Field News

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.


Housing is a Human Right

By | Field News

Photo Courtesy of PIlsen Alliance and Lift the Ban Coalition


In early August, organizers with the Lift the Ban (LBC) Coalition set up an encampment outside of the Richard J. Daley Center. At the time, the state was just days away from the eviction moratorium expiring where it was estimated that there would be close to 762,000 households evicted in Illinois. The direct action, which organizers called “Pritzkerville,” was meant to symbolize the eviction avalanche.

As part of Governor Pritzker’s emergency orders surrounding COVID-19, Pritzker halted evictions for unpaid rent and mortgages in Illinois. Landlords would not be able to evict tenants affected by the pandemic without negotiating with them first. The moratorium was extended over the summer, in large part because of the Coalition’s advocacy and direct actions. Shortly after the encampment the moratorium was extended again and is now set to expire on September 22, 2020. The moratorium does not, however, exempt tenants from still paying rent, which advocates argue should be forgiven since many individuals have lost employment because of the pandemic.

“There was an almost three month stay-at-home order. People could not go into work. People should not be accountable for their rent during that time,” says Roderick Wilson, executive director at Lugenia Burns Hope Center, an organization that develops the civic engagement of residents in Bronzeville and other communities, through education, leadership development and community organizing. The Center is also a member of the Coalition.

The Lift the Ban Coalition (LBC) has been working on housing issues since before the pandemic. It formed in 2016 in response to the displacement of families because of increased rents. The Coalition identified rent control as a policy tool to stabilize the rental housing market where a majority of the city’s Black and Latinx renters are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. LBC has more than 30 supporting organizations and some of the member organizations include: Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Lugenia Burns Hope Center, Northside Action for Justice, Pilsen Alliance, ONE Northside and Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. Now pivoting to address the eviction crisis, the Coalition’s goals are threefold: lift the ban on rent control, extend the eviction moratorium, and cancel rent and mortgage payments.

A goal of the Field Foundation’s Justice portfolio is to support organizations examining the root causes of systemic issues and pushing for just solutions. One of those systemic issues is housing insecurity, which disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income residents on the south and west sides. The impending renters’ crisis also highlights long-standing issues with housing affordability in Chicago, especially among communities of color. According to research led by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, “In Chicago, the declining supply of affordable units led to a growing affordability gap, despite declines in overall demand for affordable units. Since 2012, demand for affordable units has declined by 8.9 percent while the supply of affordable units has declined by 15 percent.”

In addition to a limited supply of affordable housing, renters who have lost income or employment and are unable to cover rent have limited options without government interventions. Activists have identified housing solutions long before the pandemic and they are bringing urgent solutions to the table right now. The Obama Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, for example, has organized to ensure the Obama Presidential Center in Woodlawn will not displace families from their homes.

After more than five years of campaigning, the Coalition recently reached a compromise agreement with Mayor Lightfoot on a Woodlawn Housing Ordinance designed to protect residents who live near the Obama Presidential Center from displacement.

Read the full statement on the victory by the CBA Coalition here.

This is just one example of the powerful outcome of persistent organizing for, by and about Black Chicagoans that could help prevent displacement many long-time residents fear.

In the absence of rental and housing protections advocates are putting forward, the question for decision makers, amidst a global pandemic that has impacted the African American and Latinx populations at higher rates, remains: without stable housing, how can individuals and families shelter in place?

“We’re in the middle of a health crisis. We don’t need to go into another housing crisis,” Wilson said.

Without protections for renters, including a permanent moratorium on evictions, rent control, and rent relief, many residents will continue to face housing instability. Housing is a human right that should be accessible for all people.

Angelica Chavez
Justice Program Officer



The Field Foundation seeks to level the playing field across Chicago by using Field Foundation dollars to address the root causes of inequity, be it in community environment, health, housing or other issue areas. Rather than funding direct service, we will fund organizations working to address problems at a systemic and policy level. Learn more about the program here.

Field Summer Reading List
A Collection of Selections from the Field Team

The Field Foundation leadership team is often asked for guidance and tapped for input and expertise on issues deeply connected to our program areas of Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. Now, with renewed fervor for examination and dialogue in the upheaval year that 2020 has been, books on race/social justice/politics and political movements, as well as literary, artistic & other creative endeavors are urgently in the forefront. New and old releases by Black authors — fiction and nonfiction — have flooded the New York Times bestseller list.

Right now there is a hunger for more knowledge, more clarity, more understanding. As a result, we compiled and began posting the Field Summer Reading List on our Instagram page, featuring some of our team’s current and all-time favorites — some of their most influential titles. Visit our Instagram page to see their full commentary on all of these selections, which are listed here:

Angelique Power, President
1919 by Eve Ewing
Crossing California by Adam Langer
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Chicago From the Depression to the Millennium: A Black Perspective by Vernon B. Williams III (Angelique’s late father)

Lolly Bowean, Media & Storytelling Program Officer
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Tempestt Hazel, Art Program Officer
Too Much Midnight by Krista Franklin
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry

Hilesh Patel, Leadership Investment Program Officer
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda
When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

Angelica Chavez, Justice Program Officer
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis


Kim Van Horn
Managing Director, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
2002-2013 Field Program Officer

What do you carry with you today from your time at Field?

“Spending time in communities I did not know, learning histories I was never taught, listening to people share life experiences that were different than my own — has profoundly shaped me personally and professionally. I learned that most of philanthropy’s biggest missteps stem from not understanding the complexity and diversity of issues and communities and failing to include those most affected by issues in generating and executing solutions.”

What Really Happened? The Value of a Diverse Media Diet

By | Field News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Borderless Magazine

Cicero Independiente

Lumpen Radio

The Hoodoisie

The Chicago Crusader

Injustice Watch

The Invisible Institute

The Chicago Defender


La Raza

The Chicago Reporter


The American Indian Center of Chicago

The Trace

Lolly Bowean
Media & Storytelling Program Officer

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

By | Field News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As We Grow, We Grow Collectively

By | Field News

As We Grow, We Grow Collectively


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

She is the community and the community is her. 

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

She always works to decenter herself. 

He always says WE.

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

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

She only stands in front once we all agree.  

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

He leads collectively.

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

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

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

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

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

Hilesh Patel
Leadership Investment Program Officer




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

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

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



Voices from the Field

Kandace Thomas

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

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

Photo: Jenni Kotting

Mercy Mercy Me

By | Field News

Mercy, Mercy Me: Adapting, Changing, Caring for Staff During COVID-19

On March 6, 2020, the Field staff gathered for the first time in the new office space we co-conceptualized at the FBRK Impact House for breakfast. We toured the building, met up with colleagues and imagined working collaboratively in a cooperative space designed to build relationships and nurture ideas.

Today, four months after COVID-19 gripped the world and forced us to stay home, most of us have yet to return.

I feel like we are living in a Marvin Gaye lyric: “Whoa ah mercy, mercy me—ah, things ain’t what they used to be…” At Field this is true. Business as usual has not been business as usual for some time. These last four years our grantmaking has evolved to center racial equity, and over the past few months our approach has simultaneously been sharpened and expanded. It points us to the places that we need to go and leaves us free to explore new ideas and important, timely issues.

And while things aren’t what they used to be, they do resemble 1971 when Marvin Gaye wrote “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and released the album, What’s Going On. The feeling is the same—and unfortunately so are the issues. Be it the 1965 riots in Watts, police brutality in Berkeley, the Vietnam War, or the human impact on the environment—we see similarities to the Coronavirus pandemic and racism today. Racial equity is a constant journey—things shouldn’t be what they used to be, and at Field we continue to rethink, reshape, and redesign our work while staying true to our values.

As we all started work from home on March 16th, it was immediately clear that things were different—from our makeshift home offices, we realized quickly that we had to find new ways of working together—ones that were not defined by physical proximity but that still allowed for deep connectivity.

In those first few days, the Field team dug in—worked harder, learned more, shared opportunities and connected even more. Over the first few days, after the video conference accounts were set, the frenetic sprint pace eased into a steady distance run. We asked ourselves, if we want to lead with equity, what does an equitable workplace look like in this unfamiliar new world? How do we support staff, our grantees, and our partners?

From the onset, the Field team acknowledged that we did not have all the answers, but that we would find solutions together, and that while we may be isolated, we were not alone. Taking care of ourselves became as important as making sure that the work was accomplished.

To center care of staff and equity in our work lives, here are a few things that we have done:


  • Making Work from Home—Work. To start, we created a guide to working remotely that positioned the team to communicate through technology and to encourage learning together so that we could make distance feel minimal. We encouraged everyone to reflect on our internal core values of equity, respect, transparency, trust, and kindness which we co-created prior to the pandemic. We emphasized communication—both internally and externally—and created a safe, productive environment that promoted creativity and connection. As spring emerged and work from home continued, we surveyed the team with a short list of questions that addressed work at home needs. We aggregated the responses, set budgets and incorporated expenses—we used our findings to design new policies that addressed working from home, including supplies, equipment, and software requirements customized to each staff members’ responsibilities, and made moderate resources available for use over the fiscal year.
  • Communication, Communication, Communication. Committing to open and transparent communication has been a deliberate activity. We had to find innovative ways of working together and communicating even though we would not be near each other. We established a weekly virtual “huddle” where the team connects and shares with one another—huddles usually include coffee, the voices of children in the background and special pet appearances. We discuss our work, we check in on one another and we share what we are learning—and over time, in these unusual circumstances, we have become closer as a team. We have also been intentional about connecting with our FBRK Impact House colleagues and have created platforms to share ideas and ask questions in weekly or bi-weekly calls that help us collectively think through our new space and our equitable philanthropic responses to the pandemic. We have also been using our digital media more than ever before and have expanded our role as a communications outlet with the help of our talented communications consultant, Sabrina Miller.And since our goal has always been to showcase the amazing work of Chicago organizations working on Chicago’s pressing issues, we are now doing this virtually by connecting and lifting the voices of our grantees and sharing ideas of the moment in new ways and on new platforms.
  • Transparent Budget Process. As information about the pandemic emerged and markets around the world plummeted, Field was in the process of creating our Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Establishing a budget based on a forecasted future and in the face of enormous volatility was challenging, but at the core of the FY2021 budget is a standing commitment to our grantmaking model and to Chicago communities. Getting there required many transparent conversations about the budget on every level. As a staff, we walked through an array of scenarios and discussed items line by line, asking questions and thinking critically about how we could adjust our operations and where we could save. We created room for the entire team to weigh in and built in space to ask questions and make suggestions. As a result, we created a budget with a 6.45 percent payout level that we are proud of and that allows us to continue supporting organizations doing incredibly important work throughout Chicago.
  • Wellness Fridays. While working from home, we saw how the traditional boundaries of the workday blur and we responded by mandating breaks for the team to disconnect and recharge through the creation of “Wellness Fridays” where every other week we completely disconnect from calls and email and take intentional time off to refresh.
  • Cyber Security Protection. Working from home can include increased cybersecurity risks. And to address the increased cyber threats that are emerging, we have been assessing our security, building increased staff awareness, and beefing up our cyber security profile overall.
  • Understanding What Return to Work Means. Not only has the world that the pandemic created changed our lives, it has also forever impacted what it means to be at work. While we have yet to return to our office, we understand that the stakes of going back to a physical work space are much greater now, and we wanted to make sure we were not forcing people to return to work during this uncertain time. Conversely, we understood some might feel isolated and wanted to be in a safe physical space outside of their home. Choice and safety measures are both critical, from understanding considerations ranging from building sanitation and elevator safety to accommodating our team’s apprehensions, and social distancing needs. We wanted to know how issues outside of work like commuting, childcare, and concerns of the immunocompromised impacted decisions to return. We have leaned on our partners at FBRK Impact House to share information about sanitation protocols and the recommended safe uses of space. We used the survey information regarding returning to work to develop flexible policies that address a voluntary and gradual return that supports staff with commuting and parking expenses.

These aren’t the only ways to bring equity into our new way of working but it’s a start. We realize that being equitable is about both process and posture. It demands a different attitude, one that leans in, tilts its head and listens. At Field, we are listening—to communities, our grantees and to our colleagues. And while things may not be what they used to be—we are working to be better and more supportive than ever before.

Mark Murray
Vice President, Programs and Administration

Congratulations Spring 2020 Grantees

In May, the Field Foundation announced its Spring 2020 grantees. These 35 organizations have persevered and adapted their programming to accommodate the extreme changes caused by this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.They each represent our grantmaking model of Community Empowerment through Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. We are proud of our Spring 2020 grantees and are inspired by their bold vision and 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.




Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago                   Brighton Park Neighborhood Council 



Centro de Trabajadores Unido                                                Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative



Chicago Community Bond Fund                                              Chicago Housing Initiative



Chicago Torture Justice Center                                               Latin United Community Housing Association



Logan Square Neighborhood Association                         Northwest Side Housing Center

Surge Institute



The Art portfolio focuses on space-making and capacity-building, with continued emphasis on the intersections within Art and Justice.
Alt Space Chicago                                                                       Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians
Blue Tin Production Cooperative                                       Changing Worlds
Chicago Workers’ Collaborative                                           Circles and Ciphers
Definition Theatre                                                                     Freedom House Studios Chicago
Lawndale Pop-Up Spot                                                            Love, Unity & Values (LUV) Institute
National Museum of Gospel Music                                    Red Clay Dance Company
Union Street Gallery                                                                Urban Theater Company

Media & Storytelling

The Media & Storytelling portfolio supports ALAANA leadership and outlets that are taking multifaceted approaches to disrupting inequities within the media map.
American Indian Association of Illinois                          American Indian Center of Chicago 
Chicago Public Media                                                               Free Spirit Media
Institute for Nonprofit News                                          Juneteenth Productions
Public Narrative                                                                    The Hoodoisie

Voices from the Field

Hrishikesh “Rishi” Shetty

Hrishikesh “Rishi” Shetty, Trainer, Guidance Resource Unit-ComPsych, 2014-2015 Field Fellow 

“My time at the Field Foundation opened my eyes to the tremendous philanthropic work that happens in Chicago. The amount of organizations, individuals, and corporations working together to improve and grow Chicago amazed me. My experience at the Field showed me how philanthropic support extends beyond funding to include leadership, program expertise, technical assistance, a network, and anything in between. The skills I developed as a Field Fellow continue to help me in my work today.”