Tag 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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Community Asset: Global Girls

There are a number of reasons as to why this organization should be on your radar as a Community Asset.

Below I share just a few.

#1- Everyone involved in the organization is a risk taker, especially Founder and Executive Director- Marvinetta Penn. There is no topic that is taboo to the girls and young adults that take part in the organization and this honesty, and sincerity among females has created life changing dynamics for communities in both the United States and abroad.

#2- The organization has proved it is sustainable by surpassing the business start-up phase (5 years) and is currently celebrating over 10 years of incorporation. What does this mean? Its worth your time and investment!  Global Girls has a model that works and is being expanded on.

#3- Global Girls is a mixture of performing arts, leadership development, media training, and womanhood claiming. HOW COOL IS THAT?????

#4- The participants have fun! Yes, there is pressure to excel above the rest, but what more can you expect from an organization that is preparing women to be global citizens in todays competitive society. Through it all Global Girls leadership ensures laughs, hugs, tears, and personal success for every developing female involved.

#5- Global Girls participated in atleast 3 trips to Africa, where the youth volunteered in various communities with local families. Hence the name GLOBAL GIRLS.

#6- Global Girls is an AMAZING organization headquartered in Chicago, IL. For Global Girls, the Month of October is “Lets Talk Month”. Global Girls will be sponsoring a FREE performance, workshops for daughters and adults, lunch and facilitated discussions on October 22nd. The title of the event is: “Talking with Your Parents/Kids about Sex”.

I can go on and on, BUT, I think you would benefit more from checking out the Global Girls website and by learning more about their upcoming events. There is not a female in the Chicagoland area that should be unaware of this Community Asset! If you havent already done so, tell a friend about this organization.

The press release for the upcoming event is below and it includes the Global Girls contact information.

October Is Let’s Talk Month
Global Girls Sponsors Local Workshops on Talking with Your Parents/Kids about Sex
Let’s Talk Month is an opportunity for children and parents to learn to communicate in an open and honest manner about health, sexuality and other sensitive issues. Such discussions can help young people delay sex and avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Research shows that adolescents prefer their parents to be their sex educators. Moreover, teens often need more information, guidance and open discussions with their families.
Families can play a pivotal role in helping young people make healthy decisions about sex. Most parents want the opportunity to share their values and provide their children with accurate information about sexuality. But often parents and other adults feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality. Often, they need assistant and support in starting meaningful conversations.
Global Girls is sponsoring a performance, workshops for daughters and adults, lunch and facilitated discussions October 22, 2011.
What: How to Talk With Your Parent/Children about Sex
When: Saturday, October 22nd at 11:00 a.m.
Where: Grand Crossing Park, 7655 S. Ingleside Ave, Chicago, IL
Who’s Invited: Daughters, Parents, Grandparents, Foster Parents, and Other Care-givers
Reservations required for this free event: Contact Global Girls, 773.488.7557 and ask to speak to Shannon Woods or email
The workshops will offer youth, parents and other care-givers practical advice on communicating with one another about health, sexuality and sex. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to identify areas for individual assistance, practice skills, and craft a plan for starting conversations after they leave.
* For more information, press should contact Global Girls Executive Director, Marvinetta Penn, 773 488-7557 or
Like us on Facebook: Global Girls
Follow us on Twitter: @globalgirlsinc1



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SEEing Your Community

I thought of this entry after taking a second to truly look at my surroundings. I realized that I was still able to find new sites and treasurers on a trip I had easily taken more than 50 times.
Upon “discovering” the new objects, places, and colors, I was able to understand spaces, events, and scenery that were once foreign or unexplainable to me. 

It all happened when I was leaving the north side of Chicago to return to school in Urbana- Champaign. Currently surrounded by agricultural landscape, the city view that I thought I knew all to well, came alive.
As I drove down lake shore drive I found myself going slower and slower, observing, appreciating, and seeing the intentionality of the design. I was beginning to see that everything had its place in the city and I longed to stay put so that I could receive all that the clear sky was trying to show me about Chicago.
I’m sure that my urban planner eye was kicking in, but either way, it was not until I truly looked at my surroundings that I understood what was there for me to learn from.
The new views made me feel creative and I wanted nothing more than to find the words to describe what I was experiencing. For me, this experience confirmed that people MUST travel outside of their community to SEE their community, suggest improvements, and ultimately to know more than we already do in order to be builders of the future.  

Leaving Chicago was the only way for me to SEE Chicago. As a planner, I know that I will have amazing opportunities to go into communities and suggest changes. I hope to always remember this experience and find ways to help residents SEE more outside of their community so that they can think of innovative solutions for the problems in their communities.

When did you begin to SEE your community?

Below is a link to the Education for Sustainable Development website. The page provides an activity readers can use to work with residents to SEE the effects of local development.


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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




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Success Formulas: What I Have Learned Part 2

What I love most about the Success Formulas series is learning the thought processes and actions of individuals that are actively pursuing their goals.

This round of questions for Success Formulas revolved around budgeting resources, overcoming fears, community development, S.M.A.R.T. goals, and productive spaces.

Living a more intentional life, I have created the following statements/ affirmations in which I am sure will take me further than I imagine.

I seek out and embrace the platform(s) for my success

My success begins and ends with my courage

I am the active example of my purpose

I treasure my target audience

Below are previous affirmations that I created and embraced.

I accept accountability for my responsibilities

I believe in God as a guiding power for my achievements

I cherish and nurture relationships with like-minded people

I value detailed work ethic

It is with these daily affirmations and positive thoughts that I will breathe air into my Life Plan and S.M.A.R.T. goals.

How have your applied lessons from the Success Formulas series to your life?

Below is a link to a blog entry that has some great affirmations that can be used while working out.

Update 7.11.11- From Percy Ollie Jr.

  1. I’m delayed on my SMART goal of completing my bible in 365 day. I am currently only on day 7 so, I’m about 2-3 weeks behind. The good news I’ve done the hardest part of getting started and I plan on picking up momentum to get caught up. Additionally, I’ve began 2 other devotionals that are assisting with my understanding.
  2. Still in search of additional photographer
  3. I have 1 intern secured and in the process of allocating responsibilities
    Additionally, I have 2 other potential candidates
  4. I last worked on the content for my new webpage about 2 weeks ago so, I haven’t been as progressive as I would like to be in order to reach my goal. This week I will be creating a new plan to track my progress so, that I’m able to stay ahead of schedule.

Update 7.12.11- From Titi Lo’Kei

  1. I still attend church every Sunday and I am also reading the bible more everyday.
  2. I pray all day everyday but i am still forming a habit of reading the bible every morning and evening. I have picked up on reading the bible but I am not yet at the point where I want to be. But as long as i am making progress I am happy.
  3. The one thing I keep going back to is budget. I remember saying I never set budgets because music expenses can be so random and unpredicted but that answer actually bothered me. Since then I have been studying ways to budget and save money in order to plan for unexpected expenses. I have also been finding ways to make extra money and seek out investors that are interested in sponsoring my music career. I often times live too much in the present instead of thinking long-term when it comes to money, but all of that is slowly changing for the better.

Update 7.21.2011- From Chanel Ballard 

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.


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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


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OUTreach =’s reaching OUT

OUTreach =’s reaching OUT

I am completely committed to living more intentionally. With that, I have realized something unsettling for me about blogging. My entries, and the entries of a million other bloggers, with great things to say, have not yet reached the homes of those that lack internet. I struggle with this, not because I think everyone should read MY blog, but because I believe that true outreach is about reaching those that are OUT of the realm that you are already in.

I think the internet is one of the greatest inventions EVER, and unfortunately, those that need resources most, (self- development literature, quick tips on how to improve your diet, lay summaries on what’s going on in the world) sometimes don’t know where and how to begin their improvement, even if they have the internet at home.

The concept of outreach has helped me to understand why religious organizers, community organizations, and people that want to share what they consider pertinent information, make it a priority to go door- to- door.

One summer, my colleague and I were working on recruitment efforts for our educational summer program. Enrollment numbers were low and we were quickly approaching our registration deadline. We rounded up 5 college volunteers and printed 300 fliers. We created a route for our college volunteers to do mailbox drops,  and encouraged our them to talk to any parents/ guardians that they ran into during their outreach.

The volunteers completed their door-to-door mailbox drops on a Friday night at 7pm. By Tuesday of the next week, there were 30 additional parents interested in enrolling their children in the summer program.

Although there has been an increase in the funding and creation of major green initiatives that give printed publications a run for their money, it is becoming more and more evident that internet only access to resources removes opportunities for low-income and economically disadvantaged families.

My S.M.A.R.T. solution and counteraction to this phenomenon: By January 2012 I will have a 4-page printed newsletter of major blog entries from Ashley S.C. Walls hand delivered to atleast 300 households in the Chicagoland area.

How do you balance community outreach and the internet?

Dont forget about the JUNE OPPORTUNITY

During the month of June I will offer one complimentary consultation for the top 3 individuals with the highest levels of engagement on my blog. (Winners can defer their consultation to a friend or family member of their choice). My complimentary consultation will focus on business and marketing development, grant writing services, and strategic development for a topic of your choice.

I am defining engagement as:

  • commenting on various entries
  • sharing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Digg, and/or twitter and tagging me or notifying me of the share
  • emailing posts to your friends or networks (bcc me on the
  • And any other creative ways of engagement you can think of!

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