venues for transmission – our jails and prisons.

According to the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s website, as of March 18, 2020 there were 5,593 men and women held within Cook County Jail, most of whom have not been found guilty of a crime. Yet they are in jail and at risk for coronavirus; for many, this is simply because they can’t afford bail. The mayors, county officials and governors who are leading the charge on public health must also address what’s happening in our correctional systems, where social distancing is not an option.

The risks are enormous. Preventive measures such as frequent handwashing with soap and use of hand sanitizer are difficult practices to implement given the high number of people in custody. Personal protective equipment is limited among the general population and   correctional facilities are no exception.

Many incarcerated people have chronic medical conditions, increasing their vulnerability. Any rapid spread of the virus within an institution poses a significant threat to communities as law enforcement and first responders return home to their families. And just as we have extended our compassion to families unable to visit older relatives, we should do the same for children with incarcerated parents. 

It is within the power and expertise of the Judiciary to expeditiously review the cases of all pre-trial detainees being held within jails on bonds they cannot afford to pay and determine if they can safely be released, as was done in Travis County, TX and being planned in Clark County, NV.

With this in mind, it is unclear why we can’t provide similar efforts to preserve the public welfare in this time of crisis. Further, it is in the best interest of the public to review the cases of men and women housed in the Illinois Department of Corrections to identify all who are eligible for early release. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with other County agencies, has already begun a similar process by releasing individuals housed within the jail who are eligible for release due to their extensive medical needs and low-level threat to community safety.

For the men and women who will continue to live and work in these facilities, personal protective equipment must be made available in critical areas. Soap, hand sanitizer and CDC-approved cleaning agents must also be made readily available throughout the institutions.

Officials at the state and local levels have demonstrated that they are thoughtful leaders who care about the people they serve, responding to the voices of millions. Let us not forget about the voices that are muffled by concrete walls. 

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, a clinical psychologist, is the former warden of the Cook County Jail and the current Leader in Residence at Chicago Beyond.

Recap: All-Star Weekend

Beyond the Court

The energy of the NBA All-Star Game recently descended upon Chicago, and Chicago Beyond showed up and out to highlight some of the incredible work happening around our city. We were especially grateful to host Beyond the Court alongside True Chicago and Leo Burnett, which turned into a dynamic afternoon focused on the intersection of creativity and athletics.

The interactive experience included a panel of Chicago creatives and those who work in sports entertainment to speak about how the game of basketball has driven their own passion in their respective fields. Panelists included ESPN analyst Brooke Weisbrod, Designer and Artist Brandon Breaux, Actor Wood Harris, former professional basketball player and current Head of Sport Specialty at Gatorade Tommy Adams, and Juan Woodbury EVP/Creative Director at Leo Burnett.

The sports mindset was spoken about throughout the afternoon, and when asked how sports in general has impacted their creativity Brandon Breaux said that his benchmark for high level of performance has been Michael Jordan. “His will to win, showing up at practice before everybody, and leaving after everybody. For me, it was adapting those lessons of that mentality to whatever I chose to adapt it to, to get results like Jordan in whatever sandbox I play in.”

Reflecting on his own life experiences, Wood Harris added “sports helped me develop my competitive nature. It gives you all these dreams – when you watch Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James – those unforgettable moments in sports no matter who the player was. They make you shoot hire.”

When speaking about who were their individual influencers in their careers Brooke Weisbrod gave us the story of her high school coach, Chris Mack whose impact on her gave her the thought that, “being a professional you never stop, you actually don’t take any practice plays off. So if I go hard in practice, then maybe the games will slow down, and that’s was what exactly happened.”

Thank you to all our sponsors for the afternoon including Seoul Taco and Triple Crown Chicago and our beverage sponsors Vital Proteins and GT’s Kombucha. 

Watch True Chicago’s recap video below! 

NBA Equality Lounge: When Women Lead

Our Founder & CEO, Liz Dozier, took part in a panel at The Equality Lounge, @ NBA All-Star 2020 – a space for leaders — in Chicago and beyond — to share where their strength comes from, what inspires them, and why it’s important to embrace risk (and occasionally fail). 

The panel, “When Women Lead – Why Success Begins with Service,” centered around how each speaker recognizes the ambitions of those around them and pours into their strengths. The conversation emphasized that by inviting others to the table and creating opportunities for those who are underrepresented, women leaders are creating a global impact and driving the inclusion revolution. Click here to see quotes from leaders at the Equality Loung throughout All-Star Weekend.  

Moderator: ● Carmita Semaan, Founder, Surge Institute 

Speakers ● Shawna Ryan, Director of Experiential Marketing, Gatorade ● Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO, RISE ● Janet Foutty, Chair of the Board, Deloitte ● Liz Dozier, CEO, Chicago Beyond ● Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury, WNBA ● Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces, WNBA

Recap: Tech on the Block – Education Edition

Thank you to our moderator, Britton Picciolini, and presenters Shanté Elliott and Brian Hill!
Check out more photos below. 

Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Tech on the Block Series event included a packed house of civic technologists, social entrepreneurs, funders, nonprofit professionals, and curious Chicagoans. The Education Edition examined the implications of inequitable access to and usage of education technology.

We heard from Shanté Elliott, the Founder of Tassleturn, and Brian Hill, the Founder of Edovo – both entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo for diverse populations – from foster-involved youth to those who are incarcerated. The evening was moderated by Britton Picciolini, Regional Manager of Google for Education.

Below are a few quotes from the evening that captured ways you might think about getting involved or building your own knowledge base. 

  • Shanté Elliott, TassleTurn: “For us, it is always an educational session, growing the narrative of foster-involved youth. We know that these kids rise to the level of expectations that adults have for them. And I think that if we begin to expect more, we will receive more in return.” 
  • Brian Hill, Edovo“If you haven’t read anything or don’t have a base level knowledge of criminal justice in America, do that, try to learn. Connect with somebody who’s incarcerated and begin a conversation, and very quickly, you will find out what you should do.” 
  • Britton Picciolini, Google for Education: “Technology has the potential to be the great equalizer. But it is just a tool at its heart, and it is people like Brian and Shanté, who wrap their arms around that technology and build something amazing with it, that really makes it sing.”

What’s next? Come back for our next conversation on leveraging technology for social justice. Please save the date for Tech on the Block: Workforce Edition on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 from 5:30 – 7:30PM. Doors open at 5:30PM, and the program starts at 6PM.

Seth Green, Founding Director of the Baumhart Center at Loyola University Chicago will moderate the panel. Speakers include David Douglas, CEO of Yolobe, a LinkedIn for Chicago’s youth; and Amir Badr, CEO of Upkey, the world’s only student incubator.