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Youth activists leading change in Chicago Activists live-stream conversation about race and policing

By Raymond Ward, The New 411

THE 411 2Earlier this month, a group of youth activists joined together in conversation for a live streaming event with Chicago Humanities Festival to talk about racial inequality, defunding the police, and the movement for change in Chicago. Chicago-based rapper Matt Muse moderated the conversation with young activists, artists, and community leaders to discuss the concrete groundwork and strategies they’re implementing to make Chicago and the world a better place. The activists represented Chicago-based organizations including:

  • #LetUS Breathe Collective, an alliance of artists and activists working to imagine a world without prisons and police.
  • Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to providing resources and services for LGBTQ individuals.
  • Molasses Chicago, a Chicago-based collective by and for Black, trans and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) artists and organizers.

The panel engaged in a far-reaching discussion about racial inequality and policing. They advocated for reallocating resources from defunding the police to community organizations, especially on the South Side of Chicago. “Not just resources, but culturally equitable resources,” said Jae Rice, a trans-masculine public figure fighting for the liberation of oppressed communities. “They need to go to the South Side, to the West Side. They need to be in places that are actually equitable and can get to the people that need them the most.”

Kalem Autman, a Chicago-based producer, educator, and community organizer, whose work focuses on youth incarceration, police violence, and social inequities, added, “We want hospitals, not police. We want books, not police. We want jobs, not police. Right, we want counseling, not police. We want art centers, not police.”

The group also addressed how white supporters can be better advocates. “White people need to do more and expect less,” said Zola Chatman, a Black trans woman and Chicago native currently working as a sonic and theater artist. Autman later added, “Your guilt, your emotions don’t help. Crying about a student being homeless doesn’t stop that person from being homeless. So, we need the tangible work of you using your privilege.”

To learn how to better support these activists, you can watch the full event, which is archived on Chicago Humanities Festival’s YouTube channel, and visit CHF’s website for their bios, organizations, and handles.

CHF’s Chicago Neighborhood Check-Ins is an ongoing series planned and presented in partnership with local institutions and organizations, with a particular focus on the South Side. Each conversation features a range of community leaders – artists and activists, students and educators, journalists and business owners – who share their view from the ground in the time of COVID-19 and social uprising. Each program comes with a neighborhood resource guide, prepared in collaboration with our neighborhood partners, featuring organizations to support, businesses to patronize, people to follow on social media, and more. Visit [] for more information.

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