Monday, May 23, 2016

"A Don't Want Pity, I Want Results"

The New York Times has published a sobering account of mass shootings in America. It is a must read for those of us working to reduce violence across the country and those of us who need to understand the topic in more granular detail. According to the article, entitled "A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, But America Isn't Listening,"  shootings involving four or more victims occur each day in America on average. Yet, the 462 persons who died as a result of these shootings is only a fraction of the 11,000 killed by gun fire each year and rarely get noticed.

The title of this post is a quote from the daughter of a 56 year-old African-American man was shot and killed as a bystander in a feud between rivals. It speaks to the critical need for law enforcement and communities to work together to eliminate the scourge of gun violence and bring perpetrators of gun violence to account. The authors highlight that only half of the mass shootings they examined resulted in an arrest or conviction. A shockingly low clearance rate.

There is also the need for honest dialogue and action in communities where shootings are occurring at higher rates. In the African-American where, as the article highlights, half of all gun violence victims and attackers reside the need to confront the problem of gun violence is urgent. In New York City there are several efforts focused on reducing violence that show some promise. Two examples are the Save Our Streets programs run by our sister projects in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn. Recently the New York City Mayor's Office launched a new initiative focused on making the city's pubic housing developments with the most violence safer. Public housing residents in these developments experience more violence and shootings than the rest of the city. A stubborn disparity that has persisted even as overall crime has dropped to historic lows in New York since the mid-1990s.While in the early stages, the Mayor's Action Plan (MAP) is using data and collaboration in ways that research suggest can reduce violence and improve perceptions of safety in a community. Through targeted law enforcement, environmental design changes and improved maintenance and by building local collaborations with tenant leaders, local organizations and the police MAP seeks to drive down violence and shootings in public housing.

As we rightly debate the policies of mass incarceration and the terrible consequences of America's legacy of racism and indifference to communities of color, we must also keep in mind that community members, especially victims of crime, want results. They want both justice that is fair and justice that is effective. We can and must do more to end the senseless and preventable deaths and injuries that result from gun violence in America.

By Christopher Watler, Project Director- Harlem Community Justice Center

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

At the risk of preaching to the choir, here’s the rationale for expanding the Arts Infusion programs to include technology, especially at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. 


Perhaps Van Jones describes it best in this brief video.


The demand for talented tech professionals with skills in coding, web and app development, cyber security, etc. affords unprecedented opportunity for digitally-native teens in a growing field that is also stressing both racial and gender diversity.     The Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership has compiled  profiles on five areas of job growth in the information technology sector here.


Based on this and other data, the Mayor and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) set a 5-year goal in 2013 to add computer science as a graduation requirement for all high school students.  With the overwhelming support of the tech sector, this goal was attained years ahead of schedule when, on Feb. 24th, the School Board voted to institute the computer science requirement with freshmen entering high school this Fall.  This makes Chicago the first major District in the nation to take this step, positioning the region as a potential hub for young people of color in tech.


Local tech companies and nonprofits are playing a key role in this movement by providing equipment, labs, boot camps, hackathons, internships, and incubators for enterprising teens with an interest in coding, gaming, website development, apps, and tech start-ups.  Examples of these out-of-school offerings include: Youth-Led Tech, Blue 1647, Black Tech Mecca, and Coding While Black.


The Steering Committee of the Arts Infusion Initiative is committed to ensuring that our young people who are ensnared in the criminal justice system are not left out of this promising trend.  Arts Infusion has proven the effectiveness of exposing teens at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center (JTDC) to digital music and other arts instruction that connects them to new skills and interests.  The 5-year evaluation by the Urban Institute confirms that a common motivation for participants is the desire to translate their newly-acquired knowledge and networks into a career. Examples of successful Career and Technical Education (CTE) projects are gaining recognition, such as the Chicago Math and Science Academy students who recently launched Rogers Park Creators, a student-run web design and multi-media company. Teens are also eager to apply tech skills to problems they face, such as the two Holy Trinity High School students who won a national contest by creating an app designed to reduce teen suicide.


Inroads are also being made with adults at the Cook County Jail through a pilot project undertaken by Edovo which provides specially-designed tablets to inmates to expand digital learning with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Save The Date

Mark your calendars for the up-coming Knowledge Share.  

February 15, 2016 

10am - 2pm 

614 W Lake St., Chicago, IL 60661
"Roombinson Crusoe" conference room

Thursday, December 3, 2015

DCASE News - Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events
Lake FX 2016 Call for Program Proposals and Expo Exhibitors
Deadline extended to December 14!

Lake FX Summit _ Expo Chicago 2016
Lake FX Summit + Expo 2016 is accepting proposals for high quality professional development programming and creative services exhibitors. Taking place May 13-15, 2016, Lake FX is the region's largest free conference for artists and creative entrepreneurs and is designed to connect, inform and inspire emerging and established producers working in the film, music, dance, theater, design, fashion, culinary and arts fields. To apply, visit

Lake FX 2015 Highlights 
Lake FX 2015 Highlights

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Community RJ Hub Information Session

Community RJ Hub Information Session

Come learn about what it means to be a Community Restorative Justice Hub!
There is an information session coming up on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 from 10:00am – 12:00pm at Lawndale Christian Legal Center, 1530 S Hamlin Ave. Chicago, IL.
Restorative Justice Hubs are a community-led approach to youth crime and conflict. Our vision is that RJ Hubs are safe spaces in the community where youth and their families are welcomed and supported in building healthy relationships, expressing themselves, addressing trauma, and developing necessary skills and competencies.  Importantly, the RJ Hub model is directly informed by the latest science on childhood trauma. It is designed as a strategy for helping people to move beyond the effects of adverse childhood experiences, guiding them towards sustainable healing and growth.

This information session will discuss what it means for an organization to be a Community RJ Hub and what the process looks like for interested organizations to become a hub and join the documentation and evaluation process, and the learning community that meets regularly to share best practices and guide the movement to decriminalize our youth.
Free and open to all interested organizations

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For High School Students Only, GRAMMY® Camp is a day-long workshop where working with industry professionals you’ll gain skills in audio, visual and music creation, better understand the business side of music – and learn more about how to create your own path to success.


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