It’s no secret to anyone that Chicago is a historically segregated city with a legacy of wildly disproportionate municipal funding. For decades, the city government has been over-investing in white communities and disinvesting in black and brown communities. Communities of color are over policed and under resourced, creating starkly different economic and social realities in communities that are spatially quite near each other.
The current pandemic has only exacerbated the segregation inherent in Chicago’s structure, as black and brown Chicagoans are 2+ times more likely to contract coronavirus, 5 times more likely to be hospitalized, and twice as likely to die from the disease. At the same time, non-white Chicago Public Schools students are much more likely to be partially or totally unable to access remote learning classes, leaving a growing digital divide that often falls along racial lines.
This summer’s uprising and racial reckoning forced Chicagoans all over to confront this reality. We can’t go back to ignoring the wildly disparate experiences of folks on different sides of the city. We can’t turn our back on the push for equity and equal funding. The events of the summer must continue everyday through individual action and intention.
It’s more important than ever to support and invest in organizations committed to equity and anti-racist action, especially in the realm of the arts and education. Below are 8 amazing BIPOC-led Chicago Education and Arts Organizations who are doing important work in the City of Chicago.
If you have a few bucks to spare, consider donating to support some of these BIPOC-led organizations. If money is tight, there are other ways you can get involved, like volunteering with any of these fantastic orgs.
This is a BIPOC-led nonprofit program that develops entrepreneurial know-how amongst black high-schoolers, preparing them to go out and start their own businesses. They’ve helped over 300 students in the last five years, and sponsored five teen-led businesses. Gray Matter believes in the self-determination and liberation of black youth though unlocking imagination and economic opportunity. Participants learn many skills necessary for solopreneurship, and are placed in relevant internships and professional positions. Gray Matter provides resources and material assistance to help teens get their business ideas off of the ground.
This BIPOC-led organization is a multi-focused one, but aims to fill the gaps in under-resourced communities, particularly through providing educational experiences. Their Explorer’s Program takes teens on educational explorations, either focusing on Arts Education, Culinary Experiences, Recreation, or Education and Vocation. These explorations connect teens with new areas of the city, sights, experiences, and opportunities. This program combats isolation and trauma, and prioritizes interconnectivity and empathy. Chicago is an incredible city, and a huge one, and this program aims to bring teens to corners of the city they might never have seen. Participants get to go on eight Explorations and are first in line to receive internship opportunities.
This Englewood-based organization focuses on professional development, community service projects, and treating trauma amongst young people. Their programming includes art programs, athletic activities, teaching first-aid skills, creating safe hangout spaces, and operating a food pantry. They are also partnered with Southwest Employment Collaborative and help teens search for jobs, apply confidently, and get certifications for different types of professions. Good Kids Mad City kind of does it all, providing teens with safe spaces to do basically anything they dream of. Finally, they have a BIPOC-led police accountability program focused on creating a better experience with policing through de-escalation training and introducing legislation.
Young Chicago Authors is a nationally influential BIPOC-led organization, as the first to start a major slam poetry competition. It’s a writing-based nonprofit that focuses on poetry and spoken word, while building intercity community. They believe that by providing space for young people to express themselves through poetry, they encourage the healing of trauma, critical discussion, and youth leadership. YCA encourages the expression of lived experience, rooting their pedagogy in a rich legacy of Chicago writers and hip-hop culture. They host workshops, open mics, competitions, and development programs and are based in Wicker Park.
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