Field News

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.”

Any Budget is a Moral Statement of Priorities

By Field News

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity and justice,

Angélica Chavez
Program Officer, Justice

Announcing Our 2020 Cohort: Leaders for a New Chicago

By Field News


11 Local Leaders awarded for groundbreaking work

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ask Questions & Be Crititcal

By Field News

Courtesy of Tatiana Cortes


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tempestt – Buzz Lightyear: To Infinity and Beyond

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

Lolly – Black Panther: The Untold Story

Hilesh – The Flash: Speedy and Engaged

Tommie – Clark Kent/Superman: Ordinarily Super

Angelique – Captain Marvel: Action and Hope

Mark – Tony Stark/Iron Man: Inspiringly Committed

Michelle – Mrs. Incredible: Stretching the Limits

They are my heroes. Ask them why!

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

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

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

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

A Paradigm Shift in the Newsroom

By Field News

Courtesy of Dawn Rhodes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lolly Bowean
Program Officer, Media & Storytelling




About Media & Storytelling

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


A letter from Field Foundation Board President Gloria Castillo

By Field News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artists as Longtime First Responders

By Field News

UrbanTheater Company


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

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

Ellie Lee / Circles and Ciphers

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

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

Brave Space Alliance

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

Candice Washington / Real Men Charities Inc.

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

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

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

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


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

Tempestt Hazel
Program Officer, Art