Family Matters’ Road to Equity

The road to equity began long before us, and the journey is ongoing. For the 2017-2018 program year, Family Matters has updated its mission, vision, and core value statements to reflect the fact that we are now viewing the work we do through the targeted lens of eliminating racism and oppression. In doing so, we sought the input of youth, parents, the Board, volunteers, and staff and hosted a community Peace Circle to ensure all voices were represented. Our intent is to add more voices to the conversation to address the following justice issues:

Efforts to close the educational gap—Much of the disparity in test scores between youth of color and white youth can be traced to the limited resources of under-performing schools in the area. At Family Matters we offer individualized, culturally relevant academic tutor-mentoring to support youth in reaching their highest potentials, receiving equitable opportunities, and achieving outcomes for college- and career-readiness.

Disproportionally high rates of suspension—According to the Brown Center Report (BRC) on Education, African-American youth are suspended at a rate 13.4% higher than their white peers. The goal of our Alternative to Suspension program is to transform the suspension period into a positive, reflective, and valuable experience for youth by providing a safe space, holistic counseling, and a restorative approach to resolving conflict.

Swimming access and inequities—Historical segregation, persistent stereotypes, and lack of access and instruction have kept many of the youth in the North of Howard neighborhood from the opportunity to swim. Family Matters’ Making Waves program, in partnership with the YMCA, is changing that—providing swimming and water safety lessons weekly.

Youth employment opportunities—One of the most effective means of preventing neighborhood violence and promoting peace is employment. With the support of Northwestern University, a CPR certification program was offered to 20 youth in January, opening up pathways for job options. Also, Project RISE, the summer employment initiative of the Teen Programs, will continue, and we hope to expand it to a full-year program.

Community engagement projects—The argument could be made that focusing on social justice issues is a luxury available only to those with substantial resources. We at Family Matters think that it is vital to the lives of Family Matters youth to learn how social change can be effected through community service. Check out our website to learn of the many community engagement projects youth from K – 12 grades are spearheading!

Co-creating a safe space for all—Peaceful dialogues are underway as the Boys to Men program members have begun to screen their documentary “Silence the Violence” around the community. Trainings on our model, Principles of Leadership, are also intentionally focused on facilitating personal and collective justice—through developing strong relationships, meaningful communication, and safe environments—for courageous social change.

In the Family Matters community, we inspire each other as our expectations for equity elevate. We are counting on others in the community to push us to aim higher and higher. To this end, we have created a “Staff Picks” list of our team’s favorite social-change books, songs, podcasts, movies, and more as a way to deepen understanding of the social justice issues. Distributing this list is our way of reaching out and inviting responses, including the addition of our supporters’ personal favorites.

Staff Picks on the Topic of Equity

Books

White Rage by Carol Anderson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Waking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Yurguru by Marimba Ani

The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace by John Paul Lederach

A People’s History of Chicago by Kevin Coval

Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy by Beth Berila

Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice by Carla Shedd

Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters: A History of the Black Woman in America by Jeanne Noble

Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? The Afrikan American Family in Transition by Haki Madhubuti

Honoring Genius: Gwendolyn Brooks by Haki Madhubuti

By Any Means Necessary Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented edited by Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga, and Haki Madhubuti

Liberation Narratives by Haki Madhubuti

Walking in Circles by Barbara Sizemore

2000 Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah

Books by Audre Lorde


Podcasts

Bronzeville

Code Switch

On Being by Krista Tippett

This American Life – “Three Miles” https://www.thisamericanlife.org/550/three-miles 

Snap Judgement – “Senior Year Mix Tape” http://snapjudgment.org/senior-year-mixtape 

 

Films

13th

Get Out

Moonlight

Sankofa

Quilumbo

Remember the Titans


Articles

https://onbeing.org/blog/what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/

Sojourners –  (https://sojo.net/)

Videos and Music
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=43gm3CJePn0

https://www.wbez.org/shows/morning-shift/the-physical-long-term-effects-of-childhood-trauma/68f8d847-492b-4a82-9f43-e332461a780a

https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?utm_campaign=tedspread–b&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

 


Workplace Communication: When in Doubt …

Uplift Industries was a small marketing firm in Chicago dedicated to furthering the missions of local businesses. The team comprised a Chief Marketing Officer, Phyllis; a Marketing Manager, Laura; and the Marketing Assistant, Simone. The workload and pace of their clients’ campaigns made collaboration key and communication critical. Having worked together for a couple of years and being mutually invested in the achievement of their firm, they considered one another friends and had a basic understanding of each other’s mindsets.

Still, there were times when team dynamics or project situations gave rise to uncertainty or conflict. Given their mix of passive and assertive personalities, this resulted in experiences of rejection, frustration, and/or anxiety. These feelings were rarely shared with one another, as no one wanted to “rock the boat.”

Business had picked up, and they were pleasantly and overwhelmingly busy. Phyllis decided to assign Simone, the assistant, with a large project- a radio advertisement for the Park District. Later that week, when Simone reported on her progress at a Team Meeting, Laura, the manager, appeared visibly upset; her face had become flushed and she quickly went through her section of the agenda with quivering emotion in her voice.

Often, Simone and Laura would meet after the Team Meeting to debrief and check in with one another. This time, Laura went immediately to her office, dimmed the lights, and locked the door behind her. Simone began to worry:

  • Did she think my pitch was terrible? Did something I said offend her?
  • Was she upset that the Park District project was assigned to me?
  • Is she jealous that the Park District project was assigned to me?
  • Why can’t she be supportive of this opportunity for me? There’s plenty of work to go around.

Laura’s standoffish behavior lasted throughout the week, and Simone tortured herself trying to figure out what she had done wrong. Finally, on Friday afternoon, she decided to confront the situation and knocked on the door.

Simone: Hi Phyllis. Do you have a minute to talk?

Laura: Yes, of course, please come in. What is it?

Simone: I was wondering if there was anything about our Team Meeting that was upsetting to you? I noticed you were quieter than usual. What are your thoughts about my taking on the Park District project?

Laura: Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I struggle with migraines – a bad one came on during that meeting. When that happens, I have to dim the lights and be in silence. If you ever notice that I’m shutting my door, please feel free to knock and come in.

Simone: Oh, I’m so glad I asked. I’m sorry you’ve been feeling so poorly!

Laura: Yeah, and since you mentioned it, Phyllis did ask me to start on the Park District project a couple of weeks ago. I had not quite gotten to it. It seems like a duplication of efforts and I am confused about why she would ask both of us to work on it.

Simone: Can we both go talk to Phyllis now to see why or how that happened, and to figure out an effective system for communicating who is going to be doing what from now on? 

As it turned out, Phyllis had completely forgotten that she had already assigned the project to Laura first. She was relieved that her team came to speak with her directly, together, instead of harboring resentment or theorizing without her input.

All three left the office on Friday ready for the weekend – so glad that “when in doubt, they checked it out.”

Try this: Make note of the next time you make an assumption. Could there be another explanation? Challenge yourself to approach the other person and ask questions to clarify the situation. You may be surprised to learn the full story!


Jennifer and Faith

With eighth grade on the horizon, Jennifer, That Goddess Power (Teen Girls Program) member since 2015, decided she could benefit from Evening Tutoring. In the past twelve months, she has suffered two devastating losses – an uncle to cancer and a close friend in a drowning at the neighborhood beach. Focusing on academics was difficult to do with the anger that surfaced.

Her tutor-mentor, Faith, shares, “That’s one of the first things we bonded over – losing someone. It’s a challenging situation, and I think it’s why Jennifer ended the last year with D’s and F’s. She’s got the drive and motivation. She can do anything she puts her mind to.”

Faith supported Jennifer, and Jennifer worked closely with Ashaki, the Director of That Goddess Power, on ways to regain control of her emotions. The Family Matters community watched eagerly as Jennifer gained the skills she needed to be the star she always wanted to be. She now has all A’s and B’s and is going to sing at her eighth grade graduation ceremony. “It’s because of [Faith and Ashaki]. Because they tell me not to give up; that if I want something I have to earn it.”

Looking back, Jennifer recalled the crucial love and support Ashaki showed to her when she was feeling at her lowest. “She was always there for me. She told me ‘Never give up on what you want. You’re a strong girl. You’re a powerful girl.’ I’d like to thank her for everything she did for me, and especially for listening to everything I had to say.”

Jennifer and Faith also find enjoyment each week when they play math games and listen to music. Faith appreciates the collaborative nature of the Evening Tutoring program, and how she feels listened to and supported. “I’m a piece of the puzzle here.”

Jennifer realizes that hard work and community will be integral in achieving her long-term dreams. She wants to be “a social worker, a dancer, a singer, and a counselor who helps kids who’ve been through things like I have.” She knows, too, that self-love will be the first step in accomplishing these goals. “First we have to love ourselves, then we can love others.” she reflects.

For Jennifer and Faith, that’s what Family Matters is all about. Faith says, “It’s Supportive. Positive. Collaborative.” Jennifer adds, “It’s Community. Leadership. And Love.”


The Band-Aid Activity

This fall, Family Connections is addressing the concept of Educational Equity. To introduce the youth (ages 8-12) to the concept of equity, members participated in a “Band-Aid” activity:

Each youth chose an injury card from a basket. The injuries ranged from a scratched finger to a stomach ache to a shark bite. After reading the injury aloud, each child was given a band-aid to treat the ailment. The youth then answered a series of questions, including: “Is it fair that everyone received a band-aid?” and “Did you receive the treatment that you needed?”

At first, the children said that the band-aid treatment was not fair, because the individual with the stomach ache, for example, needed medicine and not a band-aid. They discussed the concept of equality and fairness, sharing that everyone receiving the exact same thing is, in fact, “fair.”

“Equity” is defined as all individuals getting what they need, as opposed to “equality,” where everyone receives the same treatment.” The youth were invited to share other examples of people receiving “equitable” treatment, instead of “equal” treatment. As they transitioned into afternoon tutoring, they were invited to think about their individual needs regarding academic support, and encouraged to seek what they need at Family Matters, whether it be a break during homework completion or an opportunity to research a personal interest with the support of their tutors.

If you have an example of Equity vs. Equality, we’d love to hear it!


Practicing Compassion at Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a day of family, abundance, and gratitude. It is a day spent with those you love and those you may see only once a year. Thanksgiving is a joyous time of football, food, and celebration. Thanksgiving can also be a day where social, political, religious, and/or family differences give rise to conflict.

When tension arises, it can be valuable to remember to ask yourself the question “how can I practice compassion?” and to bring the second Principle of Family Matters’ Principles of LeadershipPeaceful Conflict Resolution – to bear.

Peaceful Conflict Resolution encourages us to turn conflict into an opportunity to understand perspectives that are different from our own in order to learn and grow from our new understanding. The process encourages us to enter into conflict with the intent to resolve it – increasing our empathy toward others and understanding their viewpoints, thereby strengthening our relationships.

The key to positive conflict resolution situations is that both sides try leaning in, listening closely to what each person is saying, and practicing compassion. Asking clarifying questions will reflect a person’s understanding of what the other person has said and give that person an opportunity to correct any misconceptions. Both parties are then able to move forward and work on an acceptable solution for the conflict.

A few things to remember:

  • Strengthening a critical relationship can be more valuable than “winning” a conflict.
  • It takes all parties involved to resolve a conflict.
  • Be sure conflicts are resolved rather than managed, otherwise they will likely flare up again.
  • Understand what “pushes your buttons” and how you can respond rather than react.
  • Practice compassion for yourself and others.

Although solving all of the world’s problems over Thanksgiving dinner is beyond reach, you may be able to bring a positive change for yourself and those around you by practicing compassion, which fosters open, respectful, and honest conversations that build authentic relationships.


Walking for Equity, Community, and Family Matters

The morning of October 7, 2017 turned out to be a beautiful one, which upheld Family Matters’ rain-free Walkathon streak! Nearly 300 youth, families, and friends walked five miles together along the lakefront for equity, community, and Family Matters. Walkers returned to Gale Academy, (a 1/2 block away from Family Matters), and braved the bee swarms to partake in the delicious picnic, enjoy an amazing bubble show, relax with a chair massage, build community and raise funds and awareness for Family Matters.

Many walkers went home with prizes from the free raffle, and all walkers who raised over $100 for the Walkathon were entered into a second raffle. Congratulations to the following winners:

Anna Ashcraft – 2 month membership to Evanston Athletic Club
Shalona Byrd – iPod Nano
Betsy Shuman-Moore – Rogers Park Restaurant gift card package

Thank you so much to all of you who worked to raise funds for the Walkathon and for Family Matters!

Team fundraising pages will stay active indefinitely. If you would like to contribute, please visit the Walkathon Campaign Page here. Thank you for your support!

See more Walkathon photos on our Facebook page! Click here – remember to like our page while you’re there.

Family Matters’ Walkathon has become a long-standing tradition in the North of Howard community, and we are so grateful for this collaboration with volunteers and neighborhood partners.

In addition to our Event and Picnic Sponsors, we’d like to thank:

Heather Miller for taking photos
Rogers Park Business Alliance for the use of their tents
Adolf and Arthia Jenkins for their tireless work at the grill
Carla Eason for providing chair massages
The 49th Ward Alderman’s Office for the use of their sound system
The 24th District Police Department for providing officers at the crosswalk

And to all of our Walkathon volunteers – this event is possible because of your dedication and generosity.

Anna Ashcraft
Kate Bradley
Paul Bradley
Bob Bobesink
Shalona Byrd
Elwina Davis
Mary Jo Deysach
Megan Fellman
Allisen Hansen
Karen Hedberg
Liz Jacobs

Francis Lynch
Kendra McClintock
Sophie Nyanue

Cynthia Patti
Mr. Reuter
Cherry Saldano
Anna Sardar
Chris Stevenson
Jevon Stewart
Ben Tudor

Desiree Washington

What element of the Walkathon did you enjoy most? Do you have suggestions for next year? We’d love to hear from you! Add your comment below or send us a message – gretchen@familymatterschicago.org.


Making Waves

by Chris Spence, Director of Youth Engagement at Family Matters

A recent survey by USA Swimming reveals that nearly 40 percent of White children have little-to-no swimming abilities; however that staggering percentage is minuscule when compared to the 70 percent of Black children who cannot swim. Sixty percent of Hispanic children face the same concern.”

The reason for this has nothing to do with physical differences and everything to do with lack of access. Swimming should be a skill offered to everyone. However, it’s a privilege afforded to those who live near a pool or accessible natural body of water, and who can afford to pay for lessons. This excludes inner city children who lack one or both of those opportunities.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports drowning as the second leading cause of injury-related death among children under the age of 15. Other studies show that Black children from ages five to 19 drown in swimming pools nearly five times more often than White children. The painful stereotype of African-Americans’ poor swimming skills is one reminder of the trouble a child can face.

Family Connections youth swimming during Spring Break

The world was also reminded in 2010, when six African-American teenagers from Louisiana drowned in Shreveport’s Red River. The teens (from two different families) were found dead after trying to save a friend from rough waters.

Sadly, parents and friends watched in horror as the teens drowned in up to 20 feet of water because they, too, couldn’t swim.

“None of us could swim,” Marilyn Robinson, a friend of the families, told the Shreveport Times, adding that she watched helplessly as the victims went under. “They were yelling, ‘Help me, help me. Somebody please help me.’ There was nothing I could do but watch them drown, one by one.”

A trip to the lake during Family Matters' summer programming

Today, nearly 60 years after the abolishment of Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans from pools and safe swimming places, many children still never get the chance to swim.

When racial integration finally became a mandate, many areas responded by closing public pools so they didn’t have to mix, creating a bigger social divide that transcended race because if you didn’t have the money to go to a country club or private pool, you either didn’t learn to swim, or you tried to learn from an untrained friend or family member in rivers, lakes and even ponds.

That’s the history, and it has undoubtedly contributed to where we are today, to this troubling acceptance that swimming — an important life skill — isn’t for everybody.

The historic separation of African Americans from pools is a problem that affects the elite world of competitive swimming. Despite Simone Manuel’s Olympic gold-medal success last summer, only three of 45 swimmers on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team were black. And out of 107 historically black colleges and universities, not one has a functioning 50-meter pool. Howard University is the only historically black college or university with a competitive swim team. With few role models and scarce opportunities to swim, too many black children see swimming as an inaccessible and uninviting sport.

Making Waves at Family Matters

In addition to safety concerns, an inability to swim bars children from being qualified for a variety of summer employment and career opportunities, ranging from lifeguards to camp counsellors.

This fall, Family Matters Boys 2 Men program, in partnership with the Evanston YMCA, plans to change that with their Making Waves Program.

The eight-week program will kick off in September, and will teach ten young men basic water safety tips and how to swim, which is a priority, especially in the wake of a recent tragic drowning of a neighborhood youth.

Family Matters is incredibly grateful to the YMCA for this opportunity, and plans to continue to expand the program to include additional youth members.


Teens at Work

Recent research suggests that unemployment among Black and Hispanic youth in Chicago is higher than anywhere else in America.

The academic and economic potential in inner city communities and students has been largely unrecognized and untapped.

In response, last summer Family Matters’ Boys 2 Men program (which works with young men ages 12-19), launched an employment initiative, Project RISE, in partnership with the Community Church of Wilmette. Six members of Boys 2 Men were placed in local businesses for a six-week job experience. The program encompassed leadership, financial literacy, resiliency skills training and employment readiness, and was enriched with mock interviews and resume support given by members of the church’s congregation.

This summer the program has expanded to include the Teen Girls – in all, 18 Family Matters teens participated. The youth were employed at:

Charmer’s Cafe
Dollop Coffee
Lady B Botique
Little Beans Cafe
Neon CRM
Sol Cafe
Spex Carwash
Studio 876
Urban Warrior Fitness
V-Tone Fitness
Symphony (center) and Shaniya (second from right) at Sol Cafe.

The experience has been transformative for the teens involved. In addition to learning new skills and gaining work experience, the jobs have instilled a sense of pride in earning money. The employers are sending a strong message to the participants: we value you, we welcome you, and we want to work with you.

Maku and Antwon in the Sol Cafe kitchen.

“Thank you, for the opportunity to be a part of Family Matters Project RISE Internship Program this summer. It was a great learning experience for the cafe and our entire team. Savion is a wonderful young teen to work with. He was timely, friendly to all, completed all tasks asked of him, and took initiative when and where needed. Most importantly it was best getting to know him. Savion is a wonderfully cheerful, smart young fella with lots of amazing interest. We wish him the best in all of his endeavors.Today, we took a field trip to Restaurant Depot and I shared with him how I shop for the cafe. He was amazed at the gigantic warehouse.  It proved to be a good team building experience for us both.”
– Roseanna, Charmers Cafe

The program was a tremendous success:

  • 100% of partners are interested in participating with the program again next summer.
  • 100% of partners were encouraged by the progress the interns made over the summer.
  • 100% of participants learned and developed new skills.
  • 100% of participants believed they are better prepared for school and the world of work as a result of participating in the RISE Program.
  • 100% of participants would like to return to the program next summer.

“Every day I learned something new. Communication with my fellow workers is so important. I learned what it means to be responsible.”
-Savion, 14

One of the unintended benefits of the program is that it became a poverty reduction strategy in the community as all of the students were able to support their families with their resources.

We are incredibly grateful to the Community Church of Wilmette for its generous support of this program, and to the local businesses that have welcomed Family Matters youth this summer.

If you would like to employ Family Matters teens at your business next summer, please contact Chris at chris@familymatterschicago.org.


2017 Family Matters Graduates

Family Matters celebrated the graduation of three high school seniors in June 2017.

Cindy Borski and Adrian Hernandez have tutored together since Adrian was in fourth grade. Over the most recent years, Cindy has supported Adrian through numerous academic and personal goals he’s set for himself and assisted him in his application process for various colleges and financial aid. One of their favorite tutoring pastimes this year was having lively discussions about politics and its relevance in their lives.

This spring, Adrian graduated from Mather High School’s Information Technology Academy and will be attending Oakton Community College in the fall to continue his education.

Enrique and Jaime have worked with their tutors, Megan Fellman and Brad Schwarzhoff, for six years. Both young men plan to attend Northeastern University in the fall.

Brad attended Jaime’s graduation ceremony in May, during which Jaime was asked to hand out roses to three people in the audience who played a role in his success. He chose Brad as one of those recipients. During the signing ceremony for a  scholarship awarded to Jaime, Brad shared that he is going to continue his tutor-mentor relationship with Jaime, meeting with him at least once a week as he transitions into college next year. Jaime plans to study computer science, in large part because of Brad’s encouraging guidance when Jaime showed interest in the field.

 

Enrique insists he could not have gotten into his high school without Megan’s guidance. During his eighth grade year, she worked with him on his application essay to Lake View, which Enrique was attracted to in part because they had a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program and offered art classes. With Megan’s support, Enrique was accepted into his first choice high school. Four years later, she was by his side when he accepted his college scholarship.

A positive relationship with a consistent adult can nurture a youth’s potential in powerful ways, and Adrian, Jaime and Enrique are powerful examples of that. We are so excited to see what their next chapters bring!


Learning Matters 2017

The 21 youth involved in Family Matters’ summer program, Learning Matters, packed learning and summer fun into their four weeks here. Participants chose classes to participate in each week. Here are some of the highlights:

Sew What?

The youth in this class learned how to hand sew, use a sewing machine, and measure fabric for a desired outcome. By the end of this week, they made a fleece blanket and a bean bag (with fabric they tie-dyed earlier in the week) for Family Matters’ Peace Room and Library. They also made and took home their own personal pillows, head bands, and phone cases.

Thank you to volunteer Moriah Turner for sharing your talents!

Snuggling with finished sewing projects

Cardboard Creations

The idea for this class came from a former student who loves creating things out of cardboard. On the first afternoon, the children were presented with a challenge to see what they could do with the cardboard. They watched Cain’s Arcade about a little boy who was bored one summer and created a whole arcade of games out of cardboard. They were mesmerized by the video. It was suggested that they make either a game or a fort with the cardboard and they were off!

First they submitted a design and then they started gathering their materials. The only struggle was getting the group to stop working at the end of the class! The next day they were asking to work on forts during lunch and the normally full to capacity computer lab had one person in it.

Forts included features like skylights (or turrets, as the case may be), telescopes that could double as ammunition launchers, mailboxes, swinging doors, and flags. There were also several arcade games created involving tossing balls at targets and through slots. Each group offered a video tour of their creations and then had a blast destroying the forts which were too big to travel home.

It was reassuring to see the creative and inventive spirits rise to the challenge and the pure joy the participants exhibited in the process of completing their creations.

Change Agents

In this class, discussions centered around what it means to be an agent of change and change agents that youth know or have learned about. On the first day, participants “transformed” into change agents with the goal of beautifying Family Matters’ neighborhood. This proved to be an exhausting, yet exhilarating task, especially since it was the day after the July 4th holiday. Julissa thought she picked up “hundreds of fireworks!”

Youth returned to Family Matters to discuss the experience and decide on their activity for day two – writing letters to advocate for a cause. They learned about advocacy and the youth provided examples of activities that qualify. Rogelio “Junior” told the group about Malala Yousafzai and Cesar Chavez. Junior was well informed and added valuable information to enhance the class experience. The youth decided to write letters to President Donald Trump, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the Chicago Public Schools Nutrition Services, and took their task very seriously.

Joselin asked how to spell “separate” so that she could write a letter to President Trump about his policies separating families. Julissa noted that this was the first time she had ever written a letter. Intern (and former Learning Matters student), Amy, wrote two full pages to CPS to advocate for healthier school lunches. This was truly a fulfilling class and a great taste of what we can do to work toward dismantling systemic oppression!