I’ve written about the Silent Protest Parade previously here.
Far away from the Washington Beltway, where politicians are playing games with heath insurance coverage for millions of Americans & the media are focused on brinksmanship, a group of young activists in Chicago have been fighting for three years to establish a level 1 trauma center on the Southside. It’s been an uphill battle from the start but the young people have been persistent, patient, and pro-active. They belong to groups like Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), Students for Health Equity (SHE), and Reclaiming Inner-City Streets and Elevating Chicago (RISE Chicago).
And they’ve been fighting for their lives and those of their peers…
Wednesday was a major turning point in the trauma center campaign. A hearing was called by Rep. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) “to look into whether people are dying on the South Side from gunshot wounds because the specialized care they need is all at hospitals on the North or West sides of the city or in the south suburbs.” Veronica Morris-Moore, a key leader of Fearless Leading By the Youth (FLY), summed up her feelings after the hearing in a Facebook post [thanks to Veronica for giving me permission to share her words]:
“Hearing meeting downtown at the State building was a step in the right direction for the Trauma Center Campaign. It felt good to be heard in that type of setting & also hear Senators, State Representatives, doctors, & other community members say a lot of things the youth have been saying, for years, about the lack of Trauma Care on the south side of Chicago & what needs to be done about it.”
the protest at the University of Chicago Hospital was HELLA deee oooo peee eeee. A lot of committed youth leaders & allies used collective effort & selfless committment & to show that no matter what our communities endure nothing can diminish the fight in us. & seeing all those people holding signs demanding trauma care showed me that we are building that fight in the right direction. & the more they try to ignore us the louder we will be.
Today felt like progress & at the very very end of the day thats ALL we want.
I have nothing left to say except to express my profound gratitude and admiration for the young people and their comrades who continue this life and death struggle. Below are some photographs taken by the terrific Sarah Jane Rhee of the coffin protest.
“Thousands of Youth: One Voice”
On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, youth leaders from Youth Service Project’s summer Arts and Leadership program invite you to a for-youth-by-youth summit focused on fighting for education as a basic human right. Youth will connect the structural violence of educational injustice with on the ground violence prevention efforts on the streets of Chicago.
Youth will lead popular education workshops and panel discussions about youth-led community organizing, restorative justice, community-led resistance to police brutality, and arts as resistance.
There will be a community block party with hip hop and spoken word performances, live graffiti and mural art, breakdancing, and a bar-b-que feast.
Saturday, August 24th
w/workshops & roundtables
Community Block Party
w/hip hop, spoken word, graffiti, & breakdancing
McCormick YMCA – 1834 N Lawndale
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to register for free childcare, please complete the following information.
For over a decade, I have been privileged to be in community with youth and adult members of a unique and transformative organization called The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP). I served as a board member, adviser (when called upon), supporter, cheerleader, booster, funder, and just an unabashed fan.
Yesterday evening, I gathered with dozens of YWEP members and supporters to celebrate the organization’s accomplishments and contributions. We were also together to mark an end to YWEP as an organization. The work of YWEP will obviously live on in new and different ways but the organization will soon officially close its doors. There are myriad reasons for YWEP’s decision to end its operations. Someday in the future, I’ll have some comments about these.
I was interviewed yesterday and asked to reflect on the organization’s history and work. It gave me a chance to discuss the ways that I’ve been influenced by YWEP as a youth worker and person. Quite simply, YWEP taught me about love, humanity, and struggle.
The young people who joined YWEP over the years are among the most marginalized youth in Chicago. There are black & brown girls (for the most part), trans* youth, poor kids, youth who trade sex for money and survival needs, people in the street economy, and substance using & sometimes abusing teenagers. And here’s the thing: at YWEP none of these identities or behaviors are defining. YWEP youth are treated simply as HUMAN and they are offered unconditional love and support.
They are considered leaders and experts in their own lives. I saw first hand how previously insecure young people slowly gained confidence and voice. I marveled at the metamorphosis of youth (who were previously seen as talentless) into brilliant artists (poets, visual artists, musicians). No one is disposable at YWEP. Every single one of us is “priceless.”
It is primarily through YWEP’s work that I learned the importance of centering healing in youth organizing. I learned from watching them how to put Audre Lorde’s words (not just the pithily cited ones) into PRACTICE.
YWEP is the embodiment of radical love and self-determination. Those two things made the organization a threat and a constant target of those who cannot abide people of color and the marginalized loving ourselves and each other, especially in public. I remember the consistent death threats and the persistent danger in doing the work. Yet those who moved the work forward have kept their integrity, compassion, and most importantly humor throughout.
Years ago, I read an essay by June Jordan titled “Where is the love?” It was transformative for me.
And it is here — in the extreme coincidence of my status as someone twice stigmatized, my status as someone twice kin to the despised majority — it is here, in this extremity, that I stand in a struggle against demoralization and suicide and toward self-love and self-determination. And it is here, in this extremity, that as a Black feminist I ask myself and anyone who would call me sister, Where is the love?
And it seems to me that the strength that should come from Black feminism means that I can, without fear, love and respect all men who are willing and able, without fear, to love and respect me… this means that as a Black feminist I cannot be expected to respect what somebody else calls self-love if that concept of self-love requires my self-destruction.
I can say that the love for YWEP was manifest at last night’s celebration and so too was YWEP’s love for all of us. It IS truly radical as oppressed people to love ourselves in spite of all of the ways that this is precluded. YWEP is a space where our humanity was consistently affirmed and where we were reminded of where love resides (in ourselves and between each other). It made it possible for so many of us to stay in the struggle. I am forever grateful.
Today is the last day to make a donation to support YWEP as it moves to close its doors. I hope that you’ll consider making a contribution as a way to say thank you to the amazing people who have been involved in YWEP’s work over all of these years.
Youth activists from Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.) and their supporters held a rally and press conference this morning to demand that funds be re-directed from incarceration to restorative justice efforts and other positive youth interventions. The rally took place at the Cook County Offices downtown to coincide with the monthly board meeting. The rally marked the 6th year anniversary of FLY and the Audy Home Campaign.
Some of the youth dressed as prisoners to make the point that the $40 million spent by Cook County to jail youth at a cost of over $500 a day would be better & more effectively spent at the community level providing needed resources.
“Cook County Board members are failing our youth, incarcerating youth isn’t working, and it is wasting money,” said youth activist and former detainee of the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center Auntraney Carter. “We are outraged that that as our friends die the county’s only response is to increase spending on juvenile detention.” (Source)
There are a lot of things that I don’t know… For example, I don’t know anything about the human genome project. I don’t know how to mountain climb. I have no idea who the current President of Paraguay is.
I do know at least one thing for sure. I know that subjecting children who we cage to rape behind bars is unconscionable. If only one child is sexually victimized in our prisons, then that is too many. I also know that sexual violence is endemic to prison. This means that no level of “reform” will eradicate it. If we want to end the rape of incarcerated children, we must close youth jails and prisons. That’s it.
Today, I stood with dozens of my fellow Chicagoans to say that we adamantly oppose the judicial rape of our children. Furthermore, we insisted that youth jails & prisons be shut down.
From Chicago’s summers of gun violence to Trayvon Martin there has been a lot of talk about violence. This forum led by, organized by and for young people will be a space for us to engage in a larger discussion about structural violence. Closing 49 schools and locking up over 5000 young people of color in a year is violent. We want to think differently about violence and justice by collectively looking at the roots of the problems.
This is a space for YOUNG PEOPLE (high school and college age) to share, learn, and build. Please spread the word to interested youth and invite them to attend.
Thursday August 1
Jane Addams Hull House Museum
800 S. Halsted St
Facebook event is here.
I’ve written a few times about the youth-led Audy Home Campaign on this blog. The Campaign is organizing a rally on July 31st.
Below is the annoucement:
Youth violence continues because of the lack of positive investments in our youth.
JOIN US TO RALLY TO STOP THE VIOLENCE &
DEMAND YOUTH INVESTMENT
Wed. July 31
10am at 118 N. Clark Street
Catch the Bus at 9:00am at 602 E 61st ST
The Detention Center Spends over $40M each year locking up youth, we are holding a rally to demand that money be reinvested in restorative justice programs in the neighborhoods where youth are getting locked up.
We need your voice! Join us!
This rally will take place on FLY and the Audy Home Campaign’s 6th Year Anniversary.
A lot is happening, all of the time, here in Chicago that involves young people organizing to save their own lives…
I’ve been reflecting on my own role in ethically supporting these efforts. I spent the day yesterday with over 100 (mostly) young people of color for a discussion about racism, their lived experiences, and Trayvon Martin.
The forum was not planned by young people. After the Trayvon Martin verdict, I wanted to offer a specific space where young people could gather and share their thoughts with one another. It is interesting to note that I had to turn several adults away from attending as “observers.” This is a strange pathology where grown people are unwilling to allow young people to have spaces of their own. The very idea of being an “observer” at a youth event brings to mind the concept of “native informants” used in ethnography. I bristle at this and I refused to allow adults who weren’t bringing groups of young people to attend the event. This was the right move.
I was reminded yesterday about the value of being in community with one another during trying times. The mood in the space felt almost celebratory even though the topics being discussed were harrowing and difficult. As I was packing up at the end of the event, a young woman approached me to say that she had “really enjoyed” herself. This matters because when discussions about important social issues can be had in edifying ways then they are more likely to feel relevant. The majority of the young people who attended the event are already affiliated with local organizations. Therefore I feel confident that the young people will be able to continue the conversations that were begun yesterday. It did feel as though some healing was occurring in the room just by virtue of being together.
In the same week that my comrades and I organized the Trayvon Martin youth forum, young people from the Chicago Student Union (formerly Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools) were organizing an action to protest the draconian Chicago Public School budget cuts that are coming on the heels of the closing of 49 schools.
My colleague and ally, Brian Galaviz, posted some words on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. They are below. He also shared a letter written by some students at the school where he works. I asked for permission to re-publish that letter. The students and their teacher granted my request and I hope that you will take the time to read and think about what they have to say about how the media’s coverage of violence impacts their lives.
Reflecting on being part of healing after Chicago lost another warrior, the word that comes to mind is Grace. It is my favorite Christian word, though I am not. Watching staff and students deal with pain in a way to flip violence. Students using his life and transformative process to continue their trajectory for self/community-realization.
Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy – IDPL is a beautiful organism, and though we lost an Angel, we fight on in his spirit and light.
One way students responded to their friend being murdered was by calling out the Tribune for dehumanizing both our lost loved one and the young man accused of the murder. I am still struggling with sending love to the person who kills and the victim. But I am trying in struggle with students and staff. This is what they wrote: