3/17/18 Session #12


Today we were visited by our project evaluator Shira Hassan to begin to evaluate the data we collected from a recent survey we distributed with Brown In Chicago fellows, parents, and community members. Our Brown In Chicago project methodology will follow a participatory action research model, (PAR) which is an approach to conduct research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. The reason we are using this method is to take research back into our own hands!

The goals for PAR are to:

  • Ask a question?
  • Gather information
  • Analyze our data
  • And take action!

This research method is often dismissed within institutionalized spaces because the process isn’t deemed academic enough compared to research that is empirically complied. An example how PAR is a suitable research method is explored by the Young Women’s Empowerment Project. YWEP, was based in Chicago to better address the needs and support young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. There is a great need for a space that is safe and judgement-free for young folks trying their best to survive off economies that are highly stigmatized.

Our local and federal governments don’t address the roots of what sustains poverty and then wonder why young people are turning to sex and street work and continue to stigmatized and incarcerate them. Instead, we need comprehensive and accessible resources to keep sex workers safe. The only way to “vouch” for those needs is to conduct research to show to funders and stakeholders in a language they understand which are outcomes and expenses. Many non-for-profits and member based social justice organizing projects utilize grants to sustain their projects, much like Brown In Chicago, and need to a method to still capture the essence of our project and not to compromise our goals and values just for data and numerical outcomes.

Data is only important from what we ascribe meaning to it, we use our data to lead us to answers and evaluate:

  • Youth experiences
  • Translate the project experience to inform others the importance of ethnic studies for CPS schools

Our goals are to:

  • Look at data and examine what is the impact of knowing our own history?
  • What to do with this research?
  • Observe and document the project’s ripple effects.

Academia, tells us what to think and associate meaning to our data. The difference in this project is that WE associate the meaning to our data because OUR experiences informs this. We had a chance to look at a series of questions and answers we collected data that addressed the following:

  • To teach dynamics of power within schools (racism, classism, sexism, etc)
  • To teach about U.S Latin American policies and migration within the last 100 years
  • Integrate ethnic studies elements in school before entering the college level
    Challenging Whiteness
  • To have students walk away feeling more confident in their studies
  • More field trips to cultural centers
  • Connecting real life events/local Chicago history in school curriculum
  • Centering and putting people back into histories and stories that often leaves them out
  • Understanding that the arts much as music tells us stories we often ignore

Our action steps are:

  • To continue to explore how PAR impacts Brown In Chicago?
  • To examine how ethnic studies schools/curriculum currently operate?
  • Address the social and cultural disconnect from assimilated migrant families within our communities that reject the need for ethnic studies schools/curriculum because “we made it, we don’t need to learn about this anymore.”
  • Question the intent to move towards a more Restorative Justice approach to heal and organize? (Because what we are doing now is and hasn’t been working)



2/24/18 Session #10


This morning we ground ourselves with the reminder from Juliet our Brown In Chicago project director that, “to study is a revolutionary duty, and we ain’t just doing this for an A+ within a capitalistic society!” We each took turns sharing what topics we want to research for the duration of the Brown In Chicago Fellowship up until May. Within the next two months we will work within groups to conduct our own research projects on a topic of interest related to previous lessons. The following are topic ideas presented by each fellow and answers these questions: What I hope to learn/research more? What have I learned so far? What are ways I plan to learn more?

Emma: I used to think Latino culture and identity was more or less the same and I want to know more about what doesn’t make them monolithic. I’m interested in learning more about my indigenous background. I would love to find out how it’s still alive today in multiple cultures in Latin America. I’ve done limited research on this topic so far but I’ve been able to read small articles about different cultures in Latin America. Now that I have more concrete data about my DNA and what it’s made up of I can go from there. The first step in my plan is to conduct more research using all the resources that have been provided to me. I would also like to interview people to see if they have any input or information that I might not be able to find.

Austin: I want to deepen my own familial experience and to get to the root of acculturation and assimilation. How can internalized racism become so defining, despite it not being an explicitly overt/conscious action? I’ve found a couple of great resources on the topic and have been able to put my own experiences and the experiences of others into perspective. While I do want to use academic sources and back up what I say, I want this piece to be more personal. I will keep on finding more resources! Talk with more individuals about their experiences and work on formatting the whole piece.

Lucas: Understanding how we are developing or ascribed to the way we are today? Perhaps looking into epigenetics? Where did Mexicans get culture from that made it it’s own in terms of music food and appearances? How different are we to even say we are different from one another if I look more Puerto Rican than Mexican to others? What I have learned so far is that nothing past being born on a different plot of land and our skin color and adaptation occurring making from scratch what they had that later carried itself into the twenty first century. The way I plan to learn more is by investigating the lands and tribes/groups of people I am blood related to and see how much I relate to them in my personality, looks or how I am in my everyday life.

Arely : Last year my Mexican identity was deconstructed and I felt shook. I am proud of the diversity I see in Mexico similarly to the U.S. I want to know how to claim my indigeneity and access it. But, by doing so this means to reject my family’s Catholicism which upsets them. My research question is, What does it mean to be Mexican? Who are we as culture? I’ve learned that there is colorism and that it’s very similar to the U.S. we come from different backgrounds and are treated accordingly. But we are also one at the same time, being Mexican means being the colonizer and colonized at the same time for me. I plan to make more trips to Mexico and keep learning about the history of Mexico and learn how the people interact with the different dimensions Mexican culture.

Anaiza: How can POC students take education into our own hands? Why are we still struggling with dropout rates if our ancestors fought so hard to win us the fight to go to school?

Brittany: Why isn’t Latino history taught in school? Or just the option for it, having it available would be nice. Even when I was in grammar school in Puerto Rico for a little, we spent a little time learning about Tainos but more focus on Mayans groups. Meeting a Taino man on the isla who was proud of his culture inspired me that the culture isn’t dead. When we learn about Latin American in U.S schools, it is still Eurocentric and focuses on economic development and influences of colonialism is viewed as “mixing” which is just whitewashing. I am learning that more about more types of indigenous groups, challenging in school why don’t we learn more about Latin American History, about historical challenges against education/institutions to include more ethnic studies in our schools. I’m Interested in creating curriculum that is accessible Ethnic Studies and Integrating personal narratives.I want to explore how music, dance, and other mediums can challenge racism?

Ashley:  I want to begin to Heal from Catholicism. By shifting religious affiliation and practice I want to see someone like me when I pray to God. While exploring and practicing Yoruba culture and spirituality I want to embrace natural and holistic forms of healing. Not depending on one person like God and to better feel supported by multiple orishas instead. This is a life changing process that will take time for me to better understand my familial indigeneity abuelita knowledge. I wish to know more about their traditions and our history?

Merari: I want to learn more about ending cycles of generational trauma, understanding my own healing, and learning more about my family’s battle with mental illness history.

Of the eight research topics and questions discussed above from the students in attendance I narrowed their topics into three main research groups based on their interests:

1) What is the history of the U.S Education Systems and importance of implementing Ethnic Studies?

2) Exploring what is Latinx identity, Nationalism, and internalized prejudice?

3) What Generational Trauma and decolonized healing?

Within these next two month we will continue to work on our research projects and continue to find creative ways to present our projects and share them within various upcoming community events which are planned or in the planning process still. One upcoming event that was co-planned with a B.I.C Fellow with a relationship with ICIRR: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights will take place at on March 10th at the Immigrant Youth Conference at Northeastern Illinois University – El Centro Campus from 9 am – 2 pm. As a response to the attacks on immigrants and our youth, ICIRR and partners are creating a safe space for immigrant youth and provide resources, workshops, and an opportunity to meet other immigrant youth across Illinois.

Evelyn, a B.I.C fellow collaborated to design an hour long workshop for this conference called, WE ARE ENOUGH:  I don’t need your papers to be whole, I am already whole, I am already enough. While it’s so important to fight back and arm ourselves with information, it’s also important to recognize our need to heal from being an immigrant in this nation at this time. In this workshop we will introduce the concept of healing justice, create art that affirms who we are regardless of this status and create a safe space to share our stories.

This workshop is just one example and community engagement opportunity that was inspired by the Brown In Chicago project and am excited to see the other projects grow into fruition this upcoming spring 2018!