Posts Tagged ‘#membermondays’

Member Mondays are meant to highlight community leaders that showcase the excellence of residents Greater Englewood and Joyce Scott is a great example. Ms Scott has been instrumental in empowering our community through public speaking by spearheading the Toastmasters Club in Greater Englewood. Offering her knowledge of generational wealth building and utilizing her communication proficiency through volunteering, which includes the workshop offered at Kennedy King College by Harvard Professor Steven Rogers called ” Pathways to Capital for Black Entrepreneurs” on September 24th. Ms Scott brings her knowledge and experience to RAGE and Greater Englewood so that we are able to learn from our past.

Origins: Auburn Gresham, Harlen, and Loyola.

Ms Scott was raised and educated in Chicago. Growing up on 90th and Filmore she attended Harlen Academy off of 95th and Michigan Avenue where she says, ” I was in to books, you know getting my studying on, and I was in the honor society”. She enjoyed attending basketball games and going on bike rides. After graduating she stayed in the city and decided to pursue her dream of being an attorney.

Ms Scott attended Loyola University and studied criminal justice. Staying home in Auburn-Gresham she commuted to the Lakeshore campus as well as the campus downtown off of Michigan Ave. Ms Scott saw one major benefit in her commutes saying, ” the nice part of commuting to the Lakeshore campus was being able to do my work on the way”. While attending she was a member of the Black Student Association and after graduating she worked with the Federal Aviation Administration until she retired.

Career:Toastmasters and Consulting

Ms Scott is currently retired but isn’t slowing down her contribution to society for the leisure life. Her passion is empowering her community and she does that through many mediums, but wealth consulting and public speaking is where she hones her skills on. In 2011 she was living in Englewood and was part of Englewood Toastmasters Club for “several years”; originally the Toastmasters Club was based out of Kennedy King College and Ms. Scott says “Once they graduate from Kennedy King College they go to Governor’s State or Prairie state, so once I got on the Englewood board I said ‘well I’m going to talk to people in the community so that we will have members beyond college students'”.With Toastmasters being based on teaching communication and leadership skills, Ms Scott took the club from being Englewood Toastmasters to Greater Englewood Toastmasters.

During Her NIU Public Speaking event.

Ms. Scott considers herself a consultant. Experiencing and learning of the exclusion in generational wealth-building that occurred to the black community during the implementation of redlining, land contract sales, and the structural racism that disenfranchised the black community she has made a mission of educating folks on the importance of estate planning and self-employment. Ms. Scott points out the history stating, “Back in the 60s black families couldn’t get mortgages and they would have land contracts after World War 2 black veterans weren’t able to take out home loans, but other people could; We ought to get reparations”. She looks to talk to people about home-ownership over renting even pointing that it’s possible to get a mortgage with a credit score of 580. She adds, ” I try to tell young people like yourself you can put your money together with someone you trust, buy a property, have them live on the lower level and that can cover your mortgage. You don’t have to have a 700″.

RAGE, Englewood, and Life

Ms Scott’s path to joining RAGE was directly linked to her time as a leader with the Englewood Toastmasters Club. After living here and looking to increase the number of community members who are part of Toastmasters, in 2012 she was invited to Northern Illinois University to “teach the youth about public speaking”. After this event, she became a member of RAGE and was able to host multiple Toastmaster workshops that were open to the public throughout 2013. By 2015 she was even able to facilitate an expo at Teamwork Englewood on self-employment, to where she brought tax professionals to educate the community on the benefits of working for oneself. On the self-employment expo, she states, “there are not a lot of jobs in the Englewood community; there is no industry there; so while you have a job you want training for your side hustle or to start a business”. Though she no longer lives in Englewood her presence still resonates.

During her time with RAGE she has had many unforgettable moments.During her trip to NIU she developed a bond with Samiya Butler, who was her, “little helper”, which even led to Ms Scott attending her prom send-off. During her time with Toastmasters she witnessed residents like Andrea Natay Drane, Cherice Price, and Michelle Rashad grow into the leaders they are today. Drane and Price both were in the first Englewood Business Pitch Competition and Ms Scott has been gifted to see their growth as local entrepreneurs. Rashad has impressed Ms Scott by taking on president duties with the Greater Englewood Toastmasters Club. Of all these moments, her most favorite is the opportunities she has to volunteer with RAGE as an ambassador and assisting the Health and Wellness Taskforce and the Jobs and Economic Development Taskforce with the Quality of Life Plan.

Joyce Scott joined RAGE because “they help do good in the community”. Her favorite quote is, ” you can have anything that you want in life if you help others get what they want”. Both these statements reflect the altruistic spirit that Joyce brings to her community work. The issues that impact Englewood affect Auburn-Gresham, where she is part of a neighborhood accountability group on the red light cameras and the ticketing practices. She is still active in Toastmasters within her community and stays up to date on the happenings in Greater Englewood. RAGE is blessed to have members like Joyce Scott and we thank you for all of your contributions!


Origins: West Englewood

Photo by Tonika Johnson for #EnglewoodRising Member Profiles

This Member Monday we have the pleasure of profiling RAGE member Jonathan Brooks. Brooks is the Pastor of Canaan Community Church, an artist, educator, activist, and community developer. Known as “Pastah J”, Brooks uses his diverse portfolio of talents and his international platform as a public speaker to advocate for transformative change. Brooks contributions to Greater Englewood is amplified by joining RAGE, yet what was his path to our resident association?

Brooks is a Chicago native who grew up mostly living on 64th and South Wolcott.  He and his mother moved frequently but in his book, Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods, he states in the first chapter “I always called myself an Englewood resident”. He graduated from Hubbard High School in West Lawn and went to Alabama to attend Tuskegee University studying architecture and grounding himself in Christianity. This is where he met Sho Baraka, started rapping, and became more serious about faith. In his book, he jokes, “It’s hard to move to Alabama and not come back a Christian!”

Career: Back Home and to The Pulpit

In 2002, his mother suffered a stroke while teaching her pre-K class. He had recently graduated and was making the decision on what he was going to do with his life and coming back to Chicago seemed to be a no-brainer at that moment. Moving back to Chicago he found himself working in education, married to his wife Miche’al with his first child, and in the role of youth minister at Canaan Missionary Baptist Church near where he grew up. He was also active with his hip-hop group Out-World and finished their first album, “Undivided Attention”, during this time. In late 2005 his Senior Pastor, Lacy Simpson Jr, asked him if he had ever considered being a pastor and by March 2006 he was pressed to take the position at Canaan. He and his family were living in Bronzeville and this decision to become a pastor led to him moving back to Englewood.

Now the senior pastor of Canaan Community Church, a traveling presenter for Christian Community Development Association, an established writer, a professor at Chicago Semester, and an established vocalist Brooks is an asset to Greater Englewood. When he moved back he originally lived on 72nd and Honore before moving directly next to his church and supports community organizations like Teamwork Englewood, Kusanya Cafe, Growing Home, amongst many others. With his degrees from Tuskegee University for architecture, National Louis for a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Masters of Divinity from Northern Seminary in Christian Community Development he uses his talents and skills to change the narrative of Greater Englewood.

RAGE, Englewood, and Life

Brooks found out about RAGE through our president’s, Asiaha Butler, blog The Life of Mrs. Englewood. This was during the time of the school closings during Rahm’s administration and after reading her words he wondered, “Who is this?” He then found out about a RAGE meeting at the Kelly Branch library and attended. He says of this moment, “I went and I just sat and listened I didn’t bother anyone I just wanted to hear what was going on; It was here I met Asiaha, Demond, Corrinn and Phil after just walking up and saying, “’Hey my name is Jay and I appreciate what you all are doing’. That’s how I found out about RAGE just reading about Englewood, going to a meeting and leaving saying, ‘Wow, that’s deep”. This has led him to become an active member taking part in the Englewood Quality of Life Plan‘s Education Task Force and Public Safety Task Force as well as using his platform to promote the work being done in the community. He is also on the Board of Directors for Englewood’s very own Kusanya Cafe and working with Phil Sipka, from his very first RAGE meeting.

Photo from

His favorite RAGE moment was a moment that inspired him to work harder within the faith-based community. He did an episode on CAN TV about why churches should be connected more to the community. They accepted callers and one of the callers retweeted the episode to RAGE’s twitter and stated, “Churches should be more connected to the community; Pastah J is the exception and should be the rule”. Though this was a compliment it made Brooks realize that he had spent years making his church exceptional, yet to the community, “It was a rule that churches don’t care”. He later adds, “It really has changed the trajectory of my life”, as he now spends more of his energy speaking and writing on churches practicing presence within their community. Being part of RAGE has helped him not only hold himself and the faith-based community accountable, but he even states” if I can pick a model of what it looks like to make transformation happen RAGE is going to be it”.

As mentioned earlier, Brooks is married To Miche’al Newman-Brooks and has two daughters, Jasmine and Jade. Brooks has a love for music and he has a partnership with the Chicago Children’s Choir of which he is an alum. His love of service led him to become the city director of Mission Year; his church runs 5 Loaves Co-Op to increase healthy food options for the nearby community, as well as Canaan Community Redevelopment Corporation. His passion for hip-hop has fully crossed over into his ministry as he is a leader in hip-hop worship. Brooks believes that freestyling is his most natural form of praise adding, “Somebody in this audience right now is being liberated today by the fact that the main speaker is a black man from the south side of Chicago that’s gonna rap and he’s rocking Jordans, jeans, and a snapback”. 

Picture from his Daystar school of Hip-Hop worship

Brooks favorite quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon called Knowing Your Enemies. King’s quote is, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that, hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that”, which Brooks uses as a reminder of how change is made in the neighborhood. Brooks states, “It’s not about decreasing violence it’s about increasing peace; The more good we do will drown out the negative. That’s what drew me to RAGE, it wasn’t about getting together to sit around figuring out who to blame.” RAGE is proud to continue to create good in Greater Englewood with Pastah J!

Thank you, Pastah J, for serving Greater Englewood!

Origins: London, Florida, Texas, DC, Chicago

Mamta posing for Oprah’s magazine

This month’s #MemberMonday will continue the theme of highlighting health professionals with this profile on Mamta Swaroop, MD FACS. Mamta is not a resident of Englewood, but through her career as a medical doctor and trauma surgeon, she has become part of the story of not only Englewood, but also Chicago. RAGE facilitates bringing her community based program and academic undertakings into practice and allowed her to contribute her international perspective to our Greater Englewood community.

Mamta was born in London, England and was raised in Houston, Texas. Attending Alief Hastings High School, Mamta spent her youth playing basketball on the street, skateboarding and doing community theater; she participated in speech and debate; and adds, “ I also had this weird thing about taking care of the animals in the neighborhood”, which reflects her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. Only during her 11th-grade year did her goal of being a doctor change, when her English teacher inspired her to think about teaching, but she pursued her medical education immediately after graduating HS and starting college at Texas A&M.

Mamta during a highlight of her work from ABC News

With her sights set on becoming a doctor, she majored in microbiology at Texas A & M; went to Mcgovern Medical School at UT Houston to become an infectious disease doctor; and started a 3 state journey to become a trauma surgeon. Mamta went to Washington D.C. for her general surgical training at the Washington Hospital Center, then transferred to the University of South Florida to complete this training. She did a year of fellowship at Northwestern University that all trauma surgeons must complete. Why Northwestern? “I came to Chicago to follow a boy”, Mamta laughs while adding, “ I think God works in very interesting ways because 11 years later I am still there”. Mamta and the boy broke up 3 months before she moved, but it wasn’t a mistake to come to the Windy City.

Career: The Need For First Responders

Mamta arrived in Chicago in 2009 not knowing a soul and hating cold weather. The director of Northwestern’s program still jokes to the new fellows, “you can always wear your NorthFace like Mamta”, as she essentially wore her coat all the time during our infamous winters. During her fellowship, the surgeons developed a partnership that grew into a community with the hospital responders and that community grew with the partnership with the now-defunct Ceasefire (the work now being done by Acclivus. This partnership led her to her first community meeting in Englewood.

Mamta teaching her course. ABC News

Mamta’s introduction to Englewood through Ceasefire also introduced her to the violence intervention strategy that was introduced in PBS’s The Interruptors. This was a program that was part of the national initiative called Cure Violence, and Mamta was fortunate enough to not only witness the implementation of this nationally recognized program but she also was in the opening scene of PBS’s special, even if it was only for a few seconds. Though she was new to Chicago and Englewood, Mamta’s orientation with the community through the relationship of hospital responders, violence interruptors, and trauma surgeons showed her that she had to become more involved to make Chicago a better place. Mamta says, “I get really offended when people say things about Chicago because it’s not like they are doing anything about it, so when people are trying to do something to me that’s amazing”. The fellowship was the call to action that has kept her in Chicago for over 11 years.

Mamta has made sure to do as much as she can with her perspective and experience as a trauma surgeon. She is the co-chair of the Women in Medicine Summit where they work to find solutions to gender inequity in the medical fields. She is the founder of the Sadanah Firm, which “aims to build access to health care and education in low resource settings by funding and promoting grassroots organizations”. She is the director of Northwestern’s Center for Global Surgery and Northwestern’s Trauma and Surgical Initiatives (, which both aim to break through barriers for equitable health care. She was even featured in O Magazine’s 2018 Health Heroes for her Chicago Southside Trauma First Responder course (Trauma Responders Unify to Empower, or TRUE), an honor that wouldn’t have been possible without building strong community partnerships.

Englewood, RAGE, and Life

Image from Northwestern’s Institute of Global Health

It was in 2017 that Mamta was fortunate enough to have an intern name Jeremiah who introduced her to RAGE. He attended a So Fresh Saturday (last of the year is the 31st!) and through Michelle Rashad connected Mamta with our association. Mamta said, “ I probably sounded psychotic the first time I talked to people”, she reminisced adding “I’m not insane, I’m just really excited because if I can do anything, if I can connect bridges and make someone see something, because of my title, I’m gonna do it”. When asked why she joined  she states, “I may not live in Englewood, but I care for the patients and the people who live in Englewood”, even adding, “ to me it’s really important because how are you going to care for a community if you don’t even know the community”.

Mamta’s favorite moments have been seeing Commander Johnson interact with the community at different meetings. She points out, “the entire community was there… his engagement says so much”. She also looks forward to collaborating with the different task-forces adding, “ If anyone wants to set up a course with NTSI for the Trauma first responder they can go to the website”. Mamta looks forward to collaborating with Public Safety and Health & Wellness with her course or organizational support.

Mamta is an advocate for international healthcare equity. When asked about her passion she starts a speech that could only be done by a regular lecturer. Mamta says, “the constitution of the world health organization says the highest obtainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being, the right to health includes access to timely, acceptable, and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality. The dominant burden of health problems tends to be endured by vulnerable and marginalized groups in our society”. RAGE looks forward to collaborating with Dr. Swaroop and empowering the community to deal with healthcare barriers. Our association has members from all over with unique experiences and backgrounds and we are grateful to have Mamta as a part of RAGE!


Origins: Background and Education

Lauren – Senior Fitness

Lauren Providence’s business motto is, “If your body isn’t becoming to you, you should be coming to us”. The leader of RXercises© and Fort Providence Senior Boot Camp, she is a certified personal trainer, life coach, and paraprofessional certified diabetes educator through the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Her favorite R.A.G.E. moment was at So Fresh Family Fitness Night at Ogden Park- March Madness Edition, where she was able to serve the 50+ community . This Member Monday we will see how Lauren brings resources and opportunities to Englewood.

Lauren was born and raised in Queens, New York, and Philadelphia before making Chicago her home. She graduated from the city’s number one STEM, Stuyvesant High School and continued her college education at the Wharton School of Business, at the University of Pennsylvania” where she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance and Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. Her early entry to Wall Street, and the opportunities afforded to her by Travis Bell, the owner of Daniels & Bell Inc, the only Black investment firm with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for decades.

Career: Finance and Health

 She became the first black female to own and control an investment banking and securities brokerage firm in this country, and also was the first minority firm to complete an initial public offering (IPO) of stock for a company.  Lauren clarifies,” with the support of politicians, like Harold Washington and many other black mayors and dignitaries nationwide she had the support to maintain her position as 51% owner of a municipal bond firm named, Gibbons Hester Providence Inc”. Lauren provided individuals of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to explore investment banking and securities brokerage. The opportunities were granted to 30 individuals from Chicago’s south and west sides to broaden the horizons for their community

Over the following years,  Lauren felt there was an issue of awareness of healthcare resources and utilization. Lauren calls this “disparities in healthcare”. As someone who has dealt with COPD, Lauren believes you should “love yourself as who you are but rather than dwell on the negatives, delve into the possibilities”! She practices that model through her health coaching services throughout the community.

Lauren with a group of seniors in her fitness program

She founded Fort Providence Fitness and Rxecercises©  as ways to offer seniors and individuals suffering from a gamut of over 65 pathologies. Those diseases include diabetes and all of its comorbidities like hypertension, neuropathy, heart disease, obesity and more. Scientific evidence suggests that exercise and food are medicine. Upon that premise, she gave individuals an outlet for personalized exercise at several local senior residential housing facilities that included Englewood’s Tolton Manor, as well as Brendan and Hayes Manors.

 In a health partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, she positively impacted the health of scores of seniors. As an advocate of the President’s Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition, many senior participants received commendations signed by Barack Obama.  Lauren believes you should “love yourself as who you are but rather than dwell on the negatives, delve into the possibilities!” She practices that model through her health coaching services throughout the community.

Lauren impacts the community in multiple ways with her partnership with Catholic Charities and Chicago Housing Authority. Lauren was able to provide a program to deal with health through exercise and participation with the, a food distribution program servicing the Englewood community, she offered her menu planning services and revenues generated through her efforts helped to support her senior fitness programs. Through Rxercises© she partnered with local organizations to offer a Fall Prevention Program with Georgia Doty Comprehensive Health. Her organizations offered programs on balance and other health and fitness issues related to diabetic neuropathy for those over 55.

Englewood, Life, and RAGE

Lauren became a R.A.G.E. member in 2017 after attending a few community meetings. Lauren’s new hobby is buying property and she states that watching Aysha Butler “impressed” her and “promulgated” her to buy her first property in Englewood. Lauren has a wealth of information on Englewood’s healthcare resources, so the Quality of Life Plan’s Health and Wellness Taskforce was a natural fit for this health professional. Regarding one of the recent programs, Englewood health navigators, Lauren states that her interests were sparked since she is “looking to partner with someone in the community that battles disparities in health within communities of color”. Lauren believes R.A.G.E. is important for Englewood because of its leadership that “attracts people and stays relevant”.

Lauren’s favorite R.A.G.E. moment was hosting her senior fitness class at So Fresh Family Fitness Night. It was her first event in a community space that was open to the public and she was really impressed by the turnout. She plans on offering that to the community again, but she was also inspired to launch more community events like an upcoming event for National Diabetes Day. She also wants to utilize her Englewood property to either make a veteran housing center or housing for “mothers on the come-up”. 

 She uses different coaching protocols for issues, financial or physical, and has plans of creating support for under-resourced communities, like veterans and mothers. Lauren lives near a group of girls who are part of a dance team she has seen at multiple events. Recently Lauren mustered up the motivation to run out and say, “I love this!”, when they were practicing their routine. She is now sponsoring Englewood’s Golden Elite Dance Group at this season’s Bud Billiken parade. She encourages the community to support them and other groups with a positive impact here. 

This Fall, RXercises© will be launching WateRworxxX, an alkaline/ CBD infused hydrating beverage; she’s seeking mixed-use, retail and residential space to house the endeavor and provide employment and housing under the Opportunity Zone constraints. When speaking of National Diabetes Day, where she will be facilitating an event, and Englewood, she said, “65% of the area is obese and obesity causes heart disease”.She will also be launching a pre-diabetes prevention program, this November, that is fully backed by the Center For Disease Control; she hopes to be a CDC recognized facilitator within 2020.  RAGE is excited to have Lauren as a member and hope her message and work reaches more residents in Englewood!

Thank You, Ms Providence, For Your Dedication To R.A.G.E.!!!

Origins: Background and Education

Picture from

Born at Cook County Hospital and raised near Ogden Park, Sunni Ali Powell promotes “positivity and professionalism” in the Englewood community by using his platform as a licensed barber-teacher. With the grand opening of his new location on the horizon, Sunni has plans to impact the future narrative of Englewood.

Sunni graduated from De Lasalle Institute in 1988 and spent a combined five years studying film and television at Southern Illinois Carbondale University and Columbia College. Sunni is in the Director’s Guild of America while being the electrician for “international Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, . He worked on A/V equipment while studying and even won “Best Film” while attending Columbia This led to him working on the set of many pop culture favorites like the television shows E.R., CSI, Chicago Hope and the movies Hoodlum, Ali, Malibu’s Most Wanted, The Johnson Family Vacation, and Contagion. Powell felt Chicago was in a “good film mode” which led him to work in Chicago for 5 years, yet his work continued in Atlanta and Los Angeles. It was his time in LA that turned him into the union barber of today.

Career: Road to Barbering

From Sunni Ali Powell’s Twitter

For three years Sunni was in a relationship with Kim Kimble, Beyonce’s Hairstylist. He sold her hair products and was graced with the opportunity to travel the world “all because I was Beyonce’s hairstylist boyfriend”. Traveling all over the world not only blessed him with an international perspective but familiarized him with the hair game, as he helped manage her shop in West Hollywood. Always a pioneer with hair, claiming to be “one of the first dudes in Chicago who had dreadlocks”, he took his wisdom of the hair-game to Englewood to become the premier professional barber

Powell’s Barbershop tagline is “ the heart of Englewood”. With Sunni’s goal “to sustain, push forward, and propagate barbering” he wants to regain the barbers status as a respectable career. Believing barbers can promote “peace and positivity or violence and disease”.Hosting community resource events, supplying free books to the community, offering free hair cuts to kids, partnering with organizations in the shop, among many other things. At the new location Powell’s will be offering offering a barber college for students and granting the opportunity for “barbers to become owners after 3 years”. This partnership will create the opportunity for the collective of entrepreneurs to “be the example and the conduit to do it all again”.

Englewood, Life, and R.A.G.E.

Sunni was friends with Rashanah Baldwin when he found out about R.A.G.E . Baldwin worked with Aysha Butler and Sonya Harper on CAN TV so she invited Sunni to a R.A.G.E. meeting at Teamwork Englewood for local entrepreneurs. After the meeting he started to partner with community organizations through the association for his community events . Sunni adds, “if it wasn’t for R.A.G.E I wouldn’t be here”.

In 2016 there was a shooting at Powell’s Barber and Englewood came together. R.A.G.E. held a meet and greet fitting the tactics of the Public Safety Task-Force; gave Powell’s $1000 with Mr. Leak stating, ‘a lot of people got shot at my business and I almost closed down, but people came to me and helped me so I’m going to help you”; Sunni even partnered with R.A.G.E to use his donation for a big back-to-school event with Leak and Sons’funding. Through a networking event he even met Deon Lucas, an architect, who introduced Sunni to the retail thrive zone grant and is part of EG Woode.

Being a long time R.A.G.E. member, Sunni’s favorite moments were the various meetings held by the association. He said, “something great was happening”, at the meetings since it was the “ the barometer of the neighborhood”. He is part of the Jobs and Economic Development Taskforce where he love to promote the job fairs and thinks So Fresh Saturdays (R.A.G.E. summer park festival) are “off the chain. His favorite R.A.G.E moment was standing on the stage at Lindblom Math and Science Academy with Michelle Rashad, Alderman Lopez, The Police Commander, himself, and “all the cats”. 

Picture from Alysha’s Facebook

Sunni’s significant other is Alysha Monique who he met at Whole Foods Englewood’s 5 after 5 event, which was curated by Erik Jones’ Blue Sapphire experience. Sunni describes her as, “ a jazz musician with a college degree who can sit at the piano and play about 500 songs”. She will be the booking agent at the new EG Woode location for music talent and will be hosting an event at Kusanya Cafe on July 31st called, “Chocolat Noir”.

Sunni has a 16 year old son named Hannibal Langston Powell. Sunni named him after a general and a poet, based on the Carthage general and most photographed man of the 19th century. He attends Walter Payton College Prep and is the only child.

Sunni looks at the culture of his field and states,”my passion is to inspire others to do great things with this platform outside of cutting hair”. One way is by utilizing his guild, Chicago Barbers Alliance, and having a “Westside vs Southside” competition. He also works with Urban Prep’s program with the intention of allow the students of the junior college barbering program to get their 1500 hours to be able to have their barber’s license. His passion for changing barber’s perspective of their profession involves having the presence in the community to be a mentor.

Thank You Mr Powell For Your Dedication To R.A.G.E.!!!!

Samuel L Jackson at Powell’s Barbershop for the filming of Chiraq

This Week’s Member Monday is On Maria Pike and her path to R.A.G.E.

Maria holding a picture of her son Ricky, who was a victim of gun violence

Maria Pike’s journey to becoming a R.A.G.E. member is a hero’s journey. Personal tragedy has propelled her into the midst of the battle for the spirit of Chicago, as well as securing a brighter future for the youth. Belonging to multiple organizations, Maria’s life mission is to create change  on a structural and community level that will enact sensible policy shifts that will make all of Chicago great.

Born in Peru, in a family of seven, her father worked hard to send all of her siblings to private school. During this time she developed a love for language, speaking Spanish, English, and studying German in her youth. After high school she studied hotel management that led her on an international journey to Brazil, England, and Spain; during her travels she learnt French, Portuguese, and Italian. Working for the 5-Star Sheraton International Hotels, she was transferred to a location Rio De Janeiro; in London she continued her studies for three years; she also spent two years in Barcelona where she was a hair model. She finished her collegiate studies in the US, attending Durham College and UNC in North Carolina and Roosevelt University in Chicago, though she only earned an associates with a plethora of advanced language credits.Through a series of fortunate events, her general manager from Brazil had an opportunity for her to work at a hotel in Evanston. She was in her 20’s when she came to Illinois.

Initially living and working in Evanston, Maria landed a job at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and moved to Rogers Park. Following her time there she moved to Lakeview where she lived for 27 years, before moving to Pilsen where she lives now. On these events leading her to becoming a Chicagoan she states,” it was odd because you wouldn’t imagine that this person (her GM) was from our continent. He opened four hotels in Latin America and he ends up moving to the states to the middle of the country, to a place called Evanston”. Maria adds, “ it’s one of those odd things that happen in your life and you are like, ‘oh, is this planned’”?!

By the early 90’s she had to change her career to raise her two sons, as the 70 hours per week in the hotel left little quality time with her kids. She became a realtor and ran an antique store, utilizing her skill for restorative craftsmanship. As a realtor she specialized in restoring rundown homes and sale them for a profit, even acquiring two “bungalows” off of 64th and Maplewood, which made her familiar with Englewood. Craftsmanship isn’t the only restorative work she had a calling for, as the death of one of her son’s led her to restorative justice work.

Maria’s two sons.

Her eldest son, Ricky Pike, was murdered outside his new apartment in Logan Square during August of 2012. An aspiring restaurant owner, Ricky’s death was a catalyst for Maria to fight for the future of the children of Chicago; with Logan Square being considered a ‘safe’ community Maria knew that the fight against gun violence was a fight that impacted all communities. She became an advocate against gun violence, joining groups like Chicago Survivors, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, along with many others. This traumatic moment changed her life to, “want to find out why people killed without any remorse”.

Ricky’s death was in the midst of Chicago developing a new moniker…Chiraq. With a combination of hip hop, reactionary news, and Spike Lee’s artistic direction a constellation of forces wanted to brand the city as synonymous with a war zone. Spike Lee’s Chiraq came out three years after Ricky’s murder, but the stinge of it still impacted survivors of gun violence. For Maria this was, “total disrespect to survivor moms”, especially after St Sabina allowed and commended the usage of the title of his film, while bringing survivor moms to endorse the film. Maria felt that the survivor moms were being used as props, stating,” I was bursting with anger because the majority of survivors number in the thousands”, pointing out there were less than 80 in the group that Father Pfleger claimed to represent. This even led Maria to write the screenwriter, Kevin Willmott, demanding he change the name, though he claimed it not possible as the agreement was already complete. Maria felt the film was, “insulting a whole generation of children and they are the ones who need the most uplifting”.

Chiraq acted as a rallying call for those who wanted to change the narrative of how Chicago’s Englewood community was viewed. Award winning news anchor, Robin Robinson, wanted to interview moms who were against the premise and Maria was invited. President of R.A.G.E., Aysha Butler, was also invited to talk about what she thought about her community being called Chiraq. During this meeting, Aysha stated, “It really goes against the people who live there and have been here for generations, and who have children, and it labels them unfairly”. Maria agreed with that sentiment,  so she started talking to Aysha. Maria adds, “she said she had meetings, called R.A.G.E., and I started going to her meetings”.

Image may contain: 8 people, including Maria Pike, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
Maria and others with Mayor Lightfoot

Maria became a member of R.A.G.E due to how organized the meetings were, the amount of respect given to the members, and the fact they put the information in laymen’s terms. Maria spouts, “if a member attacks you (R.A.G.E.) they do not promote the sort of shutting down… they go in a very polite way. They say, ‘can we talk offline’, ‘can we talk about this after’; they never give mess a chance”. Maria believes this communication is respectful to the seniors in the community who she believes are the most loyal community members. She points to the work done on TIF’s, stating, “they took the time to go through a university to get compiled data to find out exactly how TIF is understood by the general public”. After close to five years of being a member of R.A.G.E., she uses it as her primary outlet for community work.

You can find Maria at most meetings taking an active role. She takes part in the Quality of Life Plan through many task forces, but most of her time is dedicated to Public Safety and Education work, where she advocates for trauma-informed care and integrating a curriculum with CPS that includes ethnic studies and SEL. She continues her fight against gun violence, as she is a fellow with Everytown for Gun Safety, while advocating for restorative practices like Quiet Time and peace circles. For example, in regards to quiet time, she states, ”Quiet Time is used in some suburban rich schools, but where it’s most needed is in under-served schools because of dysfunctional families and dysfunctional communities”. She’s been at every community event I’ve attended, when not representing us outside the community.

Outside of the amazing community work she takes part in, Maria loves to travel. Whenever she can, she enjoys going to the Carolina Coasts to go fishing. When she doesn’t have time she tries catching up on outdoor living shows. She also practices transcendental meditation, a silent practice.