Month: April 2013

May 18: Policing, Violence, Resistance and Alternatives


We are excited to announce the next in our series of workshops for the first half of 2013.  We are partnering with the Chicago Freedom School as part of their “Communiversity” series for these workshops.  All workshops are inter-generational (they are accessible to people ages 14 and up).

All workshops are from 1 to 4:30 p.m. (unless otherwise specified); and will be held at CFS, 719 S. State Street, Suite 3N.  CFS is accessible and there’s an elevator at the back of the building.

We invite you to BRING YOUR LUNCH with you.

IMPORTANT: We thank those who are interested in our workshops and trainings. In order to prepare for these interactive workshops, we must have an accurate count of people who will attend. We strive to make our workshops accessible and therefore we sometimes offer these at no cost to participants. However, we as an organization to incur costs in organizing and delivering these opportunities. We ask that those who plan to attend PRE-REGISTER but ONLY IF YOU ARE CERTAIN THAT YOU WILL ATTEND. We really mean this. Space is limited in our workshops and we ask that you PLEASE DO NOT SIGN UP IF YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY PLANNING TO ATTEND. Please be considerate of us and others. We have adopted a new policy as of May 1st. If you pre-register for one of our (free to you) workshops and do not attend, we will no longer register you for future (free to you) opportunities.

Policing, Violence, Resistance, and Alternatives:
This workshop will introduce participants to the work of Chain Reaction, a participatory research and popular education project with the goal of supporting conversations about alternatives to calling police on young people. Driven by our political goal of ending youth incarceration, Chain Reaction volunteers held workshops and recorded audio and video at youth centers and other spaces around the city, including a center for LGBTQ youth and youth experiencing homelessness. Youth told stories about being targeted by police because of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age. Their experiences with police often set off a chain reaction that funnels youth into the prison industrial complex, a system that targets people of color, transgender women, and other folks from marginalized groups.

The workshop will provide an overview of a history of policing and police violence. Participants will then learn about the work of Chain Reaction and listen to some of the stories we collected. Through interactive activities and personal storytelling, we will explore what alternatives to calling police exist for those considering relying on police interventions within our communities, and imagine the ideal chain reaction we could set off in response to fear, violence, or harm in our communities. We will also ask what role can adult allies can play in promoting alternatives to calling the police on young people and diverting young people from the prison industrial complex.

Finally, Project NIA and the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective have developed several resources (including zines, curricula, and pamphlets) that can be used to foster conversations with youth about policing. We will share these resources with workshop participants.

Pre-registration is REQUIRED. Please register HERE (only if you are certain to attend).


May 4: Join the Chicago Freedom School To Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Children’s March

Please join the Chicago Freedom School on Saturday May 4th from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

Birmingham Children's March (May 1963)

Birmingham Children’s March (May 1963)

“On 2 May, more than a thousand African American students skipped their classes and gathered at Sixth Street Baptist Church to march to downtown Birmingham. As they approached police lines, hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses. When hundreds more young people gathered the following day for another march, commissioner Bull Connor directed the local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstration. Images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers and triggered outrage throughout the world.

On the evening of 3 May, King offered encouragement to parents of the young protesters in a speech delivered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He said, “Don’t worry about your children; they are going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail, for they are not only doing a job for themselves, but for all of America and for all of mankind.””

CFS will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Children’s Crusade/March with a screening of the documentary “Mighty Times: The Children’ March” followed by a panel of contemporary Chicago youth activists and organizers who will discuss how they are currently working for social change and justice.

Saturday, May 4
2 to 4:30 p.m.
Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street
Garland Room

Please register for this event HERE.

Read more about the Children’s March here.

Update on Yes To Counselors, No To More Cops in Our Schools Campaign…

On January 16th 2013, President Obama announced a comprehensive plan to address gun violence. There were several proposals including some focused on school safety. Part of the plan enabled U.S. public schools to hire up to 1,000 more school police or school counselors. Specifically:

“The Administration is calling on Congress to help schools hire up to 1,000 more school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, as well as make other investments in school safety. We also need to make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan so they are prepared to respond to situations like mass shootings. In addition, the Administration is proposing to help 8,000 schools put in place proven strategies to prevent violence and improve school climate by reducing bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors.”

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the entire gun reform package from the floor after Senators blocked the background check portion of the bill yesterday. This means that the other provisions of the bill including potentially more funding for police in schools are now on hold. This provides us with a reprieve for the time being. We are profoundly grateful to everyone who has been involved in advocating against more police in schools and for more counselors and restorative justice programs. Your voices have made a difference. Below is some background and an update about the Yes To Counselors, No To Cops Campaign launched in response to part of President Obama’s gun reform proposals.

Summary of Chicago Activism and Organization

In Chicago, parents, educators, students, advocates, and community members gathered on January 24th to discuss our concerns about the President’s proposal to offer funds to school districts to hire more police or counselors. This meeting was organized and convened by Project NIA and co-sponsored by the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation.

Meeting participants worried that many districts would decide to hire police officers rather than to invest in more counselors to help address the root causes of student disciplinary issues. As the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) points out:

“Schools around the country have invested heavily in security measures such as metal detectors, armed police officers and school resource officers (SROs), often with devastating results for students – especially students of color, LGTBQ students, and students with disabilities. As research by the American Psychological Association and others has shown, these measures, which are usually implemented along with “Zero Tolerance” discipline policies that employ suspensions and expulsions, have neither increased graduation rates nor made students feel safer. In fact, they have increased the time students spend out of school and increased arrests and referrals to the justice system – especially for nonviolent student behavior like “disrespect” – and further increased racial disparity in school exclusion and educational outcomes.”

With these realities in mind, a loose coalition of individuals and organizations in Chicago formed to pressure our Senators (in particular) to oppose any new funding for police officers in schools and to take an affirmative position in support of more counselors and restorative justice programs. We also wanted to be proactive in asking the Chicago Public Schools to pass a resolution that would state unequivocally that any new funding received from Federal grants to improve school safety based on the President’s gun reform plan will be used to hire COUNSELORS NOT COPS. Our coalition accomplished a great deal in just a few short weeks:

1. Students at Roosevelt University collected over 900 hand signed letters for Senators Durbin and Kirk. They delivered these to the Senators’ offices on April 4th.

2. Students at Roosevelt also gathered over 320 signatures for a petition to Senator Durbin urging him to support more counselors rather than cops in our schools. Roosevelt students received some press coverage for their efforts.

3. Students at the University of Illinois at Chicago collected and mailed over 165 postcards asking Chicago Public Schools Board President David Vitale to support more counselors not cops in schools. These students also helped to draft language for a proposed resolution that we would like to see the CPS Board adopt on this matter.

4. We organized a call-in day to Senators Durbin and Kirk to press our message on April 3rd. They received dozens of calls asking them to oppose more funding for police in schools. We timed this action to coincide with the National Week of Action Against the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

5. We also encouraged individuals to call our Senators again during the week of April 13th as debate began on the gun reform bills in the Senate. We used social media to get the word out about this action.

6. This Sunday at 5 p.m., join several people who will begin to work on a “Counselors Bill of Rights” on a conference call facilitated by Veronica Bohanan. Call 1-646-307-1300 and dial 2995124 to join the conference call.

7. Finally, we produced a short film documenting how one urban school in Chicago manages school safety without relying on law enforcement or harsh school disciplinary policies. We will use that film to promote the campaign and also to provide a concrete example illustrating that it is in fact possible to ensure school safety without relying on cops.

Visit the Yes To Counselor’s Blog section for updates about our efforts. For more information, email us at

The Yes To Counselors, No To More Cops in our Schools Campaign has been coordinated by Project NIA.