I Am Walking History

By | Field News

Celebrating Black History by Documenting the Black Present

Image courtesy of W.D. Floyd


In her more than 50 years of working at The Chicago Crusader newspaper, Dorothy Leavell can vividly remember the pulsating energy of the newsroom as reporters covered the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Marquette Park in 1966.

She can instantly recall the rush of excitement in the office from reporters writing about the 1963 March on Washington, and years later the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. She clearly remembers overseeing the coverage of the mayoral campaign of Harold Washington and his eventual election.

Leavell can even remember lesser known historical events the paper covered, like the electric chair execution of James Dukes, a Black man convicted of killing a police officer. The Crusader used Dukes’ legal case to push for abolishing the death penalty.

“I am walking history,” she said. “I can recall so many instances that went on to become big, big deals. We tried to give those events blanket coverage at a time when our resources were even more scarce than now. People volunteered and would call and give us on the scene accounts.

“Looking back, it’s history. At the time, we were doing our job of pushing for better conditions, better housing, better jobs for Blacks,” said Leavell.

Leavell was an administrator at The Crusader in the 1960s. She replaced her husband, Balm L. Leavell, as publisher in 1968 when he died.

As the country turns its attention toward the past to celebrate Black history this month, for many African American journalists and storytellers, honoring Black history has meant documenting the Black present and the Black presence.

For Leavell, that has meant covering the daily lives, the events, the issues and occurrences relevant to Black people, even as most of the community remained neglected and overlooked by other media outlets.

Similarly, the founders of The Chicago Defender didn’t create the paper to make history or even with a mission of recording history for Black people, said Marc Sengstacke, who is a grandnephew of the paper’s creator and longtime publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott. The Defender staff wanted to draw attention to Black life in the moment and push for justice and equality—a better future, he said.

“When my granduncle started The Chicago Defender, one reason he did it is because the mainstream media published so little about African Americans,” Sengstacke said. “Our people did more than commit crimes, live and die. Many African American newspapers were founded and flourished for that same reason: they gave us stories (about us), we couldn’t see anywhere else.”

Throughout the 1900s, The Defender wrote about job insecurity, unfair wages, rampant discrimination, and especially the violent racial terrorism enacted upon African Americans living in the South. The writers, editors and publisher used the news pages to advocate for a mass Black exodus from the South to Chicago.

The newspaper documented the experiences of African Americans who migrated here and is credited for spurring the Great Migration.

The paper’s coverage not only informed the community at the time, Sengstacke said, the coverage shapes what we now know about the period. That’s a role the Black press—and Black reporters, writers and storytellers—still play, he said.

“Even though the mainstream media is covering African American issues more, there are still stories and news and information in the African American community going uncovered,” he said. “The Black press fills that void.”

Sengstacke is no longer with The Defender newspaper staff. Instead he and his family run the organization’s foundation, The Chicago Defender Charities, which, among other things, helps train younger journalists to go into newsrooms and cover the Black community with authority, balance and nuance.

A major goal of Field’s Media and Storytelling portfolio is to support voices from Chicago’s communities that are too often overlooked. Field is especially focused on African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American voices that provide balanced perspectives and nuanced views from residents that don’t get their stories told.

For photojournalist and portrait photographer W.D. Floyd, the historical journey of Black people in Chicago informs all of his work, he said.

In many ways, it’s easier to look backward—history allows us to criticize without personally offending and to romanticize without accountability. But while the majority celebrate a Black past, Floyd says his mission is to photograph Black people in their everyday lives—without a catalyst news event as reason to snap images.

“For so long, Black people haven’t had the agency to control how we were viewed in front of the lens,” he said. “Photography was used as a propaganda tool—it was weaponized to hurt us. Then, when Black folks were able to photograph themselves, it came with the (baggage) of the politics of respectability because we felt we had to prove we could look and act like White people.”

So, for Floyd, he concentrates on taking street portraits—images of African Americans living in their everyday moments, which reflects the tradition of James Van Der Zee, Jamel Shabazz and Dawoud Bey. And when Floyd is teaching his younger charges at his West Side photojournalism camp for 360 Nation, he tells them to ask their subjects if they can take their photo before shooting. That way, the subjects can have authority in the process and help determine how they want to be documented.

“The question that gets raised is ‘what’s the point of photographing them?’,” he said, about outsiders who sometimes probe his work that doesn’t center celebrities, politicians or even the wealthy. “But I know we are worthy. I know that there are great historical implications in making images of Black people in our spaces that, one day, may not even still be here. I know the photographs we make today … there will be greater significance for them later.”

Likewise, Leavell said when helping to decide what her newsroom will focus on and where it will direct its attention, she thinks about the present moment and what it will mean for the future—as generations look back on the history being made today.

“If it ever gets to the point where our story is being told widely and accurately by the mainstream media, and that puts me out of business, I’m not going to be mad,” she said. “But I can’t see that happening soon. Only the Black press has been consistent in telling our stories. We need a Black voice to put word on paper about what’s happening in our community.”



Lolly Bowean manages the Media & Storytelling portfolio. 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.


Lolly Bowean
Media & Storytelling Program Officer 


2021 Leaders for a New Chicago Nominations are Open!

A program of Field Foundation
supported by the MacArthur Foundation

The  Leaders for a New Chicago Award  Award enters its third year in 2021. The award recognizes past accomplishments and promotes and advances a range of leaders whose influence will inform decision making across the city of Chicago. This unique, no-strings-attached $50,000 award ($25,000 for the individual and, if eligible, $25,000 for their affiliated not-for-profit corporation) will be awarded to between 10 and 15 awardees per year.

The program seeks to build a more inclusive Chicago by tapping communities outside of the city’s current power structure. These grants will go to established or emerging Chicago leaders for past accomplishments.

The nomination portal opens today, February 1, and closes March 1.


Winter 2021 Grantees & A Tribute to Life Director Philip W. Hummer

By | Field News

The Field Foundation proudly announces its Winter 2021 grantees. In this grant cycle we awarded more than $700,000 to 28 organizations—new and returning grantee partners—that are located in and/or focused on communities highlighted in Field’s heat map. As always, the majority of our dollars are given to BIPOC visionaries that are working to change systems, narratives, policies and creative enterprise.

Congratulations to all of our Winter 2021 grantees. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our city and, in particular, Chicago’s communities of color, we are inspired by their commitment, vision and deeply connected work.











Media & Storytelling 




In Memoriam: Field Life Director Philip W. Hummer


It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Field Life Director Philip W. Hummer. He passed away peacefully at his home on December 18, 2020 following a brief illness.

Philip provided the Field Foundation with dedicated and strong leadership. He was a member of the Field Board of Directors for more than 28 years and a longtime member of the Investment Committee. He served as Board Chairman from 1996 to 2004, and became a Life Trustee in 2015.

Phillip was fiercely kind, endlessly curious and pushed himself to learn more, give more, do more. His generosity, leadership and dedicated service to the Field Foundation and many other organizations will be deeply missed. Our civic giant, our most dapper trustee, rest well.

To learn more about Philip’s life and legacy, and to leave a remembrance to be shared with the Field community and his family, please visit his Memorial Page here.

Leading with Inquiry

By | Field News

A program of Field Foundation
supported by the MacArthur Foundation

When we build out the Leaders for a New Chicago Award each year we ask: “What does leadership mean? What kinds of models are working to create a more equitable Chicago? How does leadership manifest in traditional and non-traditional ways? How do we uplift both individual and collective leadership?” We seek out, listen to, and document feedback from leaders across Chicago that are doing work from grassroots organizations, collectives, co-ops, traditional as well as non-traditional nonprofits.

Since 2019, individuals from the two Leaders cohorts have been embedded in their communities and worked diligently to meet the community needs. Awardees represent diversity of religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and expertise, and those from different geographies and income levels. Some are organizers, some are co-founders, some are part of collectives or shared leadership models. All of them work within the Field Foundation’s program areas of Justice, Art and Media & Storytelling.

Help us build the next cohort by learning more about the award, important dates, requirements and more by visiting the Leaders for a New Chicago portal on our website, attending an informational webinar from 10:30 am to Noon, Tuesday, January 12, or by contacting us.

The nomination portal opens on February 1st.

Hilesh Patel
Leadership Investment Program Officer

In Midnights, In Cups of Coffee… 

By | Field News

I was in my twenties when I first saw Rent on Broadway. Having grown up acting in community theater and even having a stint on a TV show (story for another day), I am a die hard fan of the electricity that sizzles off live stages. That night in the Nederlander Theatre, something shifted in me. I went from being a removed appreciator of great talent to rocketing to my feet to clap and cry and dance and shout. I felt seen and moved and I knew that through theater, art, music and dance, people can connect and transport us out of our bodies and lives if even just for moments.

The year of 2020 has felt like a decade.

There have been some wild chapters—murder hornets, locust plagues, alien sightings. There have been dark, frozen moments, watching as that white police officer calmly knelt on George Floyd’s neck, an eerie execution in broad daylight captured on an iPhone and sent for the world to bear witness.

Were it not for the pandemic, for the Great Pause — as I call this year — would we have all slowed down enough to allow this time, this lynching at the hands of a police officer, this violation of a Black body, to have jolted us so violently? Because we slowed down and stood still. Was it the one-two punch of the accompanying video of the white woman calmly calling in a hit on the bird-watching Black man who asked her to obey the laws of the park that allowed things to click into place for so many? To realize there are entire subsets of laws, mores, metrics that say if you are white you can do just about anything. If you are Black and Brown, you are already condemned.

The Great Pause brought uprisings across the world. With so many sick and dying from COVID-19, so many out of work, the realization that the system is rigged was either long brewing or newly ignited—and people of all ages and races ran to the streets. Marching in masks, singing, and demanding that this time, THIS TIME, we need liberation instead of placation. We need to invest in abundance not admonition. We need to pedestalize the heroes, not the captors.

In my own home, the Great Pause brought a new reality. My husband lost his job at the beginning of the pandemic—and in turn gained five new ones. He is now the Dean, the Coach, the entire IT department, the Facilities Director and the “Projects as Assigned” Manager. My 10-year-old daughter began remote learning. She now types faster than I do, and has figured out ways to make every day seem special, and to “play” with friends virtually.

As someone who traveled at least a week out of every month for as long as I can remember, and who attended evening events two to three times per week, I have never spent so much time in one place. Turns out I can grow a thriving vegetable garden. I love working out in the mornings. I do my best cooking with jazz playing and dancing is something that helps move a meal to completion.

How do we adequately measure a year, the musical Rent asks us to consider.

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

I will measure 2020 in blessings. Here are a few:

The Blessing of Brilliant People. The Field Foundation staff is something else. They were not spared this year. There were cancer battles, loss of family members, repeated moves, care for our children, care for parents. There were struggles to find mental wellness in the face of extreme anxiety, to find balance in a world that seemed to need us every hour, every day. And this team rose when required and took time out when needed. I am proud of them for all of this. From launching Tuesday Teach Ins centering BIPOC organizers working to defund police, to serving on virtual panels while barefoot in their homes. From writing many newsletter items to lift new voices, to supporting new COVID funds and ensuring the dollars given centered racial justice and personally participating in mutual aid networks near and far. The way they each show up fully for this work is breathtaking and inspires me every day.

The Blessing of Vigorous and Respectful Debate. The Field Foundation board—and especially our leader, Board Chair Gloria Castillo, has set the bar high for trusteeship. So much in foundation-land is unseen. In happens in between the grants, in the boardrooms, in the committee meetings. Field is not new to racial justice work. We have, in fact, been training up for this moment. But this year we rooted in deep. Our Investment Chair Kym Hubbard led our continuing journey of understanding what racial justice looks like in a socially responsible investment space. Our Finance and Audit Chair Lyle Logan led us in understanding our spending policy and pushing us to understand what “impact” and “return” means to a legacy, not just to a ledger. And each of our trustees showed up fully to discuss, and, yes, debate—what the role of a racial justice foundation should be today and tomorrow. This is amidst grief and illness, hard-earned sabbaticals, and through fractured limbs. How does one thank a collective that redefines trusteeship as service to something bigger? Special shouts out to Dr. Cathy J. Cohen and Stephanie Field Harris for being unafraid to lead discussion on where we might journey next.

The Blessing of Collective Action. This year as we physically distanced, new collectives sprung up. Virtual institutions formed—without name, or pay, and with only a pressing need to rise to this moment. From the Just Action collective that will work in 2021 to help make real all those racial equity statements institutions put out, to the COVID Mapping Project, a collective of 20+ researchers and foundations committed to rebuilding with an eye on long-term racial justice recovery, this year taught me that here in Chicago we are not individual institutions but an ever-growing ensemble dedicated to the larger work.

The Blessing of Being a We. This is where you come in. So many of you, and others locally and nationally, inspire the heck out of me. You show me how to be kind and firm. How to have grace and mettle. How to be vulnerable and angry. How to be dreamy and steadfast. I have hope for what comes next because the boldest and brightest minds are at work on reimagining. Nonprofit leaders, public sector colleagues, philanthropic co-conspirators, artists, storytellers, organizers, and journalists. Our foundation is growing and rising to this moment because of the company we keep.

Make no mistake. This year has left each of us threshed. Grief, illness, anxiety—they have not spared our families and our loved ones. And yet. In that threshing comes a re-rooting, a new planting. I am stretching into 2021 firmly rooted in the history and promise of racial justice. Deeply humbled by the blessings of people working together across difference, knowing our difference is our strength. I am walking into the year a fierce believer. Knowing that in me, in you, in the bigger we—we will find sanctuary. I am growing and rising to this moment because of each of you.

Measuring in love,
Angelique Power, President

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year
from the Field Foundation!


Though we are physically separated, we are grateful for this year’s many blessings. We remain committed, passionate and excited about the work of racial equity and community empowerment — now more than ever.

From our Field Family to yours, Happy Holidays. We wish you all a safe and happy 2021 filled with peace and justice!

Unapologetic: On Black Women Making Cinema & Centering Themselves in the Narrative

By | Field News

Unapologetic poster courtesy of Kartemquin Films 


When Ashley O’Shay was growing up she mainly had Black women around her acting as her caretakers, teachers, close friends, confidants, and role models.

So it was natural when O’Shay, a novice filmmaker, picked up her camera, it was to tell the story of Black women whose stories aren’t often chronicled or told in major ways. This past summer, O’Shay released her first full-length film, Unapologetic.

Through her documentary, O’Shay helps explain the movement for Black lives and why so many recent protests and uprisings have been organized and led by African-American women.
Many of us are just now starting to study, listen and understand this current protest movement. O’Shay has delivered a sophisticated and layered film that interrogates and explains this movement through a Black, queer feminist lens.

Still, the film is being released, and even celebrated, at a time when there are conflicting public perspectives on how to handle police misconduct, law enforcement agencies’ swelling budgets, and the role of police in vulnerable, marginalized communities.

It’s no wonder that many in the mainstream public generally have affectionate and warm feelings related to police: from the very beginning of movie making, there have been films, television series and documentaries showcasing the lives of law enforcement and telling their stories, research and news reports show.

But films uplifting the leadership, evolution, development and struggles of Black girls and women are less common, said Karla Fuller, a lecturer and associate professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department at Columbia College Chicago. Movies and films have the power to challenge stereotypes and change hearts and minds, Fuller said. But the only way to do that is to give the backstory of Black women in the movement who are often only seen from a one-dimensional lens on the nightly news.

“The way to change…is to humanize and focus on individual stories, background, families, friends, support and struggle,” Fuller explained. “That is the way to get to people’s hearts. It’s the only way. Because right now, not enough people see Black humanity.”

Sergio Mims, who selected Unapologetic to be screened at the Black Harvest Film Festival, echoed a similar sentiment. But it’s the uniqueness of the film that compelled him to screen it, said Mims, a film critic and co-programmer of the popular, Chicago-based film festival, which showcases the stories, images, heritage and history of the Black experience worldwide.

“It’s a Chicago movie and it’s about political activism [here],” he said. “Chicago has a long history of political activism … but there really haven’t been a lot of films about it, which is hard to think about.”

The films that highlight activism, tend to focus on an older generation of men, Mims said. Unapologetic challenges that narrative, he said.

“It profiles two women, from two very different backgrounds, but who came together for the same purpose. That was even more fascinating,” he said.

A priority of Field’s Media and Storytelling portfolio is to support voices from Chicago’s communities that are too often overlooked. We are especially focused on African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) voices that provide balanced perspectives and nuanced views from residents who don’t get their stories told.

Documentary films specifically can be used to advance social change. But too often, people of color don’t have ownership of stories in their communities, according to Beyond Inclusion, a Ford Foundation research report written by Sahar Driver, PhD. Marginalized residents are excluded from social justice storytelling and don’t benefit from its transformative potential, the report revealed. The Ford Foundation also helped fund Unapologetic. 

For five years, O’Shay filmed the journey and experiences of two African-American women in Chicago who are frontline organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ambrell Gambrall is better known as “Bella BAHHS” and is an artist and daughter of incarcerated parents. She has seen directly the impact of the prison industrial complex on her West Side family. And as a result, she turns to organizing and activism as a path toward Black liberation, the film documents.

Janaé Bonsu, the second protagonist, is pursuing a doctoral degree during filming. Through her research and organizing, Bonsu came to understand the way systemic racism and especially the criminal justice system damaged Black families.

The film goes beyond the women’s roles in marches and rallies and takes viewers into their homes and quiet spaces, and into intimate moments with their families.

“I started this film because I felt, what was lacking, was a comprehensive media piece about the lives of women behind this movement,” O’Shay said. “I knew these women had lives, passions, careers and loved ones outside of their public images and personas. I wanted viewers to see there are all types of women involved in this movement. It’s not just one particular idea – a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King or religious-type leader. This movement comprises all types of people.”

Still, O’Shay’s film is revolutionary because it focuses on Black women, who have been historically excluded as documentary subjects. As a Black woman director, O’Shay herself is a rarity because of obstacles in the film industry and systemic racism.

“I think that who is behind the lens matters as much as who is in front of the lens,” O’Shay said recently. “When I go out into the field with my camera to document a protest event or rally, I’m still a Black woman in America. That is still how people are going to see me. And that’s not something I feel I can abandon because I have a camera in my hands.”

When O’Shay premiered her film in Chicago over the summer – at an outdoor, socially distant screening – she tried to limit the audience to 50 guests. But as word spread, nearly twice that number showed up, forcing her to scramble to get enough headphones so everyone spread out on their blankets and lawn chairs on the grass lot behind the Museum of Science and Industry could watch.
O’Shay admits that this moment means her film has mostly been embraced warmly. Still, she worries about how unwelcoming cinema can be for ambitious artists.

“I’m privileged,” she said. “I’ve been trained. But there are people who have great stories … who don’t get access into spaces because institutions too often only believe in and invest in one type of person.

“So ultimately, I wish there was more risk-taking by investors, gatekeepers and financiers. They decide what the media space will look like and they should see, there is not enough diversity there.”

Lolly Bowean
Media & Storytelling Program Officer 


Lolly Bowean manages the Media & Storytelling portfolio. 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.

We begin accepting applications for the next grant cycle on December 15. The deadline for submission is January 15.

Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund


The Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund is a commitment from thirteen foundations to raise and move $3M to Chicago organizations building and sustaining movements for justice that center Black lives and address anti-Blackness. The Fund will provide grants to Black-led community organizing groups as well as allied community organizing groups addressing anti-Blackness. While $3M is not an equitable amount to address the violence that racial injustice has ravaged, this is the first step of many needed towards a more just Chicago. The Field Foundation is a proud contributor.

The application process is now open and will continue until further notice. Click the logo for more information.

Registration Now Open for Field Foundation Information Session 


The Field Foundation is hosting an information session at 11 am, Tuesday, December 15, 2020. The Letter of Inquiry portal for summer 2021 grant consideration also opens that day. The session will provide general guidelines to our grant making and include details about our grants in Art, Justice, Media & Storytelling and the Leaders for a New Chicago Award. Registration is now open.

The Liberatory Work of Leading Queerly

By | Field News

Brave Space Alliance (BSA) Executive Director LaSaia Wade. Image from BSA website


One of the many extensions of the work we do at the Field Foundation is the ability to have conversations with leaders in different sectors, both in Chicago and across the country, around the multifaceted aspects of leadership and what it means in different spaces and sectors. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, these conversations have evolved and have grown more complex, and it has become clear that leaders across various sectors and various communities are facing similar economic, social, and political challenges.

In recent years, Chicago closed nearly half of its mental health clinics widening the gap between needs and services. In fact, a 2017 report by the Chicago public health department showed many facilities that offer mental health services had long waitlists, several with wait times up to a year long. Yet there are incredible leaders that we have spoken with that are navigating the capacity of their organizations—trying to provide greater staff support by embedding wellness into their practices and policies, while continuing to respond to community needs.

One example is Field grantee partner Brave Space Alliance (BSA), the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center on Chicago’s South Side, providing affirming, culturally competent resources and programming for the community, while also responding to the expanded needs of its staff.

I spoke with BSA Executive Director LaSaia Wade about the challenge of finding the balance to meet community needs during the pandemic while also taking care of staff.

Hilesh Patel: How do you balance the internal and external at Brave Space Alliance, making sure the work that is happening inside matches the work that is happening outside?

LaSaia Wade: I think everyone is still trying to find that balance. We built an organization where we are working with or in parallel to the community. In doing this type of liberatory work you deal with more stress because you’re trying to live up to your politics. Some of what we’re taught in school around business or management is true, and you can plug some of that in so that the business of the organization can move forward. How can you combine your liberatory work with the input of an empirical type of management? It’s an ever-changing, ever-evolving accountability process. How can we make sure that your mental and physical health is important but also the work is done at the same time? It’s a difficult balancing act.

HP: What does that day-to-day look like? How do you have those conversations?

LW: Our executive staff got together, and they just came in and were like “I am tired! How are we continuing to do what we’ve been doing and sustain what we’ve been doing because the work is so heavy?” The answer that I gave is “We signed up for this work.” If we are actually breaking down the historical contexts of hiring trans or explicitly Black and Brown trans bodies that don’t have the educational background or even the notion of how to do this particular type of work, we have to be able to educate them to do the work but also surpass that, thrive.

We have this program with BSA where we intern people to see if they can actually work these positions. We do not want to hire someone that cannot do the role. We intern them. We train them. We make sure they get everything they need for that role. We use that 6- to 8-week internship to see if they can actually do that role. So far, of six interns, at least three pushed through and proved they’re willing to do the work. Two have applied to college. The other is applying for classes online to push their educational learning further. We’re not trying to coddle people but we’re trying to tell them that this is a new lane. You have to bring more than just a narrative. Just because you’re Black and trans doesn’t mean they will hire you because of such. We have to change that narrative.

HP: What happens if they don’t push through? 

LW: Those conversations are really heavy, right? What is that you’re needing? More reading or writing or more technical skills? We help them learn to do their resume, linking them to job courses, to professional development, with union jobs throughout Chicago. We have a link with Chicago Women in Trades. We make sure there are different routes, so we don’t leave them swimming by themselves.

HP: How are you thinking about support internally, about benefits or human resources?

LW: A year and a half ago we were asking, “Will we be able to get the money we need? Will we be able to push ourselves forward?” We had to understand that we will never be able to pay ourselves our worth and have set a cap on salaries. Explicitly with executive staff, no one’s able to make over $100,000. With that kind of money, we could hire more trans, non-conforming, LGBT individuals to bring them into the space. That’s more jobs. We had a conversation around how we will be able to have insurance and healthcare and dental. We had a conversation: we can either have a pay raise or we can have insurance. And the insurance will be good, health, dental, vision and we will be good. Everyone will be able to keep their doctors or be able to see their dentist or whatever you decide you need to do. It was a unanimous decision. At BSA we tell our staff this is what’s happening with everything. This is not for play for some of them. For some of them this is their last chance.

HP: What does it mean to “lead queerly”?

LW: Every time I walk into a space it is me leading queerly. My body. My political stance. My language. When I started creating BSA, you didn’t hear me when I was saying this is what we needed but you heard me when I applied the cuss words in there. You heard me when I actually had to be the angry Black woman that you did not want to see in these spaces. You heard me when I had to come in these spaces with tennis shoes instead of heels and a dress on. You heard me when my hair was in a ponytail and talking aggressively. You did not appreciate me when I came to you and this is me, LaSaia Wade, MBA, CPA. You didn’t hear me when I said that. You heard me when I was on the street knocking on the door with 200 people behind me. That’s when you heard me.

Today, November 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance which follows Transgender Awareness Week and honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. Field Foundation recognizes the work of BSA and many others and their work as they build toward the liberation of all oppressed peoples.

Hilesh Patel
Leadership Investment Program Officer

Grantee Spotlight
Dion’s Chicago Dream

Dion Dawson, Founder & Executive Director of Dion’s Chicago Dream.

Click the pic to see a short video of Dion discussing his initiative, and how Field funding helped him achieve his dream. 


Dion’s Chicago Dream is a nonprofit providing food, information and resources to the West Englewood Community on the South Side of Chicago. Its goal is to also increase financial, physical and emotional stability to residents while combating hunger and addressing food deserts.

Dion’s Chicago Dream is a Field Special Considerations Fund grantee. The Special Considerations Fund is a discretionary fund that gives the Foundation the ability to respond to important opportunities outside of our core giving programs, or to develop new ideas and promote innovation in how the Foundation and its grantees operate.

Dion Dawson, founder and executive director, received a $12,000 grant that will fund the purchase of fruits, vegetables and water for community refrigerators in Englewood for a year. A Navy veteran, Dawson was also recently profiled on ABC7Chicago, and featured on WGN Chicago. We are proud to support his vision and this project.
“The Field Foundation was the first major recognition of our movement and it really solidified that I was going in the right direction. The Field Foundation is just a big beautiful thing and it’s allowing people like me to flourish and be the change that I want to see in the world.” —Dion Dawson, Founder and Executive Director, Dion’s Chicago Dream

Save the Date for Field Foundation’s Information Session

The Field Foundation is hosting an information session at 11 am, Tuesday, December 15. The Letter of Inquiry portal for summer 2021 grant consideration also opens that day. The session will provide general guidelines to our grantmaking and include details about our grants in Art, Justice, Media & Storytelling and the Leaders for a New Chicago Award. Registration will open soon.

Looking Forward: A Retrospective & Introduction to the 2019-2020 Biennial Report

By | Field News

First Field staff ID of Mark Murray, Vice President of Programs and Administration, and Field’s longest-serving employee. 


When I was hired by the Field Foundation in summer 2003, I was excited but I remember thinking I didn’t know the first thing about private philanthropy although I was eager to learn. I thought all foundations were the same—same goals, values, and priorities.

My learning curve started on day one. I was pushed to ask difficult questions; my assumptions and values were challenged. I quickly found that site visits were more than having a conversation with prospective grantees. Seeing programs taught me about building relationships and understanding that I was a guest in the communities I visited. Most importantly, I learned to stay curious, ask a lot of questions and acknowledge that I didn’t (and still don’t) have solutions. My role was to listen and advocate for the work led by organizations and communities making an impact throughout Chicago.

When the Field Foundation started 80 years ago, I imagine Field Foundation Founder Marshall Field III atop the Field Building looking forward through the looking glass of time to the future. He was ahead of his time, and he believed that spreading opportunities and privileges to people who were disenfranchised was critically important to democracy and to achieving racial justice.

It has been more than 17 years since I was hired. Today, I am the longest Field Foundation employee in its history. I have reviewed tens of thousands of proposals, talked with thousands of organizations, visited hundreds of organizations and programs, and have recommended millions of dollars in grants. I have seen Field grow from a foundation dedicated to institutional grantmaking, helping historically underserved communities and Chicago’s cultural institutions, to a foundation that intentionally centers and prioritizes racial justice and community empowerment as a cornerstone of its existence.

Over 80 years, Field’s grant making has made a difference and has supported, hired, and funded a wide array of efforts and many important organizations and individuals. Late civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis was a Field staff member; Field made grants to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers movement, as well as grants to protect and empower indigenous people, among other groundbreaking work. Field has continued to champion racial and gender equity and equality for marginalized individuals and communities. It is central to the work we do and I am proud to be a part of it.

As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, I am delighted to share this biennial report, Freedom is More than a Word, (the title of Marshall Field III’s 1945 book), as a reflection of our recent work and of the organizations that continue to make Chicago strong.

If Marshall Field III could see us now, he might again be looking forward to what comes next—what the next 80 years hold for all of us, and the important work the Foundation will continue to do.

I am still as excited as I was 17 years ago about the opportunity to work at a place where I get to learn and act on important issues every day, and I am proud of our work making Chicago a more equitable place to live and work for all Chicagoans. We have done a lot in our 80 years and there is so much more to do.

Here’s to embracing the past but always looking forward—together.

Mark Murray
Vice President, Programs and Administration 


Field Foundation Awards $1M to 38 Local Organizations

By | Field News

Field Foundation Awards $1M to 38 Local

The Field Foundation proudly announces its Fall 2020 grantees. In this grant cycle, 118 organizations applied for consideration; in September, 38 were selected representing slightly more than $1 million in support. The majority of these grants were awarded to organizations that are located in and/or focused on communities highlighted in Field’s heat map. Most are ALAANA-led organizations (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American).

Many, like Chicago United for Equity and Arts Alliance Illinois, are returning grantees whose missions and work we find it essential to continue supporting. Others, like The Chicago Crusader newspaper, are first-time grantees who are further deepening Field’s commitment to a robust Media & Storytelling portfolio that is expanding the communications landscape in Chicago.

Congratulations to all of our Fall 2020 grantees. We remain inspired by their bold vision and deeply connected work.


Our Justice portfolio focuses on systemic intervention work led by ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American) organizers working in communities across Chicago. Note the work this round we are honored to support in affordable housing, immigration, and bond reform. In this area, Field awarded 12 organizations.

Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance

Resident Association of Greater Englewood

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

Communities United

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization

Chicago United for Equity

Jane Addams Senior Caucus

Healing to Action

First Defense Legal Aid

Organized Communities Against Deportations

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Enlace Chicago


The Art portfolio focuses on space-making and capacity-building, with continued emphasis on the intersections within Art and Justice. 16 organizations were awarded.

Chicago Community Loan Fund

Firebird Community Arts

Urban Growers Collective

Reunion Chicago

Arts Alliance Illinois

West Point School of Music

Center for Cultural Innovation

Floating Museum

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center

Free Street Theater

Silk Road Rising

Africa International House USA, Inc.

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Free Lunch Academy

Honey Pot Performance

Sweet Water Foundation

Media & Storytelling

The Media & Storytelling portfolio supports ALAANA leadership and outlets that are taking multifaceted approaches to disrupting inequities within the media map. In this cycle, 10 organizations were awarded.

Traces of Home

Full Spectrum Features

OTV | Open Television

360 Nation

Henry Williams Love Foundation

StoryCorps, Inc

North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society

InterAction Initiative Inc

Public Media Institute

Chicago Crusader Newspaper


Voices from the Field

Phillip Hummer

Phillip Hummer, Field Foundation Life Director

“Looking back, the Field Foundation has a tradition of fostering good people for board and staff positions to bring the foundation to its fullest potential. It has been fortunate to have Marshall Field’s dedication and guiding spirit from day one. Based on its record of enlightened grantmaking and innovation with changing times, I am confident that Field’s positive influence on the city of Chicago will continue to grow.”

Grantee Spotlight

Rami Nashashibi 

Rami Nashashibi with album collaborator Drea N’Dur. Courtesy of Nashashibi

Field Foundation Grantee, South Side community organizer, and founding director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Rami Nashashibi is making his debut as musician, songwriter and executive producer of the album This LOVE Thing. A collaboration between Nashashibi and Buffalo, NY organizer Drea D’Nur being released October 23, This LOVE Thing blends different musical styles, genres, and faith influences. At least a half-dozen other artists, many of whom have worked in organizing and artistic circles with Nashashibi for years, are also included in the project. The single Mama Please invokes the memory and final words of George Floyd and is considered a powerful voice for this moment.

In a recent interview with Vocalo about community-engaged art as a creative outlet to promote social change, Nashashibi said: “At IMAN, we have always seen art as a way to radically reimagine the world as it could be in our community, and as a profound force to connect the disconnected.”

Nashashibi, a 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant, and 2018 Opus Prize Laureate said he hopes to present This LOVE Thing to live audiences in a multicity tour in 2021.

The Intersection of Art & Justice—and Policy

By | Field News

Q&A with Art Program Officer Tempestt Hazel and Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Claire Rice

Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Claire Rice


I’ve said the words “intersection of art and justice” more times than I can count during the past few years at Field. It’s a phrase that can be interpreted many ways and Chicago is the perfect place to gain clarity and understanding around the possibilities that phrase holds. Chicago is home to many groundbreaking, community-based organizations doing defining work that has helped me understand the phrase in three distinct ways, though these definitions often overlap, intersect, and change as the work of artists changes.

First, and perhaps most visible within arts and culture is justice as content. This is when issues such as labor rights, housing access, environmental justice, prison abolition, police violence, displacement, and other issues facing Chicago’s historically oppressed communities, serve as inspiration for artwork, performance, or project, and artistic expression itself becomes a tool to communicate these stories to a wider audience.

Second, and perhaps less clear within the arts sector, is art as a tool for justice, where artists are leading justice and community organizing efforts, working along with organizers and activists, and fighting for justice. This is an anchor point of the Field’s grantmaking in art and culture. This creative, cultural work is in some ways less legible because it’s often infused within community organizing campaigns and justice organizations, and misses the purview of some arenas of culture. But as author Toni Cade Bambara brilliantly said, “the role of the (artist/cultural worker) is to make revolution irresistible.”

Third, and perhaps most timely given the political season we are in, is justice for and within the arts sector itself, meaning policy pushes and advocacy efforts reminding civic sectors and the public that it is often underfunded, cut from budgets, exploited, and left out of conversations it is deeply connected to, such as public and community health, education, housing, economic development, and environment.

To gain a deeper understanding of the cultural policy and advocacy efforts that are most urgent and active for the sector itself, I spoke with Claire Rice, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois.

Tempestt Hazel: What are the biggest policy and advocacy issues of the arts sector right now, and how does that align with what Arts Alliance Illinois is currently doing?

Claire Rice: The devastation facing the sector is still vast, even six months into the pandemic. People are still thinking about survival, but one of the biggest challenges is making sure we’re looking at that survival through the lens of racial equity and justice. In some cases, I’ve seen where the survival instinct, particularly for white organizations, is [taking priority] over their commitment to equity and justice. In moments of crisis, we lean into our true core values, and we’re seeing that there’s still a lot of work to do to instill racial equity as a core value across the arts and culture landscape.

Pre-election, that means a couple of things, including remembering that public funding for the arts is a huge vehicle for systemic change and helping to rebalance the scales of the funding landscape, which has traditionally bent towards white-led and white-serving institutions. Public funding through the arts is one way that we can help to adjust that systemic imbalance, so we explicitly advocate for that public funding to have a racial equity lens.

We’re also working on equitable tax structures. In the arts sector, if we are asking government to put dollars into relief, recovery, and ongoing support for the sector, which is critical to our communities rebuilding, and for revitalization and healing, we also need to support the tax structures that support more equitable distribution of funds for arts and culture, through issues like the Fair Tax.

In Chicago, we will also be doing a campaign around the (city of Chicago) budget, which we know is in crisis. Due to the pandemic, there are huge issues with revenue for the city, and we understand that. But that doesn’t mean we don’t invest in the arts sector, the sector that can help lead us to an equitable recovery. We’re making the case that art and culture can be one of the tools in the health landscape and public safety landscape, etc. The city could be thinking more broadly about how the arts can be used to address these different issues.

TH: From AAI’s point of view, what are some of the things within the arts sector that are at risk of not being included in the city budget and given the budget shortfall, what are some ways to creatively address that challenge?

CR: A budget is a tool for equity and we need to rethink the ways that art shows up in the city budget. Specifically, one of the largest line items within the budget that supports art and culture goes to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), although its grantmaking budget is still one of the smallest per capita for major cities across the US. At the Alliance, we would like to maintain funding for DCASE but increase the share of that department’s budget that goes toward direct support and grantmaking for individual artists, businesses, and organizations, particularly in communities of color.

We’d like to see the Department of Health and other departments direct parts of their budgets toward arts and culture organizations, artists, and creative businesses.

TH: How has the Alliance’s work changed over the past several months?

CR: Given the funding challenges for state and local governments due to COVID-19, we’ve had to focus a lot of our energy on the federal level. For example, we’ve been asking for fixes of the Payroll Protection Program that will ensure more equitable distribution and access to those funds by arts organizations, especially BIPOC organizations, in a way that the first round didn’t because it was so quick, which leads to [disproportionate distribution], White supremacy values of urgency showing up again! So, even when we ask that programs like these consider the arts more, we’re also reminding people and calling upon civic leaders to be careful not to put structures into place that are underscoring broken systems that we are working to replace.

We’ve basically done a full pivot to [addressing] COVID-19 and helping arts organizations, businesses, and artists understand these [relief] programs. For a lot of gig workers and artists, this is the first time they’ve been eligible for unemployment. For a lot of cultural nonprofits, this is their first time applying for a government loan or a loan program. This is all new to our sector in a lot of ways. We’ve been doing a lot of coaching and helping people navigate these programs–and doing it in partnership with organizations like Enrich Chicago, Chicago Cultural Alliance, and partners like Field in order to get the word out and broaden our reach.

TH: For those reading this who are fans of the arts but aren’t deeply involved in the sector, what would you like them to know or understand about arts and culture in Chicago?

CR: I think it goes back to the budget conversation. I want those outside the sector to understand and think about the ways in which they can engage the cultural sector to address the challenges they are facing in their own organizations and also their spheres of influence. We all have problems and challenges that we’re trying to solve within our civic and social justice work, and I think the arts, artists, and creatives are underutilized tools that should be in their toolkit. Find out what artists are already engaged in the type of work that you do, because there are artists across the city and state who are engaged in the same issues. How can you hire them to help advance those conversations? For us, at the Alliance, bridging those connections and creating workforce development opportunities is the next phase of the work.

Tempestt Hazel
Art Program Officer

Handy Lindsey
Field Foundation President
“The Field Foundation became known for being willing to be the ‘first in.’ While our grants were small, they were important because they were first. Being willing to look beyond where the rest of the philanthropic community was looking and to be willing to take some risks on some new and dynamic players out there, who, if given the chance to build capacity, could really move the needle on some things.”

Living in Retrospect: A Message from the Grave

By | Field News

The casket of Rep. John Lewis crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge by horse-drawn carriage during a memorial service for Lewis on July 26 in Selma, Ala. Photo Creator: John Bazemore, Photo Credit: AP


On July 30, 2020, The New York Times published a message from the grave.

Civil Rights giant and longtime Congressman, John Lewis, knew he had lost his battle with cancer. Rather than spend his final days resting and fading peacefully – he unleashed one last act for the greater good and wrote a message to each of us. This missive urged us to keep going without him, to fight at all costs for human dignity and to “study and learn the lessons of history because …the truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.”

Writing a note knowing you will be gone before it is read.

The Present actively unfolding while simultaneously viewed from the Future’s gaze.

Living in retrospect.

Six months of social distancing, masking ourselves in public and stretching to remain ever-connected digitally, the Field Foundation staff has found new ways of digging in and reaching out. Calls, Zooms, Google meets. One-on-ones, panels, keynotes given barefoot in front of framed ancestors watching quietly from our walls.

We are all living our lives in retrospect these days; watching the ink dry on a history book each day while simultaneously scrolling the headlines on our phone. We know 2020 is a year that will be studied, analyzed. We feel it with each statue pulled down, each city budget shifting investments from policing to the promise of people. With each uptick of lives stolen by Coronavirus. With each school struggling to determine how to feed and educate children, protect teachers, solve for the mounting trauma and do it all on shrinking budgets and with no vaccine in sight.

Injustice viralized.

Priorities reevaluated.

Essentiality redefined.

The world collectively examining the high-functioning and eagerly supported racial caste system that slides to fatal lengths based on the darkness of skin. The world collectively asking how this caste system is codified and designed? What is the role of government to change this, of our publicly held companies, our cultural, academic and philanthropic institutions? What is the role I play, you play?

The pen, it is writing. The ink, ever drying.

And when it stops, what will the history books say about us; and what will we have learned, done, changed?

Now in our 80th year, Field Foundation’s history is also ever-unfolding.

We started this year by looking back on our founding and how we were born from the mind of Marshall Field III in an attempt to equip the organizer, the artist, and the truth-teller with everything they need for the fight. Knowing that it is the fighter who changes the rules of the game, that a dug-in fight is sometimes the only way to gain any ground, and that in the end – until those most marginalized are designers of their own destiny – no one can prevail, no one can be free.

In our forthcoming Biennial Report, we will take the opportunity of our 80th anniversary to reflect on the past, present and future – how it overlaps in elegant loops. In these past few years Field has changed so much. How we fund, who we fund, how we measure our work, how we aim to build trust, how we invest our dollars and how we keep learning by constantly recognizing how far we still have to go.

And yet, given that in the original documents from our Foundation, Marshall Field III called us to work for “racial justice,” in many ways our latest change has simply circled us back to our earliest beginning. We are returning home, retracing our steps, heading steadfastly back to where we started.

So, what will history say about us, about our actions, about this time? Let’s ask the ever-prescient John Lewis, a staff member in the sixties at the Field Foundation of New York.

In Mr. Lewis’ final note he offered us this…

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

Walking with each of you in the wind,

Angelique Power, President 


Welcome the 2020-2021 Field Fellows!

The Field Foundation Fellowship is a supervised field placement for graduate students, offering work and philanthropic experience for the next generation of grant makers. Our Fellows come to us for a ten-month academic year, while also pursuing advanced degrees from institutions throughout the Chicago area.

Since Field started this work more than 30 years ago, 50 fellows have interned with Field, many of whom are, themselves, now philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.

We are excited to announce our 2020-2021 Field Fellows: Sofía Gabriel del Callejo and Richard Tran.

Sofía Gabriel del Callejo
Sofía is pursuing an MA in Arts Administration & Policy in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She is joining Field as the Communications Fellow.

Richard Tran
Richard is the Field Programs Fellow. He is working on his masters degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and will be working with each of our program officers to support their work.