Into A Black Beyond Vol. I

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Volume 1 2021

A Compilation of Chicago’s Black Voices

The ConTextos Authors Circle was developed in collaboration with young people who are at risk of, victims of or perpetrators of violence in El Salvador. In 2017, this innovative program expanded into Chicago to create tangible, high-quality opportunities that nourish the minds, expand the voices and share the personal truths of individuals who have long been underserved and underestimated. Through the process of drafting,revising and publishing memoirs, participants develop selfreflection, critical thinking, camaraderie and positive self-projection to author new life narratives. In 2020, amidst global pandemic and local and national cries for racial reckoning, ConTextos completed Into A Black Beyond as our first Circle by application, inviting a broader Chicago community of Black voices to come together to challenge the binary narratives of the media. This pioneer cohort of Black authors, Black activists, Black artists, and engaged Black citizens joined together digitally over 12 weeks to delve into the Black past and this Black present in order to imagine and aspire to a Black Beyond... To learn more about our work, and to read memoirs and other compilations written by our Authors visit: Find us on social media: @contextoschi In collaboration with

An initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust

Into A Black Beyond Introduction ConTextos’ Into a Black Beyond (IABB) grew out of emotion—rage fueled by frustration, righteously held indignation, apathy and indifference as the result of too many promises that have long gone unmet. And also hope, a force that has historically moved Black people forward. These emotions and much more so deeply held are contained within Black stories and Black history. The inaugural cohort of IABB co-created a space to share, create and publish a first hand and collective source of writing that capture this momentous time of a global pandemic, and national and international outcries for racial reckoning. IABB grew out of who we are, where we are, and how we are processing the world around us. It grew out of the languishing and thriving that coexists across the Americas, throughout these United States, and especially here in our Sweet Home Chicago, once a mecca for Black progress, now also a symbol of Black pain. Through story, we have been able to explore and understand the emotions and complexities Black people have grappled with throughout time, many of which are still very present today. What we’ve gathered from the past is that we must not sit on or side step what we feel, that we must respond to unreasonable and oppressive events and systems, and more so rise to action. If we don’t capture it, how will it be depicted? If we don’t write it, how will it be written? If we don’t voice it, whose words will be heard? Throughout time and place, Black Authors have written stories that give context and legitimacy to the righteousness of these feelings, capturing realities that mainstream often ignores and distorts. The Authors featured in this compilation make up our inaugural cohort of 2021 IABB Fellows who were selected to capture a range of Black ideas, Black experiences, and Black voices in Chicago at this moment. This intergenerational group is representative of homegrown Chicagoans and transplants, who come from diverse professions, educational backgrounds, identities, familial structures and communities. We represent not the dualities presented in the media, but the richly woven fabric that links us all to each other and our ancestors. Into A Black Beyond Authors Circle provides a dedicated space to acknowledge, respect, and evolve beyond traumatic memories and experiences, to build a bridge beyond Black Chicago’s dystopias and paradoxes, and into the next dimensions of our future.

Table Of Contents 1.............................

Melanin March Naimah Thomas

Slavery to Mass Incarceration 3.............................

To Know One’s History Glenance Green


Where Can I Go? Kierra Wooden


Children are Precious Kanoya Ali


Indict America Jauwan Hall


Hard Histories Senyah Haynes


Nautical Joyride Aisha Truss-Miller


Ghost Stories Dimitri Hepburn

Historical Violence 14...........................

Define Our Own Freedom Dominicca Washington


Writing in Racism Jauwan Hall


Chicago Is Angry dr.moore


It’s Unforgivable Eugene Brown


Planned Obsolescence Kashif Johnson


Give Me Something Senyah Haynes

24........................... 29...........................

America Goddam: Reimagined Naimah Thomas Shackles OFF Aisha Truss-Miller

Black Economics / Capitalism 33...........................

what the stimmy bought me Elizia Artis


Inevitably Inevitable Santresa Harris


blood money Kierra Wooden


Ten Commandments Reimagined Glenance Green


Let Us Be Great Djuana Florez


I live in excess Johnny Page

Black Identity 42...........................

Complex Naimah Thomas


Black is Not a Monolith Elizia Artis


Check Please Santresa Harris


The Creator Took His Time with You Kanoya Ali


“Roseland” and “Through My Eyes” Djuana Florez


I Am Me Caila Hall


Immortality Dominicca Washington


What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black Senyah Haynes


Can I flex? Can I live? Glenance Green

Melanin March Naimah Thomas

Creativity is the resource; I am the resource. My talent, my craft, my mind, my gifts, are the resource. Creativity means allowing myself to be free from the expectations, free of the binary stronghold I have placed on myself (influenced by someone else). My pen, paper, art, practice, all shape me. I am the resource, we are the resource, you are the resource. Rest easy cause your creativity is the resource…We are rest…we are creativity. WE ARE… Seeds of the Ancestors 2020 5” x 7” Watercolor and Ink on Paper – Naimah Thomas


Slavery to Mass Incarceration 2

To Know One’s History Glenance Green

To know one’s history is a privilege, manifesting as a rite of passage. The ability to rest between the wings of the long-necked heron that we recognize as the visual representation of Sankofa, while she covers us as we look into our pasts to gain a deeper understanding to achieve guidance and wisdom on our journeys to our future, is a superpower from the ancestral gods. To live, and I do truly mean live, in the present is to transform ourselves beyond the carceral state of our physical bodies. To gift ourselves the luxury of time and treat it as rare and precious as the existential entity that it is. Freedom is having the time to live. To know our history is to appreciate the gifts that the ancestors have bestowed upon on us. To lay down the burden of shame. To acknowledge that carrying the gifts that fuel the fire of the torch that we hold is not a burden but a blessing. To know one’s history is to know what you know and know that it doesn’t matter what you don’t know but how and what you do with what you do know, just because you know...better.


Indict America Jauwan Hall

The inability of America to move beyond its original sins of land and labor theft are rooted in its failures to actualize its potential. The nation was built on the backs and commodified wombs of stolen Black bodies. We have concretized oppression through our legal systems and constitutional practices. We have become victims to the hypocrisy of our faux pas democracy. Without the ability to self-analyze, America will never be able to self-actualize, and the unfortunate reality for most, if not all, is that we will suffer the fate of our nation as a collective. If we do not indict this system, we are doomed to die in this system.


Where Can I Go? Kierra Wooden

Where can I go? I feel like I’m in pieces, the world has claim over every inch of my anatomy. Where can I go? Is there a place for me to be? Is there a place for me to be free? Where can I go? Is there a place for me to be? Is there a place for me to be free? Tell me where, God, tell me where, tell me where, I beg you. Tell me where can my black ass go to feel human?


Hard Histories Senyah Haynes

Hard histories Break that down Hard- solid, firm, immovable to some extent, or certainly unmalleable Hard- not soft, not fuzzy; fierce even Histories- not one, but several Stories, his and hers What happened, what really happened What has been The truth as it was presented That’s what the brotha said we have a problem with – We the people, we Americans, we who live on stolen land built by stolen people We can’t handle knowing, hearing, or accurately retelling our hard histories We can’t stand it We are not able. We would rather frolic through the lily fields of our own imaginations Myths, national fairytales, and goose down lore Our sanitized notions of what happened before Our outright lies. Of course, don’t forget that when I say “we” That word is relative Because we the people, the Americans, those living on stolen land built by stolen people Don’t all shy away from our national hard histories To many it ain’t even history It’s the in-your-face, never ceasing, reality of hard times now.


Children are Precious Kanoya Ali

Children are precious. Children are honest. Children are Love. So, how can a child be a slave? Who would enslave a child? Who could watch a child Be put into slavery, And Not be moved by that? I ask myself, At what point in your mind Can a person justify A child being a slave? I cannot respect you. I cannot listen to you. I cannot honor Anything You have ever stood for. You are my enemy.


Nautical Joyride Aisha Truss-Miller

On our first and only family vacation my mother Doris, sister Shannon, and niece Shamari head for one night in Miami, and then a cruise the following day headed to the Bahamas. I’m no swimmer- none of us are. Before now, I had only heard and felt light splashes of the Atlantic Ocean. I had read so many pieces of work by Black folks, about her history and mightiness. That first night on the cruise ship my forethoughts of good food, good drank, non-stop dancing were replaced with the excitement of foreignness and familiar-ness intertwined in blood memories that took hold of me, as I stood next to my 16-year-old niece listening to the whispers and roars of the ocean. While on the deck I looked into the light and hope of darkness- it’s so Black, blacker than me. Darker than my favorite hue of Midnight Blue, Blue-Black, Beautiful, Majestic, Strong, Seamless. The night’s sky and Atlantic are one, nothing to tell them apart with exception to the handful of stars the universe rolled and released in the air like a pair of dice on concrete, hitting 7, time and time again. The sky and the ocean are one. I hold the railing tight as I curiously and cautiously lean forward to look overboard, to see the subtle waves I hear sparring with the ship. She whispers, and I imagine how sharks and other creatures of the ocean move freely under the surface of their natural and seemingly endless liquid homeland. I imagine if Atlantis is real- and about mermaids with curvy hips and underwater flawless afros living free- with no desire to give up their power to walk the lands with man-kind.


I think of my ancestors, the millions of souls thrown overboard- the sick, the elderly, the differently abled, and pregnant women; and I imagine those of us who found a way to get little, get loose, and liberate- jump to death’s liberation while their spirits raced with the conviction and will, and - their minds jumped with flashes of what future ills kidnapping, torture, rape, human trafficking, and genocide would rev’ up, so- THEY JUMPED, jumped to freedom. My heart raced with theirs, in the present parallel, that tapped into yesterday’s ancestral blood memories. I can see them. I can hear them. My people jumping overboard. Jumping hysterically at auction blocks while children and mothers and tribes are ripped apart, broken hearts jumping out and breasts, shattering into a million pieces that we are still trying to mend today, and tomorrow. I see, secret jumps over brooms with little to no room for jumping hearts beating to silent drumming of fierce Black Love. I see us jumping before even asking, “How high Bossman?” Jumping at combines for agents, jumping off private planes, and we practicing how high we can jump at games for drunken fans jumping in stands, in order to jump out of generations of the poverty their ancestors drowned us in. Can you see us jumping from station to station while following the North Star? Jumping at the chance to escape bondage, jumping at the chance to pay freedom forward by freeing others. Jumpy fingers preparing for rebellions to kill the masters and all that represents him, and jigs telling plans to jump in masters’ good graces. Nerves jumpin’ inside Black hands on steering wheels when the jakes jump in rearview mirrors with them blinding blue lights.


I see the waters reflect jumping and jerking bodies, instinctively fighting for life for seconds while hanging strangely from trees watered with our blood. I see jumping chests and limbs against concrete from 16 shots, from 16 shots, from 16 shots, from shots fired, clubs swung, and knees in necks of jumpy, murderous cops, and from AR-15s that too easily jump into the hands of hurt people- quick to jump at ops- hurtin’ more of our people. I see jumpin’ juke parties, and Jumpmans, and my people jumping in line for Jordans, because when we were little we had to jump-up quick and get in line for free breakfast and free lunch, before we got the block jumpin’ with music and jump rope competitions, while our junkie relatives were on the jump for a bump of something that could jump them back to when times were good. Our ancestors, they’ve seen us jumping for white Jesus to free us while in our Sunday Best, while us kids analyzed who’s really jumping with the Holy Ghost or jumping for attention- jumping to give our last so pastor can jump out of his Cadillac, while we jumped onto foams and pallets on project floors at bedtime. I saw us, jumping from person to person to fill the void of self-love that has jumped into the abyss of the deeply-rooted hatred of self, of life as a Black person navigating all this shit. Jumping from public school to public school, alternatives to juvy, to the County and prisons in jumpsuits. Capitalists jumping to fill prisons with our bodies that jump failing economies in white, rural communities in the pursuit of their happiness. We jump to alarms and sounds of roosters to jump the figures of families that jumped to sell their souls to own human beings. Then they jumped to operate non-profits, political parties, housing developments and tenements, government agencies, and businesses that jump to exploit Black time and talent. They jump on grants, contracts, and tax-cuts to profit on the plight, pain, and power of my people. They jump quick to call it human services, organizing,


and charity in support of Black people- but can’t seem to jump to create change we demand. Without jumping to hire and put in “real” leadership or share power with those of us that have been jumped on time and time again- by anti-Black racism, structural racism, elitism, economic deprivation, and state-sanctioned violence. Afraid we’d jump the line designed to keep us dead last. I see us jumping in front of injustice time and time again, jumping and screaming from whippings across the back- jumping to generations where whippings are dealt from Black parents to Black children- from Black men who jump on Black women, getting jumped in; they all jump to scripture and egos to justify jumping to incorporate slave control tactics into our relationships. Jump on top of our bodies when we cannotdid not- consent. I see people that jump to exploit those in need, those who are vulnerable. My spirit jumps back into the moments of now, after jumping across ancestral timelines the ocean’s mirrors have shown me. She calls, but it’s more like whispers, whispers in the dark from liquid graves, sanctuaries of seas see my spirit seeking, searching …. I look. I listen. She says, “Remember me, remember us, teach us, unlearn, learn, re-learn, build with your hands and hearts; our legacies survive histories stolen, distorted, falsely reported- so jump for joy, for freedom, at chances, and for praisein remembrance of us that survived the journey, for those that didn’t, and for those that jumped and laid ourselves to rest in the Atlantic.”


Ghost Stories Dimitri Hepburn

When I taught middle school, we used to take our 8th graders on a college tour to either Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas or to Atlanta. On one of the trips, we had the opportunity to visit one of the oldest plantations in the country. It was one of the very first plantations in Virginia. The plantation was still owned by the same family that had owned it since its very first years. Direct descendents of slave masters lived in the house. They waved from a window at my students and me. It was strange, as strange as it would have been if an alien had landed on the roof of the big old house and waved at us. We toured the property and the first floor of the main house. We heard ghost stories about a woman depicted in a painting. The frame of the painting was beat up and battered from all the places it had mysteriously fallen off the wall on its own, a manifestation of the late subject’s disappointment with the positioning of her painting. We were told that moving the painting to a place where she had a view through the window to one of her favorite spots on the property was enough to put her soul at ease. It was hard to believe ghost stories after that moment. In all those hundreds of years that black men, women, and children were owned, raped, beaten, tortured, killed, insulted, and who knows what else and none of those souls had reason to haunt the house? Were they still bound by the slavemaster’s rules in the afterlife? Did they not have more reason to be restless souls than this woman who did not like the view from where her painting hung on the wall?


Historical Violence


Define Our Own Freedom Dominicca Washington

The more that I learn and grow as a woman and as a mother, the more that I question what I’ve learned, how I learned it and the importance of unlearning and controlling your own narrative. By no means do I believe in undoing what we’ve been made to know, but I think about unlearning as a sort of continuous improvement plan for our sense of being. I find myself torn sometimes. Forever on the freedom journey, I’m often tempted to only focus on the future of black freedom because I wonder how much additional dwelling on the past will eventually stifle us. It’s to a point where we achieve something culturally, but the pain of the past makes us skeptical of and in some cases altogether in opposition to the strides of an individual representative of the culture. It feels like more slavery. Mental fortitude as a survival mechanism for blacks is often rooted in fear as a result of our traumatic experience in this country. Sometimes it feels like we inadvertently re-enslave ourselves through our fears. We get lost in arming ourselves against evils beyond our control as opposed to writing our stories as we want them to be told. I don’t want to be written into the fear of the culture. That’s why I stay close to home. I don’t want the imposition of anyone’s fears on the freedom of my home and children. I don’t believe that we should navigate life ignorant of that past, but I do believe that it’s time to free ourselves from the pain of it. AND I don’t know what that looks like for us all. But I think that there is the beauty in it all.


Maybe we should stop looking for a textbook definition for freedom. The freedom to decide what freedom is and how your life will characterize it. Black history doesn’t stop at the crack epidemic or hip hop. Nor does it stop at the white house. So what personal responsibility do we feel in advancing the narrative? It’s time for black people to define their own freedom and characterize it as they see fit.


It’s Unforgivable Eugene Brown

Why do we participate willingly in our own destruction? I remember reading about how Native Africans participated in the enslavement of fellow natives in exchange for various materials such as rum and tobacco and this [Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Poem] reminded me of that, and I hate it. It makes it hard to even trust the opportunity to unite, like “damn, will we ever?” Those officers came from our same plight. I expect the white man to do what he has done for ages and that’s not give a fuck, but when it comes to our own aligning with them, that shit is unforgivable.


Writing in Racism Jauwan Hall

Racism was written into the fabric of the United States constitutional system. The foundations of our nation are violence, displacement, and domination. And in the face of oppression, revolution is a pragmatic solution. Revolution is the only way to confront head on the false dichotomy of austerity or fascism offered by an imperial duopoly. We must reimagine and rewrite the 3/5ths clause, and every adjacent constitutional contradiction that led to the disparate treatment of African descendants in America, it is the only way to actualize the ideals of our society – A society obsessed with its supposed exceptionalism in spite of its real history of slavery, genocide and colonization. America will heal, when the nation is ready to be real. form a foundation for America’s Axis of exploitation and oppression. They serve as pillars of hypocrisy for our pseudo-democracy, and assist with the people’s confusion. Faux pas justice and economic castration help obfuscate the illusion of inclusion. Writing in Racism


Planned Obsolescence Kashif Johnson

“Planned obsolescence is ….the definition of unnecessariness “ is something that Lupe once told me. The calculated act of making sure the existing version of a product (for the purpose of this writing the product is people) will become dated or useless within a given time frame. As I spent the past few days contemplating what is going on in the world and what I know of the world, this term spoke to me. Made me spend some time reading Carter G. Woodson’s Miseducation of the Negro. With the fact that Black people were originally a commodity not a people in this country. What has it been like 156 years since slavery, 56 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed? Can we honestly say that we are viewed in a different way now? Professor Sharon Holland said, “what happens when a person that exists in time meets someone that only exists in space?” Throughout recent history, the achievements of people of color have not been truly acknowledged; in fact, it was once said that nothing of significant value came out of Africa. And with that the whole continent has not moved forward, anything like its counterparts that have been acknowledged to have achieved monumental things and have given great things to the world as a whole. Continuous obsolescence is a phenomenon where trends, or other things that do not immediately correspond to needs, mandate a continual readaptation of a system. Such work does not increase the usefulness of the system but is required for the system to continue fulfilling its functions. We as a people are held in this space where we cannot help the


system do better, just be used to fulfill the status quo. Carter G. Woodson within his writing The Miseducation of the Negro talked about how we are used in this system, how we are trained for our own personal obsolescence. How it once was and is still being taught on some level in business schools all over the country to white and Black students that doing business with Blacks is throwing away one’s money. So Black business students learn to take their skills and money outside of their own people, while the white students learn to take their skills and money home and build within. Also, Woodson mentions how Black students go off to school and take up studies they are told they need, while on the other hand the white students study what they know they need. I would think all of these Black students would have a case for educational malpractice then and now. One of the Into a Black Beyond conversations about leadership brought to mind this very thing. I was thinking of the Black Panther Party and their outward leaders (the ones we know so well such as Fred Hampton) and how most of them had some higher form of education in contradiction to Carter G. Woodon’s writings. They returned to their communities and built. The “why” is something I ponder: was it a want or was it out of necessity? Will they ever let a fiery spirit burn that bright again? In thinking of one particular system, the school system, would they have made it through? I know my own struggles not just academically but in being in a system that dismissed me early on. I remember being told I was not going to live past high school by a teacher because I didn’t agree to do what they wanted me to do. Now as a high school student, I knew nothing of either Stokely Carmichael nor Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and many others. In a school system where 6 year olds are being arrested and the school to prison pipeline is in full effect, would those early Black Panthers have been able to receive the kind of higher education they did and would the


lack of it have had an effect on how they tried to get a little time for themselves? This reminds me of a conversation I had with the principal of an alternative school at a socialism convention a couple years back in Chicago and how he spoke of it (the alternative school) as fertile ground, full of revolutionaries. Functional obsolescence is a reduction of an object’s usefulness or desirability because of an outdated design feature that cannot be easily changed. Could a future Fred Hampton be sitting in one of these alternative schools right now, already on the way to being pushed out and silenced? Through this pacification of the people have our loudest voices been silenced before they can speak? Have our most brilliant minds been stifled before they can think? What have we lost to such planned obsolescence?


Chicago is Angry dr. moore

Chicago is angry. Streets of asphalt, Chipping around the edges of holes That never seem to fill. Chicago is angry. No, not the interstates, Intersecting in spaghetti-like fashion, Where no signal in the fast lane Shouts the lane crossover At the next exit to come. Chicago is angry. No, not the exquisitely erected Towers of steel and glass, Paying homage to generational wealth That has never, Will never, Trickle down. Chicago is angry. No, not the red and brown brick homes, Not the bungalows, the framed two flats, No, not the courtyard buildings, Not the greystones that mark neighbors In neighborhoods appreciated, Depreciated, And not. Chicago is angry.


From West Garfield Park to Chatham. From Auburn Gresham to Lakeview. From the 100s to Englewood. Chicago is angry. Yes. Its people are angry. Angry from neglect, Which has never been benign. From miseducating both The least educated and the exclusively educated. The people are angry. From having little voice, Yet hearing from those with too much voice, Too easily spoken without listening first. All cities In this land which has never been free, And only infrequently brave, are angry. All cities are angry, As my city is angry. Angry by design. Intentional negation. Chicago is angry. From the design of things, From the design of lives, The people’s lives, Designed not by the Divine, Rather designed By the devilish and indifferent.


Give Me Something Senyah Haynes

He and She who loved me the most chanted it each and every time with the rhythmic strikes and blows on the fleshiest part of my behind and I know for a fact that He’d heard it from the She and She who’d loved Him the most and She may not have heard it from the He and She who’d loved her the most but They, being first generation free had DEFINITELY heard it from the He and She who’d loved them the most and I was today-years-old when the thought first dawned on me that the long line of He’s and She’s who’d loved Them the most had inherited a phrase quite malicious and vindictive in fact from the he and she who cared about them the LEAST I mean so little care they couldn’t even be bothered by inconvenient truths like the one that They were human and had been all along just like the He and She who’d made them now THAT really gives me something to cry about


America Goddam: Reimagined Naimah Thomas

America Goddam! I mean every word of it While America continues to make a show of it With your pale skin, always devoid of melanin America’s gotten bold with it America’s losing control of it Everybody knows it’s America’s undoing goddam Can’t you see it Can you feel it It’s in the air…the virus is in the air We can’t stand for your treachery under pressure Under fear that the time is near, to reckon with stories told Of Black bodies sold Somebody say a prayer America’s gotten bold with it America’s losing control of it Everybody knows it’s America’s undoing goddam This revolution will be televised…it is being televised The script is being written, yet Change is on their tails Eventually they will fail Blackness coming across every path


America it’s your past…this is your past Lord have mercy on this land of yours…never quite mine You will get yours and I will get mine I belong here…I make this country great…again and again I belong here…because I don’t belong there Lord have mercy on this land of yours…never quite mine Don’t tell me to breathe, when your knee is on me I tell you, I know what is due…to me, cause you lied and said I was free You keep saying go slow You keep saying so so You keep saying keep the hope You keep saying stay afloat You keep saying nope nope Where are you going? Away? Where are you going? Home? Stand up, Stand Strong, Stay… We continue to do our best…we continue to outperform the rest Stand up, Stand Strong, Stay… For everybody knows, America’s goddam Voter lines, suppression crimes, are beyond what is divine. YOU LIED… The home of the free…you gotta be kidding me. YOU LIED… YOU LIED… YOU LIED…means I die I died because you lied


Blackness coming across every path America it’s your past…this is your past America goddamn America goddamn America goddamn Naimah 1/20/2021 Nina’s Lyrics Below The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam And I mean every word of it Alabama’s gotten me so upset Tennessee made me lose my rest And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam Alabama’s gotten me so upset Tennessee made me lose my rest And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam Can’t you see it Can’t you feel it It’s all in the air I can’t stand the pressure much longer Somebody say a prayer Alabama’s gotten me so upset Tennessee made me lose my rest And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam This is a show tune But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet Hound dogs on my trail School children sitting in jail Black cat cross my path I think every day’s gonna be my last


Lord have mercy on this land of mine We all gonna get it in due time I don’t belong here I don’t belong there I’ve even stopped believing in prayer Don’t tell me I tell you Me and my people just about due I’ve been there so I know They keep on saying “Go slow!” But that’s just the trouble “Do it slow” Washing the windows “Do it slow” Picking the cotton “Do it slow” You’re just plain rotten “Do it slow” You’re too damn lazy “Do it slow” The thinking’s crazy “Do it slow” Where am I going What am I doing I don’t know I don’t know Just try to do your very best Stand up be counted with all the rest For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam I made you thought I was kiddin’ Picket lines School boy cots They try to say it’s a communist plot


All I want is equality For my sister my brother my people and me Yes you lied to me all these years You told me to wash and clean my ears And talk real fine just like a lady And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie Oh but this whole country is full of lies You’re all gonna die and die like flies I don’t trust you any more You keep on saying “Go slow!” “Go slow!” But that’s just the trouble “Do it slow” Desegregation “Do it slow” Mass participation “Do it slow” Reunification “Do it slow” Do things gradually “Do it slow” But bring more tragedy “Do it slow” Why don’t you see it Why don’t you feel it I don’t know I don’t know You don’t have to live next to me Just give me my equality Everybody knows about Mississippi Everybody knows about Alabama Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam That’s it!


Shackles OFF Aisha Truss-Miller

The shackles have not COME OFF! They are in courtrooms and on vans or buses headed to county jails from popo stations, and to prisons from jails, from youth detention centers to destinations leading our children to nowhere that they deserve to be. The shackles have not COME OFF! They are twist-ties, billy clubs, and officers giving youth busted lips and black-eyes at BLM demonstrations, officers in our schools, and guns in our streets or in the hands of police trained to gun us down while we stand with toys and phones in hand.... or, Or in our sleep. Rest in heaven Breonna Taylor, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and many more. The shackles have not COME OFF! They are knees in necks, words of disrespect, actions of violence and hate, embedded in and upheld by every institution- which all reiterate daily symbols and text that celebrate actors of genocide, as long as they fly an American flag, as long as they generate profits for this country. The clanking of shackles inspire policymakers and investorswho ought to be properly titled as enslavers; who ought to be imprisoned themselves, I call on spirits of my descendents and ancestors To haunt their peace until we get justice and reparations. The shackles have not COME OFF! They connected lines of gangs of Black men before bangin’ becomes


survival- Men imprisoned for being Black, imprisoned for not being hired by white men, imprisoned for being unwilling to be slave laborers bound to oppressors, Black men collected for chain gangs- and who sang, “I’ve been working on the railroad- all the lil’ long day” [in chains]. The shackles have not come off, they look like sharecroppers able to tend to lands they won’t inherit or if granted- they must fight tooth and nail, dolla for dolla to stop a system always actively working to take everything away from us (and others) and claim it as theirs. The shackles have not come off, they look like bombs and burnings, no-knock raids, Terrorizing black communities, enterprises, and churches- any space about our production. Black bodies of women, of children, men, human beings, being raped and discarded. The violence against Black people on this land, it spans for centurieswithout an ending in sight. And still we fight to remove our chains. The shackles have not come off!- they are replaced with divested from Black schools grooming prisoners to fill cages to employ those with superiority complexes. Pipelines proven to be toxic, proven to increase white families pockets in every little town where all the Black people are numbers and have no names. The shackles have not come off! They are misdiagnosis of my wombs and my sisters’ wombs, removing our parts with misinformation to boost profits off our body through hospitalizations, forced abortions, no access to abortion and healthy contraception and meds for transgender women, no quality childcare, and throughout history the sterilization and experiments- with no consent- on incarcerated Black & Brown women, poor women, and queer women; it’s being forced in jail, the military, school and life to identify as a woman, even when you don’t.


The shackles have not come off! They are the lack of access to all the things to live and to thrive. The shackles have not come off if massive student debt and the military are our youth’s top success optionsChicago has the largest military public school system in our nation, not by coincidence. The shackles are greenbacks, they are alarm clocks, They are the blocks in the road to self love and community healing, Yet, we fight for, find, and create moments to be free. For me, I married the love of my life, innocent and fighting for his life, While he stood in a county jumpsuit shackled before me. Radical Black Love is revolutionary, a force they shackles can’t bind! The shackles have not COME OFF! They are around our necks, ankles, and wrists, bound to our hips, minds and hearts, Blood drenched, heavily carried by generations. They’ve ignited freedom dreams and also choked life from our dreams of freedom, We find freedom in the fight for it- , In Breaking the Silence, In Love, in hope, in taking action, in calling out inaction as violence, So we keep fighting for freedom in shackles because we have nothing to lose but our chains *****


Black Economics / Capitalism 32

what the stimmy bought me Elizia Artis

what the stimmy bought me: Medical bills (paid down, not off) A heartbeat - a pulse - I obsessively track An eco-friendly couch dusty crusty eyes Four new tires researching what a mortgage actually is Donations...probably Food I craved like nice dessert and Aperol spritz ingredients

Hands that start to look like my mom’s Aspirations that start to look like my dad’s

Parking tickets Two headscarves from two Black-owned businesses A bottom lip so dry and so raw A subscription to the New York Times cooking app & an impeccable yet inconsistent skin routine The longest summer with aching feet MASK MASK MASK

A little bit of time to dream But not enough money to see it all through


Ten Commandments Reimagined Glenance Green

WE WANT FREEDOM. (WE WANT POWER TO DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.) For our souls to fly on American soil. The freedom that was felt by our ancestors at Igbo Landing who knew that their purpose was so much greater than to live in bondage through slavery. WE WANT FULL EMPLOYMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE. And access to a livable wage and humane working conditions that affirm that our humanity is worth more than what we can produce for others in a day that never ends. With the preservation of the energy we must reserve for our families and loved ones. WE WANT AN END TO THE ROBBERY BY THE CAPITALISTS OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES. And an end to the indoctrination of capitalist ethics and values that permeate the hearts and minds of black bodies to the extent that the only humanity that they see can be bartered, traded, and exchanged for currency. WE WANT DECENT HOUSING, FIT FOR THE SHELTER OF HUMAN BEINGS. That which is maintained, sustained, has limited restrictions for ownership, and painted with love to make a house into a home. WE WANT DECENT EDUCATION FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT EXPOSES THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS DECADENT AMERICAN SOCIETY. (WE WANT EDUCATION THAT TEACHES US OUR TRUE HISTORY AND


OUR ROLE IN THE PRESENT-DAY SOCIETY.) An education that prepares us for the environment in which we want and need to live, and not the environment in which we’ve been molded for the benefits of others outside of our communities. WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE. Universal for all. Period! WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, ALL OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES. And while you’re at it, Defund the Police. WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL WARS OF AGGRESSION. And adequate services for the internal wars of aggression within ourselves. WE WANT FREEDOM FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE NOW HELD IN U.S. FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, CITY AND MILITARY PRISONS AND JAILS. WE WANT TRIALS BY A JURY OF PEERS FOR All PERSONS CHARGED WITH SO-CALLED CRIMES UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY. Let us shift our focus to the sociomaterial conditions that created this environment to begin with. Abolition is the goal. Liberation is key. WE WANT LAND, BREAD, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CLOTHING, JUSTICE, PEACE AND PEOPLE’S COMMUNITY CONTROL OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY. We just want peace. When will you let us live? Let us live! When the Black Panther Party’s 10-point plan is no longer the program


Inevitably Inevitable Sentresa Harris

By design, we all want what we don’t have, and have everything we don’t need, all because we’re morally entrapped, and possibly may never be free. Simply because we’re too consumed with things that don’t matter, such as expensive shoes, bags, and jewelry, and all the things that don’t accumulate any value, single mothers in projects who keep their nails done, and hair laid, at the same time been feeding their kids oodles & noodles three weeks straight and can’t afford to keep their light bills paid.


Let Us Be Great Djuana Florez

We reverse rivers and build cities. We epitomize strength and resilience. We’ve carried the wealth of a nation on our backs Yet we’re still living through a cycle in which we lack, the privilege to be human in America. We know how to survive but have we had a chance to live? Let’s ask Laquan McDonald, George Floyd and Emmett Till. Injustices exposed, but we have yet to fix the problem still. Are we enough to fit into this country or should we continue to die trying? Killing everything that we were born to be because it doesn’t fit your agenda. Why won’t you let us be great? What are you afraid of? Is it black excellence? Are you afraid that we might ascend into our divine royalty? Stop pushing this weak ass lie about an “American Dream.” Equal opportunity for all, you say? Then I guess everything isn’t what it seems. If so, then why do we have to work twice as hard to climb the ladder of what you call success? We’re not asking for a handout. You can’t place a price tag on our reparations. Keep your fake money and change the system. Remove the chains and just let us be. Make room for us to live Make room for us to thrive


Make room for our Abundance Just move out of our way, and Let us be great.


blood money Kierra Wooden

blood money, blood money desensitized to the horror that the value of our dollar is worth a human being that was stolen into captivity. blood money, blood money keep crying that we need more money, more money desensitized to the horror that the value of our dollar is worth a human being. blood money, blood money, my blood line run through the dollar bill, dollar bill stuck in a time loop being exploited to stay alive, but not living, not living, sell my time to stay alive, sell my body for a piece of the pie they don’t even want to share with us. Blood money, blood money stuck in a time loop my blood fresh on the currency.


I live in excess Johnny Page

I live in excess Not necessarily out of need, but often out of necessity. Confusing? Shit, it confuses me. I bought my car new, Even though I knew I couldn’t afford it. But I had to. Why? Because I couldn’t afford to buy used. I know it doesn’t make sense, But since my last car broke down and caused me so much trouble, I swore I would spend that extra dime To create that extra time To get Dionne to day care. You see, I make just enough to not qualify for a babysitting check, But barely enough to afford one. I live just far enough away, To be to close to everything I can’t afford. I live in excess Because where I come from Living can be excessive.


Black Identity


Complex Naimah Thomas

Appreciate my Blackness. Appreciate my complex. Intergenerational trauma. Appreciate my tenacity to thrive, given very little sustenance. Permission to exist in a space. Space free, of the White gaze. Free of self-doubt. Shaped by patriarchy. Shaped by white supremacy. Why DO I NEED PERMISSION??? Grieve… I Continuously yell BLACK LIVES MATTER! In this echo chamber created by your white fragility. Why must you feel the need to ALWAYS speak?! If you would have never stolen land, stolen me… Looted everything…capitalism…patriarchy…your wealth…your health… Has all been built on the backs of people you continue to oppress… The people you villainize… The People… We are the People!


Cultural Dimensions 2015 5” x 7” Watercolor and Ink on Paper – Naimah Thomas


“Roseland” and “Through My Eyes” Djuana Florez

Roseland Welcome to the land of roses, where you’ll find historic buildings and Old Fashion Donuts You’ll find abandoned storefronts and nowhere to buy groceries You’ll hear loud music at night and birds chirping in morning You’ll find black owned barber shops and foreign owned beauty supply stores. In Roseland, you may turn foreclosed houses into homes You may have noisy neighbors who become extended family They might cut your grass when you’re away, while the city neglects the vacant lots filled with trash and over-grown grass. In Roseland you’ll find a water slide at the park and a liquor store on the corner You’ll find hardworking people and home-based businesses In Roseland you’ll find real people with real lives, real struggles and lots of love. You may not always see roses in Roseland, But you will damn sure see flowers if you take your shades off. -DJ


Through my eyes Chicago looks like Icee cups and flamin’ hots. Hot pickles with peppermint sticks. Street corn. Get’n dunked in Lake Michigan at South Shore beach “Hot dog” double swinging in the park with cousins Coolin’ off In water from an open fire hydrant. Chicago looks like Roller skating in the living room on Christmas day. Snow angels and fire crackers in the back yards of Altgeld Gardens. Back yard barbecues and line dances. The electric slide. Footwork. Planting flowers in Englewood and seeing them Blooming in Roseland. Eating dry choke sandwiches followed by chocolate milk at the community summer program. Chicago looks like The Taste of Chicago. Lake front. Buckingham fountain. Heavy traffic and skyscrapers. The Art Institute. Chicago Architecture Center. Sears Tower. Summertime Chi. Festivals and movies in the park. Harolds Chicken Shack. Mild sauce. Riding the “L” Double dutch and duck duck goose Chicago looks like Street slang and street swag. Extended hood family. Political corruption and dirty cops. Street fellas who showed respect and made sure I make it home safe. Chicago is as real as it comes. Through my eyes, Chicago is home.


Black is Not a Monolith Elizia Artis

Hi! It’s me! Just a teeny voice from the Black monolith! Since you’ll never really see me - I am part of a monolith after all - let me introduce myself. My voice. My favorite time of the day. My political journey. Cool? Cool. The voice started in Massachusetts Hearing final remnants of a Texas twang twist from my tired father Sitting in awe - watching my mom imitate Walter Cronkite But we moved to California so please don’t forget that That my voice is vocal fry, deadpanned, maybe a joke (but I don’t think so) Surely I grabbed some Seattle, hopefully I grabbed no Lansing, and probably I grabbed some Flint Chicago? Bet...ter not embarrass myself with that yet. And my voice is where my story starts So the voice says, ‘oh thank god it’s 11 AM’ Just because it can I am not actually sure what my favorite time of day is I love sleep because I’m sleepy I love dinner because I love dining Work is super uncool but who’s asking Let’s just say my favorite time of day Is stereotypical American lunchtime Those days With their great lunch breaks Some mornings reading the paper on my phone


Many Many Many Hours that I definitely billed to said ‘uncool but who’s asking’ job Help me forge a path I started to see the world from a bird’s eye From a place of anger Disgust Wonder Lust So, surprise! You’re actually going to have to listen to me for quite a while. Because those days forged a path. And I’m on it and I have noooooooo idea where it’s going. But a gentleman never interrupts a lady’s introduction, right? My political journey is here, it’s now, it’s me demanding your attention and then using all the cons about charisma that I’ve learned throughout these years to KEEP your attention.


I Am Me Caila Hall

How does it feel to be born normal To have your love seen as natural While mine’s considered a disease Not have to hide your identity or have it plastered on your sleeve I am black, I am female, and I am gay I am me Take it or leave it Abuse it or beat it Lock me up and take my freedom I am me How does it feel to be you Skin the standard of a beauty History books only speak your truth To not have to worry ‘bout the police Privilege to stand or stay a mute To only see it on the news I am black and I don’t get it I am black and won’t forget shit Understand me as a person that’s black and represent it I am me How does it feel to be you God’s only living proof is just a regular dude Mother nature’s all around They say we came here through you


How does it feel to have the world Don’t have to change cuz you you Don’t have no shame cuz it’s “cute” A female that’s an equal; you’re a man you are too See my struggle, I see yours, we are one, came as two I am you How does it feel to be normal Like really tell me what it’s like Never had a major issue Don’t know the damage of the eye Mastered the art of being blind Ain’t have your “normal” criticized I am black, I am female, and I am gay I am me Take it or leave it Abuse it or beat it Lock me up and take my freedom I am me


Check Please Santresa Harris

“Waiter, could you please give me my check because I’m so ready to go. I’ve been sitting here all of this time with all of this shit on my mind. I’m so freaking disgusted. This has totally been a complete waste of my time. I haven’t eaten anything on the plate, but I’m full--full of all the lies that’s been systematically passed to me, and now I’m supposed to pass it down to my children, oh so blindly. When and where is the lie supposed to end? How long will it take for us to unite and take a stand?”


Immortality Dominicca Washington

“I arrived on the day that Fred Hampton died / Real niggas just multiply / They said by 21 I was supposed to die / So I’m out here celebrating my post demise” — Jay-Z Evil doesn’t sleep. The God that they claim to serve tells us in his bible that people lie in their beds plotting evil. Old people and rockstars say that there is no rest for the wicked which rings true if at all times the wicked are plotting the demise of the righteous… of the ordained. African Americans have died for the sins of this country many times at the will of wicked men and resurrected much to their dismay. One of my favorite rappers employed the essence of this immortality by saying “I’ll kill you commit suicide and kill you again.” When I look at this audacity to defy death it immediately takes me to the frustration of white supremacists with the African American. What they didn’t realize early on was that by robbing the African Americans of their identity early on they triggered a god-like transcendence of black identity, it doesn’t live in the body, it lives in the soul giving them the advantage of immortality.


The Creator Took His Time with You Kanoya Ali





What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black Senyah Haynes

What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black Mind your own journey, your own struggles, or lack thereof And please don’t contribute to the struggles of my child What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black I know your mama and daddy love you But please trust and believe that not all of their words are wise And know that when they speak ill of my children Especially sight unseen It’s a safe bet that 100% of their words are lies What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black Different isn’t lesser than Just think, from where my children stand You’re very different too I would tell them that you are undoubtedly the future And you have a gleaming moment in the present to be Exquisitely unlike your history- Please, rise to the occasion What Would I Tell the Children Who Aren’t Black Just as you were spoon fed your own preciousness My babies are equally precious too So be the difference your ancestors dreaded And mine could only dream of


Can I flex? Can I live? Glenance Green

We don’t want to be capitalists but sometimes we just want some shit We came from nothing Still singing Drake’s Started from the bottom now we’re here For some of us, that’s still at the bottom We know that capitalism works against us That it’s inexplicably linked to the exploitation of black and brown bodies We know it is rooted in anti-blackness We know that wealth has been colonized and the lens through which we understand money is inherently flawed We want people in office who care We want to believe that our system can work to our advantage by allowing us to put someone in office who is a candidate of the people Some of us want to uplift the values of democratic socialism and have a productive conversation about what that means for life chances without it ignorantly being mistaken for communism We want racial equity We want healthcare for all We want to earn a livable wage And not have to sell every hour of our day to someone else in exchange for doing so We want affordable housing We want access to high quality public education We want humanity in the workforce We want to build business in our community And own homes for our families to inherit so they don’t have to struggle


the way we did just to make rent We want to own land and build community gardens Not because we feel that we, or anyone for that matter, should own land because it belongs to the Earth But dammit, if other people are owning everything around us, we want to buy back a little piece for our own too We want to be down for the cause But level up on our sneaker game with shoes we can’t afford We want to buy some flashy jewelry And a few wigs And a new car And a whole bunch of unnecessary shit we don’t really need but like to look at simply because we can We want to take a few trips around the world with money to blow And return home to keep fighting the good fight With our people For our people We don’t want to bypass opportunities to have a seat at the table Because we know our values are going to be criticized by those who weren’t invited into the room That, for all of the criticism that we do of our own, there’s still a deck of undealt cards still on the table In many ways, we’re still Spike Lee’s Jigaboos and Wannabes despite our School Daze being over All because we want something just for us Sometimes we just want some shit Some shit for us


Into A Black Beyond Facilitators Dimitri Hepburn is an Authors Circle facilitator and digital media producer at ConTextos. He believes that the understanding gained by a thorough examination of the world around us, as experienced from multiple perspectives, is fundamental to the shared success of all people. Born in the Bahamas and raised in the Bronx, Dimitri has grown deep roots in Chicago where he helps create opportunities to learn, explore, and tell stories about the world and ourselves, stories that provide fertile ground for empathy and understanding. dr. moore is an African American, lesbian, feminist, lifelong educator and learner. Her first name is Sharon and because it is not a name she is particularly comfortable with, she uses the title from earning a PhD in African American literature. dr. moore prefers it used in the lowercase because she is not one who stands on formality. Her teaching has always been informed by a social, cultural, and economic critique that seeks to deconstruct and destabilize oppressive and repressive societal norms. dr. moore believes that everyone is a creator, for we create ourselves every day. She is as committed to her own ongoing creation and she is to walking alongside others on their journeys. dr. moore brings empathy, openness, honesty, and love into this shared space of communion, self-reflection, exploration, and healing. Johnny Page is the Co-Director of Programs & Partnerships at ConTextos. He is a formerly incarcerated professional, speaker, author, anti-violence educator, and advocate. He’s committed to fighting for the right of access to higher education for the incarcerated and creating pathways for the formerly incarcerated on traditional campuses. Johnny is CoFounder of C.A.V.E. (Community Anti-Violence Education) an intergenerational communitybased support system for those who are affected by trauma.

2021 IABB Authors Aisha Truss-Miller is a Chicago native from the Southside & Northside working with community groups, organizers, philanthropists, and artists to create and sustain brave, safe, and healthy spaces for the leadership development, political education, and the healing of and by Black people, Black youth, and people of color from blocks to boardrooms. Aisha is a loving mother, wife, volunteer, storyteller, and fundraiser dedicated to, “building movements to dismantle all systems designed to oppress and inflict violence on me and my people, and profit from our pain and power.” She accredits her growth and achievements to family, friends, mentees, mentors, “the block”, and everyday folk modeling positive leadership and healthy relationships- and that provides her with insight, inspiration, debate, hope, support, accountability, laughs, and love. Jauwan Hall was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. He is a JD candidate and research assistant at UIC JMLS. His research interests focus on the intersection of policing and US Constitutional Law. Jauwan is a military veteran with more than 10 years of service and began his service as a United States Marine stationed in San Diego, CA. He subsequently served in the Middle East in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. During his break in active service, Jauwan completed his BA in Political Science with a minor in History. Jauwan then worked in several government and political positions before re-enlisting in the National Guard as a Human Resource NCO. He currently serves as a reserve soldier training incoming Army recruits on Chicago’s Southside. Jauwan is an active member of the Urban League Metroboard, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Chicago Votes’ Board of Directors. Caila Hall was born in Virginia but has been living in Chicago for the last 2-3 years. Caila likes to write and make music about her surroundings and paint a picture of how she perceives them. Caila is timid about sharing her writing but hopes that it reaches and inspires others.

Djuana Florez, or DJ for short, is an Artsy supermom. Freedom chaser. Renewed Goddess. Restorative energy. Self-healer. Intuitively guided, although stubborn at times. A moon child. Natural born rebel. Aquarius. She is a creative visionary. Socially introverted. A graduate of many lessons learned, and a life-long scholar of many more to come. Confidently lost in the journey of expansion, while creating a path of her own. Djuana calls the Southside of Chicago home. Altgeld Gardens, Back of The Yards, Englewood and Roseland to be exact. Dominicca Troi Washington a Chicago native raised on the city’s Southside. Dominica is a first generation college graduate, from Clark Atlanta University and holds an M.Ed in Elementary Education. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the young women’s empowerment non-profit organization SHE Chicago and also the Founder of the self publishing company SHE Chicago Publishing. Dominica is a self published children’s book author, Teacher Leadership Coach and a proud mother of two magnificent children. Elizia Artis is a California transplant who has also lived in the Pacific Northwest and Michigan, and has lived in Chicago for about 3.5 years. Elizia is a story-observer first and a storyteller second. Elizia spends time for fun and sometimes for work responsibilities, learning about the city’s history – especially how communities, organizations, and cohorts of creatives are reframing and highlighting all the joy and possibility that comes from being Black in Chicago. Elsie Hernandez is the co-founder and President of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC). She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and immigrated to New York in 1966. She completed her studies in New York. Elsie moved to Chicago in 1989. She received a Master Degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1996. HAMOC is a small, ethnic museum located in Uptown, Chicago with a mission is to educate, preserve and promote Haitian art, culture and history in metropolitan Chicago and surrounding communities, nationally and internationally through advocacy, education and supportive services. HAMOC is in its 8th year of operation and growing its community, programs and outreach.

Glenance Green is a storyteller and content creator, building beautiful magic from her home office in the historic black metropolis of Bronzeville. One thing that she wishes that people knew about her right away is how much the fire within her burns for racial equity and social justice. Kanoya Ali or Ali as he is popularly known, is a pillar in his southside Chicago community. Ali works as a lead life coach and mentor for Chicago CRED. Over the past decade, his professional career has been spent engaging with young men who desire to make positive changes in their lives. As such, Ali is a proponent of using the arts to channel creativity and express emotions, especially through written and spoken word. He is the co-host & cofounder of THECHIPODCAST which is home to a brand new show via zoom CREDTALKS. It’s a show that allows viewers the chance to listen to interviews from different game changers, professionals, celebrities and influencers and gives them the ability to ask questions at the end. Ali is now working on starting a non for profit organization that seeks to assist “returning citizens” and the “at risk population“ simultaneously. Kashif Johnson, aka Chico or DrunkMoe is from the Southside of Chicago. Kashif loves and represents his block, and embraces and celebrates his uniqueness. He is on a path of his own and looking for his place in the world. Kierra Wooden was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago and currently resides in South Shore. Kierra is a multi disciplinary artist, a two time self published author of two poetry books, and a community activist. Kierra considers herself very fluid, a risk taker and spontaneous. LaDarius J. Beal is an ordained minister, activist, and organizer. As a preacher with a passion for Social Justice, he works around giving a voice to those who have historically gone unheard or unattended to. Drawing from the Gospel of Luke 4:18-19, LaDarius

holds the view that you cannot have a theology or a Christology without a sociology. He is currently pursuing his studies at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL., where he serves as the President of the Black Student Union. He is also currently serving on staff at the True Believers Community Connections, Inc. Naimah Thomas is a Black Femme born and raised in Chicago and currently works as a licensed professional counselor, art therapist, and artist. Naimah’s clinical work and art practice explores the intersections of art and mental health, primarily in BIPOC communities. She utilizes art to shift narratives around healing, mental health, and creating spaces where exploration and re-imagination are valued. Naimah’s visual work is informed by lived experience as a Black woman, artist, and therapist, and has worked with a range of people across her lifespan in community, correctional, and nonprofit settings. Santresa Harris was born and raised in Chicago and represents the Southside. Santresa credits the city as helping to develop her passion for writing, and shaping her as a strong woman. She hopes her writing will speak for people who look and feel like her. Senyah Haynes is the proud author of the Jayla’s Jaunts book series for children, where culture, magic, and history intertwine (available at She proudly reps the Southside, because though she’s a So. Cal transplant, Chicago is her heritage home and her roots go deep. She’s excited about the 2021 release of the anthology From A Black Perspective (Rainbow Room Publishing, LLC) which features not only her writing, but one of her paintings as cover art. An interesting fact about her (in case you haven’t noticed from reading this) is that her name is a palindrome. And yes, her parents did that on purpose! Antoine Evans aka “TUG” lives on the Southside of Chicago, and proudly reps his city. TUG is a ConTextos Alumni Author by way of IMAN, one of ConTextos’ community partners. He wishes the world knew about him at first sight is how big his heart is and how much he wants to contribute his time to make changes in the world for the greater good of all.