Tag: fight

TIME: ‘We Don’t Need More Cops; We Need Better Cops.’ Why Chicagoans Are Skeptical of Federal Agents in the Fight Against Gun Violence

This article ran in the August 2020 issue of TIME. By Tessa Berenson, Leslie Dickstein and Mariah Espada

The trouble began, as too often it does in Chicago, with a gun.

On a humid afternoon, on Aug. 9, a woman called 911 to report that a man in a red hat and shirt was starting a fight at Moran Park in Englewood, a predominantly Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. There were children playing nearby, she warned, and he had a gun. At 2:38 p.m., four Chicago police officers in an unmarked Ford SUV rolled past the park, where they spotted a man matching the caller’s description. When they flipped on their lights, he ran. The chase led down an alley, where the suspect fired at least eight shots at two officers sprinting after him, according to prosecutors. The cops returned fire. The suspect fell to the ground, then stood back up and disappeared into an abandoned lot.

As the officers hunted for him, the radios clipped to their bulletproof vests crackled to life: a gunshot victim needed help at a house nearby. The police headed to a powder blue bungalow, where they saw a trail of blood leading from the foot of the front door, through the house and down to the basement. There, police say, they found the suspect, blood seeping from wounds in his cheek and abdomen. The man, later identified as 20-year-old Latrell Allen, was taken into custody and sent to a hospital for treatment.

It didn’t take long for news of the shooting to circulate as yet another example of racial injustice at the hands of police. Tempers flared, particularly in the South Side and West Side communities, where a legacy of segregation, police discrimination, failed schools and misguided public-housing policy have thwarted advancement of Black families for generations. That night, for more than three hours, hundreds of looters smashed windows and carried away armfuls of jewelry, clothes and electronics from retail stores, first on the South Side, then farther north, into downtown shopping districts, including the city’s Magnificent Mile.

When the sun rose on Monday, Aug. 10, shattered glass carpeted sidewalks, trash billowed down major streets, and police stood guard in riot gear on corners. In an interview the next day with TIME, Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid the blame for the chaos not on protesters but on organized criminal operatives taking advantage of an emotional moment to strike. “It was a planned attack,” the mayor declared.

The cryptic allegation was lent credence by the person making it. Elected in 2019 as the first Black woman and openly gay person to serve as Chicago’s mayor, Lightfoot has a history of independence and a balanced background in criminal justice, having served as a federal prosecutor and led two bodies that police the city’s law enforcement. Where some saw mindless violence, she observed elements of preparation “with U-Haul trucks and cargo vans and sophisticated equipment used to cut metal.”

Riots may look alike, especially from a distance. But locals close to the ground, including mayors, are in position to tell the difference between damage done by a protest that’s spun out of control — and by those simply using social unrest as cover for personal gain.

As he seeks re-election as a law-and-order candidate, President Donald Trump has seized upon violent crime in Democrat-led cities as a problem only he and the federal government can fix. On July 22, he expanded Operation Legend, the plan to “surge” hundreds of federal agents into U.S. cities experiencing what he called “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.” After decades of declining crime, cities across the U.S. are experiencing a spike in shootings and homicides this summer. No city has been hit worse than Chicago. In July alone, 565 people were shot — at least 63 of them juveniles.

But while Operation Legend, which has deployed agents from the FBI, DEA and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in nine cities, offers critical expertise to solve crimes, it is irrelevant to the deeper systemic issues that contribute to the violence, such as poverty, underfunded public schools and structural racism. These matters may be of secondary importance to a President running for re-election who is brazenly attempting to stoke fears of suburban voters by associating race with violence.

“If tamping down violence were a policing problem, it would’ve been solved decades ago in Chicago,” says Elce Redmond, 56, a community organizer from the South Side’s Bronzeville neighborhood. “We don’t need more cops; we need better cops.”

That leaves officials like Lightfoot where they were before Trump waded in: looking for real solutions. She recognizes the city is at an inflection point brought on by the pandemic, the ensuing economic paralysis, and the widening gulf of suspicion between the Black community and her police force. “The question is, How do we find opportunity out of even these very dark days?” Lightfoot asks. “And what do we do to band together? Because — it sounds clichéd, but it is so true — we won’t survive this moment. We will not thrive. We will not move beyond, get stronger and better, if we don’t unite.”

Less than two years in office, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces a surge of gun violence

Less than two years in office, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces a surge of gun violence Sebastián Hidalgo for TIME

Every time somebody is murdered in Chicago, Oji Eggleston’s Android phone vibrates with a text. As executive director with Chicago Survivors, a nonprofit that provides services to the families of homicide victims in the city, he gets a message generated by a Chicago police reporting system that alerts him to another grieving family. “I receive the name, gender, age and location of every single homicide victim,” he says. “They come at all hours of the day, nearly every day.”

Eggleston’s organization guides each family through the complicated processes that go with caring for a dead loved one: what to do at the medical examiner’s office, what to ask at the funeral parlor and how to pay for it all. But it’s the city’s cycle of violence that drives the need for Chicago Survivors. “When families are grieving and they don’t receive the necessary resources in a timely manner, that grief can turn to anger and that anger can turn to retaliation,” Eggleston says. “So that’s where we look to provide the violence interruption.”

No challenge has proved more vexing to Lightfoot during her first full year in office than stopping this grim tide. The 443 homicides recorded in Chicago through July were a 53% increase over a year earlier. (New York City, with three times the population, had just 244 murders.) It’s difficult to find a corner in Chicago’s South and West sides not in some way affected by gang violence. Police say there are 117,000 gang members across the city, which counts 55 known gangs. Officers in Chicago routinely confiscate more illegal guns than those in New York City and Los Angeles combined. Now, during the pandemic, gun sales are hitting record highs across the country. FBI background checks, a proxy to track sales, have surged.

Chicago has no gun shops in the city and no background-check loopholes for private sales. And yet so far this year, Chicago police have seized more than 6,400 guns, a pace set to match the 10,000 confiscated last year. A 2017 study found that some 60% of guns used in crimes come from states like Wisconsin, Mississippi and Indiana. “They have very different sensibilities about guns than we do here in Chicago,” Lightfoot says. “You can literally drive over the border into Indiana and get military-grade weapons in any quantity that your money will buy. And they bring them back to Chicago.”

The fourth of July weekend in Chicago was particularly gruesome. There were 87 people shot across the city. Among the 17 people killed was Tyrone Long, 33. He was outside with friends when a man riding in a blue SUV opened fire. Shot several times in the chest, he died at a nearby hospital. “It wasn’t like he just died or got hit by a bus,” says Linda Long, his mother. “Someone took his life. And it really hurts my soul that my son is not here.”

Tyrone, nicknamed Boomer by his father, was the second oldest of Linda’s four boys. He was a cook, just like her, and the father of an 8-year-old daughter, Zhuri. He volunteered time at his aunt’s antiviolence organization, Sacred Ground Ministries, where he counseled young people about the risks of getting involved in gangs and drugs. His cousin Eric Williams, 25, was killed by gun violence in 2012. Detectives haven’t called for weeks about Tyrone’s murder. “No one has ever got caught for my nephew’s death, and it ain’t looking good on finding Tyrone’s killer,” Linda says. “Nobody is listening. When are they going to listen? When are they going to hear us crying out for help? When?”

To say the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has a trust problem in Black neighborhoods is a gross understatement. The department’s long, troubled history with communities of color spans generations. For decades, long before George Floyd’s death, waves of demonstrations routinely choked city streets to denounce an institution seen as more akin to an occupying force than committed public servants.

A 2017 Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found officers in the city had acted with a “pattern and practice of excessive force,” disproportionately targeting people of color in stops, searches, arrests and shootings, including the notorious 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In 2019, the DOJ and the city agreed to police-reform agreements enforced by a judge, known as a consent decree, that would address civil rights abuses the probe brought to light.

One year after being elected, Lightfoot hired as superintendent the former Dallas police chief David Brown, renowned for his earnest efforts to bridge the gap between cops and communities of color. “I’m going to go back to what I believe has been the most promising aspect of policing in the last 20 years — community-oriented policing,” Brown says. “We are all safer when we work together, when we trust each other, when the relationship is strong. Even when we have mistakes made by police, we shouldn’t let our missteps or past indiscretions prevent us from moving forward together.”

That takes an investment of his officers’ time inside neighborhoods, going block by block, meeting people and building trust, Brown says. The city increased the number of cops on the streets, spent more than $7 million to expand local organizations’ antiviolence outreach and launched a new 300-officer unit to participate with community-relations programs, including food drives and church gatherings.

The head of Chicago’s police union initially celebrated Trump’s approach of sending additional federal officers. But community activists ask how a couple hundred agents from out of town can meaningfully augment a police force of 13,000, the nation’s second largest.

“The false pretense here is that we can inject a number of people from three-letter agencies and that’s going to fix all the problems,” says Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois. “That kind of thinking has never really gotten anywhere and, in fact, has driven further wedges between the police and communities.”

Lightfoot agrees, recalling the chaos federal agents provoked in Portland, Ore. As additional agents from the FBI, DEA and ATF began arriving in Chicago, Lightfoot detected more national politics than local impact. “A lot of rhetoric and hype,” she said, adding: “The jury’s out as to whether or not they’re actually going to be helpful.”

Linda Long’s son Tyrone, and the father of an 8-year-old daughter, Zhuri, was killed on July 4 in a drive-by shooting.

Linda Long’s son Tyrone, and the father of an 8-year-old daughter, Zhuri, was killed on July 4 in a drive-by shooting. TIME MAGAZINE

On July 27, ATF agents in Chicago popped the trunk of a midnight blue 2015 Dodge Charger and found seven handguns lying inside. According to court documents, the guns belonged to Benjamin Cortez-Gomez, 27, a convicted felon nicknamed Bennie Blanco. Agents had tracked Cortez-Gomez after he allegedly purchased the weapons in the Indianapolis area and brought them into Chicago for resale.

Now he had been arrested, and his guns sat on a gray countertop inside a modified tractortrailer parked outside a police facility on Chicago’s West Side. The $1.3 million mobile crime lab and the personnel who came with it are part of Trump’s Operation Legend. ATF technician Jill Jacobson selects a black Glock pistol, carefully loads it with 9-mm ammunition and inserts the gun’s muzzle into a red metal tank called a “snail trap.” She squeezes the trigger. A muffled pop. Then another.

Jacobson collects the two spent cartridges and walks them to a workstation on the other end of the air-conditioned trailer. A colleague briefly studies the cartridges under a microscope, then uploads their images into a national database. The firing pin and explosion inside each gun leave behind tiny markings, like fingerprints, which can be matched to previous crimes. There are no hits on these guns, which Kristen deTineo, ATF’s special agent in charge in Chicago, takes as good news. “They were taken off the street before a crime took place,” she says. “That’s our goal.”

It’s not unusual for federal agents to be working alongside local police in U.S. cities. DEA agents routinely play a role on drug-trafficking cases, and ATF agents in gun cases. What’s unusual is the politics: Trump and his Administration talk about Operation Legend as a way to repair Democratled cities. That leads mayors like Lightfoot to question whether the goal is to help local law enforcement or help Trump get re-elected.

Operation Legend takes its name from LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy shot and killed as he slept at his home in Kansas City, Mo., at the end of June. It has thus far expanded to Chicago; Albuquerque, N.M.; Cleveland; Detroit; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Memphis; and St. Louis. The decision to add a city to the list is ultimately signed off on by Attorney General William Barr.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch of the Northern District of Illinois says bringing in agents to work closely with local police “provides critical help” on stopping and deterring crime from taking place. Prosecutors at the federal level are capable of pursuing charges that carry stiffer penalties than at the county level. For instance, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, one of the charges Cortez-Gomez faces for allegedly having seven guns in his trunk, is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. Additionally, convicts must serve at least 85% of their sentence, which can be in a prison located in a state on the other side of the country. “In the federal system, we have very strong sentences for violent crimes, and that helps us get further information from these offenders. Criminals know that,” Barr said at an Aug. 19 press conference, adding that Operation Legend had netted 1,485 arrests thus far. “Our work is just getting started.”

And yet even though Lausch’s office has prosecuted more gun crimes each year for the past three years, gun violence continues to rise. Community activists, organizers and civil rights groups worry that the arrival of feds is not making things better. The agents are not subject to the same level of oversight as local police on matters like use of force and body cameras. Not long after the Operation Legend announcement, hundreds of protesters gathered for a rally near where ATF agents set up their trailer. For several days, protesters assembled outside, calling for a decrease in the $1.6 billion CPD budget and for the money to be invested instead in long-neglected communities.

Operation Legend sparked protests in Albuquerque. Mayors in several cities say they have serious reservations about its impact and intent. Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, where the program first rolled out, thought Trump purposefully muddled the use of federal forces in Portland and the deployment of agents under Operation Legend to project authority during instability. “It’s a culture war,” Lucas says. “It’s about cities, and cities being out of control and Trump’s going to have something that helps, whether it helps or not. And we’re pawns in this game.”

ATF technician Jill Jacobson is a member of a team of specialists sent to Chicago as part of the Operation Legend task force

ATF technician Jill Jacobson is a member of a team of specialists sent to Chicago as part of the Operation Legend task force Sebastián Hidalgo for TIME

Chicago’s problems are stubborn, and speak to the tension at the heart of public safety, as officials across the country address questions of race and policing. Lightfoot came into office intent on providing more opportunities to neighborhoods of color, which activists say know best how to prevent violence. But the mayor has been frustrated by the criminal activity already taking place.

“To see young people who are Black act in the way that they acted, like they had every right to take somebody else’s property — and not just the big guys who have lots of insurance but the little shop owners in neighborhoods all across the city — they have so little respect for all the sacrifice that people who look like them put into forming a business, all their hurdles, all their challenges that small businesses have,” Lightfoot says. “Particularly small businesses of color, without any regard for not only hurting those business owners but hurting also employees, who also are generally employees of color. That offends me to the core.”

And by its nature, the drama of crime overwhelms all else, including the straits that confine many of the city’s poor. In June, the city’s unemployment rate was 15.6%, significantly higher than the national rate but higher still outside wealthy North Side neighborhoods, where single-digit jobless rates skew the city-wide figure, analysts say. Severe poverty, insecurity and childhood hunger are geographically concentrated in the West and South sides.

Many Black families, who have given up hope or managed to pull themselves out of poverty, have moved away. In 2019, for the fourth year in a row, Chicago saw its population decline. Nearly 50,000 Black residents have left over the past five years.

“There are parts of our city that haven’t financially recovered since the 2008 recession,” says Liz Dozier, a former high school principal who runs Chicago Beyond, a nonprofit that seeks to alleviate economic pressures within low-income communities. “The pandemic has just devastated communities even more.” Chicago Beyond has invested more than $30 million in organizations that target at-risk youth and young adults. Since the onset of the pandemic, Chicago Beyond has been running weekly food drives across the city. But quarantines and lockdowns have restricted access to churches, schools and community centers.

Dozier argues that with its hardworking ethos and multiculturalism, Chicago still qualifies as a microcosm of America. Its problems may be deep-seated, she says, but they are the problems the country must confront if we are to move forward. And the starting point in any discussion is the question of security — for everyone.

Despite economic and racial disparities, the city is interconnected in ways that are not always apparent. On Jewelers Row along Wabash Avenue in Chicago’s central business district, some small-business owners saw their entire livelihood wiped away in this month’s mass looting. Mohammad Ashiq, the 60-year-old owner of Watch Clinic, entered his watch-repair shop to discover that all his inventory, some $900,000 worth, had been stolen from his glass showcases. Hundreds of watches for sale and those he was fixing for customers were missing. None of it was insured. “It is my entire life,” he says as a nearby L train rumbles above his store. “Forty-two years in this business. I am left with nothing but my health.”

His fate had been decided less than 24 hours earlier, less than 10 miles away, when a Chicagoan spotted a man with a gun.

— With reporting by Tessa Berenson, Leslie Dickstein and Mariah Espada

This appears in the August 31, 2020 issue of TIME.

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: 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. 

Chronicle of Philanthropy: A Bright Star in Chicago’s Racial Divide

“Over the last three to five years, there has been huge growth in this group,” says Unmi Song, president of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, at one of the meetings of women who run foundations in Chicago.

More Than 20 Women of Color Lead the City’s Foundations

This article ran in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on October 7, 2019. 
By Jim Rendon

Every two or three months, nearly two dozen women gather after work in one of their homes in Chicago. Over takeout and wine, they discuss one another’s challenges or questions, they offer advice and contacts, they talk about issues that are important to them.

It’s a kind of professional networking gathering, but for a unique group — 20 or so women of color who run foundations in Chicago.

“Over the last three to five years, there has been huge growth in this group,” says Unmi Song, president of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, which has more than $189 million in assets.

Fifteen years ago, when she left her job as a program officer at the Joyce Foundation to take this position, Song didn’t think there would be so many other women of color in leadership positions in Chicago. “It’s a surprise, even to me,” she says.

Despite intensified concerns about the lack of diversity at nonprofits and foundations, Song is right to be surprised. People of color rarely rise to become leaders of philanthropic institutions. The Council on Foundations’ 2018 “Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report” found that 90 percent of foundation CEOs are white.

Chicago has outpaced the nation in terms of people of color in leadership positions in philanthropy. Forefront, a membership group in Chicago for foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies, says that of its 18 foundation members with assets of more than $100 million, five (28 percent) are run by women of color. None of the large member foundations have men of color at the helm.

“We have a really interesting mix of places people are running, and asset sizes,” says Sharon Bush, executive director of the Grand Victoria Foundation, a $130-million organization that receives proceeds from a casino to finance charities in Illinois. “We’re not just running small places, which is typically how it works.”

For a person of color, taking up racial-equity issues presents challenges that are different than for a white person, says Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.

Conversation Around Race and Equity

It’s unclear why trustees at Chicago foundations have promoted so many women of color into positions of leadership.

In part it may be a reaction to the city’s sharp increase in gun violence and to a number of high-profile police-brutality cases in recent years, issues that have brought the city’s historical and continuing racial inequities to the forefront. “The spike in gun violence was a wake-up call to a lot of people,” says Song.

Foundation board members have been an important part of the discussion about ways to curb racial bias in Chicago, says Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, with assets of $3.2 billion. She is a physician who worked for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 20 years, as well as at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She was CEO of CARE and of the McKinsey Social Initiative before she was recruited to the trust.

“It’s really palpable, this conversation in Chicago around race and equity,” Bush says, “and it is a hot conversation within the philanthropic sector.”

Because of such issues, foundation boards are likely to continue to focus on diversifying their ranks, says Na’ilah Suad Nasir. The scholar of race and education was on the board of the Spencer Foundation, which has assets of more than $530 million, before she was recruited as president in 2017. “There is a discourse about the need for boards to better reflect the populations the foundations serve,” she says. “That is really important.”

Another reason for the surge in leaders of color is a changing of the guard, which is coming about as baby boomers retire. Many have been deliberate in seeking successors who are not white.

Bush, for example, was a senior program officer at the Fry Foundation when she was recruited, in 2013. The director soon promoted her to managing director with the idea that Bush could move into the leadership position. “Her goal was to have a person of color replace her,” Bush says. She took over that role in 2018.

‘Try New Things’

Bush says her colleagues are making a real mark on their institutions.

Under Bush’s leadership, the Grand Victoria Foundation has begun a review of the entire organization, with a focus on what it is doing internally and through its grants do to promote racial equity. It now requires a diverse pool of applicants for job openings, and is seeking a firm owned by people of color to manage its investments. The board has been learning more about racial equity, and Bush is searching for diverse board candidates through her own networks.

The foundation is also reviewing its grant making to ensure that its grants tackle the areas of highest need.

Gayle, of the Chicago Community Trust, says her CEO peers are likely to have have a different perspectives on the world than would someone of a different gender or racial background. They may have closer connections to people living and working in neighborhoods with the greatest challenges, and they may prioritize funding in a different way.

“When you have organizations that are led by folks that have not traditionally been powerholders in their field, you get people willing to try new things, to think differently,” says Nasir, of the Spencer Foundation.

“To call it useful is an understatement,” says Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, about conferring with other women of color who run foundations. “It helps influence the direction of the work we do.”

Safe Space for Questions

The group, which informally calls itself WOC (for women of color, pronounced “woke”) continues to grow. Four new people attended its July meeting, including one who recently started her job and another who will start in January. And it continues to be a source of support, advice, and connections for its members. They can find out whom their peers are contracting with for services, discuss challenging management issues, and have a safe space to ask questions.

They have discussed the challenges of taking up racial-equity issues, something that Gayle says can present different challenges for a person of color than a white person. They also discuss the intersection of race and gender, which carries its own challenges.

Bush says they discuss the expectations that come with being a person of color in leadership. Often these women are expected to be the ones in their organization leading discussions of race and equity, something that can pigeonhole them and leave them feeling like one-dimensional leaders, she says.

“It’s just a chance to meet with a group of colleagues over a meal and have frank and open conversation and get good advice,” says Song.

For Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, which gave out $30 million in grants over the past three years, this group has been an important resource.

She was a high-school principal who left education to start the grant making organization. About six months ago, she was about to release a report but was unfamiliar with how to promote it.

The group spent an entire meeting working on a strategy with her. “To call it useful is an understatement,” says Dozier. “It helps influence the direction of the work we do.”

Having such a close-knit group of women of color in such positions of power makes Gayle feel optimistic about the future of philanthropy in Chicago. “It is high time that we have more diverse leadership,” she says. “I am very hopeful that Chicago can be a real beacon for how to address these issues of equity.”

Beyond Incarceration: Supporting the 37,000+ Silent Victims Impacted by Incarceration in Cook County

Our Steps to Support the 37,000 Silent Victims of Incarceration in Cook County: Children.

Chicago Beyond, The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital Launch Program to Support Youth Whose Fathers are Incarcerated

“At the core of this initiative are the silent victims of incarceration: more than 37,000 children in Cook County alone who have been impacted by parental separation caused by incarceration in the last six months. This is the first program of its kind in the nation that applies a trauma-informed lens to promote healing from the shame and stigma associated with having an incarcerated parent and specifically focuses on fatherhood. Our hope is that with this groundbreaking pilot, we can support the children of incarcerated parents with safe visitation opportunities that are conducive to strengthening families and their relationships as the parents await trial.” 

– Chicago Beyond, The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital

Nationally, more than five million children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their childhood. In Cook County alone, more than 37,000 children in the past six months have experienced losing a parent to incarceration.

Black children and children from poverty-stricken families are more likely to experience parental incarceration, and the overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents are fathers. Losing a parent to incarceration can impact children’s mental health, social behavior and academic achievement, increasing their risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. The emotional trauma that may result from parental incarceration is often exacerbated by the social stigma that youth may face. 

Research shows that the preservation of a child’s relationship with the incarcerated parent is beneficial to the child, the incarcerated parent, and society as a whole. This relationship can reduce the possibility of the child experiencing mental health issues, increase the likelihood of the successful reentry of the incarcerated parent to society and lower the odds of recidivism.

Very few programs exist to support these bonds and heal these relationships. Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart has been working to change this reality by exploring ways to improve safe visitation practices that are guided by the latest research and experts in this field.

That’s why, expanding on the work of other correctional institutions, such as Riker’s Island and Topeka Correctional Institution, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Chicago Beyond and the Chicago Children’s Museum to initiate family-friendly, child-centered visitation experiences for children whose parents are incarcerated, their incarcerated fathers and their caregivers

This initiative is the first-of-its-kind in the nation to focus on the father-child relationship, and with the support of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital, apply a trauma-informed approach throughout the visit to support all participants and staff. Planning took place over the course of one year and included learnings from the Riker’s Island and Children’s Museum of Manhattan visitation program as well as the Topeka Correctional Facility and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center program.

Additionally, extensive training, collaboration, and planning meetings occurred over the course of eight months to ensure the safety of all involved, particularly the children. On August 12, 2019 the partnership of the aforementioned organizations supported six children and their caregivers as they were allowed to reconnect with their fathers in a healthy environment and reduce the lasting impact of the trauma caused by family separation.

This program builds off of the work of Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Leader in Residence. Nneka is a psychologist and former warden of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Since Nneka joined the team at Chicago Beyond in 2018, she has been working to improve the mental health of young Chicagoans by developing initiatives to influence and support the development of a trauma-sensitive city for Chicago’s youth including those whose parents have been incarcerated. 

Parental incarceration is personal to Nneka, as she experienced it herself at a young age, losing her father for a number of years due to drug charges. 

“I was fortunate that both of my parents made sure I still had that bond with my dad,” Nneka told WTTW in an interview last year. “I recognize now as an adult, had it not been for the support system … that I could’ve very easily fallen prey to some of the risk factors that children with incarcerated parents often experience.”

You can read more about Nneka and Chicago Beyond’s Leadership Venture here. 

For more information, please contact press@chicagobeyond.org. 


Equity Series: OneGoal and The Privilege to Innovate

“Inequities have existed for so long that sometimes we believe that innovation is impossible. That’s not true. We only limit ourselves by our imagination.” – Liz Dozier, Founder & CEO of Chicago Beyond

In the fight for youth equity, it is important to challenge institutions and systems that perpetuate inequities. To not take the status quo for granted, but to question it and find creative ways to deconstruct it. When Chicago Beyond’s Founder & CEO Liz Dozier encountered OneGoal during her time as Principal of Fenger High School, she saw its program doing exactly that.

OneGoal’s mission has always been clear: close the college degree divide and ensure all young people can achieve their postsecondary dreams. Its model moves students through a three-year program that begins their junior year of high school. Participating high schools have a teacher, called a Program Director, who teaches one credit-bearing OneGoal class a day. Fellows take this class through their senior year, developing skills to increase their GPA, study for the SATs, apply to colleges, and develop skills and mindsets to support their success after high school. The program continues through their first year of college, where they receive remote coaching from their Program Director who supported them during high school.

Through this model, OneGoal helps about 25 Fellows in each class, and the results are staggering; the average Fellow at the beginning of the program has a 2.7 GPA and an 840 on the SAT. 

Fellows who have completed the program, 81% enroll in postsecondary education, and 86% of those who enroll persist one year later.

But what always struck OneGoal leadership—and Liz– was an urge to make OneGoal available to more students. What if breaking the inequity barrier to accessing college meant giving all students access to the type of supports that OneGoal offers?

That’s why Chicago Beyond invested in a partnership with OneGoal in 2016: to impact more students. Since our partnership began, OneGoal has innovated on its traditional model and piloted a Full Release model, which “releases” Program Directors at participating high schools to teach a full day of OneGoal classes.

Innovation requires imagination—so in our partnership, we challenged ourselves to be imaginative. We started thinking outside the box: Imagine if a school put supports in place to give students their best shot at success. Imagine if a school cleared as many obstacles as it could from its students’ paths so they don’t need to jump through more hoops than necessary on their way to higher education. Imagine if schools had programs like OneGoal built into their curriculum, so college is within reach for every single student.

Those hypothetical thoughts led to tangible changes in OneGoal’s program. It instituted new ways for the Program Directors to support students in their third year, offered students college visits and simulated college assignments and discussions to ease their transition after graduation.

Imaginative approaches to equity are crucial to seeing quality of life improvements in not only Chicago, but beyond. How far does your imagination go? What inequities in your day-to-day life do you take for granted, and how can you creatively challenge them?

To learn more about our partnership with OneGoal, watch the video above. To learn more about OneGoal’s programming, go here.

Chicago Tribune Editorial: A bungalow becomes sanctuary from Chicago violence

This editorial was written by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board in response to this story about Chicago Beyond and IMAN’s safe house concept. It appeared online on August 9, 2019. 

On the Southwest Side, refuge comes in the form of a simple red-brick bungalow, with leather couches, a flat-screen television and an Xbox in the basement. The men who live there escaped neighborhoods in which a moment on a porch or a sidewalk could be a last moment lived. In those neighborhoods — Englewood, Roseland, Little Village, and others — they’re enmeshed in a world in which on any given day they can find themselves on either side of a gun.

The Tribune’s Madeline Buckley wrote about the sanctuary that the bungalow, jointly run by a nonprofit called Chicago Beyond and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, provides to individuals entangled in South and West side street violence, with no way out. Some men, such as Talib Garner, 25, have witnessed violence from the time they were small boys.

Garner was 4 when he watched two people get gunned down. Two years later, he could load a gun. By 14, he had joined the Latin Kings street gang.

“If I stay in the ’hood, I’m going to kill someone,” Garner told Buckley. “Or someone will kill me.”

At the bungalow, Garner gets not only a respite from the gang wars that overshadow life in Little Village, but time to figure out what direction he wants his life to take. He has a 4-year-old son who lives in Villa Park and, perhaps, one day could be an anchor in his life. “I always wanted a family,” he tells Buckley.

There’s no cure-all for what ails the South and West sides. Fixes need to be multifaceted, and they can’t rest solely on the shoulders of law enforcement and the courts. Better schools, more jobs and reinvestment in neglected neighborhoods are top-shelf priorities. Providing a temporary refuge to pull at-risk youths out of corrosive environments is also a different, meaningful act. It’s nothing less than an extraction — a lifesaving rescue.

We’ve written often about youths cut down before they could escape. There was drive-by victim Jaylin Ellzey, the 15-year-old Roseland boy whose only wish was to, as his uncle said, “live another day.” And Jonathan Mills, 26, a North Lawndale basketball standout on his way to a career in international leagues when he died in hail of bullets in 2016.

And, as Buckley wrote, there’s the person whose death preceded the bungalow idea — Jason Barrett, 24, shot to death on the Far South Side in 2017. Barrett had been featured in the CNN series “Chicagoland” and was trying to turn his life around, with the help of former Fenger High School Principal Liz Dozier. Dozier founded Chicago Beyond, the nonprofit that two years ago linked up with Inner-City Muslim Action Network to buy the Southwest Side bungalow.

“There are how many hundreds of Jasons already this year,” Dozier told CNN in 2017, “and the sad thing is there will be how many hundreds more.”

Today, there’s always a waiting list to get into the safe house. That’s a sign of the program’s promise. But it also suggests that, if there were more bungalows, more at-risk individuals could be rescued.

Chicago Tribune: ‘I’m going to kill someone, or someone will kill me’: How a Southwest Side bungalow became a refuge from violent street life

This article appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on August 8, 2019.

Mustafa Hawthorne tosses a spare house key into the air. “Please don’t lose it. You need to get it on a keychain.”

Talib Garner snatches it and stuffs it into one of the socks he wears with sandals. “It won’t get lost.”

The men have an easy rapport, despite the difference in their ages. Hawthorne, born Steven Hawthorne, is 52, and Garner is 25. Both lived intensely hard lives before winding up at this red brick bungalow on a quiet Southwest Side street that serves as a unique refuge for those seeking shelter from street violence.

Their housemates include a young man from Englewood whose mentor was shot and killed and a 24-year-old man from Roseland whose former principal found him this place after his best friend was slain in 2017.

“This is a safe house,” explains Hawthorne, who manages the home. “The house is designed to give them time to breathe.”

And maybe the break they need, something Hawthorne didn’t get when he was young. At 16, Hawthorne shot and killed two men and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was released in 2017, after serving 33 years, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentences for juveniles was unconstitutional.

Hawthorne’s job at the house is to enforce curfews, generally keep the peace and offer any advice he can to people like Garner.

Garner was born and raised in Little Village. He says he saw two people shot dead outside his house when he was 4, could load a gun by the time he was 6 and was pulled into gang activity when he was around 14. He joined the Latin Kings street gang after losing his brother to gang violence.

“If I stay in the ‘hood, I’m going to kill someone,” Garner says. “Or someone will kill me.”

The men live together through a pilot program that houses young men in need of emergency lodging, a safe place to land, somewhere they can plan a future and maybe line up a job.

In other circumstances, they would have little to do with one another. But together under one roof, there is some sense of stability. Some slip back to their old lives but return after an arrest.

The house is furnished with leather couches, a dark wood dining table and a coffee table adorned with a vase of flowers. The men watch Hulu and Netflix on a large flat-screen television. They play “Call of Duty” on an Xbox console in the basement. They sometimes squabble about small messes around the house.

The young men are referred by outreach and caseworkers. They fill out an application and undergo an interview to see if they are a good fit. A bed or two is kept open for emergencies.

There is a constant waitlist.

‘You’re up next’

The idea for this safe house took hold with a chance encounter at a funeral.

Early in 2017, Jason Barrett was gunned down on the Far South Side by someone who stepped out of a silver SUV. The 24-year-old had been featured in the CNN series “Chicagoland” a few years earlier as someone who was hoping for a second chance and got help from his former principal at Fenger High School, Liz Dozier.

At Barrett’s wake, Dozier saw a young man lingering by the door of the funeral home. He was a former student and one of Barrett’s best friends. He had not yet made it inside the room where his friend’s body lay.

He was there when Barrett was killed. He knew he might be next. Dozier reconnected with him that day and they exchanged numbers.

“There were a couple of other people that had gotten killed up to Jason,” Dozier said. “You’re up next, let’s just keep this real,” she told him.

Dozier said she had helped other teenagers and young men escape the streets. Sometimes it meant helping parents send them out of town to stay with family members.

But in this case, the young man needed to get out of Roseland but had nowhere to go.

After leaving Fenger, Dozier had founded Chicago Beyond, a nonprofit that invests in organizations that “are fighting for all youth to achieve their fullest human potential,” according to its website.

Searching for housing opportunities for men like Barrett’s friend, the nonprofit teamed up with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network that works on the South and Southwest sides.

IMAN already provided housing for men reentering society after serving a prison term, but it did not supply shelter for high-risk youth. Together, the two groups bought a small bungalow on the Southwest Side. It opened two years ago.

The house is funded by Chicago CRED, an organization founded by former Education Secretary and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, and Chicago Beyond, which uses funding from private backers.

The groups are now working on the next phase of the pilot program: a safe home for a whole family so the men don’t have to leave children and other loved ones behind.

‘Certain things stick with you’

Rami Nashashibi, executive director of IMAN, remembers one of the first young men who lived in the home. He had barely survived a shooting on the West Side.

“For the first two to three months in the house, he was literally recovering his health,” Nashashibi said.

Earlier this year, the organization took on a young man after a man he looked up to as a mentor was killed. The young man had been a high-ranking gang member in Englewood but was a recent graduate of IMAN’s job program and was working to broker peace in the neighborhood, Nashashibi said.

The young man’s father pleaded with him to get him away from the block. “It was only a matter of time that he was drawn into the retaliatory circle,” Nashashibi said.

Now, living in the house, the man is working toward his GRE and participating in a weekend program that offers credits at City Colleges of Chicago.

One of his housemates is the man Dozier spotted at the funeral. He has lived in the house on and off since it was established. He recently returned after spending time in Cook County Jail for a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction.

On a recent evening at the house, the man tossed a basketball at a hoop as the sun sunk in the sky. He still struggles with memories of the day Barrett died.

“Certain things stick with you,” he said.

He has some goals, like learning a trade. But mostly he is thinking in the short term, like saving some money so he can live on his own. He hopes to build a life away from the streets.

“I kind of feel like I ain’t going to give up on that,” he said. He still worries about his safety and did not want to be named.

‘I was tired of watching people die’

Garner was born with the name Gregory but changed it to Talib when he converted to Islam. He is using his time at the house to plot his way forward.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office recently dropped a felony cocaine possession charge against him, giving him a fresh start. He visits his 4-year-old son and hopes to someday have shared custody.

His life now is markedly different than three years ago when he was at his lowest. He had spent the Memorial Day weekend in jail and had sunk into a depression after years of trauma.

When he was 4, his son’s age, he saw two men get shot and killed outside of his house. The men had been at a gang meeting at his father’s house. They were friendly with him, sometimes watching television with him. He remembers his uncle grabbing him from the window and his father dragging the bodies out of his view.

“It plays in my head,” he said. “Sometimes I dream about it.”

He recalls learning how to cook crack cocaine and load a gun at 6 years old and remembers spending days only eating small caramel candies. “I had four rotted teeth after that.”

He has good memories from school. He loved social studies, especially the story of Paul Revere’s ride. He gravitates toward learning about civil rights and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.

Garner’s aunt eventually gained custody of him and moved him and a sister to Aurora. But as a teen, he would tell his aunt he was going to a party in the suburbs, and instead, drive back to the Little Village neighborhood where he was comfortable.

After his brother was shot and killed by his own gang, Garner joined the rival Latin Kings. He attended what seemed like a long string of funerals.

Then one day, it was too much. He was sitting on a swing at a Southwest Side park after being released from jail and saw a man with a kufi, a cap worn by some Muslim men. He asked where the nearest mosque was and encountered IMAN.

Eventually, he secured a spot in the house. “I was tired of watching people die,” he said.

Now, he is focused on building a better life for his son, who lives in Villa Park. He’s glad his son lives outside the city, though he wants the boy to someday know how he is privileged to be raised differently than he was.

He has rough patches, days when the old neighborhood seems to call him back, and days when pent-up anger builds. He feels he wasn’t protected as a child.

But he feels hopeful, too, finding peace in his relationship with his son. “I always wanted a family.”