Black Women Promoting Peace and Justice in Our Communities

Black Women Promoting Peace and Justice in Our Communities 

by Rachel Benjamin, DWJ Public Policy Fellow 2016

June 2016

The month of June is generally recognized in this country as National Safety Month. Consequently, BWOPA/TILE's theme for the month of June is "Black Women Promoting Peace and Justice in our communities".  We are honored to have Ms. Rachel Benjamin, one of our 2016 DWJ Fellows, explain the way one African-American woman uses her history with Chicago gang life to combat the ills of gang violence in impoverished communities. Her story reminds us that each one of us can make a difference by promoting peace within our communities.

The city of Chicago also referred to as "Chi-Raq" by some, is one of America's most deadly cities. Chicago's South Side is particularly troubled; it characterized by a concentration of gang violence, drug activity, poverty, and is primarily made up of African-American communities - also known as "concentrated disadvantage." In these communities, gun violence is a leading cause of death for young people. Within the first six months of 2016 alone, there have already been 1,599 sitting victims (Chicago Tribune). Law enforcement intervention has shown to be futile because the violence and disorder have continued to rage on.

Crime control/prevention initiative, CeaseFire, has been implemented in Chicago's South Side to address the gun violence head-on. This community led initiative utilizes community members as the primary interventionists in the effort to curb gun violence - they call themselves "the interrupters".  Community activist Ameena Matthews, daughter of Jeff Fort, the co-founder of the Black P. Stones gang, has been a leader in the CeaseFire initiative. Using her past history of being immersed in the Chicago gang life, Ameena is able to relate to gang members on a personal level. Ameena uses her personal history to connect with gang members and helps them see the devastating effects that the violence they produce have on the community and the possible consequences it could have on their lives. When discussing her work with CeaseFire, Ameena says, "I'm not Ameena from the past or Jeff Fort's daughter. I'm Ameena with a soul, a peace builder who is showing others how to be peace builders and how to react in certain situations (Frontline)."

Ameena's efforts with the CeaseFire initiative promote peace and justice in the South Side Chicago community by transforming the way gang members perceive their actions. Ameena helps these individuals realize that their actions are doing more harm than good and urges them to put an end to the violence, thus creating a more peaceful and just community through utilizing community intervention rather than state intervention (i.e. law enforcement).


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Lessons in Self Care


by Alegra D Angelo, DWJ Public Policy Fellow 2016

May 2016

Self-care is taking intentional actions to improve your mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being.  It’s one way to manage the stress of everyday life. Self-care is empowering and has the ability to build up resilience and positivity. According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control, women and African Americans are more likely to report instances of major depression and less likely to seek out treatment. Self-care is reported to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and heart disease.

Self-care is not meant to be indulgent. For example, taking a ten-minute nap is a helpful self-care strategy. A quick nap boosts energy and reduces sleep debt.

Try to avoid watching TV during stressful situations, it can be a distraction and can even make the situation seem worse. TV in moderation is fun, but in but excess can turn into avoidance. Spending ten minutes journaling or five minutes to write a gratitude list can evoke a positive emotion. Below are some strategies for self-care.

1. Sleep

2. Getting enough exercise

3. Meditate

4. Smell a candle or use your favorite lotion and inhale the scent

5. Stroke a pet

6. Check in with your emotions

7. Get fifteen minutes of sun

8. Drink an extra glass of water

9. Listen to your favorite song

10. Give yourself a massage


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We've Got the Power To Be Financially Free!


by Monica Miller

April 2016

Before we close the month of April, which is noted as Financial Literacy Month, it is only fitting for BWOPA to spotlight freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman.


Harriet Tubman becoming the new face of the American $20 bill is cause for both celebration and introspection for African American women. Today, the nation prepares to honor Tubman for her tireless work to free slaves over a hundred and fifty years ago. However, it is rather ironic that a countless number of African American women struggle daily with some form of financial captivity. 

America's gender-based wage gap is likely to blame for black women's economic woes. It is well documented that African American women are paid 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Coupled with societal issues such as raising children alone and the lack of affordable housing, black women often find themselves in the precarious position of having to make absurd choices. For example, whether or not to provide basic needs for themselves and their families or saving money towards a college education and retirement. 

As black women,we don't have to settle or suffer as an economic outcast. We should imitate Harriet Tubman's example by financially freeing ourselves so we can do our part to help other people who are oppressed and financially  burdened.  

Intrinsically speaking, black women whose finances are in disarray, need to first, take ownership of where they are. Second, make a vow to educate themselves about money. And third, implement financial strategies to change their pecuniary predicament.

Extrinsically speaking, black women need to advocate for policies on all levels of government that favorably influence their financial advancement. Such policies should require equal pay for women and men, parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules to name a few. As culture keepers, it is our responsibility to financially invest in businesses and organizations in our community that focus on developing, supporting, and advancing our people. 

Just like Madame C.J. Walker, Oprah Winfrey, and Cathy Hughes; black women have the power and ability to achieve tremendous economic gains. We can not afford to be passive or intimidated by the present state of our collective fiscal affairs. We have the right to secure financial freedom for ourselves and we have the duty to ensure future generations will benefit from our decision to own our financial destiny. 



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Black History Moments


by Charlette Viney, BWOPA/TILE

February 2016

The End of a Term, but the Legacy Continues ...

Through the years we have witnessed our champions display and celebrate black love. From Dr. King and Coretta Scott to currently President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. We heard how the President worships the ground the First Lady walks on and how the First Lady is the President's number one cheerleader. We've seen them laugh and be goofy around each other. Embrace each other in front of critical cameras. This is the year, 2016, President Obama's last term. Let us be thankful to have lived to see black love celebrated in the White House these past 8 years.

Black love is Black History.

Nothing embodies the significance of African American achievements than watching 106-year old Virginia McLaurin's visit President and First Lady Obama at the White House to celebrate Black History Month. Ms. McLaurin, who has undoubtedly witnessed over a century of injustices towards her people never thought she'd live to see a black president in the White House. In her words, meeting the President and the First Lady was "The joy of my entire life" and as she stated "I can die smiling now". As we watched Ms. McLaurin dance with the President and First Lady we saw her deep love for her people. We connected with her jubilance because we understand that the Obamas are standing on the shoulders of many African Americans who gave their lives for future generations to have opportunities that they were denied. More importantly, like Ms. McLaurin, we applaud the strength and the courage it has taken the Obamas to grab a piece of American History and make it their own.

Black History is Love for Family and Community.

Still in awe from watching this year's SuperBowl's 50th Halftime performance, where Beyoncé performed her new single, "Formation." Starting off with a black power fist high in the air and dancers dressed in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers. Formation, a song in which celebrates her child's natural afro and her husband's wide nose.  Controversy surrounded within seconds of the superstar's performance. Why? Because she expressed her love of Afrocentric features, self-love, love of her black child, love of her black husband, and social justice all in one song. Something that the Black Lives Matter movement has expressed repeatedly but others turned a blind eye too. In Beyoncé's performance, those blind eyes were forced to watch.

Today your children see a display of love in the White House that has never been seen before. They saw Beyoncé and a bunch of beautiful black dancers dance and celebrate blackness on a nationwide broadcasted event. To many children, this is the norm. Let us continue to display black love, self-love, and fight for social justice in which our children can relate and legacies such as these will continue.  Let us continue to make great strides for the history books.  Our black history moments.



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