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)



2/3/2018 Session #9


Today’s notes were gathered by Brown In Chicago Fellow Merari Flores while I took a sick day because the flu has been spreading around aggressively! Edits to notes made by Violet. Additional guest joined today’s session such as staff from LSNA and the parents of some of the youth participants. Today’s presentations is to unpack DNA from three different professional backgrounds in biology, anthropology, genealogy and social work.

Check in question:What are we expecting to hear/find out today?

Tammy- The biggest thing I like to learn today is how to better understand my 23andMe results? What do they actually mean? I have second and third cousins from the reports, should I reach out to them?

Annisa- I’m excited to learn more!

Gerrick- I’m pretty anxious to be honest but I still haven’t gotten my results yet.

Merari- I already had my results from last year so i’m excited to see what y’alls results are.

Emma’s parents- Extremely excited to find out more! To see how closely related we are to others.

Lucas- I don’t really know, I’ll take it as it is, my first cousin reached out, a third cousin reached out to me from the reports.

Arely- This is my second year too, even though you never finish learning about genealogy

Evelyn- I’m really excited to learn more about bio-culture, it’s something I want to be able to talk to my family about this because it was problematic.

Ashley- I just want to learn a little bit more about where I come from.

Kerry- I’m excited to explain more about the Azknasi Jewish ancestry.


Notes from the following presentation:

1.The Migrations of Homo Sapiens

-Where do we come from originally? We are all for the most part from East Africa.

-We don’t know the whole picture but we know we arrived about 50,000 years ago.

2.Racism and ‘race science’ in the 1800s

-When Irish people started pouring into the U.S there was a notion that they looked closer to Black people.

3.Skin color spectrum

-The amounts of red and yellow based melanin in the skin which protects it from ultraviolet rays from the sun, is highest nearest the equator, declining further away where skin is exposed less and still needs more sunlight to produce vitamin.

-Skin color does relate to where people have originally migrated from.

-Freckles are a mutation of dark skinned pigment people losing color, result of later migration. Why? Because as we move to places that have less and less sunlight we lose color.

4.Is it in our genes? Is it in our cultures?

-Extreme biological determinism:basically justifies outright racism, all social conditions and behaviors are linked to biology.

-Extreme social constructionism=all life conditions and behaviors are socially made, this can be used to justify colorblind racism

-Bio-cultural synthesis=social conditions and behaviors are linked to ancestries and inheritances.this recognizes difference but undermines racists claims.

5.What forces are leading us to map our genes?

-The Black community wanted to know their ancestry, people wanted to learn more about themselves. There is this form of “marketing a more inclusive” gene.

-Genes are not stuck to geographies.

-When we say someone is west african we say from gene flow that it is where place of conception was.

-We have never been a species that has stayed in one place.

6.The whole picture of our biocultural selves

-Phenotype has to do with reproduction, identity and ascription is how you and others see you, family and kinship has to do with how physical traits are sure.

-A recent study showed there is wider genetic variation among present day indigenous people in Mexico than between for example the average German and Japanese person.

Questions from the presentation:

Emma’s parents: Why would anybody want to know more about me? i’m very happy knowing I have Native American and African in me!

Ashley: I can actually answer that, my grandma was indigenous from Oaxaca so I was always wondering where exactly she came from specifically what tribe, and I went to Arizona and there was indigenous women from oaxaca and they say they couldn’t help me find out exactly know from what tribe, so I like knowing after seeing my dna results that I have my grandmother living in me.

Tammy: For me, I would really like my results to narrow down to specific countries, because West African is not enough, my whole family says we are Native American, so getting the results back I can see there is not one drop of native American, I want to know the specific countries, knowing specifically where I’m from. I boohooed tremendously and that’s because we don’t know where we were from, as I shared this with my family members they just didn’t care and i can’t understand why.


-Based on fossils how old is our world? As far as we can tell from the oldest rocks on the planet our planet is about 4.5 billion years old

-How old are Homo sapiens? About 200,000 years old
-When we started seeing lineage of modern-day life it happened at 500 million years.

1.A Brief History of life

-Our planet has not always looked the same way it looks today, if you look at an apple and see the skin, that is how much actual land we have on our planet, everything else is lava.

-When you have rock that is extremely hot it starts to move so all the top little plates are literally flowing on lava and they are constantly moving, so what we have today has not always been and depending on where continents are determines wind currents and the global climate

-Our continents have always been shifting.

-Darwin explained a mechanism how to explain how evolution works which was natural selection.

-Somewhere around 12 million years ago Central America came up.

-Modern day chimps are still around because they adapted to the forest and stayed in the forest.


-We evolved from australopithecus africanus to homo erectus.

-We are more closely related to chimps but we did not come from chimps.



-Genealogical dna testing lets us go deeper than our known family tree.

-Son and daughter get the mitochondria dna.

-Fathers pass down the Y dna.

-The further back you go the less percentage you get.

-Why ashkenazi dna? The jews that originally came from Spain are called sephardic jews. In 1492 the catholic church offered the jews of spain.

-When we see Ashkenazi in our DNA it is most likely Jews who were forced to convert and then came to the Americas.

12/16/17 Session #6

The opening question for this morning was inspired by a poem written by Nigerian Poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo. We reflected and shared what are we celebrating about ourselves at this moment? With many of us feeling drained from a busy semester or felt stressed over the upcoming holidays, it was important to take a moment to share gratitude for showing up this morning.

Our lecture presentation was lead by Dr. Jesse Mumm who is our resident Historian for our project and is a Latin American & Latino Studies professor at DePaul University. The lecture consisted on the history of early colonial settlement in the Americas and the push/pull factors for migration to the U.S. Below are a few of the highlights from the lecture:

“We can think of the Spanish conquest as a failed experiment. That there were always populations that resisted, who were beyond official imperial control.”

“Some slaves or migrants kept their original last names, others bought “common” last names in an attempt to better assimilate and a means to survive in a colonized state.”

Why do WE write history?
-To valorize those who are not valorized.
-To right a wrong.
-To shift a perception.
-To expose powerful lies.
-To take command of the present
-To argue for social change.
-To deepen a story.
-To take command of the present.

“When the indians win it’s called a massacre. When anglos win it’s called a battled.”

After the presentation we were challenged to think of what questions we had about our own family’s migration experience and lives. Our debrief questions for the lecture included:

How far back do you want to look? What eras interest you?
Where are the gaps in your family history?
What do you question, out of the things you have you been told? What needs to be explained?
Do you want to investigate your particular family events, or the wider cultures and societies around them?
Who do you want to write for?

We concluded our session by sharing the questions we gathered from our group. From our wide range of research questions we hope to learn much more about our families, our history and better inform what we know about ourselves.

How is internalized prejudice formed and what are the driving factors behind that? What does it me to be “Passing”? I want to study this from my mother’s and grandfather’s and my own experiences.”

“How do we forgive without forgetting the damages they did to my people by the Roman Catholic Church. The realizations of a Catholic Chicana.  “We don’t have this white Jesus anymore. Lupita is still on my wall. We are moving on, shifting away from this eurocentric religion.”

“Does having 2% African blood give me the right to say the “N” word? What are the implications behind using this word? 

“I want to know more about classism and internalized racism within my family. My dad’s family had money on the ranch. And had a maid who was referred to as “la negra.” I want to further explore race and class in Mexico, and how  mental illness informs that experience, while exploring my own mental illness. A lot of my father’s family lived lives that show signs of trauma and caused ongoing trauma.”

“I want to learn more about the town where my family is from which is Orocovis, Puerto Rico and more about taino culture.”



11/11/18 Session #3

But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
-Audre Lorde

We opened today’s meeting inviting students to imagine all the ways our ancestors  have worked for their liberation, imagine all the ways they are still figuring out, and see yourself in them. Recognize the hustle to get free. Beyond what stereotypes, see them as a freedom fighter and change maker. Now see it in yourself. In pairs we each broke off a spent a few minutes sharing ways in which you’ve created in your life that you’re proud of? On answer that stood out was a student I paired off with as he shared his experience in creating a Help the Homeless, a yearly project that collects funds to buy brand new warm clothes for folks living through homelessness in neighborhood of Humboldt Park.

We spent the rest of our gathering to learn from Dr. Mumm about Chicago migration history and begin to piece where our family’s experience may lie based on when, why, and how we got to the U.S and ended up in Chicago. None of these experiences are monolithic but are fascinating to thread the similarities and motivations as to why they migrated. Typically, in our U.S history curriculum at school we are limited to focus on how pilgrims migrated to U.S and people of color were imported as slaves. We center slavery as the beginning of history of for many while erasing the legacies they brought with them. Being able to contextualize push and pull factors of why many of our families moved here which was due to the political influence of the U.S on our home countries. For example, learning about such policies/ programs like the Bracero Program  for Mexicans and Operation Bootstrap in Puerto Rico gives us more insight on how migration isn’t merely a choice but a choice of survival. It’s exciting during the beginning stages of this process because as we begin to piece together more information from our families we can begin to draw more connections and map ourselves within history with more integrity.

Meeting # 12 10/29/2016


1) Tell us something you learned about an indigenous community in your family’s state in Mexico, Puerto Rico or Colombia, Ecuador. Ideally close to where your family is from. Tell us something your learned about them from your family or from Wikipedia.
2) Bring an item (clothing, textiles, picture, clay figures, jewelry etc) that represents this group that you may have around your house. (Or take a pic of it if your parents won’t let you).

Share on these two points for about five minutes.

Meeting #3 07/18/2016


Session Objectives:

  1. Framing & big picture overview
  2. Review process and timeline
  3. Introduce Journey Guides
  4. Discuss ways we want to go on this journey together
  5. Introducing the ancient and ever-present power of storytelling
  6. Introduction to Genealogy
  7. Review the history of the creation and use of the concept of race
  8. Review the history of Latinxs in Chicago, specifically in the northwest side


  • 11am         Juliet & Violet: Welcome, Introductions and Icebreaker, Review Agenda
  • 11:20 am    Juliet/Violet: Group agreements  to create Safe Space
  • 11:35am     David: Framing & big picture overview,
  • 11:50am     Working Lunch
  • 12pm     David: The ancient and ever-present power of storytelling in our personal lives, the lives of our community, our organizations and as a tool to heal racial wounds.

Followed by first Storytelling assignment – Construct a short 3-5 minute story about what you have learned of your ancestor’s journey so far.

  • 1pm David: Interactive presentation on the history of the creation and use of the concept of race. Specifically the historical interconnectedness and impact of power and economics and racism on all people who reside(d) in America yesterday, and today.

First research and storytelling assignments: Consider the major social, economic and political conditions that shaped your ancestors’ decisions over the last 200 years.

  • 2pm Kerry:  Introduction to the Practice, Power, & Limitations of Genealogy

Question:  What are your hopes for this process?

  • Why We Do Genealogy?
  • How We Do Genealogy?
  • What sites are available to search for Latinx families?
  • What genealogical records are available?
  • What kind of information was included in these records?
  • What do we learn from the records?

Check-in:  How are you reacting to this process?

Genealogy Learning Outcomes

At the end of this project, you will know more about:

  • The value of genealogy as a way to connect with the strengths of our ancestors
  • How to search the major genealogy sites
  • How to find and document your family history
  • How to understand genealogical DNA test results
  • How your family history is part of your story

3:30pm Jesse Mumm: Latinxs in Chicago: waves of migrations, racialized housing

practices, a history of displacement and recreating home

4:45pm Juliet/Violet: Closing PAR Questions:

  • Jot down a few notes to yourself→ share in pairs→ Whole Group:What surprised you today?
  • Jot down a few notes to yourself→ share in pairs→ What do you want to learn more about?