Saturday, June 13, 2020

ENOUGH - Maybe This Time?

Like many of you, I'm angered by the death of another Black man, and another Black woman, and countless others, as a result of police actions.  More so, I'm angered that we've had reminders of our racial injustices for more than 30 years and far too little has been done to fix the problems.  I'm heartened to see some of the actions coming as a result of the protests marches, but this fight is not one that will be won overnight. It's a long-term battle.

That's what I've been focusing on for the past 25 years.

The front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago SunTimes was the catalyst that led me to create the Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 1992, with the help of 6 other volunteers.

I had seen media stories like this in previous years, such as after the killing of Ben Wilson in the mid 1980s, and realized that unless the city had a master database of youth serving organizations it would never be able to build a marketing plan to help each of those programs constantly improve what they were doing to help k-12 youth move through school and into adult lives ... with jobs....that enable them to safely raise their own kids.

Support youth programs in
EVERY high poverty area.
Furthermore, by mapping locations of programs and slicing the database to know what age group was being served, by what type of program, we could provide resources people in different areas could use to determine if they had enough programs, or needed more.  And by building a library of information and bringing people together to learn from each other, we could help programs grow in more places.

I had led a volunteer based tutor/mentor program since 1975 so I had a strong belief in the potential of these programs to have a positive influence on the lives of kids who participated, as well as the volunteers.  The program I had led only served kids until the end of 6th grade, so in 1992 as we were generating the idea of a Tutor/Mentor Connection, we created the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, to help 7th graders from the original program move through high school and on to college and careers. (That program is now Chicago Tutoring Connection (CC), while the original is now Tutoring Chicago,)

CC alumni w next
generation  HS grad.
I led that program for 18 years and more than 700 teens participated, many for 4 to 6 years.  Now in 2020 I'm still connected to many former CC students, as well as to many who were in the earlier program in the 1970s and 1980s.  I'm delighted when I see people posting stories of their own kids now finishing high school and/or college. The photo at the right was posted on Facebook in the past week.

However, I'm also saddened when they post stories of losing a child to gun violence.

Yesterday I watched a panel discussion titled "Poverty Narrative" where media people talked about how they tell the story of race and poverty in America and how important it is to keep the story alive for a long time. This is an on-going event that will continue through June 2020 so I encourage you to join in.

Near the end of the 90 minute session one of the panel members, Darrick Hamilton said "Political Rights and Civil Rights are not enough without Economic Rights."

I support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs because they can help youth through school with a network of support that helps them thrive economically.  However, they also draw volunteers from non-poverty backgrounds into the lives of urban youth, where many begin learning about political rights and civil rights issues, and become part of the mobilization needed to make change happen.

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as I led a tutor/mentor program I began to focus on one big question. What are all the things we need to know and do to assure that all youth living in high poverty areas are entering jobs and careers by their mid 20's.

What are all the things we need to know and do?
Surprise. This requires learning much more than how to be an effective volunteer tutor or mentor. 

These two graphics visualize the same 4-part strategy that I launched through the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.  It's an on-going, information-based, problem solving strategy.  I encourage others to adopt it to address the "Political Rights, Civil Rights and Economic Rights" challenges Derrick Hamilton spoke of.

View at 

The database of Chicago youth Tutor and/or Mentor programs that I've maintained since 1993 is only one part of the library of information I've been aggregating for the past 25 years,which is Step 1 of the strategy.  There's an entire section on black history and another on race, poverty and inequality, and another showing ways to take political action.

Four sections of web library
This concept map shows the four sections of the library. Click on the link under each node and another maps opens. Click on the links under these and enter the library and find a list of links to other websites.

Step 2 of the strategy involves creating greater awareness and use of this library, and Step 3 focuses on helping people understand the information and build personal and/or organizational strategies to use it.  Step 2 is where our efforts usually fail. Few have consistent funding to keep a movement alive for 20 years or longer. This is especially difficult since so many people and organizations in so many places need to be involved.

Step 4 is the result of the first three. Better information, seen and understood by more people,  results in more actions that draw visitors to websites of each tutor/mentor program in Chicago, where people make decisions on who to help, and how to  help, including "how much" to help.  Step 4 is the second place where we fail.  Non-profits rely on financial support from donors who are inconsistent, and often short term, in their giving. Few non profits have the marketing or celebrity power to attract needed support, yet many are needed, especially in big cities like Chicago.  The strategies the T/MC has piloted intended to  help solve this problem, by using maps and pointing to a directory of nearly 200 youth serving programs in the Chicago region. 

There are many involved in Step 1, and many making a good living doing research and writing books about race, poverty, inequality, etc.  However, far fewer are involved in Step 2 or Step 3. The media have been writing stories about race and  poverty in Chicago for 30 years. However, it's not been part of an on-going campaign, and has not worked like retail advertising, which ends every message with "come to our store and buy our products".   

Link to maps and lists of
tutor/mentor programs in areas
featured in negative news.
A link to tutor/mentor programs or to research libraries at the end of every story, pointing to lists of tutor/mentor programs or other needed services, and to research libraries that enable deeper learning, would have been a simple thing for media to have been doing for the past 25 years (since the Internet), but they have not done that.

Read about the Rest of the Story strategy described in this 2014 article.

Such a strategy has intended to constantly expand the number of people from the Chicago region, and from other cities of the US and the world in learning, innovation and actions that address the "Political Rights, Civil Rights and Economic Rights" of people of color in every zip code of America.

I've never had significant or consistent, resources to invest in doing this work, thus it's impact is far less than I had hoped it would be and the problems of the early 1990s are still with us today, compounded by a pandemic and civil polarization, fueled over the past few decades by 24-hour a day talk radio and TV, plus the growth of the Internet.

New leaders are now stepping into this effort, including thousands of young people. As you do your marches and protests, I encourage you to read articles I've posted on this blog for the past 15 years and build an information based, network-building strategy modeled after the one I've piloted.

Collect information about youth programs
and assets. Point to them in every
media story.
Identify the organizations in each zip code that are already working to solve these problems, along with assets (banks, universities, hospitals, faith group, other businesses, etc.) who should be consistently supporting those efforts.

Use concept maps to visualize the information you're collecting, the problems you're trying to solve, and strategies of mobilizing people, attention and resources to support long-term solutions.

Then use social media, traditional media, video and other networking tools to connect volunteers, donors and learners to those organizations on a consistent basis.  Help them all be great at the work they do.

Share your strategies with others so they can borrow ideas from you, and spend time looking a work being done elsewhere, so you can borrow good ideas, too.

Too few have made it a life-long commitment to help reduce poverty and inequality by creating systems of support that help kids through school and into adult lives.

Be someone who does.

I'm on social media at Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. Join me there.

I've a "fund me" page too, on my own website. Help if you can.

No comments: