LOVE AND ACTION AT HARLAN HIGH SCHOOL ON CHICAGO'S SOUTH SIDE
BY NICOLE SAUNDERS
It was a magical moment in Chicago.
Together with our local affiliate, the National CARES Mentoring Movement and a host of community groups staged a summit in the city to call able, stable African Americans to mentor our young and move us ever closer toward hope and healing.
The two-day event, “When Crisis Meets Conviction: A Call to Action and Love,” included a series of gatherings at Harlan Community Academy High School and was held in the fall. In addition to being a call to action, the summit also served as the public’s introduction to The Rising, a social, emotional and academic support pilot initiative which CARES launched at the school. For more than a year, CARES has worked closely with Harlan High leadership to build the program. According to Susan L. Taylor, National CARES founder and CEO, it will be replicated throughout the nation in the nearly 60 cities with CARES affiliates.
"Based on a curriculum designed by the National CARES Braintrust—60 of our finest minds, including Dr. Na’im Akbar, Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and many other brilliant national thinkers—our vision is for The Rising to engage, inspire, empower and support young people on their path to adulthood," she said.
TJ Crawford, lead facilitator for The Rising at Harlan, said that it was no coincidence that the program is being piloted in the Windy City. "Chicago is viewed by many as ground zero for youth violence and its impact on the community,” he said. “The school setting is one where young people should feel safe and supported and we are very fortunate to be working with Harlan’s dedicated leadership, staff and student body to develop a program that undergirds them as they navigate circumstances challenging to even the most resourced adults."
Dr. Dyson, a noted Georgetown University professor and cultural commentator, opened the summit with an afternoon assembly that engaged nearly 600 Harlan students in dialogue. Dyson urged the teens to reflect on their heritage, their futures and think seriously about a range of subjects, from avoiding conflict with law enforcement, to “colorism,” to embracing peers who identify as LGBTQ.
That evening, several hundred Chicagoans were brought together in a combined effort between CARES, Phil Jackson and the Black Star Project, and Harlan’s Alumni Association led by Harold Jenkins. Dr. Dyson and Susan Taylor, along with Father Michael Pfleger of Saint Sabina, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago State University president Dr. Wayne Watson, and renowned literacy expert Dr. Alfred Tatum from the University of Illinois at Chicago, led the call for area leaders to “come together in peace and with a plan to address the trauma our children are facing.” But more, they offered up their commitment to the young people of Harlan and their peers.
Trinity and Saint Sabina will join CARES in motivating its congregants to mentor.
The commitments were, in a word, breathtaking.
And they were followed up by the commitment of 57 mentors who registered with Chicago’s Public Schools and participated in an all-day training, facilitated by national youth leader and trainer, Dereca Blackmon, and CARES’ director of communications, asha bandele. The intensive training guided all who gathered through CARES framework for sustaining and supporting one another, while experts including the executive director of the nonprofit Mentoring USA Stephen Powell, and Harlan curriculum coordinator Robin Henry, shared insights on best practices for mentors and understanding the needs of Chicago’s students. The day culminated in men and women breaking into single gender healing circles where participants looked at their own life-stressors and many for the first time, were able to share and be supported in their own lives.
"National CARES and Windy City CARES are dedicated to a collaborative process with all stakeholders—from young people to seasoned advocates and academics," noted Jimmie Briggs, National CARES incoming executive director.
Partners in CARES' work in Chicago include the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, the Black Star Project, the Resolution Project, Chicago State University and the African American Male Resource Center.
For more information about The Rising, click , click here.