Tag Archives: activism

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.


Tags: , , ,

Success Formula: Jeff Baker

How do you respond when the torch is passed to you? That is what I ask myself when I think of Jeff Baker, a diligent, low-key, enthusiastic, Chicago activist. I first met Jeff while assisting with the mayoral campaign of William Dock Walls III during the 2011 Chicago elections. Although our candidate of choice did not win the election, Jeff and I continued discussions on local issues while focusing our talks on long-term solutions.

Shortly after the election, Jeff was nominated and elected as the new president of Committee for a Better Chicago (CFABC). The mission of CFABC is “To provide clear and factual information about political & social justice issues, affecting the Chicagoland area.” As president, Jeff is responsible for shaping and re-shaping the organizational structure of CFABC, as well as growing the momentum of the members and their purposeful service.

Jeff believes that community development is “strategic education, marketing, and networking….community development is about meeting people where they are.” Through CFABC, Jeff aims to effectively deliver information to those that have fallen between the cracks. CFABC will “simplify public information [of local
orgs] so that community messages are more easily digested. CFABC will then strategically disseminate the information using social media, text, email, word of mouth, and contest with cash prizes.” Jeff supports the idea of providing incentives for children and young adults to be awarded for learning and engaging in the civic education and enhancement of Chicago. “There are monetary incentives for us as adults to find answers, and better ourselves; we should present the same opportunities for our children and those that have fallen between the cracks,” says Jeff.

During our interview, Jeff shared one of CFABCs upcoming supporting collaborations, which I consider to be brilliant and critical for the Chicagoland area- Neighborhood mentoring through the restoration of Block Clubs. Syron Smith spearheaded this initiative, and CFABC will help accomplish the goals of this timely endeavor within the Chicago vicinity.

A part of restoring block clubs and re-building villages/ neighborhoods, includes bartering with local businesses. Jeff struggles with bartering because he feels “that people should be paid for their services and that is one of the challenges I have had adjusting to the community service/ social activist scene. We (CFABC) have had to approach local business owners with the only hope of compensation being the residual effects of CFABCs social action”, to change the course of social ills rampant in each community.

Jeff Baker sets high goals and revises as needed. “While working on the campaign for Dock Walls, I began to share in Docks goals to market and reach over 300,000 Chicago residents and help educate them about issues affecting the city, while providing solutions as well….Because my goals are so large/ high, I often fall short,  but i regroup, strategize and keep moving toward the goal” stated Jeff.

Jeff may fall short of his lofty goals, but there is still much success in what he does accomplish. In order to achieve his goals, Jeff carries a notepad with him, taking notes that lead to action plans.  Reviewing these notes daily, along with his calendar, Jeff studies his notepad. “I feel that these [studying notepad and creating action plans] things on a daily basis are prayer, as I ask for guidance and realign my connection to the source/ God and my God given purpose!”

When I asked Jeff how does he put himself first in a healthy manner, his answer further revealed the depth of his insight and commitment to Chicago. Jeff puts himself first by focusing on his family first. Jeff stated, “I watch members of my family successfully take on certain roles and responsibilities…And I realize that my family is a team, a small business, and although my personal needs may sometimes be put on the back-burner, putting my family needs first is part of putting myself first. With that, I also see my block, community, etc as an extension of family. As I move in a different level/rank in my family, my role evolves.” Rarely has someone been able to articulate the correlation between self, family, and community so selflessly.

In his roles as a family and community servant, I can only imagine that Jeff has had to sever a few ties in both his personal, professional, and community intersections, so I sought his wisdom about letting go of stale relationships. His method: straight forward communication, one more chance, and then if the same problems continue, cease all communication cold turkey! Jeff asserts “…I am always straightforward so that I do not doubt whether my message was clear.”

Jeff truly believes that his work with CFABC is his God-given purpose, designed to serve his family (and community family) as well. His ego is low and his goals are high. Jeff Baker embodies the characteristics needed to achieve lasting social change.

Jeff Baker’s Success Formula = Messaging to the masses + Above the bar goal setting  + Family and community deference + Straight forward communication

More  on Jeff Baker

As  you are growing and exploring new opportunities in the city of Chicago, have you thought about your ideal position or ideal job description?

“I am still bouncing it around, but the more I work toward it, it is becoming clear to me. I believe that I am to be a communication liasion between the higher educated and the lesser educated (no less intelligent). I believe the position I am in now, with CFABC, I can do this for the rest of my life and achieve many of my SMART goals.”

S.M.A.R.T. goal(s)

To have 50 members of CFABC inside of 50 different orgs in the Chicagoland area by 2013

And the way we will achieve this is by recruiting 2 new members in 2 new orgs per month- 2013 to reach the target number

Contact Info




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Success Formula: Blake Martin

A few years ago I co-supervised a young man named Blake Martin. During work hours he was responsible for helping develop and implement an educational teen after school program. Although Blake was more than capable of doing the job with his eyes closed, he did not present much enthusiasm about the stringent grant stipulations that stifled our programs creativity. It was not until I asked him to lead a dance and step team at one
of the after school sites, did I see him come alive.

Within a matter of seconds Blake would choreograph visually appealing dance and step routines, motivating the young participants to become excited and familiar with dance moves and music that were once foreign to them. From the very first dance class, I knew that it was my responsibility to stay observant and aware of Blake’s talent if/and when our work relationship ended.

Today, Blake is known as a playwright/director/screenwriter, production specialist, and professional dancer-an all around entertainment artist. He is the CEO and founder of Blake Martin Productions Company, an entertainment social club that accepts everyone. Blake describes his fashion shows as “a comprehension of the entertainment genres- film, fashion, and dance.” Clear about the direction he is headed, Blake plans to be “the individual who has the top film company, top dance company, and top fashion house at the same time. No one has been able to say that they are at the top of all three genres; I want to be able to be Tyler Perry, Diddy, and Marc Jacobs in one person. I want to say that I control entertainment.”

Following the cues of his mother, Blake IS walking his path. “From an early age, she would combat everything I knew in the world. I came home one day and told her that my teacher said ‘you can be anything you
want to be’ and that we ‘should reach for the stars’. She told me ‘you can see the stars, so therefore, you can go further and bigger than that’.” When Blake wanted to book his first fashion show venue with a 1,000 seats, friends and others suggested he think smaller- his mother pushed him to go with his first mind. The show was successfully sold out.

Blake kicks down the door to his fears, walks through it and then redesigns the layout to his liking. His mother tells him “ Enough is not enough; Great is not enough; Try to jump way over the lines that someone has set with you, surprise yourself.” And of course, when he tells himself he cannot accomplish something, she responds with “Now you GOT to do it!!!!!”

One obstacle that Blake had to overcome to get to where he is today is “Worrying about what my audience or society has to say. I had to get to the point where I am happy with what I put out… As a young, black, gay male, these things are important to me, but I know they are not important to everyone else. If I am happy with the product, then I am proud of what I have done.”

Many of Blake’s production ideas are born while listening to music in the car, but he is most productive while present with his talent. “I usually have a skeleton of the show but I play off of energy. Everything is on the spot. I will put the song on and stare at my models and within 60 seconds I have the entire scene. I see everything in that exact moment- stage, lights, music, costumes.” Having observed Blake choreographing, I
must admit that it is one of the most unique processes I have witnessed.

A portion of the profits from each of his shows is donated an organization, cause, or individual in need. Blake has contributed a number of community service hours with a variety of fraternal organizations (in which is the founder of one), as well as through Blake Martin Productions. Often when he and his team members speak to high school students, they present stories of success and achievement and in closing, make a personal share or reveal. The reveals can range from “by the way, I am a gay black male”, to “by the way, I am a victim of rape or domestic violence”. The reveal is intended to let young people know that “where you are is not necessarily where you have to be or the sum of who you are.”

Blake Martin is under thirty years old and well on his way to achieving the vision he has identified for himself. With little sleep and LOTS of ideas, Blake is laying the foundation and providing a platform for entertainers to achieve.

Blake Martin’s Success Formula = Limitless dreams + Artistic process + Courage to be who he is meant to be

More on Blake Martin

S.M.A.R.T goal(s)

1st weekend of August I am taking 150 models to NY from the 5th-9th. They will be going on GO SEES, completing runway training, and learning more about the fashion industry.

Through the profits from my productions, I want to provide a full year scholarship to 1 male and 1 female entering college in the Fall of 2012

Contact Info


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Success Formula: Chanel Ballard

Success Formula: Chanel Ballard

I have yet to meet Chanel Ballard.

We have 57 mutual “friends” on Facebook, and only about 15 of them are my friends or associates in real life.

In mid-February I saw her status feed. She was looking to start a network resource of people doing “big things”. I sent her my information. A few weeks later, she referred a friend to me for business development services. We did not know each other and it did not matter. Her goal was clear: help others so that they succeed.

Currently, she is the Chief Inspirational Officer (CIO) of her growing entity, Rise2Power Network. I asked Chanel how she arrived at the title CIO, “Things come to me”, she said. “When I started developing the Rise2Power Network, CEO did not fit, but CIO did. Everyone that knows me, knows that I live to inspire.” The Rise2Power Network focuses on helping people create the process of inspiration. Through social media and product development, including, t-shirts and wrist bands with motivational quotes (to name a few), Rise2Power encourages individuals to stay inspired during challenging times.

Although Chanel thinks it is great that people choose to serve with a group, she wants individuals to know that they can still serve by themselves. Rise2Power is her personal initiative to inspire youth and young adults. It is only one of MANY projects this superstar 20 something’s has going on.

Chanel has a two-year old son, she is planning her summer wedding, she is growing the seed of Rise2Power Network, and she has co-founded and operates Inspired by Grace, a non-profit for young girls. Furthermore, I was in awe when I found out that she is involved in GEMS- The Girls Education Mentoring Services.

GEMS has helped hundreds of young women and girls, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and to develop to their full potential.

Chanels outreach efforts include males and females of all ages, but her passion is women- girls, mothers, and grandmothers. “I am a prosperity advocate bringing resources and support to the community.”

On many occasions her Life Plan has been revised. Chanel is finally at a point where she has the clarity of language and the know-how, to clearly define what it is she wants, and most importantly, what it will take to get there. The most up to date edition of her Life Plan includes a list of degrees or educational endeavors she must accomplish to attain her vision, as well as future titles she wishes to own.

She has a slew of other tag lines, catch phrases, and key words that help to brand her unique product of inspiration. The one I enjoy most is found under her signature “Annoying Teens into Progression since 1984”. The story goes that when Chanel’s mom was pregnant with her at the age of 16, she began to live a more productive life, motivated by motherhood. Chanel annoyingly became her mother’s motivation for success.

Did I mention she is a full-time marketing professional? TALK ABOUT DOING IT ALL!!!!! I have a lot of friends that are active community servants, professionals, and more, but motherhood usually slows some of us down; Not Chanel “Ambitious” Ballard!

Chanel Ballard Success Formula: Wisdom + Inspiration + Refusal to give up

More on Chanel Ballard

How do you multi-task to multi-achieve?

My passion for helping. It is hard, especially with having a two-year old. If I have to stay up late, I stay up. If I have to get up early, that is what I do. I take the bus to work and I do work on the bus. That is an additional 45 minutes of work time each day. I write my blog, write follow-up letters, send out my emails. Do what you have to do. Make it simple.


“Inspired to Give- Destined to Serve”

“Nurturing Minds for Greatness”

What is your idea of community development?

Nurturing what is already there. It is a lot of talent in our communities. But it is about having someone organize the talent, build and uplift the people in the community and bring out the best with what we already have.

S.M.A.R.T. goal

A Star- Studded launch of The Rise 2 Power Network as a business by August 15th.

My favorite quotes from the interview

“I know when opportunity presents itself”

“I do it all. I can be anything from a maid to a Queen depending on what the situation calls for.”


Mobile Office: 773-701-1853

Update from Chanel on 7.21.2011

The Rise2Power Project is still an inspirational vehicle to watch. We continue to build our inspiration fan club and encourage youth and young adults to be active participants in their destiny. I’m confident that we’ll have a soft launch for The Rise2Power Project August 15th.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shaped by Budget: Aligning Goals with Personal Finances

Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget?

I know I do!!!!!

Every day I realize that I struggle to align my lifestyle (home, car, food, entertainment, etc) with my life plan.

My goals lead to me being a professional artsy community activist, think Augusto Boal. There is really not a lot of money in this, therefore making it hard for me visualize how my goals and passions will pay for multiple degrees and keep up the material luxuries in which I have grown accustomed. I have tried to convince myself that, financially I would be stable if I dwelled in a different area of sweet home Chicago (I live in a high-rise on the North side), drove a less comfortable car (I do have leather seats and a sunroof), and had even more self-control on my dining and drinking tabs.

But all in all, I am not satisfied with the idea of having less material items to keep giving more (everything). My observation is that people living my purpose often take a vow of poverty or take on too many jobs to ensure personal sustainability. The latter can become unhealthy, and my costly living preferences actually allow me to gain more exposure to the world around me.

For example, living on the North side. I chose to live in an area that encourages me to walk or take the bus instead of driving everywhere; that is a green environment so that I can safely enjoy the outdoors and actively think about my carbon footprint; and to be more accessible to people and communities that participate in the arts. This was a strategic decision that I made in hopes of engulfing myself in a space that is a resource for my goals.

But in Chicago, my lifestyle is expensive. I am not sure how to mentally shift and accept that how I live may need to change based on my income activities. I am having this ongoing battle that forces me to ask myself: should I mainly focus on making money now and work on my social activist goals later?

For the most part, I have avoided thinking like this, but as you can see from my article Giving: Time or Money ( , the issue continues to rise. It does not help that gas prices are exploding, grocery costs make me heave, and funding for social activist causes is decreasing.

Despite conflicts between my finances and my goals, I have been able to remain focused on my passions because of an AMAZING support system. My friends and family continue to assist me both spiritually, financially, and emotionally. I cannot stress the importance of allowing yourself to need and accept assistance from others during a challenging time. As I am working to align my lifestyle with my income, my friends provide some of the simple luxuries a girl needs, such as a night out on the town, or gas money to my next performance.

I came across the article below by Jane Allen that provides some great strategies on how not to sacrifice your passions for survival. Although encouraging, I still believe that my outlook on my personal living preferences must change to fully appreciate the writers advice.


Tags: , , ,

When I Grow Up

We spend our entire childhood telling people, time and time again, what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us manage to land a literal career in the field we dreamed of joining, while some of us function in our dream jobs in a more abstract capacity. For example, I have a friend that wanted to be a teacher her entire life. She earned a Bachelors degree in Education, but has not yet put the teachings and theories into formal practice. What she has done, and has ALWAYS been good at, is teaching adults and young people through mentorship, conversations in the beauty shop, and friendship; ultimately, she IS a teacher.

Today’s society is full of professionals that decided to create a box for their dreams when there was no box OR, better yet, to validate and reshape the box(es) that already exist. I say validate and reshape because I strongly believe that at a point and time there used to be more opportunities for people with non-traditional training and multiple skill sets. (I am one of those people.)

Over the years, I wanted to be a pediatrician to save all of the children; then I wanted to be a lawyer; then I wanted to be a social justice activist in third world countries; then I wanted to be a journalist; then I wanted to start a non-for-profit that empowered Chicago’s youth; then I wanted to own a chain of community theatres in areas where arts opportunities were lacking; then I wanted to be a playwright and a poet; THEN, I realized, I could DO what all of these things centered around– Serving underserved communities with creativity through a skill set that would lead to sustainable improvements.

As I search for jobs, there is no title or job description that encompasses ALL of me! So, right now, today, unemployed and all, I am creating my own career and I am 100% sure it will sustain me. I’m only hoping no one asks me what I want to be when I grow up…..

Below is a link to a blog that talks about the importance of pursuing multiple passions.


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: