Category Archives: Community Development

Guest Post: Urban Gun Violence

Guest author: Rachel Loyd

Gun violence is an epidemic that cripples urban communities throughout America. We mainly hear about it in Chicago, New York City, Detroit etc., but gun violence hits smaller cities as well.

I was born and raised right outside of Chicago in Evanston, IL. When I tell people I’m from Evanston, they automatically think of green grass, wealthy neighborhoods and Northwestern University. Not the problems like drug trafficking and violence that have been brushed over by the government. I’ve lost high school friends to gun violence. My own brother has even been shot. Unfortunately, because the shootings in Evanston don’t happen as frequently as Chicago shootings, the problem is ignored after the shootings calm down again.

When I discovered there was a chain of shootings in Champaign, which is a small town highly esteemed for its university, like my hometown, I wanted to do something about it. I wanted people to know that even though Champaign has a renown institution and wealthy areas, it also has a population of people who are suffering from the urban gun violence epidemic. These short videos are just a glimpse into the effects of urban gun violence.

Even though shootings slow down in the winter, they will resume at a high rate this summer, as they do every year. Let’s remain proactive about saving lives and strategize before the summer plague hits again.


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What is so funny? Oh Yeah….The Political Stage- Guest Post by Nathaniel Gordon

Black politics in America has become an ongoing joke. The ability, intelligence, and sincerity of politicians is constantly put into questions as black politicians get elected in black communities that have very few options to choose from. As the political field becomes more complicated and the individuals become more educated it appears as if black politicians are playing the same game now that they played forty years ago with their constituents, “Vote for me because I look like you”. The problem is that just because a person looks like me and comes from the same place as me does not mean that they have the same interests as me.

To quell any issues in advance I do not possess self-hatred of myself and my race as a black man, but I do possess I high level of disdain for black politicians that continuously make financial and career gains at the expense of the individuals they are expected to represent and protect. As the issue of competent black politicians becomes a growing concern it must be considered if it is the fault of the black politicians for not doing anything or the black voters for continuously electing these individuals.

The black community has the same concerns as any other group in America; education, healthcare, security, financial stability, and a concern for the safety of their families. What is it that makes the black community less capable of achieving things that other communities receive? It is the involvement of the people (or lack thereof). I sincerely blame the people for electing officials that continuously do nothing, If the people continuously elect officials who do nothing for their communities that means that the voters are either incompetent, they just do not care about their community, or they continuously fail to recognize those who are most incapable of representing their concerns and ideals.

political jokeThe list of corrupt black politicians in American history is long; the Ford family of Tennessee, Kwame Kilpatrick, Jesse Jackson Sr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and Al Sharpton just to name a few. The good that these people have done is questionable in relation to the profits and career advances they have made because of their positions. However, the harm that these individuals have perpetuated is great as well. The Ford family of Tennessee has constantly been charged and convicted of corruption charges while representing black constituents of Tennessee. Kwame Kilpatrick thought it was more important to represent his personal interests of partying, enjoying strippers, and driving Escalades than to focus on the infrastructure of Detroit. Jesse Jackson Sr. has shown constant moral flaws and stories filled with lies throughout his career. Jesse Jackson Jr. has recently been convicted of corruption. I offer a question to you all. Would you hire a person with a perm, no work experience, and a conspiracy to sell cocaine charge? Regardless of your answer Al Sharpton has the same qualities and a great deal of people believe that he is fit to represent Black America.

The success of black people as a whole in politics must begin with the black community. An educated voter, regardless of race, is a problem for a lying politician. A true and honest politician will encourage you to educate yourself and come to them with a legitimate argument against or for their position.

Ask yourself, when is the last time a politician asked you to educate yourself about an issue? When was the last time you were given legitimate knowledge instead of propaganda? When was the last time a politician addressed an issue without public pressure or in a non-election year? When was the last time you legitimately demanded more of your elected officials? When was the last time you were given a solution instead of an excuse?

About Nathaniel Gordon:

Born in Chicago
Graduated from Jones College Prep in 2001.
Graduated from Alcorn State University in 2005 B.A. In Poli-Sci and B.S. In Psychology.
Graduated from University of Mississippi School of Law in 2008.
Owner and Principal Attorney of Law Office of Nathaniel Gordon, specializing in Criminal Defense.


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The Bureaucrat- Guest post by C. Chavis

I serve as the man behind the curtain – the mysterious figure with a very quiet but present voice. I am simply a servant to those that I inform. The most audacious of public figures become emboldened after counsel with me. The general public seeks answers from my expertise. I am supposed to be the knowit-all smart alec at your convenience.

In the same breath, I am not a friend or a partner. I have only two loyalties – to know what I know, and to know more and better than the person seeking advice. This existence isolates me. In the mist of battle between two opposing forces, I am the collision point of advancement. I am the gravity to the floating concepts. I am in a peculiar place, where I am asked to meet dreams and introduce them to reality.

I am the bureaucrat. I am the errand boy – the person that does all the dirty work – all the clean up. It is my job to understand all the rules that govern decisions made in my realm. I am the artist. I craft the rules so that they provide protections commanded by the general public. These same rules are demonized as “hoops” and “red tape” by that same public.

That’s me: the bureaucrat. The little person: a probably underpaid and perceivably over paid staff person who knows the rules better than his boss, and his boss’ boss. The prestige of the position is nothing luxurious. An antigovernment sentiment represses the importance of this position while seemingly diminishing the responsibilities of advancing the public good to rudimentary tasks and procedures based around issuing permits.

bureaucracyDay-to-day tasks require bureaucrats to defend codes and rules that were adopted for the general health, safety, and welfare of the public. I am to be the first line of defense. It is my role to check extreme action and to mitigate extreme consequences of those actions. Today’s society generally cheers the fire fighter that runs into the burning building, while demonizing the fire inspector who enforces the “bureaucracy” of building construction standards. A comprehensive thought should acknowledge that bureaucratic preventative measures are also a critical service.

While used as a term of belittlement by outsiders, the title of “bureaucrat” and the notion of “bureaucracy” are derogatory terms among those that carry the burden of protecting the integrity of regulations. The title, “bureaucrat,” has the stigma of a do-little, red-tape, hoop creator who will only cost enterprise and businesses additional resources – financial or otherwise. The external and internal critique of bureaucratic positions deteriorates the deserved respect of the professional training by the engineer, doctor, lawyer, and architect whom also happen to be defenders of regulations.

So then the question develops, “How should professional bureaucrats reassert themselves as essential and laudable components in society?” To this, I will refer to the loyalties of a bureaucrat cited above. I should be most knowledgeable, not for the sake of being pompous and arrogant but to be of the best service to the public. Bureaucrats should not allow themselves to be reduced to permit pushers.  As guardians of regulatory codes, we should aim to keep the rules relevant to advancing technologies, evolving culture, and most of all the vision of the public, which the codes are there to protect.

It is my belief that if I, as bureaucrat, remain proactive and thoughtful in my service to the public then I could change the perception of the position I hold and the perceived hardships of regulations. These are the things that I consider everyday as I walk into a public office where the doors behind me don’t restrict anyone from walking in. Whoever walks through that door, it is my job to be of grade A service to them – even if they hate that they are required to visit the smart alec, paper pushing, red-tape, hoop creating public servant. I am at your service – the bureaucrat.

Chris ChavisChris Chavis is in the professional field of Urban Planning. He specializes in Land Use Zoning, Land Use  development, and Community Revitalization. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a Bachelors of Art degree in Urban & Regional Planning. After three years of working in local government as a Land Use Planner, he pursued and obtained a Masters of Environmental Planning & Design (MEPD) degree at the University of Georgia in Athens. Now as a working professional, Mr. Chavis is attempting to use urban planning as a social justice instrument for all communities. By doing so, he hopes to revitalize distressed areas and help developing neighborhoods implement the visions of their futures.


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Success Formula: LeAlan M. Jones

Articulate, visionary, ambitious and committed are the words that came to mind when I heard Mr. LeAlan Jones speak to my group of High School students during the summer of 2012. Mr. Jones challenged my students to hold themselves accountable for their actions by thinking about their daily activities and habits, and in particular the economic impact of their generations’ behavior. LeAlan told my students that popular culture has led them to “benchmark their lives against a notion that everything is based on here and now instead of preparing for their come up.” My students enjoyed the talk very much and continued discussions on the topic of economics and popular culture all the way back to Champaign.

It was not until after my students approved of his message that I became determined to learn more about this young trailblazer touting about the United States Green Party. See, I was not prepared when I heard him speak; I was not aware of his testimony and his achievements. I still don’t think it has hit me, the accomplishments of LeAlan Jones, a 33-year-old Black male from Chicago with credits that include reporting for the National Public Radio (NPR) at the age of 13, youngest recipient of the George Foster Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Grand Prize and an author of a book that is listed on Freshmen reading lists throughout the state of Illinois. Yep…I had to know more about the How’s and Why’s of his life. Following our interview I now have more insight on the young Green party candidate that is fighting for his place in the Chicago second congressional district race. More importantly, on a daily basis he is fighting for us, those with more to come.

Story Corps GriotAt 13 LeAlan envisioned that he would be the voice of reason for socio and economic development for his generation. LeAlan implements change with the intent of mending a community whole. Community development should inspire and protect people while harnessing their abilities says LeAlan. Both positive and negative aspects of the community have led to Mr. Jones’ growing achievements. His surroundings are the backdrop for his literary projects and it is what propels his desire to engage politically.

During the interview LeAlan shared that his support system is his mother, whom he developed a relationship with in spite of being a ward of the state. LeAlan’s philosophy on how to discuss healing in suffering communities reflects his values for family and women. LeAlan says: “The women of the community need reinforcements. The men are so marginalized and their participation is not expected in the development of kids. We have to get mothers strong enough. Allowing women to define their roles and giving them the skill set to implement their roles personally, etc. Communities benefit when families are healthy and together.” This framework of addressing our community needs is relevant, in particular in the Chicagoland area due to skyrocketing crime rates and upcoming school closings that are sure to challenge the city’s ability to plan for crisis. Mothers/grandmothers, women in general will bear a great burden…..

Off my soap box and back to LeAlan Jones, todays Success Formula…..I asked Mr. LeAlan Jones to be part of my Success Formula series because he motivates me to not only think outside of the box but act in the same grain of courage. LeAlans simplicity reminds me that everything does not have to be complicated but that with consistency the path becomes clear, and most importantly, LeAlan reminds me that there is usually a sacrifice in service…and if there is no sacrifice it may not have been true service.

LeAlan_promoLeAlan Jones’s Success Formula=Patience + Commitment + Economic and Environmental Development

S.M.A.R.T. goal

To bring the green party traction as big as the Democratic Party in Chicago on April 9 by getting more votes than the republican candidate that is running for the 2nd congressional seat. If achieved this will be the first time in the United States history.

Facebook: Friends of LeAlan M. Jones


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Resolutions That Don’t Have to Wait Until the New Year

New Years is a time that promotes reflection and goal setting, two of my favorite things. Today I have taken a few minutes to look over the book “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. eckhart tolleI originally read the book in 2008 and revisited a few pages in which I had folded down the corner of the edges. The points below yet again put my attention in a chokehold and I am hoping that moving forward I can exist with the following in mind.

1. Focus on healing the inner and the outer will follow

I.e. my inability to lose weight is the physical manifestation of all that I carry

2. No longer use the words I, me, my, or myself unless necessary (the rest of this post will be difficult to write-lol)

I.e. avoid engaging with people in a way that puts personal opinions or preferences at the center of dialogue

3. When in doubt believe the following: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment (Tolle).

4. Know the difference between a fact and an opinion

Tolle explains that we often perceive an event in relation to our reaction to the event, thus leading to confusion. He further explains that an instinctive response is the body’s direct response to an external situation. An emotion is the body’s response to a thought.

5. Redirect unhappiness (this is related to number one)

Tolle says: “Unhappiness is an ego created mental-emotional disease that has reached epidemic proportions. It is the inner equivalent of the environmental pollution of our planet.”  Tolle asks: “Can you see that your unhappiness about being unhappy is just another layer of unhappiness?”

6. Accept that it is so…..

Using a quote by Shakespeare and focusing on perception again, Tolle reminds us that events and happenings “are as they are. What is dreadful is your reaction, your resistance to it, and the emotion that is created by that resistance.” Shakespeare’s words, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

7. Become a better listener (this ties in to number two)

I.e. in conversation or in reading and writing allow others to go through their own process. Tolle states that the power of allowing lies in noninterference, nondoing.

8. Stop being over dramatic about the past

Tolle encourages us to know that whatever we learn through self observation or psychoanalysis is about you. It is not you.

9. Live in the moment

Tolle suggests that we frequently ask ourselves: What is my relationship with the present moment?

I can say I right now because this is solely about me :). In closing these are the lessons I am guided by beginning right now.

Where have your reflections led you to today?


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The Impact of Domestic Violence in Communities

a-new-me-final LogoGuest Post by Felicia Simpson, Founder and Executive Director of A New Me Foundation.

When I hear and read statistics such as: in the city of Chicago, there are over 500 calls reported daily for domestic violence incidents, or 1 in 4 women will be abused in their life time and 1 in 3 teen girls will be abused, it is beyond overwhelming to my spirit. Domestic violence is presented to our community in two ways: either our communities care, or they don’t. Simple. Bottom line. It amazes me that once a year domestic violence is only “highlighted” a few days in the month of October and then over shadowed even more because that’s the same month as breasts cancer awareness. But yet our lives and our communities suffer daily due to the increased rates of violence against women and children who live there.

Let’s take a step back, when you were little, you were told that famous line that momma only had to tell you once, “What goes on in this house STAYS in this house”. That one famous line is the same line that is causing so many deaths, drug and alcohol addictions, health disparities, rape, child molestation, new cases of HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, debt due to unpaid medical expenses….. these are as I like to call it, side effects of domestic violence in our communities. Some are easy to relate to the cause of cycles of violence. Others you may question, what does that have to do with domestic violence and the impact it has in our communities? The answer, what goes on in your house, affects all that live inside your community at some point. For instance, that victim or abuser of domestic violence that has become addicted to alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, now or soon will have major health problems, causing them to stay a resident in the county or local hospitals emergency room, assuming that they likely don’t have insurance…. guess what? That victim is now in debt, stressed and blood pressure is soaring through the roof to find extra money and will probably do just about anything to get it…… Have you noticed what is happening here? From one domestic violence case in our community, society has just housed another possible, inmate, terminally ill patient, rape victim etc. Now another person in our community is making “us” look bad.

The property value of our homes go down because after so many holes and tears in the walls, the foundation of the house is no longer valuable. The abuser isn’t working and recently the victim got fired because their employer was tired of their boyfriend coming to their job, making a scene and making them loose faithful clients and revenue. So now what, the mortgage cannot be paid and there’s another boarded up house on our block. Here’s another famous line, “Whelp, there goes the neighborhood”.

Most homicides due to domestic violence leaves a trillion questions for the grieving victim’s family of what and how they would’ve done something different. Or now, the family of the abuser, who didn’t physically lose his life, but now that person is physically lost in our judicial system adding to the already overpopulated correctional facilities. Now our community loses another person who, if had been helped and or treated, possibly would’ve been another productive citizen in our communities and not another hindrance. I always make awareness that if we only “fix” or “advocate for the victims of domestic violence and not the abuser, the families involved or educate the community, we will NEVER end domestic violence. To me, I have seen enough of the people in our communities die silently and slowly from domestic violence and I work diligently to raise awareness and educate our community to know that domestic violence is PREVENTABLE.

There have been many celebrity lives affected by domestic violence played out in the media. Our communities, who endorse and help pay the salaries of these celebrities, need to take more action in providing more money into prevention services and not funerals and tax dollars for prison inmates each year. Celebrities that we’ve seen the effects of domestic violence include Rhianna and Chris Brown, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Evelyn Lazada or the recent alleged murder and suicide of NFL player, Jovan Belchr and his girlfriend. Hollywood has provided us with movies such as “Precious”, “For Colored Girls” and “Enough”, to give us a glimpse of how domestic violence plagues our communities. Too often the communities wait too long to respond and we are attending another funeral or watching the slow but fast demise of another loved one.

How can the community help end violence against women and their children? Start by educating yourself, the block you live on, discuss it at the town hall meetings, book clubs, fraternal or sorority chapter and regional meetings, family dinners, volunteer at the shelters for battered women and their children or homeless shelters (some of the women that live in shelters is due to leaving an abusive partner), use your social media accounts, donate money to organizations to help them continue to provide services, talk to your children and their friends and anyone with a listening ear, that we have a serious problem in our communities and we need to do something about it. I thank you in advance for what you will set forth to do after reading this post to help victims of domestic violence and their families.  May God continue to bless you and all that you do in the lives of others as we continue to help break the silence of domestic violence in our communities.

For more information on ways to donate or volunteer, you can contact me, Felicia T. Simpson at or (773)469-6758.


Felicia T. Simpson, a proud mother of three children, a four time self – published author, Motivational Speaker, and a Family Violence Prevention Specialist. She is the Founder and Executive Director of A New Me Foundation that serves as an advocacy platform for domestic violence victims, survivors and their families who are affected by domestic violence. Felicia works throughout the city of Chicago teaching violence prevention classes in grammar and high schools. Her motivation for providing these services is because at one point, she was a victim and continuously survives to teach others how to break the silence of domestic violence in our communities.



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Communicating Your Core Values in Working Relationships

Understanding your personal values is key to making decisions about your future. Lately as I continue to participate in groups and collaborative projects I have begun to challenge myself to establish a set of core values that will guide me.

  • I value written communication. Although it is important to talk things through, if it cannot be articulated in writing I think the conversation needs to be revisited.
  • I value short pauses in communication. Overtime I have realized that I am not obligated to quickly retort all communications directed to me.
  • I value process. First and second drafts, step one and step two are important elements of my life.
  • I value collaborative consensus. Collaboration allows for diversity but the process of reaching consensus is important for sustainability.

The values that I have listed above are not the standard values for everyone in which I collaborate with. Discussing values is important when beginning to work with someone or a team.

Below are some suggestions for establishing a set of core values in your working relationships:

1- Agree that a set of core values needs to be discussed. So often we begin working relationships with people and do not start of on the right foot. If you wait until there is a conflict or a misunderstanding both parties become frustrated and struggle to find set commonalities that if already set in place, help extinguish the conflict.

2- Each party should list their values and its relevance to the upcoming project. You may have strong values about how to treat your parents or how to reprimand children, but if it is not relevant to the project do not list those values. This exercise is not meant to challenge your collaborator(s) but instead to create common language and focus that will guide the project.

3- Determine how you will revisit the values during conflict. You have the tools in place now it is time for you to use them. When you find yourself in conflict during your collaboration both parties must agree to share and be open. Trust (in the form of creative thinking, open dialogue, and communication) will crumble quickly if the conflict is not addressed. Rely on your values- for example if I were in conflict during a working relationship and I took two or three days to answer an email, when I respond I would relate my break to one of our agreed upon core values. I can reply- “I do apologize that it has taken me a while to return your message. As you know, I value short pauses in communication and in this case I needed time to address…..”

What are some of your values? How and when do you communicate those values in your working relationships?

Below is an article and a clip featuring Steve Jobs as he discusses the importance of knowing your core values.


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