“Someone You Need To Know” explores the personal stories and journeys of trendsetters, tastemakers, societal change agents, and industry leaders.

My goal is to introduce and connect you to everyday people doing impactful work across the country whose stories are often overlooked by the masses and often untold. 

Simply put, “Someone You Need To Know” is a show cast that shares the inspiring and impactful stories of everyday people you need to know.  “Someone You Need To Know” is available via >>>>podcast. 


  • Non Profit TV Showcase

    Non-Profit Showcase highlights the great work of not-for-profit organizations. Non-profit showcase airs on CAN-TV Channel 21.
    Email: nonprofitshowcase@gmail.com

    Continue reading →

    Non-Profit Showcase highlights the great work of not-for-profit organizations. Non-profit showcase airs on CAN-TV Channel 21. Email: nonprofitshowcase@gmail.com
  • Good In Englewoood

    What’s Good in Englewood is a media campaign created by Rashanah Baldwin, using #goodinenglewood to share positive news stories about Englewood. The goal is to create a better perception of the community and show that there is hope. To broadcast these stories, Rashanah has her own radio program, does TV appearances, and uses social media. 

    “What’s #GoodInEnglewood” previously aired on WKKC 89.3 FM on Tuesday’s at 10:15 am with Rashanah Baldwin discussing all things #GoodInEnglewood and #GoodInTheNeigborHood Listeners can listen to past episodes on sound cloud.
    https://tinyurl.com/893FMWKKC

    Continue reading →

    What’s Good in Englewood is a media campaign created by Rashanah Baldwin, using #goodinenglewood to share positive news stories about Englewood. The goal is to create a better perception of the community and show that there is hope. To broadcast these stories, Rashanah has her own radio program, does TV appearances, and uses social media.  “What’s ...
  • Good In Chicago

    Co-hosts RaShanah Baldwin & Brendan Greeley became colleagues during their days working side-by-side at WBBM 780 AMNewsradio in Chicago.  RaShanah has since achieved great success as a journalist in radio at WVON 1690 AM, WKKC 89.3 FM , Vocalo.org, and beyond; on television on CAN-TV, WTTW, and  FOXChicago; & in print at multiple outlets.  She created and continues to champion her hashtag #GoodinEnglewood – with the goal of highlighting positive aspects of her community that only makes headlines when something bad happens.  Few can match RaShanah’s enthusiasm as a community leader in Englewood and across the city.  Brendan made his mark in talk radio and podcasting at WCKG, WJMK, WLS, WIQI; as well as on The Steve Dahl Podcast Network + Matt & Brendan.  His goal is always to give a laugh to whoever might listen.  He’s a North Side resident in Bucktown.

    Building upon RaShanah’s Good in Englewood slogan, the two joined forces to expand on the idea and film ‘Good in Chicago’ – presenting the positive side of all 77 neighborhoods in our wonderful city.  You can also listen to the audio podcast on the chiPOD

     ‘Good in Chicago’ Executive Producer: Tony Lossano of OppihShows.com.

    Cameraman: Chris Haskell

     

    Continue reading →

    Good in Chicago’s quest to seek out the best in all 77 neighborhoods leads RaShanah and Brendan to Little Italy.
  • A FED UP GENERATION MILLENNIALS ARE ENTERING POLITICS TO BE THE CHANGE THEY WANT TO SEE

    Growing up on the south side of Chicago, 29-year-old Nicole Johnson always knew she wanted to pursue a career in public office. Whether it was addressing quality education, unemployment benefits, access to healthy foods, or public safety, issues that “affect our daily lives were something I wanted to play a role in,” she explains.

    Johnson witnessed what she calls the “inequities” and “disinvestments” that many have faced many in the country’s third-largest city, specifically in the Chicago community known as Englewood. To counter these problems that have concerned and disturbed her, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Education Policy, began volunteering, then teaching, and ultimately entered politics as an intern under Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

    And now, Johnson is upping her personal public service game by running for Chicago’s 20th Ward Alderman seat—a neighborhood that includes Englewood. (The incumbent, Willie Cochran, is facing corruption charges and has dropped out of the race.) One of several candidates vying for the seat, Johnson says she didn’t like what she was seeing in the 20th Ward, a community burdened by few grocery stores, high unemployment and crime rates, under-resourced schools, and a lack of affordable housing. Johnson feels she can be the change she wants to see in the ward. “I really want to play a role in my community and bring to it what it deserves,” she explains.

    But Johnson isn’t alone among her peers. There are more than a dozen Millennials (people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) running in Chicago-area elections in 2019, mainly in the aldermanic race. According to a February 2018 Brookings Institute report, “The Millennial generation is America’s largest generation, making up nearly 25 percent of the total U.S. population…Millennials are also America’s most diverse adult generation: 44 percent of them are minorities.”

    Continue reading →

    Growing up on the south side of Chicago, 29-year-old Nicole Johnson always knew she wanted to pursue a career in public office. Whether it was addressing quality education, unemployment benefits, access to healthy foods, or public safety, issues that “affect our daily lives were something I wanted to play a role in,” she explains. Johnson witnessed ...
  • The American Dream or The American Nightmare?

    Many understand “The American Dream” as having the white picket fence. A home, two children, a dog, and a spouse. The successful and stable career, financial security, owning a piece of land, and later passing it down to the children, has been the definition.

    In 1931, author James Truslow Adams defined “The American Dream” as “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.” Translation, if you came to America or even are American if you work hard, you can find a job to control your destiny to achieve the ideal life you want in the land of the free.

    In 2017 are Chicagoans living “The American Dream or The American Nightmare?” At what point do we look at our success to analyze if we are living the life James Truslow Adams described in 1931. To get a sense of “The American Dream or The American Nightmare,” several Chicagoans who are vested in their careers, communities and families were asked their thoughts. Mainly Chicagoans living on the South Side, who like many, experienced the ills of a tough economy, polarized political climate, a plethora of past disinvestments, and policies that have worked against South Siders. Factor in ethnicity and demographics, how do they feel about The American Dream?

    On Paper It Looks Good: Its Window Dressing

    Brian Barker, 37, resides in Greater Grand Crossing with his wife of 2 years, six-month-old son, and owns a 4,000 square foot home. He’s currently a professor at DePaul University, where he teaches hospitality and management. On paper, he’s living “The American Dream,” he’s not quick to jump on the bandwagon of saying he’s living “The Dream” but does feel he is doing well.

    “I remained loyal to my community; I returned to my community; it’s a little disheartening because I want more of my community members to do well. It’s difficult to reach any level of success when you know so many others who are not on that path,” said Barker. Any level of success he’s obtained is overshadowed by the guilt of wanting to do more for his community and making a systemic change.

    The successful career, the spouse, the beautiful home, and the family are a personal success, also known as window dressing, states Mark Harris. Harris is an Englewood native who currently resides in a condo in Hyde Park with his wife of 2 years. He also happens to be a successful film director. Several of his films, including “Black Coffee and My First Love,” can currently be seen on T.V. One, B.E.T., Centric, and to date, he’s produced over ten films that are either on T.V. or showing on Netflix. When mentioning his accolades, Harris adds there is still a concern for blacks. The black community and improving the lives of black people is something he cannot overlook. 

    Harris believes he can equally achieve the success of his white counterparts in the film but also feels by telling blacks that if he can make it, they can too is a lie. “I know by telling black people that it’s like saying this world is not designed to keep us in a certain position, or this system is not designed to suffocate us.” You’re leading them to believe that there are not things set in place to work against them. Harris adds that through unity, we can all do it because unity is more important than looking at personal or individual success.

    American Sitcoms Shaped Who Lived “The American Dream” 

    We saw the “The American Dream” on The Partridge Family, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, and a host of shows that articulated what this dream looked like post World War II. For many Americans, the idea of inclusiveness is measured by the indicators of a house, a white picket fence, a dog, and a family anchored by a man and a woman role in maintaining the home and the child’s position in growing. In reality, there may have been a dream for some Americans, but there are others who have had to work harder to get ahead in hopes of this dream becoming a reality just because of their race. “At the same time, while we saw images of white families living the American Dream, we saw blacks struggling in Good Times, Sanford and Son, Julie and various shows that showed the black plight to achieve that hope. What is said for blacks was an American nightmare. A nightmare that had it’s beginning for a group of people kidnapped from Africa and subjugated through institutional slavery,” said Pastor Kevin Andre Brooks.

    Brooks adds it was not until shows like The Jefferson’s, The Huxtables, and Family Matters that blacks started to see themselves as inclusive members in the idea of “The American Dream.” 

    Whose Is Allowed To Have This Dream?

    The American Dreams for Blacks in this society are highlighted by what many see in the media, i.e., struggling families, single-parent homes, and impoverished communities. The fact of the matter is that blacks were much more successful in manifesting the dream despite the American realities. Black Wall Street was a significant example of the African American fulfilling “The American Dream” during the early 1900s when Tulsa, Oklahoma, had over 600 black booming businesses and many affluent black communities. This type of black excellence was echoed around the country which prompted shared prosperity. It exemplified, that blacks too are American and can climb the economic ladder. Yet this became a dream deferred or possibly “The American Nightmare” when in June 1921, the envious whites bombed the area and killed some 3,000 blacks.

    Homeownership plays a significant role in defining “The American Dream.” The next best thing was putting down stakes in a community by owning a piece of property you worked hard for and a place you could call your own. In the classic novel “A Raisin In The Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, the world was given a glimpse of the reality for American blacks regarding real estate discrimination. Hansberry’s book was based on her family’s story in which she detailed the policies and practices used against blacks to prohibit them from accomplishing the American Dream i.e., homeownership. Such policies included restrictive covenant – which was legal at the time banning a black buyer from purchasing homes in an all-white community. 

    Hansberry’s story was similar for many blacks who faced the struggle in achieving this “American Dream” and was told by way of polices like “redlining” and “restrictive covenant,” which in essence stopped blacks from purchasing a property in white communities. That restriction led to blacks not being able to take part in the American dream. 

    Many families like my grandparents still pushed through such redlining practices and fought to purchase in predominately white neighborhoods like Englewood.

    A Challenging Dream

    There are a lot of mindsets, challenges, and variations of what this “American Dream” meant from generation to generation. “I will always be a black man in America,” explains Harris. No matter how successful African Americans are on paper or even in their respective careers until the community as a whole is operating better, believing in that dream is a challenge.

    While each man expressed his sentiments about living the “The American Dream or The American Nightmare,” collectively, they perceived that their communities would have to be thriving to look at themselves as living out that dream. They felt that as a whole, there would need to be systematic change, improvement of the quality of life for African Americans, and thriving communities for them to bask in the glory of living The American Dream.

    Continue reading →

    Many understand “The American Dream” as having the white picket fence. A home, two children, a dog, and a spouse. The successful and stable career, financial security, owning a piece of land, and later passing it down to the children, has been the definition. In 1931, author James Truslow Adams defined “The American Dream” as “life ...
  • Can Millennials Become The Saviors of Chicago?

    Millennials born between 1981-1997 have grown up in a world filled with electronics, and at the prime time of social media. Millennials are often labeled overly confident. Many millennials still live at home, struggle with debt, and are the generation still giving back to make a difference in spite of it all.

    On the flip side, this generation is the one the world is watching, deemed the generation of movers, shakers, and innovators of today. Better known as the young adults of the world who want change now want the outcomes now, and most importantly, will do whatever it takes to get their voices heard. Millennials thrive on making a difference and are determined to make a positive impact on culture, in the workplace, and, more importantly, in government.

    Changing the narrative.

    As a millennial growing up on the Southside of Chicago, I took a leap of faith, hoping to make a positive impact within my community and wanted to change the narrative of Chicago, which is perceived as a dangerous city that is out of control. As a young girl growing up Englewood, my happy upbringing seemed to contradict the depressing media reports of Chicago and opposed the negative portrayal of Englewood. I was raised by a single mom raising two daughters and two sons. My mom is an activist, homeowner, a registered nurse, college-educated, and, most importantly, a conscious black woman (then) raising four children in Englewood. She made sure we had the necessities, engaged in academics, and remained active in sports/ arts. 

    I was about ten years old when I understood how the media reported on communities of color while failing to address the institutional racism, redlining in the housing market, and political corruption that made it difficult for such communities to progress. I often went to school challenging the instruction of my teachers and even the traditions of fellow peers who were only 10 and 11 years old.

    I became intrigued by this one simple idea of believing there is “Good In Englewood” – I lived it, breathed it, and was convinced that the world as well as fellow Englewoodians needed to wake up to see what I saw. I became fascinated and somewhat obsessed with showing others how I lived and how I did not grow up in fear of my safety. I realized the more I talked about the “Good In Englewood,” the trickier it became to change the narrative for Englewoodians, Chicagoans, and even outsiders who had fallen under the one-sided spell of what mainstream media chose to show. Sure there was violence all around me; there were deaths, tragedies, and disparities that occurred, but what major city did not experience this? I was in search of balanced reporting. I wanted to learn what caused these social injustices and to show the impact these injustices had on our communities.

    The Work.

    My work as a journalist, community leader, housing advocate, and a national beauty queen, focusing on the importance of civic engagement and raising awareness on domestic violence, has only furthered my desire to change the narrative of Chicago. Chicago is a beautiful city full of robust communities and residents. Chicago has been overshadowed by the political games of our elected officials, the injustices we face at the hands of overzealous law enforcement, agenda seeking philanthropic groups, and penny chasing investors and developers. Millennials, like myself, know there are many ways to fight a battle, and the battle begins within ourselves – doing more than just creating #hashtags, leading marches, and doing media interviews. Instead, we must impact policy, call out injustices, address social justice issues, and raise awareness by being a voice to stand up for what is right.

    As a journalist, I’ve been steadfast at creating a dominant narrative of “The Good” that comes out of the 77 communities in Chicago, particular my home of Englewood. Launching the media campaign #GoodInEnglewood and a weekly radio segment “What’s Good In Englewood” on Tuesday’s on WKKC 89.3 FM has allowed me to shed light on all the positive occurrences, movements and people the world never hears about. I believe in the importance of civic engagement and creating the change one wants to see in the world. My platform gives me a national voice.

    One of my most meaningful endeavors is the volunteer work I do with a group of beautiful young girls in the Chicago Public Schools and faith-based institutions. In my weekly mentor series, “Tea With A Queen,” we explore a variety of topics like domestic violence, body image, bullying, self-esteem, financial literacy, and volunteerism. One of the ways I remain engaged in giving back to my community is by mentoring and being a positive role model for these girls.

    My service does not just stop there. Millennials like myself want to see results and want to help everyone. My goal and mission have been to improve the quality of life of Englewoodians so that they may become viable citizens, stable residents and continue to work to revitalize Englewood back into a booming community it once was in the 1960s. “40 Acres and A School” is an initiative out of Greater Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Englewood in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, where I focus on recruiting new homeowners, stabilizing current homeowners and providing residents with leadership training. The goal is to create 40 new homeowners while helping to reduce the student mobility rate and to increase attendance at local schools in Englewood.

    Outcome.

    Attention must be paid to the accomplishments of many from my generation. We’re the ones who have garnered national attention for injustices that have happened in Chicago, sought out justice in the most innovative ways, launched kick-butt social media campaigns, and are crazy enough to believe we can change the world in an instant. “Without Struggle There Is No Progress”- Frederick Douglas.

    The struggle does not end, but movements led by millennials to save Chicago will continue. Movements such as My Block, My Hood, My City, From The Go, Good In Englewood, Hugs No Slugs, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters, and BRAVE are led by millennials who are fighting to change the narrative of Chicago. We are determined to save the communities that raised us and unapologetically influence the next generation and prior generations to get off their butts, call out injustices and work to improve the quality of life in the communities of Chicago.“Live where you work, work where you worship, and eat where you live” is my mantra.

    I was chosen to be part of the #OnTheTable2017 campaign for The Chicago Community Trust; I will be among many leading an “On The Table” discussion on What Makes Your Community Great? #YourVoiceMatters and #WhatYouDoMatters. My “On The Table” dinner discussion focus will include the need for Quality Education, Quality Housing, and Violence Reduction. This discussion is to ignite a movement where citizens are engaged in the process of building a new Chicago, starting with my #GoodInEnglewood campaign.

    For more information on joining my #GoodInEnglewood movement contact me: goodinenglewood@gmail.com Twitter: @goodinenglewood Instagram: @goodinenglewood or Twitter: @ms_shanahb Instagram: @rashanah_baldwin

    Continue reading →

    Millennials born between 1981-1997 have grown up in a world filled with electronics, and at the prime time of social media. Millennials are often labeled overly confident. Many millennials still live at home, struggle with debt, and are the generation still giving back to make a difference in spite of it all. On the flip side, ...
  • Why Black Church Should Matter to Black Millennials?

    #Why Black Church Still Matters?

    Why should Black millennials re-engage in the Black Churches?

    There is an outcry from Black millennials who feel that church is not the place for them anymore and consequently have disengaged. Many millennials question the relevancy of “church” and see it as a bastion of yesterday’s fight for freedom and religious fellowship for Black Americans. They are frustrated with the overwhelming number of Black churches in the depressed and impoverished communities that are not active socially, economically, and politically. In recent articles and academic research reports by news outlets like Pew Research Center, Poynter Institute, and the Huffington Post articles reveal that millennials have either disengaged all together from church or have been church hopping.  

    While researching this issue, I ran across statements like “You can’t say you love me but don’t address the massive social injustices we face. You can’t expect us to worship Jesus Christ, but then the church does not speak out against police brutality.”

    As a millennial, I set out to get the facts by talking with two pastors on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood community who are known to have active participation from millennials.

    Why Do Black Churches Matter?

    “Black Churches have always mattered, the real question is when and why did they stop mattering to Black millennials? The Black Church always been the number one civil, moral, social and human rights organization in America for the upliftment and advancement of Blacks since 1787…the problem is that the parents and grandparents of millennial did not emphasize this fact…both institutionally and individually…Black Millenials would not be the great critical theorist they are if it was not for the sacrifice of their Black grandparents in Churches who created a thriving Black Middles Class through their colleges, etc. ,” said Pastor Kevin Andre Brooks of The Greater Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African American Church in Englewood, Chicago (Founded 1887).

     According to Brooks, the Black churches have been the place where many organizing efforts started, where many civil rights leaders who would have been considered millennials at the time and the church could convene in privacy and where movements centered on addressing social justice issues were birthed.

    Church is compassion and Justice. (We have to do both)

    The church is relevant because it is supposed to be God’s hand and feet,” said Pastor Jonathan Brooks of Canaan Community Church (1701 W. 55th) located in Englewood. The majority of his congregation is made up of millennials and generation X’ers who call him Pastor J.  Similar to Pastor K. Andre Brooks, he acknowledges how instrumental the Black churches have been in shaping the civil rights movements. Pastor J offers that many Blacks have hung their hat on that history and rested on that alone. He believes many Blacks became relaxed after segregation ended. He understands the narrative of why many millennials have disengaged from the black churches.

    “It includes caring about their neighbor. You can’t have a food pantry but not march against these food injustices. You can’t sit in a community with closing schools and not engage the community outside the walls of the church,” states Pastor J.

    Millennials across the nation and right here in Chicago have been impacted by the death of Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castle, and many more.

    With many churches in Black communities, millennials are wondering why churches aren’t involved in these social issues. Pastor J says, “they’re in that community, and they should be involved in some capacity.” Social issues and spiritual issues should not be separated. It’s dangerous. An example is slavery and how white slave masters physically controlled the bodies of slaves. Religion is used to preach to them and teach them about being spiritual, while not acknowledging that they were oppressing them through slavery.

    Understanding The Role and History of Black Churches. 

    Black churches or more so Black pastors became the spokespersons of these movements and beyond these civil rights movements. Black churches enforced cooperative values, instilled the hierarchical approach—taught organizing skills to budding leaders rising in the ranks about understanding democracy, equality, working together, and caring for others. Some of the harshest laws and practices created by the forefathers of the United States of America under the values of Christianity were overturned by civil rights leaders, both religious and non-religious leaders who organized in the church.

    Jim Crow-ism and all forms of segregation were abolished by way of the efforts of the Black churches. Young people have always been anchored in the church. Pastor K. Andre Brooks points out the establishment of fraternities, sororities, Chicago Urban League, NAACP, SNCC (student nonviolent coordinating committee), and the Black Panther Party were organized by the efforts and support of the Black churches. “These churches created a since of black organizational excellence and civic engagement in the community…. led primarily by young people i.e., millennial,” said Pastor K. Brooks.

    Get In Formation. Segregation Birthed Black Unity

    “Don’t Break The Line; Don’t Scream and Holler. We have water, we have medics and minsters on the line. We’re going to bend down and pray. If a rock is thrown at you try to catch it. Wear big hats,” recalls Jacqueline Baldwin, Englewood Native, and former activist. These were the words she members Jesse Jackson saying to her and young activists in Chicago who were bused to from Englewood to Marquette Park as well as other racially segregated areas in Chicago to protest during the 1960s. Attending church was a way of life; you had no choice but to go to church. If the parents did not go to church, the children still were sent to Sunday school. As a teenager, Baldwin, remembers watching the horrific images of dogs being sic on young children, men, and women. She recalls watching bricks being thrown at Blacks, Blacks being spit on, and water hoses being used on them. These images were imprinted in her head and many others who wanted to fight back. 

    Where did they turn? Who could they trust? Who was responsible for the gathering of these passionate folks like Baldwin, who was compelled to do something? She states, “We didn’t organize in vacant lots. It wasn’t the schools because they were run by the racists who did not want to end segregation.” The church basements, and the pastor’s office is where we organized. These were the safest places for Blacks to go, to strategize, to plan the next rallies, to create fliers, create slogans, and meet other churches as well as pastors who were doing the same thing. 

    Segregation forced blacks to unite, celebrate it with each other, and fight together, and this came from Black churches, both Pastor K. Brooks and Baldwin’s stress.

    “How many marches would have taken places if it wasn’t for the churches? Where were we going to a vacant lot? We stood up for those people who got hurt, got hit, and we prayed. Dr. King came to Englewood to organize and rally with the youth, led by a young Pastor John Porter. The child was used at the church to organize these movements; the churches birthed some of the greatest singers, actors, and teachers. In the church, you learned about everything and the way of life, Baldwin says.

    Engaging Millennials Beyond The Ministry

    “Scripture speaks the way of life”-Pastor Jonathan Brooks. 

    “I was present in the environments that they were in, I was cool, and I was hip. I talked like them and spoke their language. I engaged them were they are…. They wanted to know more about me, and I told them my pains, insecurities, frustration with parents, God, and the Black Church…. bottom line I went out of the church and built relationships based on sincere interest and Love…not dogma, doctrine, religion, I Loved them,” said Pastor K. Brooks, when asked how he was able to get millennial to start attending a historical and traditional Black Church.

    Pastor K. Brooks saw the importance of adapting to the culture of millennials by merely meeting them on their level, language, and lingo. He took it a step further by forming meaningful relationships with them outside of the church. While speaking on fostering relationships with millennials, Brooks says he engaged them at coffee shops, clubs, and community events. He found out what their interests were and found ways to teach them through ministry. His sermons reflected their language and integrated pop culture with the word of God in the message. He created a positive attitude and perception about the church, fostered a culture where being a believer is cool and hip, fashionable, cutting edge, and trendsetting.

    Also, he enacted a revolution zeal for millennials to confront injustice. Greater Saint John AME Church will celebrate its 130th Anniversary in August and will continue to preach the “Good In Englewood.” There have been many initiatives that were led by millennials out of GSJAME such as the Gun Buy Back by Programs, GED Classes, Suit & Clothes Give-Away, After School Tutorials, Social Justices Rallies, Dinner Parties, Water Crisis in Flint Michigan and “Tea With A Queen” (a young girl mentoring series). It’s vital that millennials have an active role in the church where they can serve in leadership roles alongside the elders of the church, exclaims Pastor K. Brooks.

    “I just recently started going back to church, and it has been eye-opening for me. Instead, of being pushed into focusing in on the religion aspect of church. It’s more of a spiritual connection that my pastor expresses towards the members of the church. He does speak from the bible and gives us lessons from it. He wants us to awaken our spiritual awareness.” Jahmel T. Singleton, Greater Saint John AME Church, Member

    In Canaan Community Church, there is an environment in which millennials could challenge the bible and the pastors in a respectful manner, says Pastor J. This is a way of engaging millennials meaningfully and less critically. He adds, “I didn’t come to abolish ways, I came to embrace it. I don’t judge. I speak their frequency. I speak to their interests.”

    One Narrative. One Community. One Englewood 

    “Live Where you work, Worship were you live and Eat where you live,” has been the motto of this millennial who chose to join the Black Church because I observed that my Pastor Kevin Andre Brooks, not trying to shove Christianity down my throat but offered a meal where we ate and learned the life-giving message of salvation through Christ together.

    In unison, both Pastors iterate that millennials who are not feeling the inclusion at church or that their church is not active in social justice issues should first seek to talk with their pastor. Seeks out solutions before leaving; such solutions include becoming officers of the church, forming youth ministries, and also starting their ministry.

    “We want to be a church that serves with the community. I made it a point to engage in the community where the church is housed. We don’t know how to join the movements without trying to take it over,” said Pastor J. Our churches are resources. A variety of initiatives take place at Canaan Community Church, including the Continuum around education, Edward T. Dunn Scholarships for college, Hip-Hop (Sunday Sessions), and end of the month Poetry Nights. Pastor J is also active at Henderson Elementary and participates in Angels of Hope, where he and church members visit the families of those who are incarcerated.

    To the churches and pastors who do not engage millennials, address social justice issues, and who discount millennials, Pastor J says, “stop and listen to the young folks.

    Black churches still matter because God is always concerned with the plight of black people in America. Any church, not a concern with is not echoing the heart of GOD.

    Continue reading →

    #Why Black Church Still Matters? Why should Black millennials re-engage in the Black Churches? There is an outcry from Black millennials who feel that church is not the place for them anymore and consequently have disengaged. Many millennials question the relevancy of “church” and see it as a bastion of yesterday’s fight for freedom and religious fellowship ...
  • YES, WE’VE GOT CRIME BUT PORTRAYALS OF URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS AS HOPELESS ONLY WORSEN THE PROBLEMS

    This might be shocking to some, but I’m proud to say that I live in Englewood. Yep, uber proud.

    Englewood is a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, a place that’s often described in the mainstream media (paraphrasing here) as a piss poor community full of uneducated black thugs who kill each other. According to societal norms, the urban ‘hoods and “ghettos” are a place where good things are not expected to occur.

    I’m none of those things, just a 32-year-old professional journalist, a life-long Englewood resident who gets up and goes to work every day, determined to make something of myself, and my life. In fact, I coined the term “Englewoodian” and will tell anyone in an instant that there’s Good In Englewood (now a trending hashtag, also created by yours truly).

    Yet every morning when I first pick up my I-phone, I anxiously look to see if there are any Google Alerts about my Englewood friends and neighbors. If there are, more often than not they’re bearing bad news.

    Despite the fact that many Englewoodians like myself are actively engaged in improving the quality of life in our community, those efforts are rarely covered in the media. They never appear in a Google Alert, or any alert for that matter.

    Englewood was once home to Irish and German settlers back in the 1850s. It’s approximately 3.4 miles in size with about 63,000 residents. At one point it was known as the second-largest shopping district outside of downtown Chicago. There are blocks full of beautiful Greystones, large Victorian mansions, manicured lawns and community gardens. (Yes, some areas also have vacant lots as well as abandoned buildings.) After a white flight in the 1950s, Englewood became predominantly African American; by the 1980s increasing crime and falling real estate values began to erode the community fabric. Today, 42 percent of the population lives below the poverty level, 29 percent have no high school diploma and 21 percent are unemployed.

    I’m not denying there are serious problems in my community. There are countless headlines that read something like “4 Shot, One Dead” or “Five Shot, Including 2-Year-Old Girl, In West Englewood” – terrible, tragic news. According to Chicago police, of the city’s 77 communities, Englewood has the fourth-highest rate of violent crime. There were 49 homicides here in 2014, 22 in 2015, and five so far in 2016 (as of March 26).

    In fact, Englewood is often the first neighborhood mentioned when Chicago’s horrific record of overall violence comes up (488 homicides citywide in 2015 and 130 so far in 2016 (as of March 26). When rappers coined the term “Chiraq” to compare the city to war in Iraq, Chicagoans often pictured Englewood. When director Spike Lee jumped on the bandwagon last year and released his film, also titled Chiraq, it only added to the insult to many Englewoodians, who don’t feel they or the community were fully and accurately portrayed in the movie. (Actually, I don’t believe anyone bought the storyline of Chiraq; since the release last December the film has grossed only $2,653,000.)

    At some point, enough is enough. I simply call it “poverty porn” when the media continues to create a picture of inescapable despair here, all the while giving free publicity to the criminals. In turn, this attention strokes the egos of these criminals; they beat their chests in triumph saying, “Look! I made the news!”

    The danger behind a single, negative theme being told over and over again to the masses, about a single community, will no doubt negatively influence those who live in that community–as well as everyone else. Bottom line:

    You start to become the perception if there’s nothing to counter it.

    What you don’t see in the media are folks like me: law-abiding residents who are college-educated, employed, homeowners, families with both parents in the home, and black-owned businesses that have served the community for decades. You seldom hear about organizations like Teamwork Englewood, Growing Home, or Imagine Englewood IF, that work to mobilize residents and unite stakeholders to make Englewood a viable, thriving and sustainable community.

    What you won’t see on the news: residents enjoying family, fun, and peaceful events around Englewood (Englewood Jazz Festival and the Englewood International Film Festival), or block clubs organizing around important community business developments. You won’t see empowering educational programs focused on technology initiatives for youth. There’s Wood Street Farm the only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farm in Chicago. There are the new economic developments like Whole Foods, community developments like Englewood Codes, a program that offers young children classes on web-coding, and investment projects like LargeLots that enable homeowners to purchase vacant lots for a dollar. Let’s not forget the newly built Kennedy-King College, and the recent additions of sit-down restaurants like Dream Café & Grille and Kusanya Cafe.

    Englewood citizens like me are so tired of our community being labeled (directly or indirectly) as nothing more than a place for the poor, the uneducated, and the criminally inclined. We’re tired of the media stories that seem to portray every African American in Chicago as a menace to society. And we’re tired of hearing the stories of other African Americans like Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many others who died because they were perceived as either a dangerous stereotype or a looming threat. These are the same stories that brainwash all of society against black people everywhere.

    What you won’t see on the nightly news, in their minute-thirty segments: stories that explore and investigate decades of institutional racism, massive incarceration, police corruption and brutality, housing and hiring discrimination, unequal wages, predatory financial lending, disproportionate infrastructure funding. And on and on. If you did, some of the bad news coming out of Englewood might make a bit more sense. It might be put in perspective by thoughtful, in-depth reporting, and understanding might develop–as opposed to the fear and loathing created by a seemingly endless amount of mug shots of black men beamed onto our TV and computer screens.

    My family put down roots in Englewood in the late 1960s when my grandparents bought a two-family building (known as a two-flat). Englewood was still thriving economically at the time, and was somewhat racially diverse. Growing up, my childhood was fairly “normal.” Compared to others in the neighborhood, I might even say I was privileged. My single mom (working as a registered nurse and later as a case manager for the state of Illinois) raised four kids. I attended grammar school in Englewood, went to high school in the south suburbs to be closer to my cousins, graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago and got my Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from DePaul University. My mother made sure to keep us engaged in sports, summer camps, educational enrichment classes, karate, African drum and dance classes and Girl Scouts—all of which were in Englewood. One of my childhood memories was participating in the Englewood Back To School Parade as a cheerleader for my then elementary school; this parade has been a part of Englewood’s rich history for more than 50 years.

    I personally became aware of the violence that occurred in and around my neighborhood at an early age. But as an aspiring journalist, I was also always consciously aware of the media coverage and watched many residents succumb to the narrative they saw portrayed over and over again: We must be no good because that’s what’s being mirrored to us on TV, in the papers, on the Internet.

    As I grew older, I knew it was my civic duty as a resident, and my social responsibility as a journalist, to do something about it. Several years ago I began chronicling everything positive about Englewood, including my own day-to-day routines and life experiences, and sharing them in my blogs and on social media—sharing them with the public, with the media, with anyone who would listen. If you follow me, expect to read a post about me doing yoga on my back deck, enjoying a soy chi latte or a delicious meal full of fresh organic veggies bought from the local farm stand and sit down café in Englewood. There’s not a gunshot to be heard, or yellow crime tape to be seen, on my web pages.

    I also speak out on WKKC 89.3 FM, a college radio station, during a weekly segment called “What’s Good In Englewood” to showcase all the daily positive occurrences in my community. There are no police scanners broadcasting good things in Englewood, or news wires pumping out feel good stories about Englewood for journalists to jump on and cover. So, I take up the slack. I also Tweet the good news messages, using the hashtag #GoodinEnglewood. I find the most amazing stories from places like John’s Hardware and Bicycle Shop, a black owned business that’s been in Englewood for 50 years, or from teens who’ve been awarded full college scholarships due to their outstanding academic achievements.

    My show has recently grabbed the attention of a few mainstream journalists; because I challenged them, and called out their unbalanced coverage of Englewood, I made the front page of the Chicago Tribune, I was featured in a recent documentary about Chicago’s South Side communities, interviewed by two local PBS stations in Chicago, and I appeared in the Huffington Post, among other media outlets.

    I also believe, and try to live by, the ideology of always broadcasting positivity, creating positive vibes, and shifting my negative feelings or actions around me to focus on something positive. This same ideology is studied by Positive Psychology Researchers. And, most recently, my Good In Englewood work was featured in the New York Times Best Seller, Broadcasting Happiness.

    I find it hilarious (a.k.a. offensive) when outsiders, who hear media accounts about how hopeless Englewood supposedly is, decide to come in and try to “save” the community. As a resident, it reminds me of missionaries who go to “Third World” countries with food and shelter, not realizing that they’re keeping them dependent on the contributions.

    This type of “help” is called structural racism. It’s when policies and practices are structured to keep poor people of color with other poor people of color.

    Sure, some individuals who come have good intentions but others capitalize on the violence in Englewood by barging in with their own political agendas to create service-based programs and organizations, in the hopes of attaining grant funding. In the end, this more often than not creates economic opportunities for them, instead of empowering the community economically.

    There have been attempts to introduce a plethora of anti-violence programs, sports programs, and art and crafts programs as these do-gooders attempt to save the residents from each other. Some of the programs help address the violence temporarily but don’t ever reach the root of the issue.

    Many outsiders think the problems can be remedied simply by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even a few million, on summer basketball camps, arts, and entertainment or summer antiviolence programs in Englewood. Yet when the summer ends and the camps pack up, nothing is left for the kids to do, and nowhere for them to go. While the effort is admirable, it’s just a temporary fix.

    A better idea? Instead, how about creating year-round workforce programs, entrepreneurial programs or educational programs that would in turn uplift and help equip young people with skills needed to be viable and competitive in the workforce. Provide resources, not just services with expiration dates that are dependent on government-based grants.

    And please, take it from me, you really don’t have to leave the ‘hood to succeed. In order to change this existing ideology, and these stereotypes and negative portrayals of Engelwoodians, it takes far more people like myself to not leave–to instead invest in buying property, to become more civically engaged, to hold our elected officials accountable, and to create positive events that in turn, create sustainable solutions, positive memories, and images for residents of this community.

    That’s how you alter perceptions. That’s how you change the narrative. That’s how you counter the negative images of crime, poverty, and despair.

    I long for the day when my Google Alerts about Englewood violence stop when the shootings cease, and calm prevails. But until then I’ll just keep proclaiming my unconditional love for my community, and pushing for #GoodInEnglewood.

    Yep, I’m proud of Englewood. And I’ll keep on talking and writing and Tweeting and blogging and posting and broadcasting that pride until everyone else is proud of Englewood, too.

    Continue reading →

    This might be shocking to some, but I’m proud to say that I live in Englewood. Yep, uber proud. Englewood is a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, a place that’s often described in the mainstream media (paraphrasing here) as a piss poor community full of uneducated black thugs who kill each other. According to ...