Category: Uncategorized

The Relationship Between Trauma and Incarceration – Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia on Hey I’m Listening podcast with Dr. Joan

Our Managing Director of Justice Initiatives, Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, spoke to Dr. Joan about how the victims, perpetrators of crime, and law enforcers often share the same physical environment and this creates a partner of recurring traumas when they go into society. The spoke about how a trauma-informed justice system can  be designed that allows families who are justice-involved heal holistically.

Filling the Foster Care Gap with Tech – TasselTurn SXSW EDU 2023

On March 7, 2023 Shruti Jayaraman, Chicago Beyond’s Chief Investment Officer, joined Shanté Elliot, founder of TasselTurn, and Marvell Joiner, Impact Fellow of TasselTurn, for a session that explored how technology can fill the gap to remain a constant network of support, led by an individual with lived experience in the foster care system.

In 2018, 1/3 of all children entering foster care were young people of color, with 23% identifying as Black – almost twice the percentage of Black children in the total US population. Today, there are more than 400k children in foster care nationwide. This disruption in a student’s life creates insurmountable barriers to success. 

Click here to hear the full replay of the conversation. 

Liz Dozier on Cracking Open podcast with Molly Carroll

Our Founder & CEO, Liz Dozier spoke with Molly Carrol from the Cracking Open podcast that was published on February 2, 2023.

Our Founder & CEO, Liz Dozier, discusses how her life experiences have shaped her life of service, and showing up for people in the way they need to be seen. In the episode, Liz reminds listeners that we all have the power to stand up for individuals and communities.
“I believe in people. Period. Full stop. I believe in the power of calling out inequities and calling in righteous and radical truth.” ~ Liz Dozier

Backed by a Billionaire Couple, a Chicago Nonprofit Takes a Community-Led Approach to Youth Equity – Inside Philanthropy

This article by Ade Adeniji, was published on December 7, 2022 in Inside Philanthropy.

Philanthropy isn’t moving as fast as its most forward-thinking leaders might hope — Marguerite Casey Foundation CEO Carmen Rojas once told me she envisions a world where foundations no longer need to exist. But a section of philanthropy is increasingly thinking about more ways to put power and decision-making into the hands of leaders on the ground.

This has been a long-running theme in our ongoing series on the many forms of family philanthropy, with families like the Disneys and the Sobratos thinking about ways to reshape old philanthropic practices. Chicago Beyond, a grantmaking nonprofit that invests in organizations and community leaders seeking to change the lives of young people in Chicago, was also founded in this spirit.

Backed by billionaire couple Mark and Kimbra Walter, Chicago Beyond was started in 2016 by Liz Dozier, a former star principal who turned around a troubled school on the South Side of Chicago. Dozier said she wanted to change the paradigm of how we attempt to help struggling students. So instead of asking students “What’s wrong with you?” she asked: “What’s happened to you?”

I recently sat down with Dozier and other Chicago Beyond brass to find out how they connected with the Walters, Chicago Beyond’s work toward systemic change, and how the organization is pushing other donors and changemakers across the country to think differently about philanthropy.

It started with a school 

The daughter of a teacher, Dozier started working in Chicago Public Schools, first as an elementary school teacher, then a high school teacher, then a principal, including at Jones College Prep in Downtown Chicago. She also worked as a turnaround strategist at the now shuttered Harper High School, which was once featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, calling attention to the lack of vital resources like computers.


Then, in 2009, she started as a principal at Christian Fenger High School on the South Side of Chicago. “It was one of the most rewarding jobs I think I’ve ever had in my entire life, but also one of the hardest,” Dozier said.

In late September of that year, a fight between students from two different neighborhoods broke out and a sophomore honor roll student, Derrion Albert, was beaten to death with a wooden plank on his way home from school. A cellphone video of the incident went viral, reverberating across the city and the country.

“When I first got there, we had about 1,500 young people. There was about a 20% dropout rate every year, and a little over 300 arrests inside of the school building every year. We had a 40% graduation rate. It was failing by every measure,” Dozier said.

Still, even in the face of grim odds, she believed that she could turn things around. She fought to secure money and resources for her kids, and at times, leaned on philanthropy to do so. However, she also started to sense the inherent power imbalance involved in this process, even if donors were well-meaning.

A few years in, Dozier’s efforts started to foster some changes at Christian Fenger, leaning on strategies like smaller class sizes, after-school mentorship, restorative justice programs, and anger-management training. Dozier has spoken at length about why police do not belong in schools and a CNN docuseries highlighted her work.

“We were gaining traction. Arrest rate had gone down by about 90%. Graduation had started to increase,” Dozier said. And yet, when she applied for grants, she felt donors were still insistent on directing where grants would go, rather than allowing her and the community to guide these decisions. In one instance, the funders of a school-based group counseling program insisted on randomly accepting students to the program, rather than allowing school staff to select youth they felt were best fit.

Standing up a nonprofit

Dozier’s second act began in 2016 and is deeply informed by her experiences at Christian Fenger. As she tells it, billionaire Chicago couple Mark and Kimbra Walter reached out to her and they quickly found an aligned mission. “It actually wasn’t a hard sell. It wasn’t even a sell. The Walters selected me. I don’t come from philanthropy. But I believe, intuitively, they wanted a different approach. They believed in the value of people who are proximate [to the issues] leading the work,” Dozier said.

The Walters’ philanthropy focuses on education, social equity and conservation through the Walter Family Causes (TWF Causes). Mark is the CEO of investment firm Guggenheim Partners, which has over $300 billion in assets under management. He is also a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Forbes puts his net worth at $5.3 billion. Kimbra is an attorney who serves on several boards of trustees.

TWF Causes states that it “seeks opportunities to build sustainable models of philanthropy that create permanent capital from direct ownership of stakes in businesses or business operations and that fund the causes, reducing the need for continuous philanthropic investment.” The Walters are steady backers of a handful of social impact organizations outside of Chicago Beyond, including OneGoal, which aims to boost college access for students from low-income families, and The Academy Group, which works with students starting in fourth grade and supports them throughout their academic careers and beyond.

With support from the Walters, Chicago Beyond takes an impact investment approach to help in the fight for youth equity. Dozier and TWF Social Impact began working with Chicago Public Schools to develop a pioneering blueprint for trauma support. The $24 million initiative is centered on comprehensive and holistic healing and has been shaped by ideas and feedback from hundreds of teachers, staff, students, administrators, families and community partners.

So far, Chicago Beyond has invested more than $40 million in community-led initiatives and individuals. The Walters are the nonprofit’s sole funders, but Eva Liu, Chicago Beyond chief strategy and operations officer, says that part of their model has been to think about ways to influence other funders to better support young people.

“We want to help them show up in a much more equitable manner, whether that’s through initiatives based on our learnings or actually getting foundations to connect to nonprofits in our community,” Liu explains.

Initiatives and research

By “learnings,” Liu is referring to Chicago Beyond’s research projects aimed at helping its community partners grow the impact of their work. One 2019 paper, Why Am I Always Being Researched?” was born out of Dozier’s experiences working in schools. She noticed that programming that got a “gold star” from well-heeled academic institutions was more likely to rake in philanthropic dollars and take hold in schools.

A few years ago, Chicago Beyond was conducting a study alongside the University of Chicago, when a young participant turned to the team and asked plainly, “Why am I always being researched? Why is my community always being researched?”

The organization ended up asking that question to over 200 people so that Chicago Beyond could really think about how to do research in a more equitable way. To her surprise, that guidebook really took off and resonated. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation even uses it to inform its K-12 research guidelines.

Besides trying to disrupt the way research is conducted, Chicago Beyond also invests in organizations including Healing Hurt People Chicago, a hospital-based youth violence intervention program, and Storycatchers Theater’s Changing Voices program, which employs young people impacted by the juvenile justice system to write their lived stories then and perform them.

Chicago Beyond also developed a model called Whole Philanthropy. “As an antidote to the typical philanthropic power dynamic, Whole Philanthropy is grounded in justice. Justice is not just an abstract state of liberation that exists ‘out there.’ We enact justice every day, in each encounter with others,” states a document outlining the model.

Rather than an “us and them” framework, the model focuses on creating deep connection between partners, and critiques the “sharp lines” that typically exist between grantmakers and grantees. The model also challenges typical approaches to philanthropic metrics, favoring an embrace of the messy and complex, instead of fixating on outcomes that are easy to measure. Whole Philanthropy also emphasizes centering the voices of those closest to the work, including young people, rather than leaning on researchers and outside observers.

Expect these principles to continue to drive the Chicago nonprofit going forward.

“I feel like we’ve almost lost the humaneness of philanthropy. It’s become all about numbers and metrics. It’s not that those things are inherently bad. But we’ve sort of weaponized them to keep people in particular buckets or to tell particular stories,” Dozier said, adding, “I think we are really beckoned into something different — the idea of being in relationship with each other to make our communities thrive.”

Jeanine Valrie Logan fights for maternal equality and reproductive justice – Vocalo Radio

This article by Ari Mejia, was published on December 1, 2022 on Vocalo Radio.

Through her work at Chicago South Side Birth Center, founder, activist and certified midwife Jeanine Valrie Logan fights for access to compassionate, individualized healthcare for mothers and infants.

Jeanine Valrie Logan never expected to go back to school after earning her master’s degree  — until she found herself searching for a Black midwife during her own pregnancy.

Not wanting to give birth in a hospital and instead seeking out professionals to provide care in a birth center or for a home birth, Logan says she thought it was weird when she was unable to find women of color working in maternal healthcare.

“The need was so emerging — not only for myself, but for the community,” Logan recalled. “So I decided to go back to school and become a nurse, and then become a midwife.”

In midwifery school, Logan and her colleague dreamed of building their own birthing center, one rooted in community and fighting against racial prejudice in the healthcare industry. They wanted their center to advocate for Black and Brown women in underserved communities, like Chicago’s South and West sides. 

Logan notes Black mothers and infants fare better in birthing centers, especially those led by women of color, compared to hospitals. In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found 22% of African Americans surveyed say they have avoided medical care, even when in need, out of fear of discrimination. And, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in  August 2017, Black women have a 3.4 times higher maternal mortality ratio than white women — when the general maternal mortality rate was 17 out of 100,000 women between 2011 and 2013. In contrast, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found, of roughly 13,000 women who gave birth in one of 79 midwifery-led birth centers across 33 states, no maternal deaths were recorded.

“There’s research that shows when people are taken care of [by] providers that look like them, their outcomes are even better,” Logan said. “So then, if we’re talking about Black infant and maternal health, folks having babies in a Black-led birth center, it just makes total sense.”

Alongside other activists, Logan helped to write and pass House Bill 738 this August, which expanded the number of alternative birthing centers in Illinois counties including Cook, DuPage and Lake.

Logan notes the South Side Birth Center will officially open in 2023. She intends for the space to give mothers and families access to individualized maternal and infant healthcare services, as well as community resources.

“I’m thinking about the ways in which the birth center is gonna give,” Logan said. “We want to pay attention to people… I think that’s really important.”

For this installment of “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like,” Jeanine Valrie Logan discusses midwifery, birth centers and her fight for reproductive justice.

What is different about midwifery? Is it related to reproductive justice?

Our specialty is normal, physiologic birth. Birth was medicalized and taken out of homes and taken out of communities. And really, people who were interested in that were shamed… it’s all part of colonization, it’s all part of what looks good in the white gaze. And then when we look at the statistics, we can look nationally… at statistics for maternal and infant health, those numbers are coming from the hospitals, that’s not coming from us. That’s not coming from community birth, and then not have these experiences of racialized obstetric trauma. 

Reproductive justice includes joy in birth experience, but also in reproductive health, that people have that access to be able to choose what they want to do, what providers they want to see, what kind of care they want to get, which would include midwifery care. Having true ownership and autonomy — that is our specialty… That’s midwife specialty. 

The term “reproductive justice” came from Black women, Black and Brown women. Yeah, 10 Black women coined the term “reproductive justice,” here in Chicago at a conference. 

Are you from Chicago?

Actually, I’m from Evanston. I’m fourth-generation Evanstonian. I live on the far South Side. I feel like here, I have people that really know me. They keep me authentic. I have a lot of chosen family and community here, too, a bunch of healers and farmers and birth workers. I’m sure I can find my people anywhere, but these… they’re my people. I choose to be here. 

I wasn’t here for a long time. And I realized, this is where I’m from. And Chicago is an amazing place. I love the seasons. I’ve been in places that didn’t really have seasons like that. I love the nature, we go hiking almost every week. And there’s so many beautiful, cool places that I’ve never even experienced in Chicago. I just feel like it’s just always changing, which I love. It’s very Octavia Butler of me… I’m never bored here. I feel grounded and supported here in Chicago, and I haven’t felt that in any other places… not this deeply, in any other places that I’ve lived. It’s home, honestly.

How did you get into this line of work?

I’ve been a birth worker for maybe 15 years. I started out as a doula, doula is just a support person. Doulas can give partners a break, doulas can rub on you, give you a massage, or feed you or provide that emotional and physical support. Even spiritual support, sometimes. Because there’s such a limited amount of providers of color and a limited amount of spaces where people are having the ideal birth that they want, a doula is really useful as a liberatory tool that somebody can use to create a safe space for the birth. 

My husband and I were pregnant with our first child. I knew we wanted to do out-of-hospital birth, not a hospital site, either a birth center or a home birth, and I couldn’t find a Black midwife… I didn’t want to go back to school, I already had a master’s. I was done with school. But the need was so emerging — not only for myself, but for the community. It was just weird to be in a city, and I couldn’t find a Black midwife. And it was hard to find my Black doula community. So I decided to go back to school and become a nurse and then become a midwife. And I did a lot of advocacy around breastfeeding, I co-edited a book on Black breastfeeding narratives. We had spent so much time breastfeeding other people’s children on plantations that it was like, let’s take a step back. And we can afford formula, we can afford these things that white folks have. And so this is really a reclaiming of what is actually traditional for us. And what works, what’s proven. There’s so much research that shows that this is better. And so all of my work, up to that point, had been a lot of advocacy and activism, a lot of legislative work, because my first master’s in health policy.

My experience, up to that point, had been with this birth center in DC. And so that had been a dream. Actually, it was a dream of my friend and I, we were both in nursing school together, and then we ended up doing midwifery school together. We were like, “Let’s just start a birth center.” So we founded last year, June, we’re not open yet, but we just found a building. And so since then, we’ve just been advocating and doing an application for the state, which is super involved; you have to have a building, you have to have these transfer agreements, you have to have a collaborating physician. So that’s just been the work over the last year. If my thinking is correct, we will be open winter of 2023. 

Why aren’t there more birth centers? 

We had to change the law to expand the number of birth centers in the state, and who can own that. Me and another Black midwife, we did that with a bunch of advocates and birth center activists, and some amazing people who did a lot of the pushing of the legislative stuff. We had some awesome sponsors for the bill, and so we got the legislation changed. So now we can have birth centers everywhere. Especially where the outcomes are worse for Black and Brown folks, like the South Side, the West Side, East St. Louis. 

A lot of our hospitals don’t have midwives, and… the model of care that is midwifery is completely different. It’s kind of slow-living. And understanding that pregnancy and birth and postpartum are all normal parts of people’s lives. They’re not to be pathologized — unless something is going on. And there’s places where people can go to get that higher level of care, but 95% of people who are going to experience pregnancy are totally normal. And they deserve this very… high touch, low intervention kind of care. Our outcomes are better in birth centers. There’s less rates of cesarean section, there’s totally less rates of maternal and infant mortality. People have better experiences and feel like they’re really taken care of. There’s research that shows when people are taken care of [by] providers that look like them, their outcomes are even better. So then, if we’re talking about Black infant and maternal health, folks having babies in a Black-led birth center, it just makes total sense. And it’s cheaper than having a baby in the hospital, it’s cost-effective.

What are you looking forward to with the opening of the South Side Birth Center?

I’m thinking about the ways in which the birth center is gonna give… thinking about the space, we have a huge community education room that we are going to invite partners and organizers to come and have their meetings there, or come and do their yoga there. And it also is a children’s room, so people can bring their children to their appointments. We want to have a position as an elder, and literally their job is just to sit in the space and provide unsolicited advice and love up on people and hold babies, that’s your role. We’re gonna have a safe-space curator, and we have gardens in the back so that people can come and have classes there or pick some herbs or tomatoes before you go home… At my college, we call it fussing over, we’ll fuss over someone or do their hair, all these different things that should be done on the regular, but really aren’t. We want to pay attention to people, and so I think that’s really important.