Any Budget is a Moral Statement of Priorities

By | Field News

Photo courtesy of Richard Wallace, Equity and Transformation (EAT)

 

When I stepped into this role nearly two years ago, I felt the weight of the Justice portfolio on my shoulders. I don’t take the word justice lightly. And the organizers in my portfolio rightfully reminded me of this. One thing I have carried with me before this work and in this work is that we cannot talk about justice without talking about injustice.

I remember one of my first site visits with grantee-partner Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberty, Tanya Watkins, SOUL’s executive director, asked me to close my eyes and imagine what safety looks and feels like. I shared my first thoughts of family, school, shelter, health. Tanya told me to pay close attention to the things I mentioned and the things I did not.  Police being one of those unmentioned. This is a common exercise many organizing groups lead to think about what makes communities feel safe and what systems do not.

The police brutality we have witnessed against African Americans in the past months and years are not isolated incidents. Amidst a global pandemic, people are taking to the streets to demand justice, accountability and sweeping change. Activists have mobilized in Chicago demanding that the City defund the Chicago Police Department, which represents 40 percent of the City’s operating budget. According to the national and local Movement for Black Lives, “defunding the police is a demand to cut funding and resources from police departments and other law enforcement and invest in things that make our communities safer.”

Calls to defund the police ask us to pay attention to funding priorities where $1.8 billion is budgeted for the police department compared to the divestment from social services such as the mental health clinic closures in 2012 on the South Side and Chicago Public School closures on the South and West Sides. “With a police budget of $1.8 billion, how could we use dollars that could actually produce what would be safe for Chicago?” asked Richard Wallace, executive director with Equity and Transformation, an organization founded for and by post incarcerated and marginalized Black people in Chicago that  organizes with individuals that operate outside of the formal economy.

These demands, along with youth organizing to end the contract between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department, mobilizing around calls for decarceration at Cook County Jail, and eliminating the Gang Database, are wrapped up in a larger justice campaign that organizations locally have been building for many, many years. As the City begins its budget process this summer, we are anticipating a $700M budget shortfall for 2020.

Any budget is a moral statement of priorities. It tells us what areas, issues, things, or people are most important, and which are least important.

The complementary side of the campaign is that once defunded, the City could shift those resources into communities. “It’s not just defund. It’s defund and WHAT” Richard Wallace says. Research published by Funders for Justice, a program of Neighborhood Funders Group, states that a defund/invest campaign is a key intervention in addressing not just the symptoms that need to be faced but the root causes of them.

The defund movement demands that Black, Indigenous and communities of color receive the same budget priorities that White and higher-income communities already have. One goal of the Field Foundation’s Justice portfolio is to support organizations examining the root causes of systemic issues and organizing towards the reimagining of a Chicago where Black, Indigenous, and communities of color can thrive. In many ways, this transformation is already happening. We are seeing organizations on the frontlines of protests, organizing direct actions while also being a resource amidst the pandemic for the communities they serve through restorative and healing models and community-based mutual aid networks.

Organizers are asking funders questions about where investments in police reform have gotten us. At Field we often reflect on how racial equity is both a process and an outcome. Racial equity is about shifting power and resources. It involves dismantling and rebuilding systems. Shifting power and resources means investing in and centering community organizers, movement building, and youth organizers to shape alternatives to existing policies that are meant to govern, protect, and guide us toward a city where Black Chicagoans and communities of color are no longer victims  of institutional violence and systemic racism.

It is equally important to keep listening after the defund conversation. Communities have been telling us what they need. And if we are serious about racial equity as a process, we must center those with lived experience and are directly impacted by these systems to guide us toward reinvestment as a “re-healing” and restoration led by communities. Both locally and nationally, organizers are positioning defunding the police as a strategy that goes beyond dollars and cents — it is not just about decreasing police budgets, it is about reducing the power, scope, and size of policing and punishment. To defund the police means re-funding communities and moving dollars over so that we are investing in the growth of communities.

In solidarity and justice,
Angélica

Angélica Chavez
Program Officer, Justice

Announcing Our 2020 Cohort: Leaders for a New Chicago

By | Field News

CONTACT INFORMATION:
LAURIE R. GLENN
773.704.7246
lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com

NEWS RELEASE
FIELD & MACARTHUR FOUNDATIONS ANNOUNCE
2020 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO
11 Local Leaders awarded for groundbreaking work

CHICAGO – The Field Foundation, in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced the 2020 Leaders for a New Chicago cohort. The leadership awards are part of Field’s ongoing investment in racial justice visionaries and organizations addressing systemic issues in Chicago’s divested communities. The MacArthur Foundation committed $2.1 million to support the awards to recognize and support diverse leaders from communities affected by Chicago’s history of structural racism, discrimination, and disinvestment.

The 11 leaders in three categories — Media & Storytelling, Justice, and Art — reach across boundaries to find new ways, new stories, and new ideas that propel Chicago toward its full potential, said Angelique Power, president of the Field Foundation of Chicago.

“This award recognizes power. These visionaries are changing the game across the city and we need them now more than ever,” Power said. “Each leader will receive a $25,000 cash award in recognition of past accomplishments, and their affiliated organizations will each receive an additional $25,000 general operating grant.”

“We are committed to reflecting, serving, and amplifying the voices of leaders from across Chicago, with an emphasis on communities that are historically underrepresented in civic discourse,” said MacArthur President John Palfrey. “When the Leaders for a New Chicago are included in city- or sector-wide discussions, their community-based expertise and experience can help inform the decisions that shape our city.”

2020 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO:

ART

Dorothy Burge, Co-founder and Activist, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials
One of the strongest voices in Chicago for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture, Burge amplifies the voices of survivors and of activists in the movement. Burge and others designed a curriculum for Chicago Public Schools to expose students to the history of and battle against police violence and successfully advocated for the grandchildren of torture survivors to be recipients of free tuition at Chicago community colleges.

Hoda Katebi, Founder & Organizer, Blue Tin Production Co-op
Katebi created a fashion house that brings together those who have historically been most marginalized in this industry — working-class women of color — to collectively profit from the work they create. As an activist and community organizer and part of campaigns to end surveillance programs and police militarization, Katebi brings an arts-based approach to systems change.

Ryan Keesling, Executive Director, Free Write Arts & Literacy
Keesling has worked in locked facilities such as the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and in the community with criminalized youth and young adults for two decades. Keesling has developed highly effective, healing-centered methodologies for engaging incarcerated youth in arts and literacy programming. He cultivates the leadership of criminalized youth and amplifies their stories through publishing, exhibition and multidisciplinary art practices.

Faheem Majeed, Co-Director, The Floating Museum
Majeed flips the idea of museums on its head, moving a museum outdoors, on the Chicago River, floating through the city. Through a commitment to collective leadership, Majeed has developed a long history within the South Side community, the citywide arts community and of working in community-based art organizations.

Elijah McKinnon, Co-founder and Director of Development, Reunion Chicago
McKinnon is an award-winning strategist, creative director, entrepreneur, artist and advocate for queer history, queer artmaking, and queer practices in Chicago. McKinnon co-creates an art gallery, event space, and project incubator located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood for marginalized communities and narratives.

Jackie Taylor, Founder & CEO, Black Ensemble Theater
Taylor founded, directed, and for 45 years has led the only African American theater in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse Uptown community on Chicago’s North Side. Taylor makes racial equity primary in her mission and is committed to Chicago as a cultural hub for theater and for the arts in general.

JUSTICE

Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, Executive Director, Logan Square Neighborhood Assoc.
Alejandre developed a strong racial justice framework that centers Latinx youth from the community in actions, policy conversations, and strategy meetings. Alejandre has a commitment to long-term problem solving in Logan Square through community-driven solutions and coalition building at the local, city, state and national levels.

Asiaha Butler, Executive Director, Resident Association of Greater Englewood
Butler is a key community strategist and one of the most recognized and powerful voices in the Englewood community. She uses education, youth development, economic development, and civic empowerment to uplift, inspire, and change perceptions of the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.

Sharlyn Grace, Executive Director, Chicago Community Bond Fund
Sharlyn Grace’s work provides direct resources and organizing efforts to end people being jailed simply because they are poor. The use of money bonds has decreased by over 50 percent thanks to pressure from litigation and community organizing led by CCBF and her leadership. Through Grace’s coalition building efforts, eliminating money bond is now a statewide issue. She is a lifelong organizer who uses her legal skills, credentials, and access in support of grassroots movements for social change.

MEDIA & STORYTELLING

Stephanie Manriquez, Executive Producer & Educator, National Museum of Mexican Art
A trusted voice in the Chicago radio community, Manriquez trains and mentors her community members in their pursuit of access to the equipment, networks, and ecosystems that allow their voices to be shared. Manriquez is the force behind a fast-growing ecology of young Latinx radio talent in Chicago.

Tiffany Walden, Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief, The TRiiBE
As co-founder and editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE, Tiffany Walden has impressively built a news organization that has become a vital piece of Chicago’s media landscape and a voice for black Chicago. As a reporter, editor, media visionary, and fierce advocate for systemic change, Walden shifts the sensational coverage black communities receive and is determined to bring voices out of neighborhoods.

“These leaders are changing the city and will be key in leading it to new places post-COVID, Power said. “Watch them. Listen to them. They are incredible visionaries we are honored to support. They work in various ways, but they all share a love of Chicago.”

About the Field Foundation
Founded in 1940 by Marshall Field III, the Field Foundation is a private, independent foundation that has been dedicated to the promise of Chicago for more than 80 years. The Field Foundation aims its grantmaking toward the goal of Community Empowerment through Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. With racial equity at the center of its giving, it directs dollars to critical organizations working to address systemic issues in Chicago and aims to directly benefit some of our city’s most divested communities. Learn more at www.fieldfoundation.org.

About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. MacArthur supports Chicago nonprofits, leaders and communities by strengthening organizations, contributing to civic partnerships, investing in vital communities, advancing influential and diverse leaders and cultivating creative expression and art. Learn more at www.macfound.org/chicago
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Ask Questions & Be Crititcal

By | Field News

Courtesy of Tatiana Cortes

 

Flashback to October 2019: the days were full of sunshine reflecting my excitement for my first week at the Field Foundation. Upon arrival, I received a binder full of resources on the history of the Field Foundation and its grant-making process, among other resources. In the binder, I also found a letter from a past fellow. They shared that this would be a transformative year at the Field Foundation and urged me to take stock of my time. It was my intention then, as it is now, to add to the archives of past fellows and write a letter. So as an ode, farewell, and thanks, I write this letter to future fellows, sharing my lessons.

Lesson #1: Know your history.  I came into the Field Foundation at a transitional time. We were three years into a new model that centers racial equity and invests in Community Empowerment through all our program areas.  We were also preparing for our big move into the FBRK Impact House, our soon-to-be interactive campus, with other organizations striving for equity in Chicago. We at the Field Foundation come from a long lineage and tradition of striving for equity in Chicago, with 80 years of grant-giving and impact. I urge you to learn both the history of the Field Foundation and the history of this city.

Lesson #2: Don’t forget to look at email addresses!  In my second week I was fooled into online fraud by someone pretending to be a staff member. The details of the story are not so important. The important part is how staff showed up and supported me; the care with which folks responded was so incredibly telling of the compassionate, transparent, and equitable culture of the Field Foundation. I knew early on that I was not only going to be supported professionally, but also personally.

Lesson #3: Ask questions & be critical. You will be encouraged to ask questions. Ask them! About yourself, about the art and science of philanthropy, and about the sometimes-weird dance of philanthropy.  Ask how we as a foundation are living out our values and what we need to change in our processes to better serve our grantees. As you ask yourself these questions, you will also find others who are eager, excited, and ready to ask the hard questions.

Lesson #4: Jump in. Get your feet wet! In addition to doing work around grant processes, program officers and staff members are heavily involved in various ways all over this city. Responding to invitations, starting their own projects, supporting important initiatives and, most importantly, people. I  had the opportunity to take part in the Investment Committee meetings to learn what it looks like to use our endowment to invest for equity in our community.

Lesson #5: Know your superpowers!  In the fall of your fellowship you will be trained on all the ins and outs of site visit preparations and you will have the opportunity to shadow and co-conduct site visits alongside program officers. Know your own superpowers and the superpowers of your team members. I learned that my superpowers are much like Wonder Woman: compassionate, outgoing, and ready for battle. As for the team, meet The Mighty Field Foundation:

Tempestt – Buzz Lightyear: To Infinity and Beyond

Angelica – Spiderwoman: My Spidey Senses are Tingling (seeing the web/interconnection of systems)

Lolly – Black Panther: The Untold Story

Hilesh – The Flash: Speedy and Engaged

Tommie – Clark Kent/Superman: Ordinarily Super

Angelique – Captain Marvel: Action and Hope

Mark – Tony Stark/Iron Man: Inspiringly Committed

Michelle – Mrs. Incredible: Stretching the Limits

They are my heroes. Ask them why!

Lesson #6: Be prepared & stay informed. Be prepared to sit in many conversations and in many rooms: ones you never thought you’d be in. You will see things on a macro view of this city, and you will see how philanthropy plays a role in shaping and supporting lowercase policy. Stay plugged in to remain prepared, engaged, and informed.

Lesson #7: Be moved.  Without a doubt, you will be moved. You will be moved by the program officers and staff, by our grantees who are experts of their communities, by the various stakeholders in this city and their commitment to meeting the needs of Chicago; all of whom are showing up when and where it matters most. You will be moved by New Leaders of Chicago recipients who are various ages, races, and program areas, all committed to working hard in Chicago without seeking recognition. You will be moved to uncover all the innovative and creative ways in which people are responding to the needs of their communities. And you will grow from it.

Lesson #8: It’s about our community. You will hear time and again that what matters most is the groundwork. Our role is to keep our ears on the ground, build relationships, show up, and make sure that the messages of those in the field are passed on and shared to various channels. It is about using the power and influence of philanthropy to elevate the voices on the ground and urging other entities to make space for those who are historically kept out of conversations that most impact them

Lesson #9: Pay it forward.  That fellow from years ago, whose letter I read when I first started, was right: this really has been a transformative experience.  I’ve learned some great lessons and gained so many new skills. Now it is my honor and responsibility to pay it forward and build on this communal learning, to continue the lineage of striving for equity.

A Paradigm Shift in the Newsroom

By | Field News

Courtesy of Dawn Rhodes

 

When Field Foundation grantee, Block Club Chicago, announced that they recently hired a former Chicago Tribune reporter as a senior editor, it was celebrated, in part, because Dawn Rhodes brings a breadth of experience and because the news organization is expanding during a time when most newsrooms are shrinking their staffs.

But, while the addition of Rhodes brings a dynamic writer, reporter, and meticulously attentive line editor and self-starter to the organization, the move also lands the digital news site its first, full-time African American editor with decision making power. That means the story assignments, their placement on the website and sourcing will be vetted by a voice that reflects a community too often shut out of mainstream media.

One goal of the Field Foundation’s Media & Storytelling program is to amplify the voices and impact of African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) journalists, media makers, and storytellers in the local media landscape. The addition of Rhodes to the staff, with the help of a grant aimed at editorial diversity growth, fits with our mission.

“We are truly emphasizing ALAANA within our newsroom, not only with our reporters but among our leadership as well,” said Maple Walker Lloyd,  Block Club Chicago’s director of development and community engagement, in an email. She is also African American. “We’re really excited about us being on an incline rather than a decline. We’re looking forward.”

Rhodes’ hiring comes at a time when there are a number of ALAANA voices being elevated at some major news organizations.  At the same time, too many mainstream newsrooms are struggling with diversity and inclusivity, especially in leadership roles.

In 1968, in response to numerous race riots that occurred across the country, the Kerner Commission published a report that concluded that one reason there was racial discord at the time was because of racist stereotypes pushed in the media. That report accused news outlets of imbalanced reporting and of ignoring issues that were important to the black community.

The only way news coverage would actually change is if newsrooms changed. And not only did newsrooms need ALAANA reporters, but they also needed decision-makers that reflect diverse perspectives, the Kerner Commission report concluded.

“… The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and white perspective. That is no longer good enough. The painful process of readjustment that is required of the American news media must begin now,” the report said.

Still, some 50 years after that report was published, a number of news industry watchdog organizations found that its interrogation of the media still rang true. 

And while there has been some progress on diversity since the 1960s, there hasn’t been enough, recent statistics show.

In 2019, a survey of news organizations by the News Leaders Association found that only about 18.8 percent of people of color made up management at both print/digital and online publications.

Ideally, news organizations would make diversity and inclusion among management a priority on their own. But one way to ensure it is by making it a priority in philanthropic giving.

“The [push] in getting more women and women of color into news organizations’ management tier has made some progress, but it has been slow and needs to be improved upon,” said Teri Hayt, executive director of the News Leaders Association. “We believe that a diverse news staff will be a staff that connects with their community. Building back trust with our communities requires us to tell the stories of those communities, and it’s hard to do that when a news operation staff doesn’t reflect that community.”

Dawn Rhodes worked for a decade at the Chicago Tribune, one of the largest print publications in the Midwest. During her tenure, she covered general news assignments, wrote about west suburban municipal government and community issues. She also covered the state’s public and private universities and education policy.

While she thrived as a reporter, Rhodes said moving into editing felt like a natural progression. At the Tribune, she was tapped to work as a weekend editor and juggled both reporting stories and editing at the same time.

“I was at a stage where editing was more pleasurable for me,” she said. “I knew for a while that it was the next step. I didn’t see myself moving into another reporting role.”

Rhodes said she found herself informally mentoring younger reporters, helping them shape their writing voices and she wanted to have a stronger impact on their work.

Yet, there was no defined pathway to move from the daily grind of covering an important topic beat to management. To try to prepare herself for a bigger role in the newsroom, Rhodes attended leadership workshops sponsored by the Poynter Institute and what was once known as the American Society of News Editors. Still, she found it challenging to get a seat at the table where the actual editorial decisions were being mapped out, she said.

That changed when she was hired in April at Block Club Chicago.

“There just aren’t enough women of color, or people of color, who get to have an influence over the news coverage decisions,” Rhodes said. “It feels good to have a role that involves being a source of emotional support and advice, but I also get to directly influence the work that young people do. I can shape how they approach the stories, how they conceptualize the stories, how they write them, who they interview.

“I can finally say, as a woman of color, I am an editor now.”

Having Rhodes in a senior position also signals to the reporters and other ALAANA staffers that there is room for them to grow, said Maudlyne Ihejirika,  president of the National Association of Black Journalists Chicago Chapter. It gives them a colleague to talk to about sensitive conversations about race, to discuss what they encounter while doing their jobs and someone to confide in who has been on their same journey.

“While anyone can cover a story, the story must be identified and assigned,” Ihejirika said. “When there is no one in management with any nuanced perspective on the issues afflicting communities of color … there are stories that may never get told. And if they do get told, they may never be told in a way that unveils and reaches those communities to affect change.”

Rhodes’ position is funded, in part, by a Media & Storytelling grant that was awarded in January.

 

Lolly Bowean
Program Officer, Media & Storytelling

 

 

***

About Media & Storytelling

Lolly Bowean is the Media & Storytelling Program Officer. The goals of the Field Foundation’s Media & Storytelling program, a partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Democracy Fund, are to create more just and inclusive narratives about Chicago that foster policy change; amplify the voices and impact of African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American journalists, media makers and storytellers in the local media landscape; and support more reporting and storytelling by traditional and alternative journalism platforms about the root causes of the city’s inequities. Learn more about our program here.

 

A letter from Field Foundation Board President Gloria Castillo

By | Field News

“In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What have we failed to hear, America?  Why do we choose to look away?  Senior corporate leaders, are you sitting there, silent, expressing confusion and sorrow even as you send checks to politicians who consistently aid the wealthy? Are you wringing your hands and examining bias, talking about inclusion but voting for division?  The inconsistency is feeding the problem.  No, not all leaders are inconsistent. There are many who lead with their values.  Yet, we cannot possibly be here, watching a city burn (again) without the cover and support, or at least disinterest, of the wealthy and powerful.

America chokes on a deep-seated and deeply denied culture of human hierarchy; never has it been on greater display than in 2020.  Today, we are rightly focused on the senseless murder of George Floyd.  But, he is not alone.  We have watched black citizens killed on camera, immigrants languish in cages with no cameras to record their demise, and Native Americans suffer the highest per capita COVID 19 infection rates. Blacks and Latino workers concentrated in front line service positions find themselves disproportionately suffering and dying from COVID-19, bearing the burden of our demands to “reopen America” so we can be served. We can’t wait to have our food produced, meat processed, meals made, cocktails served, hair cut, and nails manicured largely by those who are deemed dispensable.  We may not say they are dispensable, yet we force them to make the Sophie’s choice between personal health and safety or putting food on their tables.

This nation was founded on a principle that the enslaved  and indentured servants were less than fully human.  We have invited people from Mexico and other Latin American countries to labor in our fields and factories and then send them back, time and again over our history, because they are seen only as instruments of labor, not men and women.  We have made progress, but this foundation of 400 years of inequality continues to distort our thinking, our public policies and our politics.

In absence of a national conversation to focus on reform and remedy, we make our choices about those who lead our nation.  That is the critical question we face.  Can you support a leader whose most considered response to unarmed protesters in Minneapolis is reminiscent of the civil rights opponents of the 60’s? Today, calling protesters “thugs”, the Commander in Chief threatened to deploy the military against American citizens, admonishing “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”  Where was his voice when white protesters in Michigan, armed with automatic weapons, demanded with impunity that the governor open businesses?

Today, the President invited violence against American citizens who demand to he heard. I realize his intent is, in part, to mobilize the minority of Americans who will be emboldened by these words, to cloak the dissemblance of the Department of Justice, to distract us from his incompetent handling of the coronavirus that has led to this precipitous recession and unemployment rates unseen since the Great Depression.  I am not endorsing looting, and I reject mob rule as a governance model. But, we can remain vigilant against violence while honoring the need to show that “Black Lives Matter.”

In November, as CEO of Chicago United, I called upon business leaders to stop supporting anyone who speaks in a manner that would be unacceptable in the halls of their organizations.  The time has come for consistency between the desire for a diverse and inclusive workplace and personal actions. If a senior leader in your business authorized deadly force by any manager who witnessed damage to company property, what would you do?  What should you do?  You have the answer.  Your employees are watching.  Future investors are watching. Our communities of color are watching. The world is watching.

Artists as Longtime First Responders

By | Field News

UrbanTheater Company

 

When Field Fellow Tatiana Cortes and I met with Field Foundation grantee-partner UrbanTheater Company in early March, we spent only a short time talking about theater. As we stood in the middle of its empty storefront space in the heart of Humboldt Park, surrounded by remnants from its last production, directors Ivan Vega and Miranda Gonzalez shared recent successes like the world premiere of Back in the Day, an homage to Chicago House music. Vega and Gonzalez spoke about the transformative experience of coming to the end of a grant that was paired with one year of expert consulting through the Arts Work Fund to strengthen its operations. They shared details about the Quinceañera fundraiser they were organizing to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary.

But also, without prompting, the conversation often lingered on the theater-adjacent work they were doing. They spoke about the way their lobby turns into a sliding-scale mental health facility in the months between productions, helping neighborhood mental health professionals build their practices without office overhead while remaining financially accessible. They talked about how their space is often donated to community members and officials for meetings and gatherings. They pointed out the voter ballot box tucked in the corner because they were serving as a polling site.

Ellie Lee / Circles and Ciphers

Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Chicago, community-based arts organizations like UrbanTheater Company were already familiar with what it looked like to expand their work to respond to urgent needs. They have been responding to crises for quite some time. Addressing these needs while being cultural anchors was their pre-pandemic agenda, and although it’s not easy under current circumstances, they are pulling from those experiences and tools as this crisis unfolds and will continue to do so as Chicago’s communities continue to weather the storm.

They’re also demonstrating how art isn’t just essential to how recovery happens and how we collectively heal, but is essential to how communities survive today, two months, and two years from now.

Brave Space Alliance

Many artists, arts organizations, collectives, and artist-run businesses do expansive work that spills into and pulls from so many other sectors and issue areas. We are fortunate to live in a city with a cultural sector that knows how multifaceted our cultural institutions are, but there is still a lot of work within and outside of the sector that must be done to have this hybridized way of working understood more widely. As we settle into the relief and recovery period of the pandemic, the call for an expanded view that has community and racial equity at its core has hit a fever pitch. Many are searching for a path forward that interrogates, deconstructs, and rethinks the systems and policies within and surrounding the cultural sector and the common causes that impact everyone, including cultural workers. What the pandemic and relief efforts have made clear is that artists and cultural workers are very much in need of basic relief of all kinds in order to support their families, health, creative practices, businesses, community spaces, organizations, and staff.

Candice Washington / Real Men Charities Inc.

At the same time, cultural workers aren’t just in need of relief, they are also powerful providers of relief. They are creating mutual aid support systems, artist-to-artist and artist-centered emergency grants, relief funds for cultural producers, and artist stimulus packages. Cultural workers are establishing youth-elder check-in networks, art-infused peace circles, and mental health support networks for black communities. They have launched no-contact food distribution networks, food pantries for black and brown transgender South Siders, food and PPE distribution hubs, and senior safety kits in some of the hardest-hit areas of Chicago. Artists are mobilizing around calls for decarceration at Cook County Jail and advocating for the safety of temp workers who are working in risky environments. They are making shifts in their fashion production work and employing refugees, immigrants, and working-class women to mass-produce PPE.

There’s a unique kind of relief that only artists can provide that arguably everyone in Chicago and the country have been benefiting from. It’s a relief that has been key to helping us get through each day: the albums, films, web series, books, recipes, poems, and musician battles via Instagram that have provided a soundtrack to this quarantine experience. All of these things are brought to you by artists, the arts, and culture—whether or not we define it or identify it as such.

Echoing the recent message of the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund (AIRF), take a moment to imagine your life without art—during a pandemic or otherwise. With that in mind, remember that artists and cultural workers are standing alongside all of us who are hurting and working to find and provide relief and healing. Artists and the venues, museums, libraries, and cultural hubs that care for and present their work are essential to our city’s infrastructure and are part of the DNA of what makes Chicago, and our entire state, great. Our artists and cultural institutions absolutely must be a part of whatever future is ahead of us.

Whether you’re donating to the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund while spending time with Illinois artists, showing support for Chicago’s theater community, dreaming up more equitable visions for the cultural sector’s future, or simply making culture part of your daily routine, know this: an investment in the arts is an investment in your own well-being and that of everyone around you. Without the arts, we lose the glue that ultimately holds us all together and paves the path to healing.

 

Explore the COVID-19 responses and projects of the Art portfolio below.

Tempestt Hazel
Program Officer, Art

What Are Chicago Leaders Facing?

By | Field News

Organizer Monica Cosby taking part in a Solidarity Caravan Tuesday, April 7, 2020, advocating for #MassReleaseNow of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail, as well as state and federal facilities. // Photo by Sarah-Ji.

 

As the Leadership Investment Program Officer at the Field Foundation, I am dedicated to working with Chicago’s aspiring and recognized leaders and their organizations, with one of my main roles managing 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). It is an honor to award and work in partnership with incredible leaders from art, justice, and media and storytelling areas across the city of Chicago.

In 2019, we were extremely proud to announce 14 Leaders as our inaugural awardees. Collectively these 14 individuals represent Chicago, from every corner of the city, many South and West Side communities, and each of the Foundation’s four program areas. You can read more about them here.

This starts as an award but quickly becomes a community. After the money arrives, the power of the cohort materializes organically. The awardees determine what is needed and we as a foundation work to make it happen. They lead, they design, we try to keep up. The main metric of success of this program is asking the question “Have we as a foundation built trust?”  Trust to be told the truth of how they spent the no-strings-attached award. They do not at all have to let us know, but if we do our job right, they will. Have we built trust to know what they are seeing, learning, struggling with daily? If we do our job right, they will know we are here not to evaluate but to listen and learn, grieve, and celebrate alongside them.

In this moment of a global pandemic, Chicagoans are being deeply affected and often experiencing complete erasures of income and resources, especially in communities of color. The deep fissures caused by systemic racism are becoming wider.

One of the 2019 Leaders for a New Chicago awardees, Heather Miller, executive director of American Indian Center, reached out to me with the following note:

There’s so much hysteria and chaos going on that people are making snap decisions without quality information and rational thought or conversation. I am sure that I am not the only leader dealing with community responses to all this chaos. Would/could we do an update or response to the current crisis as an update on where the leaders are now? Especially as we think about this next round of leaders? I’m so tired of the chaos and trying to manage through all of it but also thinking of the positive outcomes of everything.

We at Field decided to dedicate this newsletter to the Leaders and turn the mic over to them. Here some of the most visionary leaders in our city have stepped up to share where they are at and what’s happening in their communities and organizations, to name fears and uncertainties, and to share dreams of how we might and should be mobilized to come out of this in a radically different and let us hope…better place.

This isn’t watered down. They responded with stories of frustration, anger, disbelief, and stories of mobilization, organizing, and creating joy in the face of uncertainty. Sarah Ross in her work with Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project described the devastating effects of COVID-19 in prison, “Hell is the only word I can think of,” and we see Monica Cosby from Westside Justice Center in the photo above participating in an action to bring light to this crisis. In the Media & Storytelling program area, Aymar Jean Christian of OTV shared their movement to “bring people joy, entertainment, and useful information” to the Chicago community. City Bureau’s Darryl Holliday talks about the Chicago COVID Resource Finder, a data bank of over 1,300 neighborhood, city, county, and state resources that can be filtered so people can easily find what they need. Imelda Salazar of Southwest Organizing Project and Analía Rodríguez of Latino Union shared moments of hope and inspiration amidst their grassroots justice-based organizing work. From Imelda, “Flowers are blooming but I see our leaders blooming in their leadership like taking on leading sessions, leading trainings. I’m proud of the families that we work with and proud of the team.” And I leave you with this vision of surviving from Analía, “This community needs so much from us, and it’s also strong, and inspiring, and will survive this and much more because this community has survived many other battles. We are strong because we have each other and as long as we have each other we will get through this.”

Here are some of the 2019 Leaders for a New Chicago.

In their own words.

In this moment.

Now.


 

SARAH ROSS
Co-director of Art and Exhibitions,
Prison + Neighborhoods Arts Project

It’s been said again and again that this crisis is exposing the inequities we see across the United States. What is on my mind daily is what is happening in U.S. prisons, specifically Stateville where I teach. The stories from people incarcerated there, relayed from their friends and family, are horrific. We are hearing that there is not enough soap, people only get single squirts of hand sanitizer, and that more and more people—both incarcerated people and staff—are getting sick. Some men have said they are stuck in a cell with another sick person, others say that they constantly hear people yelling for medics. When the second person died two weeks ago, men were yelling from their cells to come and remove the deceased person but that it took more than 30 minutes to do so. Hell is the only word that I can think of.

The conditions of healthcare in jails, prisons and detention centers across the country are already abhorrent, with the spread of COVID-19, these places are not Petri dishes, as [Cook County Board President] Toni Preckwinkle mentioned, they are death traps.

I’ve been working with the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison who was able to contract with a distillery to make hand sanitizer to send to all 25 adult state prisons. We spent some 47K acquiring the sanitizer (the first shipment went to IDOC’s distribution center this week and we hope the sanitizer will get out to incarcerated people in prisons very soon. Credit for the heavy lifting on this effort goes to the Education Justice Project). Why are we, a grassroots group of educators, able to raise money, coordinate with local distributors, and more when jails, prisons, and detention centers have paid workers and budgets? I feel so enraged at this moment and also afraid that the students I left in March will not be there when I return. For quite some time, national and state think tanks, have modeled out what it would take to dramatically reduce the prison population overnight. This can be done, it must be done. We need to release elderly people, people who are over 50 years old, and people who have served a significant time of their sentence. People with previous health conditions need to be released. We can do this and be safe. As a caring society we have to demand that the governor releases people, and now.


 

AYMAR JEAN CHRISTIAN
Co-founder, OTV | Open Television

The OTV team has pulled together in this time of crisis to deliver information and entertainment to our community. We’re supporting and caring for each other (remotely) and everyone’s doing their best work.

We are planning to move the first half of our season online/live-streaming and are excited about the possibility of creating content for social media that brings people joy, entertainment, & useful information—not just the bad/triggering news that’s flooding our feeds. We’ve done live online information sessions about emergency resources, exercise classes, and meditation/ritual practice sessions weekly on Instagram (all paid opportunities to local artists!), with plans to interview artists and community leaders/activists before premiering new series through Facebook and Vimeo in May. Some of the shows have had to cancel production but many shows have already shot so we’ll definitely be able to premiere new works. People have been great and we are always welcoming more support.

We’re excited that in a time of social distancing being a small-scale online TV platform is exactly the kind of work that can maintain local/global community bonds through art & entertainment.


 

DARRYL HOLLIDAY
Co-founder and News Lab Director, City Bureau

Our first priority during the coronavirus was the safety and well-being of our staff. In the first weeks of the pandemic, we transitioned all of our work online, including all of our regular community events. After taking many deep breaths, we began reaching out to our direct-service partners for some deep listening around local information needs. Based on what we heard, we launched two new projects.

This week, City Bureau introduced the Chicago COVID Resource Finder, a data bank of over 1,300 neighborhood, city, county, and state resources that can be filtered so people can easily find what they need. Resources can be sorted by who is eligible (immigrants, families, business owners), what is offered (food, money, legal help), languages spoken, and location. You can access it via SMS and by the end of the week, the Resource Finder will be translated into 10 languages. In conjunction with the COVID Resource Finder, we’re also introducing our Information Aid Network, a phone tree for information access that will continue beyond the pandemic. Starting this week, City Bureau’s Documenters community will make calls to people with limited digital access in partnership with local organizations and Free Press’ News Voices to fact-check rumors, answer questions and connect people with local journalists. If you represent a direct-service organization in or near Chicago, we want to work with you to meet your community’s information needs—fill out this form to start the conversation.


 

ANALÍA RODRÍGUEZ
Executive Director, Latino Union

Day laborers and household workers are low wage workers, mostly immigrants who cannot benefit from many of the resources out there due to immigration status and not having one regular employer. Latino Union is supporting these workers with resources and also by continuing to build community amongst our members in these unprecedented times. We had a membership call with 40+ members participating. We heard hard stories on how folks are struggling financially, the effects on them and their families, and one member dealing with her son who has been infected by COVID-19. We heard all this and we also heard members coming together saying: “I will cook a meal for you” “We are here for you” “I have some water, diapers, I can give to someone in need” “I don’t have much, but what I can spare I can offer to others.” These are inspiring words! These are just some things that the day laborer and household worker community at Latino Union are offering to each other. This community needs so much from us, and it’s also strong, and inspiring, and will survive this and much more because this community has survived many other battles. We are strong because we have each other and as long as we have each other we will get through this.


 

IMELDA SALAZAR
Organizer, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

The first week that the shelter in place started, the week of the 15th, we had canvassing scheduled for the census. People were calling me and asking, “So what are we going to do? How are we doing this?” and then I said we can switch it to phone calls instead of knocking on doors so it’s comfortable and safe. Everybody—colleagues, staff, leaders, other people that were not even working on census before this—said, “Yes let’s do it!” I created an Excel sheet for the call information. We asked each person to call 10 people in their networks and provided names and phone numbers per institution they belong (school, church, etc). From March 16th through March 30th, we did 3,200 calls. I was really encouraging them to ask people how they are doing with the current virus, what’s important to them right now and then from those calls, we created networks of support for seniors and we identified who wanted to help to get the medicine or groceries and then we identified that first week, March 16th to the 23rd, who needed groceries and stuff. We talked to churches, I talked to some therapists that I trust in the neighborhood, and there is a social worker that used to work for us and I asked if he was willing to lead a listening session with people. He was so successful because people wanted to talk and he really had good conversations. We had ten of those in groups averaging 16 people, in both English and in Spanish.

People are losing their jobs, they don’t know their future because there is no testing, so we have all that going on but I think the organizing around the census helped. People just want to vent and when they do that they discover new ways of doing things. I’m really proud of everybody, moms are becoming teachers now and learning how to use their technology and it’s been really energizing for me as a leader. Flowers are blooming but I see our leaders blooming in their leadership like taking on leading sessions, leading trainings. I’m proud of the families that we work with and proud of the team. SWOP organizers and staff are supporting the community in so many ways.


 

HEATHER MILLER
Executive Director, American Indian Center

First off, we are feeling unseen. The Indian community was on everyone’s radar before in regard to funding and land acknowledgments but now we are feeling unseen. We have been fighting erasure for so long and then it feels like we’ve been erased again.

Second, I laid off all my staff. It’s been two weeks. I think we’re going on week number three. And I knew that it was going to be a really hard decision, but I knew this had to be and was my decision. We don’t know when any grants are going to come because everything pretty much got delayed and pushed back and we don’t know what youth programming is going to look like for the summer since the community can’t come into the office and we can’t bring people together. We don’t have a reserve or rainy-day funds, so you know as soon as something bad happens we don’t really have any way to react to it. I wanted to make sure they were eligible for unemployment right away. Of course, they’re pretty much coming to the Center every day while keeping their distance of course. That’s who they are. I told them and they know this is not permanent. We continue to need support for the work American Indian Center, CAIIC, and other native organizations are doing.

I was able to bring the staff back this week. We put in for the payroll protection program. I need them. We need them. I tell the staff that they make me essential. And they have enjoyed reminding me of that one time that I fired them. So yeah, our Indian humor hasn’t died.


 

With humor and grace and struggle and love, these leaders have given us a window into how Chicago’s communities and organizations are responding and re-envisioning in the wake of this global pandemic. We are lucky to support and work alongside such fierce people and we find inspiration in each one of their stories. We hope you do too.

Hilesh Patel 
Program Officer,
Leadership Investment

For Journalists of Color, Tracking by Race During COVID is About EQUITY

By | Field News

Alex Garcia, Three Story Media

 

By Lolly Bowean
Program Officer, Media & Storytelling

Many residents were just starting to feel the fatigue of mandatory quarantines and self-distancing to prevent the rapid spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus when Charles Blow of the New York Times, Michael Harriot of The Root, Elliot Ramos and Maria Ines Zamudio of WBEZ took to social media to demand data correlated based on race.

It wasn’t an attempt to divide, Harriot explained in a Twitter thread last week. But rather it was an effort to call attention to the most vulnerable communities that have less access to health care while suffering from many underlying conditions. Harriot pointed out that African Americans are often dismissed by health care professionals and are most likely to be on the front line working in low-wage positions at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and other places deemed essential.

“People keep wondering why we want to inject race into a global pandemic,” Harriot explained. “Seriously, Coronavirus is racist. Not only does it seem to target black areas, but the CDC’s list of factors that may exacerbate COVID-19 all disproportionately affect blacks.”

These journalists were simply doing their jobs—asking the tough questions and publicly shaming institutions for not responding to information requests. Yet, buried in their push for statistics was the validation that African American, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American (ALAANA) journalists and journalism organizations are needed now more than ever.

Throughout the region, small ALAANA owned and focused news organizations are filling the information gaps and using their limited resources to spread the news to their communities.

Here in Chicago, The Crusader began chronicling the death toll and publishing obituaries for African American residents who died because of the virus.

In their emailed newsletters, The Chicago Defender and Bronzecomm have been publishing lists of resources: where lower-income residents can access free food, how they can sign up for rental assistance and where they can find protective face masks and gloves.

On top of their full-time reporting jobs, Maria Ines Zamudio of WBEZ and Laura N. Rodriguez Presa of the Chicago Tribune started a Spanish-language podcast to translate the message for non-English speaking audiences. That effort, Zamudio said, came in part because she had to call her mother every morning and translate the COVID related news for her.

“This is for your mom, your tia and la vecina chismosa,” she wrote on her Twitter feed, which means your uncle or aunt and gossipy neighbor.

On the national stage, it has been ALAANA journalists using their platforms to call even more attention to the disparities and call out the inequities and racism attached to the response.

Take the columnist Charles Blow, who has criticized the federal government for politicizing the crisis by first racializing it as a “Chinese virus,” and later failing to acknowledge how it impacts the black community.

“I’m particularly frustrated by the lack of data,” he said in a recent Twitter Live conversation that he hosted to discuss the virus’ impact on minority communities. “I do not understand the lack of race-specific data being made available. It should be there.

“Tell people who is most affected and it saves lives,” he said.

The work of these ALAANA journalists means that organizers can advocate for resources and community servants can focus on the people most in need.

As one of the only black journalists in the White House press corps in the 1950s, Ethel Payne said doing her job often meant asking the questions no one else would, and putting race and disparity at the center of the conversation. Payne, who wrote for the Defender, would use her questions to force even the mainstream media to pay attention to issues that plagued black America, she said.

“The white press was so busy asking questions on other issues that the blacks and their problems were completely ignored,” Payne said, according to Eye on the Struggle, a best-selling biography that chronicles her life. “I would think carefully about what kinds of questions I would ask …”

By asking questions about race relative to COVID, today’s journalists of color are doing just what Payne did decades ago—putting the focus right where it belongs. And making a conversation that was isolated to one community a national priority.

 

——

ABOUT MEDIA AND STORYTELLING

Lolly Bowean is the Media & Storytelling Program Officer. The goals of the Field Foundation’s Media & Storytelling program, a partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Democracy Fund, are to: create more just and inclusive narratives about Chicago that foster policy change; amplify the voices and impact of African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American journalists, media makers and storytellers in the local media landscape; and support more reporting and storytelling by traditional and alternative journalism platforms about the root causes of the city’s inequities. Learn more about our program here.

Our next deadline for submission is May 15.

The Field Foundation is proud to partner with the McCormick Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Driehaus, Polk Bros. and the Chicago Community Trust to support ALAANA journalists and small media organizations working to gather information related to the COVID-19 crisis. Apply for emergency funds here.

BE READY: Census 2020 Count Me In IL

By | Field News

A few years ago, I invited a former student of mine to talk with a group about preparing for the world of work after graduation. Her presentation was smart, thoughtful and funny. Someone in the class then asked her what was the best advice she had ever received. Her answer was, “be ready to be ready.” Her father, an immigrant from China, had repeated these words over and over to his daughter when she was young, and it stuck.

Years later—this mantra, “be ready to be ready” sticks with me. It’s something I say (and think) all the time. It can be when my kids have a test coming up or a pop quiz feels eminent or when I learn of new issues from our grantees and think of all the ways we at Field can help. When ideas flow in our program meetings and my hand starts to sketch out the solutions in bright graphic designs. Even now, as every day brings a new challenge and we must rebalance our lives in new ways, we all live in a constant state of being ready to be ready.

Being ready today involves a mix of tending to the firehose of what is considered immediate needs and making sure to not sleep on what is critical long-term equity work and strategy. Getting our national infrastructure ready for the next decade falls into this latter category and why so many of us are urging folks to complete the U.S. 2020 Census.

Consider this: the U.S. 2020 Census affects funding for schools, roads and hospitals, firefighters, and resources for people who need it most. It helps elect community leaders on school boards and city councils.

We receive more than $20 billion of the $675 billion in federal funding through U.S. Census data annually. This funding is critical—especially for marginalized communities—be they urban or rural.

At Field, we are proud of our involvement in the IL Count Me In 2020 initiative at Forefront where dozens of foundations came together over the past year to generate more than $1.75 million in needed resources to nonprofit partners throughout the state—especially those working with hard to count communities to help get every person in Illinois counted.

We are also proud of so many in the nonprofit sector, many of our grantees, all of the community-based organizations who have spent the past year readying to get a sound count out despite rhetoric and mixed messaging. In this moment, competition for our attention is at an all-time high as the newsfeeds, tweets, emails and opinions crowd us all. There are so many questions to consider in this moment: Should you wear a mask? Do you wear gloves? Can I see my friends or co-workers? And, how can all the planning to execute a sound Census work in this quarantined world?

The moment calls for us to react quickly while preparing for an incredible new day on the horizon.

Illinois stands to lose out on tremendous resources and state representation in Washington. The Census isn’t just a document declaring who we are, it demands we are heard and given the power and resources we deserve. We must be ready to be ready, right now—from our homes—by going online, by calling the Census Bureau, or by filling out your paper form when it arrives in the mail.

If history has provided any insight for us, it is this—we will come through this and when we do, we can be better for it.

To learn more, please visit ilcountmein2020.org

To complete the 2020 Census, www.2020census.gov.

 

Mark Murray
Vice President, Programs and Administration, Field Foundation
Co-Chair, IL Count Me In 2020