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August 2020

What Really Happened? The Value of a Diverse Media Diet

By | Field News

                  Still from a Facebook Live stream by Nene Pollion immediately following the shooting of 20-year-old Latrell Allen by Chicago police Sunday, August 9, Courtesy of Block Club Chicago. 

First, there was a resident shot by Chicago police in the Englewood neighborhood on a simmering hot Sunday afternoon where the scene grew so tense, dozens of officers were called to the block to try to calm tempers and control the reaction.

Then on Monday, the next morning, it was reported that dozens of people flooded the city’s Magnificent Mile overnight, burglarizing high-end luxury stores, breaking windows, overwhelming police and security guards and fleeing both in cars and vans, and on foot with clothes, shoes, bags and other merchandise.

In some early media reports, the two events were linked. It would take days before the public would get a clearer picture from media reports about what went on at the separate incidents. The man shot by police, Latrell Allen, 20, wasn’t a teenager and wasn’t killed, as was first reported. Of the 43 people arrested and charged with damaging downtown and near north property, none of them appeared to be from Englewood, reports from the court hearings later revealed.

Even now, there are many lingering questions, said Brandon Pope, a journalist and on-air personality at WCIU The Jam.

“I fell asleep Sunday night on a normal night and I woke up to local news coverage that disappointed me and national news coverage that disappointed me,” said Pope, who was compelled to write an opinion piece criticizing “parachute journalism” that sensationalized the events without nuance.

“There was important context that wasn’t mentioned in early coverage, and was missing,” he said. “Some national media came in and didn’t dive deep into why – they just told you the what: ‘Chicago violence, people injured, here’s some wild video.’ We deserve something better than that.”

A goal of Field’s Media and Storytelling portfolio is to support organizations that elevate voices from Chicago’s communities that are too often overlooked and neglected. We are especially focused on ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American) voices and ALAANA-led newsrooms offering balanced perspectives and views from residents that don’t typically get interviewed or quoted.

In the aftermath of this recent major news event, like so many, I turned to the larger and more mainstream media outlets to get an idea of what was happening, in part because those outlets are easily accessible. I scrolled my Twitter feed, watching video snippets and reading the comments of both reporters and participants on the scene to try to understand it all.

Instinctively, I also checked the smaller, community-focused media organizations to make sure what I was consuming offered multiple perspectives. It’s not the first time that I’ve found I needed to expand my sources if I really wanted to understand what was taking place.

It’s reflexive for most journalists to check multiple outlets – they want to make sure they didn’t miss anything and see how the topic was approached by their colleagues. But more and more, it has become important for all of us to begin absorbing multiple community news sources if we want to understand our city, especially the voices that don’t often make it to the mainstream.

“Every (outlet) has its role. And everybody has a mission that they are trying to cover,” the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Pratt said during a recent discussion on the evolving local media landscape hosted by the City Club of Chicago. “People should be trying to read far more than they do … It’s an unfortunate trend in society where people only want to read something that confirms something they think they already know oftentimes incorrectly.”

Morgan Elise Johnson, the co-founder of The Triibe, echoed a similar sentiment.

“If we could just educate the public on how to have a media diet and how to be critical thinkers when they are consuming media that would go a long way,” she said.

The Triibe offers a counter narrative that centers Black Chicago. And because the outlet isn’t focused on breaking news, they can take the time to produce researched, longer-form reporting, she said.

“I’m all the time thinking about ‘What does my great granddaughter need to know?’ How can we frame these narratives so that they are going to be impactful generations from now? We are often looking for that niche approach to storytelling.”

There have long been conversations on how to curate a sensible media diet. In a 24-hour media cycle and with social media constantly offering appetizers, researchers and experts have warned against getting swept up in a building tide of reporting.

Time management experts have advised us to ask ourselves: Why am I consuming this news? What is the most effective way for me to consume news? Do I want to act on this news? 

I think there are additional questions we have to pose, when examining the media we consume: Who are we listening to? Who is not being heard and whose voice do I need to seek out? 

For Peter Adams, senior vice president of the News Literacy Project, a nonprofit that teaches clients how to be smart consumers of news, having a healthy local news media diet has meant layering the sources and the digital spaces he gets news from, he said.

“One mistake I think a lot of people make is to say flat out don’t get your information from social media,” he said. “That’s a broad brush because it depends on who you are following and who you are following who you trust. Facebook is not a source, but what trained journalists post is going to be more credible than what random people are posting.”

Adams reads the larger newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, he said, and he follows the television news and listens to public radio. But he said he also turns to City Bureau, Block Club Chicago, and The Triibe to make sure he’s absorbing a grassroots, community-focused view of what’s happening.

“One thing I often say is – trustworthy information doesn’t ask you to trust it, it tells you why it should. It tells you where the information is from and anything that doesn’t, you can stay skeptical about,” he said.

Emily Garcia is a sophomore journalism student who articulates it perfectly: “Just like a healthy nutritional diet calls for a variety of different foods, a healthy media diet requires you to consume a mixed bag of media,” she wrote in the Red & Black student newspaper recently.

Besides the media organizations highlighted above, here are a few other local, grassroots outlets to consider adding to your plate, including some that offer multiple languages:

Borderless Magazine

Cicero Independiente

Lumpen Radio

The Hoodoisie

The Chicago Crusader

Injustice Watch

The Invisible Institute

The Chicago Defender

Latinext/Univison

La Raza

The Chicago Reporter

N’Digo

The American Indian Center of Chicago

The Trace

Lolly Bowean
Media & Storytelling Program Officer

How to achieve the just treatment of Blacks — and all people of color

By | Field News

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:

  • Increase long-term investments in Black organizations that connect individuals and families to resources and build power in our communities to lead substantive change.
  • Expand funding of policy and system reform that takes the long view necessary to improve conditions in Black communities beyond federal and philanthropic emergency and response efforts. We must have the patience and will to change conditions that were built over hundreds of years.
  • Target philanthropic funds to support transformation of Black communities during the response and recovery phases of these pandemics. Our communities are disproportionately impacted and must be proportionately invested in to meet the need and potential. It is not just the responsibility of Black foundation leaders and other leaders of color to address structural racism. This responsibility must also be as resolute for our white foundation, civic and public-sector leaders.
  • Build and increase capital to Black communities. Foundations can increase payout, use endowments to employ additional investment strategies, expand partnerships with community-based financial institutions and support alternative business models such as worker cooperatives, that strengthen community economic development. The recovery and redesign effort will require creativity and a renewed, enduring commitment to Black communities, the path forward to a healthier region.
  • Fund and support Latino-, Indigenous- and Asian-led organizations working to address systemic racism and inequities. Members of these communities experience oppression, understand racism and fight to dismantle it. Supporting their ability to build coalitions within and across communities of color is critical to current and future movements to eradicate anti-Black racism and all forms of racism. Make sure your portfolios are vast and deep in supporting the city and suburbs, across ethnicities.
  • Be transparent and accountable to communities. Foundations, corporations and nonprofits need to examine workplace environments to identify norms rooted in implicit bias and anti-Blackness; and change them to address the harm these practices have caused. This, in part, requires changing membership of board and staff at all levels to reflect oppressed communities. We also need to track, assess and report grantmaking and investments to Black communities and businesses. That includes identifying communities of color on whom we rely for success as our bosses, not our beneficiaries.
  • Advocate alongside affected communities for the public policies they seek. Community organizers, residents and advocates have called for solutions such as diverting funding from police departments to other community priorities or investing significant private- and public-sector dollars to create vibrant neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Foundation and civic leaders can use their influence to support community-led change.
  • Get smarter about spotting racism at work and at play. Learning how to identify and undo racism does not happen in a book or overnight. Get trained on anti-racism with competent trainers, such as those at Enrich Chicago, who can work with your board and staff to understand how racism manifests and get tools for the journey ahead.
  • Rethink metrics. Evaluation of nonprofits has long been based on comparisons to white-led nonprofit models. These models are contingent on access to high-net-worth individuals to serve on boards and provide working capital, allowing organizations to take risks and fail forward with cover.

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.

  • Promote avenues for racial healing, such as the work of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Greater Chicago and the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table, which are initiatives created by philanthropy to facilitate racial healing circles and dialogue on a full range of issues impacting the quality of life in our city.

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.

As We Grow, We Grow Collectively

By | Field News

As We Grow, We Grow Collectively

 

“What if, after all, social transformation wasn’t about waiting for a designated [male, straight, cis, nondisabled] hero to come along and rescue us? What if regular people had the tools at our disposal to work collectively toward justice?”

-Eve Ewing, in the preface to a recent interview with organizer and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba

 

As Leadership Investment Program Officer at Field Foundation, I am quite often asked to speak about, comment on, even more precariously, define leadership. I can tell you that after almost two years overseeing the Leaders for a New Chicago Award, I can talk about leadership, but I cannot define it. As Field Foundation President Angelique Power coyly tells me, I have been known to keep repeating, “defining leadership is like catching lightning in a bottle.”

This June we were thrilled to announce the second cohort of the Leaders for a New Chicago award. This unique award, created and presented in deep partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, seeks to build a more inclusive Chicago by tapping into power inside of communities with a no-strings-attached $50,000 award ($25,000 for the individual and, if eligible, $25,000 for their affiliated not-for-profit corporation). For this year’s selection committee, we wanted last year’s awardees to lead the process and so this committee was composed of eight of the Leaders from the 2019 cohort. They navigated the process of identifying the 2020 awardees and also voiced and grappled with the tensions between individual and collective leadership. In the public decision making rubric we use to guide these decisions we clearly state: Leadership is not about hierarchical positions; it’s about the impact a voice can have on Chicago.

The selection committee looked for nominations that uplifted models of shared decision making, co-executive directors who guide growth together, non-hierarchical models pushing against traditional non-profit structures, how people are leading organizations to do internally what they are committed to externally to, name a few. If there isn’t a radical community inside an organization will there be radical change happening in the work outside? If the practice doesn’t change then the work, the messaging, all of it — it doesn’t work. These models aren’t cosmetic. They are rooted in practice, in how the work is done, and how relationships are core to movement building. And they come from the work of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, feminist, queer and BIPOC practices and communities.

Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and chair of political science at the University of Chicago and Field Foundation Board Member, said in an interview with Sarah J. Jackson in 2015: “There’s some important feminist work that tells us that there are different forms of leadership that we should be paying attention to. Whether it is Belinda Robnett’s work on the civil rights movement and bridge leaders or the exceptional work that Barbara Ransby has done thinking about Ella Baker and more democratic forms of radical leadership, I think many of the young leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement recognize that the male charismatic leader, or the singular charismatic leader, is not the form of leadership that they adhere to or they going to put forth.”

In announcing these awards, our hope is that the story each cohort tells isn’t just about celebrating leadership, it is about redefining leadership in the city of Chicago. Like our 2019 group, these 11 individuals represent a broad array of Chicago residents and include a diversity of religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and expertise, and those from different geographies and income levels. Some are Executive Directors, some are co-founders, some are organizers and some, importantly, are part of collective or shared leadership models.

When we notified this year’s leaders of their recognition, we heard a common theme from so many of them: “I am one of many…I am but one of a larger group…In recognizing me you are recognizing all of us…There are so many people with me.” I heard much of the same during the weeks I spent talking to community members, colleagues and friends of the then nominees in preparation for the notification. Here are some quotes I heard that tell the story of what leadership in motion looks like:

 

She lets Black women in this field know we are ALL the leaders. 

She is the community and the community is her. 

She weaves us all together and steps back to be part of the quilt. 

She always works to decenter herself. 

He always says WE.

She doesn’t do any of this to be recognized. 

We all become leaders because of her and our strengths are pulled out of us. 

She only stands in front once we all agree.  

We trust them and in case you haven’t noticed trust in our world is hard won. 

He leads collectively.

She’ll be the first to say  “when you recognize me you recognize all of us ” because this work is done as a group. It’s messy and difficult but it’s mission aligned when we do it together.

With this award we are recognizing individuals who understand how vital it is to share power, distribute or give up resources, and see themselves in unique positions to effect change in numerous ways.

On a personal note, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know the 2019 Leaders and to now get to know the 2020 cohort. They can be and often are the people who stand firm in the path of uncertainty especially when the system fails, who whisper while everyone else is screaming, and scream when they are asked to be quiet, who use queer as a verb and civic as a question, who see themselves as one of many but who will put themselves in the front of storms to protect those behind them, who refuse to turn away from conflict, who hold up mirrors to ourselves and our institutions, who use questioning as sharp tools, who grow one step at a time and who know when to stand up from the table and walk away and when to ask for help. Most if not all of this doesn’t happen alone. They don’t operate under the mythic umbrella of individual leadership.

Over the next few weeks I will be having conversations with many of our Leaders, with our grantees and partners about collective models, sharing power, reallocating resources, and distributed leadership. I will be sharing these ongoing dialogues through our website and social media.

I won’t attempt to define leadership but one thing I have learned to be true is that good effective leadership is never about one person. I find myself going back to what Mariame Kaba said in the interview with Eve Ewing that “everything worthwhile is done with other people” and watching, even for a brief second, lightning flickering in a bottle.

Hilesh Patel
Leadership Investment Program Officer

 


 

 

August is Black Philanthropy Month, an annual observance and campaign to inform, inspire & invest in Black philanthropic leadership. Originally launched in 2011 and then scaled up to a full celebration in 2013, Black Philanthropy Month now reaches about 17 million with the goal of awareness of and investment in Black philanthropic leadership and giving.

Why does Black philanthropy matter? The upheaval of 2020 has, so far, led to an increased commitment to diversity and funding to Black organizations within philanthropic spaces, but representation still lags. A 2012 report by the Association of Black Foundation Executives found that only three percent of chief executives and only seven percent of trustees at philanthropic organizations were Black.

Despite those low numbers, the landscape in Chicago is promising. At least a handful of that three percent of chief executives nationwide lead Chicago-based organizations, including Chicago Community Trust, Grand Victoria Fund, Crossroads Fund and our own Field Foundation, where Angelique Power has been at the helm since 2016 and is the third Black president. We are proud to support Black Philanthropy Month, not just in August but also the year-round effort to raise awareness and facilitate opportunities for Black leadership and giving.

 


 

Voices from the Field

Kandace Thomas

Kandace Thomas, MPP, PhD. Executive Director, First Eight Memphis
2003 Field Fellow

“At the Field Foundation, I learned how a philanthropic organization can strategically use its dollars to work to reverse inequitable practices that have shaped our communities for generations. At Field is where I learned how to engage in a racial equity impact analysis, and how to have a relationship with a supervisor who gave me space to grow and who held me accountable. I have carried these values and practices I learned at Field in my work since.”

Photo: Jenni Kotting