Tag: News

How to Achieve The Just Treatment of Blacks – and All People of Color

Photo by Life Matters from Pexels

See below for a statement from women of color leaders in philanthropy on how to achieve just treatment of Blacks – and all people of color.  This statement was published in Crain’s Chicago Business on August 11, 2020.

This year has been brutal for Blacks in Chicago. COVID-19 has hit the community hard. Forty-four percent of the lives lost to COVID-19 have been Black. The callous murder of George Floyd by a white police officer sparked weeks of uprisings and protests.

It showed the world that anti-Black racism is not insidious, it exists in broad daylight. We are having new conversations about the perpetual oppression of Black people and see a continuous stream of statements declaring solidarity across sectors. Calls for action are louder and more frequent. This is the dawn of a new era for fighting racism.

The last several weeks have made clear that anti-Black racism needs to be specifically called out. Black leaders and communities must be immersed and centered in redesigning the systems that distinctively oppress them. Eliminating anti-Black racism does not stop the work of ending all forms of racism and discrimination. In fact, we believe centering anti-Black racism in this fight and calling in all people of color will ultimately lead to our collective liberation.

Chicago cannot realize its full potential until it gets past its history of racism. We remain one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country. Nearly half of the region’s 1.6 million residents live in majority Black neighborhoods and over 25 percent live at below the federal poverty rate.

As a result, Black communities in the region have endured decades of disinvestment and over-policing, perpetuating the false narrative that Blacks are dangerous and unworthy. The George Floyd uprisings in Chicago also revealed anti-Black racism from residents of other communities of color, particularly the Latino community, a community that also shares a history of oppression rooted in colorism and racism.

As women of color leaders in philanthropy, we are engaged in honest conversations about our role in addressing this pivotal moment. Our non-Black philanthropy sisters have expressed serious concerns about how anti-Blackness has existed “unspoken” in their respective communities—communities that also share histories of oppression rooted in colorism and racism.

This pivotal moment opens a new frontier in eradicating racism. The 21st-century activists who lead peaceful protests in our city and around the world represent the full spectrum of race, class and gender identity. They have boldly shouted in unison that Black. Lives. Matter. Chicago’s civic and philanthropic communities also need to embrace this moment with bold leadership and action.

Our goal is just treatment of Black people and, ultimately, all people of color in the region. Changing this entrenched reality means supporting redesign of narratives and systems that produce persistent anti-Black sentiment and racial disparities. To achieve this, we call on Chicago’s civic and philanthropic communities to act in the following ways:

Black-, Indigenous- and POC-led organizations have not been afforded generational wealth but often have other futurist models based on mutual aid, earned revenue, in-kind support and more. Metrics should be rethought in partnership with these grantees. Use tools such as Chicago Beyond’s Why Am I Always Being Researched? to work with your board and staff on how power and privilege manifests in evidence and outcomes, and make changes.

Many of the proposed actions are not new and, in fact, have been repeated for decades. This is a pivotal moment for Chicago, and we can no longer delay or ignore these actions. The leadership of Chicago’s foundations is changing. There are over 20 people of color leading foundations. Most are women; nearly half are Black women. This new leadership is advancing a new narrative for philanthropy. It is one willing to shine a light on racial inequities and injustice and invites others to join us on the front lines.

Women of Color: Sharon Bush, Cecilia Conrad, Felicia Davis, Shelley Davis, Amina Dickerson, Liz Dozier, Patricia Ford, Helene Gayle, Monique Brunson Jones, Jane Kimondo, Dinaz Mansuri, Michelle Morales, Serena Moy, Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Heather Parish, Maria Pesqueira, Angelique Power, Unmi Song, Sejal Shah-Myers and Elizabeth Thompson.

Injecting Humanity into the Justice System

On August 11th, 2020, our Leader in Residence Nneka Jones Tapia joined JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) for their Live with #JustUs discussion series. She was virtually joined by JLUSA President & CEO Deanna Hopkins, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Corrections Scott Semple, and social justice activist Jimmie C. Gardner. Together they discussed solitary confinement, which is the practice of isolating inmates for 22-24 hours a day, free of human contact for a variable period of time.

When looking at the origins and the consequences of solitary confinement, the four speakers drew direct ties between solitary confinement and slavery, its dehumanizing impacts, its ability to perpetuate existing problems and create new ones, as well as its statistical inability to fulfill the purpose it was meant for: correcting behavior.

Here are a few takeaways from the conversation:

"Solitary confinement is a traumatic stressor. And the impact of trauma doesn’t just impact us socially and through our behaviors, it impacts us in a neurological way."

- Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia

In recalling her experience as the Warden of the Cook County Jail, part of the third largest jail system in the United States. [link to bio or article of Nneka’s work], Nneka shared her administration’s motivation behind reforming the system around solitary confinement. Trauma takes many forms and has many consequences, and those consequences are oftentimes the catalyst for criminal behavior. If a tool within the correctional system is creating more of these traumas, it must be abandoned.  

"From what we know about the detrimental impacts that solitary confinement has on people that are thrown into it, it flies in the face of what a system is actually supposed to do."

- Scott Semple

The data shows us that people who are placed in solitary confinement are not only more likely to return to solitary confinement once they’re released, but they’re also more likely to re-enter the correctional system with even more problems than before.  

“You don’t know any other forms of corrections because you’ve never been exposed to any other forms of corrections”

- Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia

A failure of the correctional system and the administrators within it is the refusal to investigate their methods and ask themselves about their impact. By several metrics, most forms of corrections are ineffective, and it’s up to the leaders in these spaces to reimagine the way they do their work in order to truly fulfill their vision.

With the final question of the conversation, Deanna Hopkins calls on us to look at the big picture: 

“Get back to the overall purpose and intention behind correctional institutions; reminding people that it’s not about punishment, it’s about increasing the safety of the community—which should not include a distribution of suffering; we have to offer supports and rehabilitative services for people. What contributed to their situation? What did they lack? How can we reinvest in them?”

- Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia

You can watch the full recording below.

Liz Dozier of Chicago Beyond: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country

This article ran online at Authority Magazine on August 4, 2020. By Jason Hartman

Aspart of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Dozier.

Liz Dozier is Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, a social impact investor backing the fight for youth and racial equity. From education to activism, Liz Dozier has spent her career working tirelessly to disrupt the culture of inequity that is often pervasive in urban neighborhoods. During her tenure as principal at Fenger Academy High School, Liz and her team turned the school from one of the most violent and underperforming schools in Chicago to a leader in restorative justice practices, academic interventions and social emotional learning.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Liz Dozier: I grew up between the suburbs and city of Chicago in a predominantly white neighborhood. My family was the only Black family that lived in our neighborhood of Crestwood, Illinois. My mom is white and a former nun who actually met my dad while she was ministering to men in prison. A significant part of how my parents came together, in addition to the neighborhood I grew up in, influenced a lot of what I think and do today personally and professionally.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Liz: In the 5th or 6th grade I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I devoured it. I was able to view several aspects of my own experience through the lens of the main character who was also a little Black girl growing up in White dominant culture. In the novel, she had several home issues and through the influence of Dick and Jane characters believed that somehow her life would be better if she was White with blue eyes. Growing up in a predominantly White neighborhood at a time when many media images were White centered, this sentiment resonated with me. As a young adult I came to understand how racism and exclusively dominant culture narratives and images can destroy one’s self-confidence and self-worth. Through that experience, I also came to understand the power of new and inclusive narratives.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Liz: In the Bible, the book of Genesis Chapter 37 tells the story of Joseph who is someone that went through many trials and tribulations — slavery, imprisonment — and goes on to become very powerful and revered. Prior to this, Joseph had a dream that one day his brothers would be his servants. When he shares the dream with his brothers they respond with the quote, “Come now, let’s kill him. Let’s kill this dreamer.”

Joseph, who came from nothing, went on to save Israel from a seven-year famine despite his doubters and detractors. This struck a chord with me because I too have dealt with people who judged my dreams and tried to convince me that those ambitions were too big or audacious. His story is a powerful lesson to hold steadfastly onto your dreams and not be deterred by the limited imaginations or expectations of others.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Liz: Leadership is about being courageous enough to make tough calls for the benefit of the people you are serving. When I was principal at Fenger High School, we had many challenges. At the time it was known as one of the most violent and underperforming schools in Chicago, with a 19 percent dropout rate. During my tenure the dropout rate decreased to two percent, along with double digit increases in the school’s attendance and graduation rates.

These wins didn’t come easily. They resulted from a series of tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. Through those experiences I learned that leadership isn’t a popularity contest or a race to be the most liked or the most admired. True leadership is about making difficult choices that are firmly rooted in your values and reflect your commitment to the greater good.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

Liz: For me that person is my Dad, who is the reason why I’ve chosen the career path that I’m on. He grew up touching all of the systems that we at Chicago Beyond are fighting to disrupt: education, foster care, criminal justice. These systems that were supposed to provide a quality education, healthy home, rehabilitation — they all failed. To this day my Dad cannot read. Because all of those systems failed — systems that are undergirded by structural racism — he never got to truly live his full life. Yet at 70 years, even with the barriers he’s encountered, my Dad is one of the smartest and most caring people I know, and the one who inspires me most.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Liz: Systemic racism is the cancer of our country. Racism is insidious in nature and, like a cancer, it spreads and kills individuals’ potential as well as our collective possibility as a country. Racism doesn’t allow us to be who we set out to be in our Declaration of Independence. This is an issue that resonates deeply because of my own experiences dealing with and talking about racism growing up, during my time working in the Chicago school system, and now with the work we’re leading at Chicago Beyond.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Liz: The crisis of systemic racism has evolved to this point because we’ve never fully addressed and reckoned with our history as a country. Black people were brought to the U.S. essentially as physical assets and were enslaved for hundreds of years. Even when slavery “legally” ended other measures were intentionally put into place that did not allow for true freedom and the pursuit of the American Dream. From Jim Crow to mass incarceration, we have denied the realization of that dream to our fellow citizens. The remnants of these deliberate measures still remain and still impact the masses. Until we as a country truly acknowledge and address our history through truth and reconciliation, we are never going to heal. This is why we are at the current boiling point.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

Liz: At Chicago Beyond we’ve been leading conversations to help people unpack what White privilege is and how to become anti-racist. Some people may ask, “Well what can I do? I’m just one person at one company,” or, “I’m just one person in my neighborhood,” or, “I don’t even deeply know any people who are Black.” Through these conversations, we’re providing people with actionable steps towards dismantling systemic racism.

Recently in the LA Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar described racism as being like dust in the air. He said that like dust, racism seems invisible until you realize you’re choking on it and it’s not until you let the sun in that you realize there’s dust everywhere. In order for us to get rid of racism, we have to shine light on it. These conversations are an attempt to keep shining the light and to challenge us to do better.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Liz:

1) Educate yourself and then use what you’ve learned to help educate others. Through our anti-racism series, we’ve been hosting critical conversations with anti-racist leaders, as well as creating toolkits that people can use to begin incorporating these practices into their work, their organizations and everyday lives.

2) Recognize the power of voting and why it truly matters. Paying attention to elections at the local and state level are equally, if not even more, important than federal elections. The people we vote into our local and state offices determine what resources either go into or are kept out of certain communities. Additionally, we must be informed on the ways in which systemic racism is embedded in our legal institutions, which impacts our voting systems and the rights of Black people and people of color to fully participate in our democracy.

3) We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable and remove ourselves from the neutral ground of silence and inaction. The iconic writer and author James Baldwin once said, “We live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal… for if they take you in the morning they will be coming for us that night.” In other words, to be silent is to be complicit. If we fail to speak out and take meaningful action to stanch systemic racism, America’s future and our ability to truly heal and recover as a nation will never be fully realized.

4) The voices and stories of people and communities directly impacted by explicit and systemic racism must be centered. The people in society with power and privilege must speak out for those who have neither. We must use our platforms to amplify and highlight their lived experiences.

5) We must recognize how implicit, unrecognized biases show up in our funding institutions, and in our research and analysis. Those of us who are working in philanthropy, grantmaking, social impact investing and venture capital are uniquely positioned to facilitate change. Chicago Beyond has done extensive research and produced guidebooks on this very topic to help cross-sector leaders be more racially equitable and inclusive in their own policies and practices.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Liz: Yes, I think we as a nation are capable of coming together to tackle systemic racism head on and begin dismantling institutions and policies that have excluded so many Black people and people of color from reaching their fullest potential. This is especially so for our youth, which is what also makes me optimistic. Our young people today, the Z Generation, have been awakened and are mobilizing for change every day — in their own homes, neighborhoods and cities. The path forward has always been shaped by our young people and they continue to give me great hope that a brighter future lies still ahead.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Liz: I want our young people to know that racism in all of its forms, while complex, is not insurmountable. If we value our freedom and the freedom of other human beings, we all must be in this fight. Our young people have such an important role to play in changing the trajectory of how we talk about and address issues of race in this country. I also want our youth to know that we will all have different roles to play and there isn’t just one right way to take action. Some of us will be out there protesting or writing legislation; others may be the storytellers and helping amplify voices through various forms of media. We each have a responsibility to make America live up to the ideals that it promised to all of us.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Liz: Michelle Obama is my first reaction because she’s magical in every sense. However, I really respect the work of the wonderful author and academic Ibram X. Kendi, who has written extensively about racism, particularly his book How to be an Anti-Racist. He’s been very influential to me and the work we do at Chicago Beyond.

How can our readers follow you online?

Liz: We invite everyone to visit ChicagoBeyond.org to learn all about our work backing the fight for youth and racial equity. You can also find us on Twitter at @chicago_beyond and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram at @chicagobeyond.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Chicago Beyond announces Backing The Fight Fund

INVESTING IN BOLD ACTIONS FOR BLACK AND BROWN LIVES

Chicago Beyond launches the Backing the Fight Fund to stand in solidarity with organizations working on the front lines of Chicago’s communities. The Backing the Fight Fund is designed to quickly deploy resources to hyperlocal community organizations taking action and fighting for a more equitable future for Chicago’s youth and communities.

The Fund is a direct response to the current crises that are having a disproportionate impact on Chicago’s Black and Brown communities.

Key characteristics of the Backing the Fight Fund include:

The initial 12 organizations supported by the Backing the Fight Fund are taking a variety of creative approaches to meet the needs of the communities they serve – including reshaping the narrative of Black Chicago through journalism, increasing neighborhood safety, youth-led organizing, distributing necessities and resources to thousands of immigrants, seniors, young people, and those undocumented, and racial healing circles amongst Black and Brown communities on the South and West Sides. Approximately 75% of the organizations operate with a budget under $250,000 annually.

Read our full page dedicated to the Backing The Fight Fund here.

NPR: Former Chicago Principal Discusses Schools’ Reliance On Police Officers

This article ran online on WBEZ/NPR on July 4, 2020. 
By Scott Simon

Transcript:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Metal detectors and armed resource officers have become common in U.S. schools. Of course, there is also a movement to remove police from schools and resistance to that change. June 24, the Chicago Board of Education narrowly voted to keep its $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department to provide officers in its schools. Liz Dozier was principal at Chicago’s Fenger Academy High School for six years and changed that school’s approach to security and its reliance on resource officers with results that have been praised. She’s now the founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, an organization that raises capital funds for community, justice and youth initiatives and joins us now from Chicago. Ms. Dozier, thanks so much for being with us.

LIZ DOZIER: Thanks so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.

SIMON: We should preface you didn’t think that police officers in your school were to blame for violence that occurred.

DOZIER: That’s right. A lot of folks think that, you know, when we have police officers in schools that it provides safety. And at least from my vantage point and what I’ve seen throughout the years is that it’s a false sense of safety. And what really undergirds safety is often those student-adult relationships. It is mental health and wellness support. It is an environment that is intentionally created where each student’s needs matter.

SIMON: Well, tell us about Fenger when you came there.

DOZIER: Challenging is not even the correct word to describe it. My first year there, we had approximately 300 arrests inside of the school building. We had a 20% dropout rate, about a 40% state graduation rate. I was there for six years with my team, and you fast-forward and those results dramatically shifted. So those arrest rates went down to virtually zero. The graduation rate doubled from 40% to over 80% and that dropout rate was down below 2%. And what caused that shift was not us having school resource officers. It was investing in those things matter. It was creating an environment that was intentionally built around our young people and their specific needs. And that’s truly what supports safety in our schools.

SIMON: Does having school resource officers on the grounds get in the way of that?

DOZIER: So we originally had two resource officers that we worked with the commander to move out. They weren’t best positioned to work with children. And then we got two resource officers who were fantastic who really bought in to the idea of restorative justice, who bought in to the idea of peace circles and were just absolutely phenomenal.

SIMON: With youngsters seeing protests and learning about the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and videos of police killing unarmed Black people, what do you say to students who might be returning to school in the fall – actually, they’ve opened summer schools now in Chicago – and who will see police resource officers there?

DOZIER: As I think about our young people coming back to school in whatever form that might be, I think that, as a country, we are at this critical juncture of really understanding, you know, the history of police and, you know, how police were formed, police brutality, you know, what’s happened, and it gives a definite (ph) opportunity for learning.

SIMON: I have to ask you on this holiday weekend, Ms. Dozier, the violence is beginning to match the high levels of 2016.

DOZIER: Yeah.

SIMON: And so many of the victims so young. I wonder what your feelings are.

DOZIER: It’s almost unfathomable when you think about the number of deaths but also the number of children that we’re seeing. I mean, you know, the gun violence over the most recent weekend left 16 people dead, I mean, two young children, 50 others wounded. Father’s Day weekend, same thing – 104 people shot, 14 fatally. It is absolutely incredible. But I am – I do have hope, and I think it is not going to be the police alone. It’s not going to be the community alone. But it will be us both community and police working together to ensure that our streets are safe.

SIMON: Liz Dozier is a former high school principal of Fenger Academy High School in Chicago and founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond. Thank you so much for being with us.

DOZIER: Thanks for having me.

The Relentless School Nurse: Unpacking White Privilege How to be a White Ally and an Anti- Racist

This article ran online on The Relentless School Nurse on July 3, 2020. 
By Robin Cogan

Chicago Beyond CEO, Liz Dozier, is hosting a series of conversations about what it means to be anti-racist.

It is not enough to say “I am not racist.” Calling ourselves “not racist” is to be silent about what is happening in our country. Silence is complicit. We need to be anti-racist and yes, it is uncomfortable but necessary. It demands that white people end our silence & take action to counter-balance the structures that perpetuate racism. No more statements, stand for something that might make you feel uncomfortable. Recognize the structural racism in housing, jobs, healthcare, education, and work to change the systems that are inequitable. 

We are living in a moment in history where we can fundamentally change the structural inequities in our country that perpetuate racism or we can be silent. We have a collective responsibility to take action and be anti-racist.  But what does it look like? Advocate for policies that are anti-racist. Hold our leaders accountable. Vote out leaders that do not address the policies that perpetuate racist structures that continue oppression.

If you are in a position of power and have agency, be intentional and hire people of color in positions of power and agency. We have momentum at this moment in time, let’s not squander it by inaction. That’s being an ally.

Insidehook: How Citizens and Companies Can Support Antiracism in Chicago

This article ran online at Insidehook on July 2, 2020. 
By Claire Young

Racism is everywhere these days, figuratively and literally. Between a racist virus, a racist depression and several public murders of Black people, systemic oppression has been impossible to ignore. 

Writing for the LA Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar described racism in America as dust in the air. “It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.” 

Liz Dozier, Founder of Chicago Beyond, likens it to “when you pull a loose thread on a sweater and before you know it half the sweater is gone — that’s the moment we are in right now,” she says.

In Chicago, unmasking the breadth of systemic racism shouldn’t come as a shock. When I talked to eight city business and thought leaders in January, it was cited as the top challenge facing the city over the next decade. Though they came from a variety of industries and backgrounds, seven of the eight specifically called out systemic racism and racial inequality as the biggest issues Chicago needs to address in the 2020s.

The good news? The city has a vast network of organizations already doing the work of dismantling our dangerously biased systems. The great news? While racism and systemic oppression is very complex, we’ve made it quite simple for you to take positive, immediate action. 

Below is a long but not comprehensive list of what you can do personally, at your company and in your state at large to be antiracist.

First, a quick precursor on the term antiracism. In his best-selling book How to Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi classifies racist as a descriptor, not a pejorative. Unlike the term bigot, saying someone or something is racist does not imply hatred; it simply means a policy, practice or ponderance supports the discrimination and marginalization of a minority group. 

“The good news is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next,” he writes. “Those people who are striving to be antiracist are the people who are admitting their racism. What that means is what people should be looking for, and valuing, is the person who is no longer in denial about their addiction.”

As Kendi explained to Dax Shephard on a recent episode of Armchair Expert, “when you are truly striving to become antiracist it’s almost like you are trying to overcome an addiction, you’re always taking it a day at a time. You never become an anti-racist. You know that every moment, every day, you have to think about your actions.” 

Ready to get to work?

What You Can Do as an Individual


Complete the internal work. Before you move into action mode, take time to acknowledge your privilege — your experiences with race and bias — and educate yourself. That’s where the real change will come from. “People are trying to dismantle racism from the top down, but readers: you can dismantle it from the bottom up. Start with educating yourselves, your children and your family. It is critical work,” Dozier says, adding “it looks different for white and non-white people, but believe me, [it’s] everyone’s problem.” If you haven’t already heard, do not go to the Black people in your life and ask them to educate you. Do the work and research yourself. Here’s a selection of 20 books by Black writers that will help you better understand the structure and history that help perpetuate racism in America.

Chicago Sun-Times: Ex-CPS principal who turned around tough Fenger High explains why cops don’t belong in schools

Liz Dozier significantly improved a violent, under-performing South Side school. Here’s why she thinks there are better ways to create a safe school environment than having police in Chicago’s schools.

This article ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 26, 2020. 
By Mark Brown

Liz Dozier knows a little something about police in the schools.

As principal of Fenger Academy High School from 2009 to 2015, Dozier was widely credited with turning a violent and under-performing school into a welcoming place that gave kids a chance to succeed.

And what she’ll tell you now, with benefit of hindsight, is that police do not belong in Chicago schools, at least not stationed there full-time.

That’s not a knock on police. That’s her sincere belief that there are better ways to create a safe school environment without exposing children to the criminal justice system that comes with having police in the building.

The Chicago Board of Education this past week narrowly rejected an attempt to end a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department that provides armed, uniformed “school resource officers” in most high schools.

But the issue is far from settled. The question of renewing the contract will be back before the school board within weeks. Some Chicago City Council members are pushing to take up the matter as well.

That’s why I sought out Dozier, who I knew from her work at Fenger before the CNN docu-series “Chicagoland” made her an education celebrity.

I believe her to be the real deal, as apparently do Chicagoans Kimbra and Mark Walter, who have channeled millions of dollars into her good works through an organization she founded in 2016, Chicago Beyond, dedicated to helping young people realize their potential.

Dozier has been out of CPS for a while. But that also gives her the freedom to speak her mind. She definitely opened my mind.

Dozier inherited a bad situation at Fenger, which is located in Roseland, with daily brawls involving 50 to 60 students. In the second week of school, one of her students, Derrion Albert, was clubbed to death in a melee on his way home.

Police made 300 arrests at Fenger in her first year there.

What eventually turned around those problems, Dozier believes, was building relationships with students, not making arrests.

Dozier and her Fenger staff emphasized creating a school more attuned to the emotional needs of its students than to policing them. That required understanding why students were acting out.

Instead of relying on police to enforce discipline, they instituted restorative justice practices, which focus on repairing harm rather than applying punishment, and held peace circles to defuse conflicts. They provided grief counseling and anger-management training to students and created trauma groups to help deal with emotional baggage they brought to school from home.

It might sound like mumbo-jumbo, but these methods work well with young people.

By the time I visited Fenger a few years later, I encountered a warm, friendly atmosphere and a more relaxed student body.

After her first year at Fenger, Dozier moved to replace the police officers assigned to the school with new ones more attuned to her philosophy. She has only good things to say about the work of that second set of school resource officers.

But she thinks her students would have been better off with more counselors, social workers or therapists instead. Security guards from the neighborhood trained in de-escalation techniques are just as effective in providing school security in most situations, she says, and can call in police in extreme circumstances.

A school principal will always need a good working relationship with the local district commander, but police are asked to intervene in too many situations, Dozier believes.

“We put too much on them,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily warrant a police response.”

The problem with getting police involved is that it sucks students into a situation from which they might never recover.

“Once a kid touches the criminal justice system, it just steamrolls,” Dozier says.

It’s not enough for CPS to give a school the option of getting rid of its police officers if no resources are offered to take their place.

In Chicago’s resource-poor schools, it’s hardly a surprise that school communities would choose to hang on to what little they have, no matter how imperfect.

Dozier agrees with those who say the $33 million that CPS spends on its police contract should be reinvested in alternative resources.

“You have to give the schools what they need,” she says. “You can’t just take [police] out and say, ‘Good luck.’ ”

Maybe that can’t be accomplished by the beginning of this school year. But it ought to be the stated goal of the Chicago Public Schools.

Hellenic News of America: Greek-American organizations join together to deliver tons of food to needy Chicagoans

This article ran on June, 22 2020 online on Hellenic News of America. By Hellenic News.

Chicago CRED is teaming with the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, the diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Midwest, and the Hellenic American Leadership Council to deliver over 4 tons of food to neighborhoods affected by COVID-19 and looting.

“Greek-Americans helped build Chicago,” said Arne Duncan, Managing Partner of Chicago Cred, “and today they are stepping up again to rebuild Chicago by helping their neighbors. I would especially like to thank His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael and the generous benefactors he engaged for answering the question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ in the affirmative.”

“Because we live in challenging and uncertain times, what we need above all else is leadership grounded in service to the other,” said His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago. “We are grateful to those who contributed to our Metropolis Humanitarian Food programs, most notably Peter Parthenis, Jr., CEO of Grecian Delight and Chris Wright, CEO of Shepard Medical Products. Their examples inspire us all to step up and serve our broader communities at a moment in time when such action is sorely needed.”

“We are proud to stand with the Metropolis of Chicago and Chicago Cred,” added Alexi Giannoulias, Chairman of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC). “We need to do more than declare our values, we must live them. And through the leadership of His Eminence, Peter Parthenis, Jr, Chris Wright and everyone involved, we have a chance to live up to the true meaning of the Greek word philanthropy and show love to our fellow Chicagoans.”

HALC members and staff joined Metropolitan Nathanael at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and packaged the donated food, which they then transported on trucks to the CREDMADE warehouse, where it was immediately distributed to community partners.

According to Rahul Pasarnikar, Chicago CRED’s Director of Business Development: “Chicago CRED and its food packaging business CREDMADE have pivoted these last few months to provide essential food to vulnerable communities in Chicago.  We have partnered with agencies, including Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago Beyond to receive, package and distribute shelf stable food supplies through a network of community partners.  We’ve also partnered with Gate Gourmet to provide meals to families of CRED participants, street outreach workers, as well as Chicago Police as they worked 15 hour shifts during the protests.”

Pasarnikar added: “We are excited to partner with Metropolis of Chicago and the Greek-American community to provide much needed food to families we support in Roseland, West Pullman, and North Lawndale.  We are also proud to work with community-based organizations, I AM ABLE in N. Lawndale, Youth Peace Center of Roseland, The MAAFA Redemption Project in W. Garfield Park, the Firehouse Community Arts Center in Lawndale, and schools conducting food drives.  These groups are pillars in their communities and ensure that families most in need are getting much needed food supplies in extremely challenges time.”

Shelterforce: Feeding People in a Pandemic

This article ran online at Shelterforce on June 22, 2020. 
By Amanda Abrams

Across the country, community organizations and food-related businesses have found creative ways to provide meals and groceries to low-income people in need.

When Americans began sheltering in place this spring, some experienced their first real worries about accessing food. Many workers were laid off and suddenly without an income. Supermarket shelves sat eerily empty. Trips out of the house to purchase the usual variety of groceries felt hazardous. But thanks to unemployment benefits, restocking, and the passage of time, those fears have begun to recede for many people.

Not for all, though. Around the country, community development organizations have reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to food—being able to pay for it, traveling outside of the house to get it—has been a top concern among people they work with. Feeding America estimated that prior to the crisis, over 37 million people lived in food-insecure households; today, that number may be as high as 54 million. And most of those households were already low-income.

In response, organizations around the country have pivoted. Some already worked in food production or distribution but had to change their model after business evaporated due to a lack of demand. Others are simply mission-driven to help low-income people and waded into providing food assistance when they saw how crucial the need was.

Each initiative is unique, but all have leaned heavily on new and existing partnerships with likeminded organizations. That’s partially the result of hard-nosed decision-making and letting partner groups do what they do best rather than reinventing the wheel. But there is also a deep, heartening spirit of collaboration that has emerged during this era of COVID-19: a sense that many people are suffering, and an effort to spread the wealth coming in as widely as possible.

Keeping People Fed, Keeping Restaurants in Businesses

That’s clearly been the case in Seattle, where four affordable housing organizations joined forces with about 20 restaurants across the city to provide meals to residents.

The partnership originated in March, with informal discussions between Capitol Hill HousingMercy Housing NorthwestSCIDpda, and Bellwether Housing about how to secure financial assistance for their residents during the crisis. “But it quickly transformed into ‘What are some of these other issues that we’re starting to see?’” remembers Marcia Wright-Soika, director of philanthropy and strategic partnerships at Mercy Housing Northwest.

All four groups were hearing about an increase in the number of people struggling to access food. Mercy Housing Northwest had been working with a volunteer caterer to provide a weekly meal to one of the organization’s housing communities, and a lightbulb went off, says Wright-Soika: “It started to click that there was a natural alignment here of matching up small restaurants that have been struggling to keep their businesses open with communities that were increasingly food insecure.”

In early April, Bank of America published its COVID-19 response plan. Wright-Soika and the others applied for funding, and later that month, they were awarded a $500,000 grant that was apportioned between the four groups.

“[Bank of America] really liked the idea of not just helping one group, but a few—it really points to the success of partnering up with not just housing but meal providers,” says Donna Moodie, executive director of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, an initiative of Capitol Hill Housing.

The housing groups contracted individually with restaurants of their choice, working out the numbers to make as many meals as possible while still allowing the restaurants to pay their staff and put some money toward rent. Ninety percent of the eateries are women- or minority-owned businesses. Capitol Hill Housing, for example, is partnering with Edouardo Jordan, a James Beard award–winning chef who is Black; SCIDpda, based in Seattle’s Chinatown, is channeling funding to Asian restaurants that suffered as a result of coronavirus-related xenophobia.

The restaurants make and box the food, and the housing organizations deliver it to tenants. In their first two weeks, Capitol Hill Housing delivered 130 meals per week; this week, they began distributing 700 meals across the city.

Aside from their nutritional content, the deliveries are a way to connect and check in with residents who may have been experiencing serious isolation. But the food itself is a huge draw. “The meals are amazing,” says Moodie. “Not to disparage food-bank food, but a restaurant-quality prepared meal is a treat for many of us, especially people in affordable housing. It feels especially great to be able to offer it to them.”

Residents agreed. Among the many “love notes” the groups have received was one from Paul, an elderly resident in one of Bellwether Housing’s properties: “My dinner last night was one of the best meals I have ever had, anyplace, anytime. If the intention of this effort to bring a fine restaurant meal to my door is to both provide sustenance and to demonstrate community concern and support . . . mission accomplished. I am so grateful to the chef and crew, and to all those who are part of this lovely, life-affirming program.”

Partnerships with a dual mission of supporting restaurants and feeding residents are not uncommon now. In New York City, the organization Rethink Food is funneling local government funding to shuttered restaurants in order to feed residents in need. In Durham, North Carolina, the public school system is working with a coalition of nonprofits and restaurants to provide meals to families.

And in Bakersfield, California, Dignity Health collaborated with Sonder restaurant and CityServe, a national faith-based group headquartered there, to feed local families. Over the course of 11 days in May, the partners cooked and delivered roughly 1,000 meals per day to far-flung parts of Kern County, where Bakersfield lies.

CityServe, which engages with all denominations, worked through churches across the county in order to reach marginalized populations, because, as CityServe’s Pastor Robin Robinson pointed out, “There’s always a church in every neighborhood.”

As a result, the partners were able to help hard-to-find groups like migrant and seasonal workers, for whom food insecurity can be a chronic problem. And Sonder restaurant, whose owners had considered going out of business, was able to survive and eventually reopen.

Farm Fresh Food Straight to Needy Consumers

In Atlanta, The Common Market isn’t new to food distribution. That’s its bread and butter. A national network with three branches—Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Texas—The Common Market is a nonprofit food distributor that connects communities with food from nearby sustainable farms. In the Southeast, the organization had been growing its operations by providing institutions—public and private schools, universities, hospitals, senior centers—with locally grown food.

And then the coronavirus hit, and everything ground to a halt. Schools and universities emptied out, hospitals wound down their elective procedures in preparation for a deluge of COVID-19 patients, senior centers sealed themselves off to the outside.

“Within a two-week time frame, we weren’t sure what [our business] would look like,” says Bill Green, executive director of The Common Market’s Southeast operations.

He and his staff began brainstorming. The organization’s buyers weren’t open, but its partner farms were still producing. “So we doubled down on our farmshare program,” says Green. “We started talking to various local agencies, working with local food access-challenged populations—low-income people, seniors, refugees—and started offering these boxes.”

The agencies responded, ordering 20, 50, 300 boxes to feed their clients. Soon, The Common Market bid on and was awarded an eight-week, $180,000 contract with the City of Atlanta Senior Food Assistance Program to deliver 300 boxes of food weekly to older people throughout the metro region; the contract was just renewed for another six weeks.

The boxes are full of locally grown food: squash, green beans, Vidalia onions, sweet potatoes, peaches, and blackberries, as well as eggs, dairy products, and meat. “It’s high-quality, non-GMO, raised in an environmentally responsible way,” says Green. “The pork looks like beef because it’s so red. It’s good meat.”

“The seniors are telling us that this food came right on time,” he adds. “Many seniors have obvious health challenges: diabetes, they’re overweight—they’re suffering from lack of good food.”

Indeed, one resident has been very pleased with the groceries. “I like the items I received,” says the resident, who didn’t want to share her name. “Pork chops, I was surprised to get that. Broccoli, I love broccoli—I make a broccoli salad, put in raisins, cranberries, a little mayo. It’s excellent and easy to make. I thank God for letting me receive this.”  

 

That’s not the only new initiative for The Common Market. Together with the Mid-Atlantic branch, the Atlanta group was awarded a $5.7 million contract through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program to provide produce to communities in need for eight weeks. So Green’s Southeast operation is now delivering 15,000 boxes of fruits and vegetables to food banks, YMCAs, and organizations that serve senior and refugee populations.

“It’s a large expansion,” says Green. “To deliver on that level, we’ve had to expand our producer network.” Normally, The Common Market in Atlanta buys from 40 to 50 farmers; to meet the new demand, the group added 10 more producers, all of them on the larger side. Green says interested farmers weren’t hard to find. After all, many growers—especially those lacking secure contracts with big grocery stores—took a big hit with the coronavirus and have been seeking relief.

One of those struggling farmers was Howard Berk, who runs Ellijay Mushrooms, located about 85 miles north of Atlanta. He had already been working with The Common Market and was just ramping up for a big year when sheltering in place began. “It felt like all of a sudden the water was shut off,” says Berk. “We were trying to figure out what to do.”

So when the Common Market offered Ellijay Mushrooms space in its USDA food boxes for three of the total 6 weeks, it felt like a godsend. “This is a game changer,” says Berk, adding that the farm hasn’t had to lay anyone off. “Those three weeks will help keep the farm afloat.”

Both Berk and Green say the crisis pushed them to change their business models, and both are certain their companies will come out of this pandemic stronger and better. Berk says he and his coworkers were pushed to find a better way to package and sell their mushrooms, and that will continue into the future. For his part, Green believes that selling directly to consumers is where food distribution is going—something he has been forced to prepare for over the past few months.

Doing What It Takes to Help Hungry Residents

In some parts of the country, community development organizations have jumped in to provide food assistance despite having little or no previous experience in that area. They simply saw a need and were determined to help.

“When this first started, that was the first thing we thought about: What are people going to do about food when they’re strapped for cash?” says Tejal Shah, director of neighborhood and economic development at East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). The organization has affordable housing units across the East Bay, including several properties for seniors. “We really prioritized seniors first—how will they get access to their basic needs and food?”

EBALDC had been building partnerships with community organizations for years and began to leverage those relationships in order to help residents. Spectrum Community Services, for example, was providing food for seniors through Meals on Wheels, and EBALDC engaged the group to deliver meals three days a week to its seniors. Other organizations like the Mercy Brown Bag program and the Alameda County Food Bank also provided groceries.

Those efforts are bearing fruit. EBALDC is delivering some kind of food—prepared, groceries, or nonperishables—to 15 of its 32 sites, a total of about 600 households per week.

“We’ve been getting food like every two weeks from Mercy Brown Bag,” says Beverly Smith, 68; she’s lived in one of EBALDC’s East Oakland properties for nine years. The food is helpful, but not always enough, she adds. “A lot of people are struggling—they’re not able to get around, and don’t have the money. People are hard hit.”

That seems to be universally true. In the Windy City, the staff of Chicago Beyond was also hearing repeatedly that food insecurity was a serious problem for residents. In response, the organization, which normally focuses on impact investing to benefit youth, called on its existing partnerships to reach individuals who might not otherwise obtain assistance.

“We started with partners we already knew”—like the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Chicago CRED, and the Resident Association of Greater Englewood—”but each of them has other organizations they were working with, too,” explains Eva Liu, the chief strategy and operations officer at Chicago Beyond. Gradually, the group has expanded its reach to about 40 nonprofit organizations throughout the city.

With $250,000 in funding every week from Mark and Kimbra Walter, who have invested heavily in Chicago Beyond, the organization has been able to provide 700,000 pounds of food to Chicagoans since early April. Composed largely of nonperishables like pasta, rice, canned goods, and peanut butter, the food boxes are designed to feed a small family for a week.

In New York City, the local government has been laboring to keep its residents fed, often working through community organizations. But Neighborhood Housing Services of Queens (NHS) isn’t one of those groups. Though it is providing food assistance, executive director Yoselin Genao-Estrella says her organization is going it alone.

Genao-Estrella emphasizes that her organization isn’t trying to take the place of local government in its efforts to feed citizens. “This is to complement it, because the need is so tremendous.”

NHS’s program is a little different from some of the others. Because it can’t feed everyone—as Genao-Estrella puts it, Queens is “the epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic—the organization is encouraging potential donors to “adopt” a family that might not otherwise qualify for government assistance. A donation of $180 can feed a family of four for two weeks.

In Genao-Estrella’s mind, it’s a slightly more respectful way of providing help than, say, asking families to line up and wait for it, something she’s seen quite a bit lately. “We said, we may not be able to save all of the families. We may have only a few families that we can adopt,” she explains. “[But] to those families, we’re going to have a dignified way of providing the food, where they don’t need to make a line. It will be delivered to their home, so for the next two weeks, that’s one less thing they can worry about.” So far, 250 families have been adopted and almost 54,000 meals have been delivered to the community.

NHS buys the groceries—culturally appropriate food for a largely Latinx population—from local supermarkets that have been suffering from a loss of customers. That was a deliberate decision to boost the local economy, says Genao-Estrella.

Contributions, currently totaling $38,000, have come from range of places, including workers from nearby LaGuardia Airport, East Elmhurst Corona Civic Association, and responses to a solicitation sent out by local Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Recipient families, meanwhile, have been referred by churches, schools, and older neighborhood residents who keep tabs on everyone in their community.

One of those referrals was Martha Elena Ramirez, 68, a longtime Queens resident. She and her husband both were infected with COVID-19, and her husband died of the disease. In the past few weeks, in order to cut costs, she has returned her car to the dealer and downsized from an apartment to a single room. “Money is very tight now. It’s a very hard time,” says Ramirez through a translator. “I’m grateful,” she says of the food assistance. “It’s very helpful.”