Bending the Arc: The Robert Howard Annual Symposium


Since the late 1960s, Robert Howard relentlessly fought to secure greater rights and end discrimination against women and minority communities in Chicago.  He served as general counsel for the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League, successfully suing the city of Chicago over bias in hiring women and minorities on the Chicago Police Force. He played a key role in setting up the Office of Professional Standards, an internal mechanism to hold officers accountable for police misconduct. He was a driving force behind the effort to disband the Red Squad, an initiative in the Chicago Police Department, which was set up to spy on community organizers who were seen by the Richard J. Daley administration as threatening the political order. He also served the Chicago Public Schools for almost twenty years, designing the school system’s desegregation plan and overseeing its implementation. For more information about Bob Howard and his legacy click here.  

Bending the Arc 2016 / 2017

This year the Bending the Arc: Robert Howard Annual Symposium Committee continues Robert Howard's legacy by partnering with Illinois Humanities for two events of Continuing Ed, a yearlong series of free public programs focused on public education. 

The first event, November 14, 2016, Our Community—how it’s changed, how it’s changing,  explores how changing community demographics affect education reform and resources and features Crossroads Fund grantee Fighting Youth Shouting Out for Humanity (FYSH). The January 2017 event, Our Neighborhood – what it has, what it needs, will focus on the relationship between poverty and education reform and will feature Crossroads Fund grantee partner A Long Walk Home to highlight their work on the Every Student Succeeds Act implementation.

Bending the Arc 2015

Building upon the prior two years, we planned the 2015 Symposium to continue supporting youth activists of Chicago. In this critical moment of mobilization around racial and economic justice, our 2015 symposium introduced the concept of Inclusive Growth in the areas of education, arts, immigration, and community safety. The event focused on the new economics of poverty, its implications for equity, and how economic development practice has to change in response - to achieve Inclusive Growth. Inclusive Growth calls on us to make the economy work for everyone, moving people into the economic mainstream, both to prevent poverty and because long-term, sustainable growth requires inclusion.  Featured speakers included Theaster Gates (Rebuild Foundation), Juan Salgado (Instituto del Progreso Latino), Teresa M. Lynch (Mass Economics), and Lyneir Richardson (The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development).

Bending the Arc 2014

The second annual Bending the Arc continued to address some of the most pertinent issues impacting organizing in the city. The 2014 symposium provided a space for seasoned activists and emerging youth leaders to learn from one another by engaging in dialogue within the theme of “How do you Bend the Arc? Movement Politics: Then and Now.” The event was attended by over 100 veteran and emerging movement leaders working across a spectrum of issues to brainstorm movement building strategies. 

Download the Bending the Arc 2014 report

Bending the Arc 2013

After his passing, family, friends, and colleagues of Bob came together to establish the symposium in his memory. In partnership with the Crossroads Fund, the founding committee hosted the first Bending the Arc symposium on September 7, 2013 at St. James Cathedral with Angela Davis as the keynote speaker. Under the theme “If You Want Peace, Fight for Justice,” the symposium began with a day-long gathering of youth activists and emerging leaders who engaged in dialogue with Ms. Davis about challenges in their work. In the evening, the program opened to the public and drew nearly 400 civic, political, and community leaders and scholars for a panel discussion featuring Ms. Davis and a diverse group of local activists. The discussion focused on gun violence, state violence, and practices in community resistance and resilience.

To donate to Bending the Arc: The Robert Howard Annual Symposium you can make a gift online and include the words Robert Howard in the Comments or Questions box at the bottom of the donation form. 

You can also make a check out to Crossroads Fund with Robert Howard in the memo and mail it to:

Crossroads Fund
3411 W. Diversey Ave Ste 20
Chicago, IL 60647

Bending the Arc: The Robert Howard Annual Symposium Founders

Carol Ashley
Doug Cassel
Cathy Cohen
Ronald Futterman
Theaster Gates
Jacky Grimshaw
Julie Hamos
Aram Hartunian
Sarah Howard
Marilyn Katz
Rick McCombs
Judd Miner
David Narefsky
Barbara Phillips
Charles Phillips V
Matt Piers
Beth Richie
Renault Robinson
Don Rose
Jane M. Saks
Bettylu Saltzman
Rebecca Sive
Rob Warden
Laura Washington
Robert Weissbourd