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Tanuja Jagernauth and Stacey Erenberg from Sage Community Health Collective

Sixteen Crossroads Fund grantees and allies gathered bright and early Wednesday morning to talk about Healing Justice. Over the last two years we’ve been hearing more and more from our community about the need for self care and healing in our activist work, and about the growing healing justice movement. As part of our ongoing Technical Assistance workshop series, Crossroads Fund invited local healing justice activists Tanuja Jagernauth and Stacey Erenberg from Sage Community Health Collective to facilitate an introduction to healing justice at the individual, institutional and city-wide level.

Workshop attendeesHealing justice is “a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.  Through this framework we build... political and philosophical convergences of healing inside of liberation.” As Tanuja and Stacy explained, with help from everyone present at the workshop, healing justice comes from the belief that injustices cause emotional, spiritual and physical trauma in ourselves and our communities. Healing justice involves addressing both individual healing, and also transforming the institutions and relationships that are causing the trauma in the first place.

What does healing justice look like in Chicago?

The workshop attendees shared the need for healing from everything from war and colonialism to domestic and community violence to organizer burnout and inter organizational conflicts. Through skits and drawings, they presented examples of healing justice in practice at the personal, organizational and city-wide level.

 Want to learn more about healing justice? Check out these great resources:

More on healing justice from Cara Page:

Other groups doing healing justice:

On healing justice and health justice:

On community care:

On transformative justice:

More on transformative justice:

Have an idea for a workshop that might be useful for grassroots groups in Chicago? Let us know!

Mon, Apr 02, 2012

Julie Walther and Jennifer Tamayo

On March 21st, Crossroads Fund was honored to host two Reading Change events with Red Missed Aches author Jennifer Tamayo. Reading Change is a reading an events series organized in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Crossroads Fund. Over the last 30 years, Crossroads Fund has supported a broad range of grassroots movements for racial, social and economic justice in Chicago, from workers rights to women’s rights, to disability movements, to immigration and more. For our anniversary year, we wanted to take some time reading about and reflecting on some of the movements we’ve supported, how they intersect with each other, and how they are at play in our city today.

Red Missed AchesRed Missed Aches was the third book in the Reading Change series. It's a moving collection of poetry addressing issues of gender, immigration, language, culture and sexuality. We knew from the beginning that we didn't want to only select non-fiction, history and essays for this reading series. Art and literature have played a key role in many of the movements we have supported over the years, so we were excited to find such a thought provoking book of poetry that touched on so many important issues.

Red Missed Aches Breakfast

We organized two events around Red Missed Aches on March 21st. The first was a breakfast discussion at the Donors Forum about art, activism and non-profits co-hosted by Chicago Women in Philanthropy. A wonderful crowd came out early to hear Jennifer read her poetry, and discuss her artistic process. She talked about her family's journey to this country from Colombia and her identity as a Latina woman, the vulnerability of exposing her life through poetry, and how there are "no mistakes in art."

Dance Films Kino

The day's events continued at Dance Films Kino for an evening of poetry and performance in an intimate salon setting. Dance Films Kino is a month-long performance series at the Hyde Park Art Center curated by artist and Crossroads Fund friend Sarah Best.

Tim Jones-Yelvington
Crossroads Fund Program Associate Tim Jones-Yelvington was the MC for the evening. In addition to working at Crossroads Fund, Tim is also a writer and performer, and he spoke about how much it means to him that Crossroads Fund recognizes the role that art places in movements for racial, social and economic justice.

FYSH members drumming.

The first performers were youth from FYSH, the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center's youth group. They explained the significance of traditional poongmul drumming in social movements, both in Korea and in their activism in Chicago, before giving a rousing drumming performance.

Jessie Flores
Next up was Jessie Flores, who performed two moving poetry pieces inspired by her work with Cafe Teatro Batey Urbano.

Jennifer Tamayo

Finally Jennifer Tamayo took the stage to perform poetry from Reading Change selection Red Missed Aches.

Jennifer Tamayo
She was aided by her bedazzled megaphone.

The crowd watches the performances.

Thanks to everyone who came out and made these two events so successful! Especially Jennifer Tamayo, Dance Films Kino, Chicago Women in Philanthropy, Public Square, and the Donors Forum! For more info on Reading Change, and upcoming events see

Fri, Mar 23, 2012

Inside the Piccolo occupation. Photo by Brett Jelinek

As parents, teachers and supporters of public education regroup and respond to the Chicago Board of Education’s decision to close or turnaround all 17 schools up for consideration this year, it’s worth taking a moment to think about what makes for a strong movement for education. TheFeministWire recently posted a great interview with Crossroads Fund grantee Blocks Together’s youth organizer Ana Mercado. Ana touches on the role that community involvement and leadership development have had in their efforts to protect and improve neighborhood schools.

Lessons from Piccolo Occupy: An Interview with Youth Organizer Ana Mercado

February 21, 2012

On Friday, February 17, more than a dozen parents, retired teachers, students, and community organizers organized and participated in a sit-in joined by more than a hundred allies in an outside encampment at Piccolo Elementary School, a public school located on the West side of Chicago, IL.  The group, Piccolo Occupy, remained in the school–without food and essential medicines–until they received a commitment from Chicago Public School Board Vice President, Jesse Ruiz, to meetings with the full CPS board to discuss the board removing Piccolo and Casals Elementary from the list of schools slated for “Turnaround” and to hear community proposals that would promote educational excellence and maintain community accountability.

Concerned citizens continue to keep pressure on school officials and politicians in the days leading up to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board meeting this Wednesday, which will include an official vote on whether to “Turnaround” ten schools across the city, and the possibility of closing six others. This would entail firing most of the school’s staff and administration, transferring school management to a private agency, and eliminating the legally binding Local School Councils, composed of parents, teachers and community members that govern a regular CPS school.  On Monday, February 20, a group of at least 200 people gathered outside of Lakeview High School located in an affluent neighborhood on the North side and marched to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s doorsteps, urging him to call for an immediate moratorium on school privatization.

This is not a unique issue to Chicago. In fact, this is happening in cities around the country and is the latest iteration of neoliberal educational policies that also inform Bush’s No Child Left Behind, Obama’s Race to the Top (a competitive grant program in which school districts compete for federal funds), and the types of standardized testing initiatives that prioritize test performance over student learning. It also has deep implications for the future of feminist generations.

Ana Mercado, member of Piccolo Occupy and youth organizer with Blocks Together, a membership-based group committed to working on issues of social justice, including privatization, gentrification and criminalization, provides her take on the feminist implications for the Piccolo Occupation and other efforts against school “Turnarounds.”


CRS: Hi Ana, what events and steps lead up to the occupation of Piccolo Elementary?

AM: We, at Blocks Together, have been organizing against the school privatization plans of Chicago’s corporate elite (Renaissance 2010) since December of 2007 when we first found out that Orr High School was slated for “Turnaround.”  The students organized a walkout at Orr to protest the lack of community engagement in the decision-making process and possible student “pushout.”

Since then these concerns have been confirmed. I’ve witnessed firsthand the dissolution of structures to include parent and community participation and oversight as well as the pushout of students through practices like automatic suspensions and turning students away at the door for minor violations, counseling out and dropping students from the rosters. We knew it was important to work with parents at Piccolo and Casals to stop this from happening again. We connected the parents from the two elementary schools with the Orr parents and youth so they could share their stories.

It came as a surprise to many of the parents that Piccolo and Casals were placed on the Turnaround list in the first place because they both had new principals this year, and usually they allow principals two years to try to improve a school before stepping in. But in addition to this, Casals were both faring better than the city average after the installation of the new principals.

CRS: So the Board of Education met the Piccolo Occupation’s demand to meet. What do you see as being critical to PO’s success and what does success look like more broadly?

AM: A key component was that it was led by parents and students, and often public school boards try to discredit social justice movements around education by suggest that parents are being “puppeteered” by community groups as a way of delegitimizing dissent.  So it’s important to support authentic parent leadership. I think it was also important to take risks–putting our bodies on the line–as a way of bringing more attention to the issue. We also benefitted from some solid work to get the media to pick up on what we were doing. The only reason the board ended up agreeing to meet with us was because of the local and national coverage we were garnering. We had a strong power analysis so we knew this wasn’t about just influencing the CPS board but that it had to affect the mayor and the elites he serves. We wanted to build awareness in the public mind about what’s happening so that we could make the whole system of actors uncomfortable. Where things actually start becoming a movement is when a group of people start doing something (taking a big enough risk) that inspires others to do similar actions. Today we just found out that Smith Elementary decided to a press release inspired by our work at Piccolo and the hope is that other people will understand that they can actually do something about all this and it starts to grow beyond our campaign.

CRS: How do you see your work as informed by your feminist sensibility? And what kinds of feminisms do you draw on in your organizing?

AM: I understand that they get away with these schemes because they play into a narrative that infantilizes or demonizes Black and Latina mothers and grandmothers that are doing this work; these women in leadership positions are about challenging society’s deeply rooted messages (which are often internalized) about what they are capable of.

Wed, Mar 14, 2012

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization joined Rainforest Action Network in this banner drop at the Crawford power plant. Photo by Liz Nerat

Crossroads Fund congratulates the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, including past and present Crossroads Fund grantees the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, the Pilsen Alliance, the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, the Nuclear Energy Information Service, and the 8th Day Center for Justice, on winning their long running campaign to close two coal-fired power plants in Chicago. These Crossroads Fund grantees spent years organizing from the ground up, educating their neighbors, engaging in protest and direct action, working with their aldermen and partnering with environmental research and advocacy organizations to fight these power plants that were destroying the environment and damaging the health of their communities.

“This victory demonstrates the power of grassroots organizations like the groups we fund to fight and win against huge corporations and entrenched political interests. Closing the Fisk and Crawford power plants will not only clean the skies over Chicago, but it will also save countless lives,” explains Crossroads Fund Executive Director Jeanne Kracher.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012