#CelebrateCHI CELEBRATING the best of a city we love-because POSITIVITY > Negativity

Over the years, nearly every major news outlet has reported on Chicago's violent crime rate. Adding fuel to the fire, 2016 marked Chicago's most violent year in nearly two decades.

It's painful to watch a city you love be associated with negativity. However, there are always two sides to every story.

While the media continues to push a negative narrative, a creative renaissance gathers pace. Artists, activists, community organizers, and youth unite to uplift the city.

#CelebrateCHI is a compilation of stories, interviews, and multimedia inspired by Chicago. Through a unique lens, the e-zine covers what we love about Chicago, CPS students studying abroad, and youth activism.

Places & Spaces

People Say is the brainchild of Mashaun Ali and Resita Cox. Located at Trap House Chicago, the open mic provides unregulated and unrestricted expression for Chicagoans on the South Side.

We teamed up with People Say to ask people, "What do you love about Chicago?"

TRAP House Chicago also known as Teens Reaching All their Potential is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to ending teen crime and violence in the city through education, employment, and entrepreneurship.

Interested in sharing something positive about Chicago? Share your images and videos using the hashtag #CelebrateCHI or email us at kampind@gmail.com for additional information. You can find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Join us as we #CelebrateCHI.

Love letter to my city.

As I reminisce about Chicago from across the pond.

(L - R clockwise from top: Family photo - J. Batambuze, Lake Shore Drive - Ryan_Alioto, Michigan Avenue, Air Jordan, Willis Tower - J.Batambuze )

Dear Chi,

I’ve always been proud to call you my birthplace. In 1975, you welcomed my parents from Uganda with open arms and provided a safe environment for us to grow.

When I was younger, there was nothing more exciting than coming to visit. And, as life progressed, you were “the stage” people gravitated toward to prove themselves.

I moved abroad to England more than a decade ago and haven't seen you for five years. I always knew moving across "the pond" would mean I’d see you less, but lately, you’ve been on my mind.

When I reminisce I remember:

  • The family piling into our Lincoln town car and driving up I-55 to the city
  • Cruising on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue listening to 107.5 WGCI and thinking life couldn't get any better
  • Shopping at Tony's Sports and feeling like I'd found lost treasure
  • Spending enough time in the Robert Taylor Homes to know that everyone doesn’t have the same opportunities to succeed
  • Urban architecture which rivalries ls any city I’ve ever visited in the world
  • Eating at no-name greasy spoon diners after nights out on the town
  • Sports teams and icons who defined culture around the world.

"Where are you from?" is a question often asked when getting to know someone. Lately, I’ve noticed people’s perceptions about you have changed. Instead of talking about Michael Jordan and championships, the conversation has shifted to gun violence and gangs.

Although some people have written you off, I want you to know that I'll always believe in you and cherish the times we spent. #CelebrateCHI is my way of thanking you for what you’ve done.

Interview: How a Chicago Public School Teacher is Sharing The World With Her Students.

Simeon Career Academy teacher Ariam Abraham discusses teaching in CPS, activism, and life lessons she’s learned from traveling.

Nowhere is the opportunity to study abroad more impactful than inner-city Chicago. The nation's third-largest public school system is known for all the wrong reasons. But, amidst this backdrop, the inspiring story of a Simeon Career Academy teacher exposing her students to the world emerges.

Ariam Abraham was born and raised in Chicago to Eritrean parents fleeing a civil war. With family members located around the world, Abraham grew accustomed to travel early. She caught the travel bug before her senior year of high school and is now paying it forward with her Simeon Career Academy students. “I love to travel, I love my work, and I love my kids,” said the second-year teacher. “I wanted to give my students that first exposure early and show them the world's much bigger than Chicago.”

We chatted with Abraham after a spring break trip to Paris and Barcelona with six of her students.

I always joke that my job is the best because there is nowhere else you can go to work, have a great time and have an impact on young kids’ lives.

JB: Chicago Public Schools have experienced hard times. What inspired you to become an English teacher?

AA: Since I was a kid, I loved reading and writing. In the third grade, my goal was to be an author. And, by high school, my love of storytelling pushed me toward journalism. I attended the University of Michigan’s School of Education to share my love of literature and to be a lifelong mentor. I believed teaching was a great way to reach youth in my community. It was always the intention to stay in Chicago, and after briefly teaching in Detroit, I returned home.

Proposal-2 sought to ban affirmative action programs in education and public sector job hiring in Michigan.

JB: At the University of Michigan you started eRACism to fight poor race relations and to support the rehearing of Proposal-2 (ban on affirmative action.) What did you learn from the experience?

AA: I learned about the impact of community and the power we have as small groups. We started eRACism with two people, as an idea to create a space that allows students to talk about their experiences with racism on campus. In 2011, the opportunity to challenge Prop-2 reemerged. Although the hearing was in Cincinnati, we raised money and bussed students to the courthouse to attend in-person. We won by one vote, and I genuinely believe our presence in the courtroom helped persuade the judge who was on the fence. Organising and mobilizing people isn’t that hard. It starts with speaking up, and reaching out to people with similar passions.

JB: You’ve been traveling abroad since an early age. Are there any memories that stick out?

AA:My junior year of high school I traveled to Eritrea with my mother and sisters. Being able to see where my parents grew up, and having that personal connection to the land and the culture was powerful. It put everything in context for me and gave me insight into who my parents were. I discovered a different concept of community while abroad. The vocabulary and the language that people used was so endearing and so familial in comparison to the United States. I remember one occasion when I was walking down the street, and a woman placed a toddler in my arms and said, "Daughter help her cross." I looked at my mother like, "Is this woman crazy?" And, I remember my mother looking at me like it was no big deal. After we'd crossed the street, the child resumed life as if nothing had happened. To me, this embodied the meaning of a safe community and family.

JB: How did the opportunity to take your students abroad happen?

AA: I've had so many positive experiences associated with travel and wanted to share this with my students. In my first year at Simeon, I approached the principal with the proposition to take the kids abroad. He loved the idea. I identified a company called Education First Tours with good reviews and started the process. While I personally found Central American locations like Honduras more appealing, I knew we'd need to get the kids attention with places they were familiar with. We selected Paris and Barcelona as they provided students studying French and Spanish with the opportunity to experience these respective cultures.

(L - R clockwise from top: Barcelona, Park Guell - Barcelona, Sacre Coeur - Paris, Eiffel Tower - Paris)

JB: What impact did the trip have on the children?

AA: I'm not sure where to start. Traveling abroad forces you to achieve some level of comfort with change, and the students were out of their comfort zone in multiple ways throughout the trip. While the students studied French and Spanish, they were frequently dependant on other people to help them communicate. For many of these kids, it was one of the first day times they had experienced being in another time zone that made communicating with loved ones at home difficult.

JB: Any powerful observations the students made while on the trip?

Two occasions stuck out. One of the days we were in Paris, there was horrible weather, and it rained for the majority of the day. While visiting the Eiffel Tower, we encountered at least six different African men within an hour trying to sell us souvenirs. One of my students said, "Ms. Abraham, Black people have to hustle over here too." He seemed shocked by this. It was powerful because he was making connections with his people across the diaspora and realizing we have so much in common.

The second half of the trip was in Barcelona, and we happened to walk past a Jordan resell store. The guy who was working in the store was black, and as we're leaving the guy says, "Wakanda Forever," and does the "X" with his arms. We lost it, myself included. In class, I'd been talking to the students about representation and how much the movie meant for so many people. Seeing how the film directly united us as black people overseas was incredible.

Youth Activism

The face of Chicago you rarely see.

Earlier this year, Simeon Career Academy students joined in the #Enough! National School Walkout. Unfortunately, a small group of students used the opportunity to vandalize a nearby Wal-Mart. The media had a field day.

A group known as the Young Activists rallied students together for the next walkout and called the student body to action. The rally was an opportunity for Simeon students to fight gun violence and #NoCopAcademy

This is youth activism at its finest.