Thirty years!

That’s how long we as an organization have been changing narratives, making Chicago communities and media more equitable, and amplifying narratives of public health, safety and education. Philip L. Graham, former President and Publisher of the Washington Post said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”

Here’s how we spent our 30th year re-writing history:

In January, a diverse group of Bronzeville residents and other Chicagoans (pictured above) gathered under the leadership of Engage Civil for a few hours of community, sharing in service, and reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In March and April, we hosted news literacy conversations at Carl Schurz High School (above) and Uplift Community High School. Journalists from the Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, Block Club Chicago, Univision and WGN Radio talked with students about how news functions, and youth shared their perspectives about news coverage of their schools and neighborhoods.

In July, the Chicago Police Department launched its Youth District Advisory Council (below). Public Narrative provided communications training to nearly  40 youth and 20 officers, to address CPD’s representation in the media and the impression made on the community. Exploring news headlines, both good and bad, officers and youth were challenged to address the tension between law enforcement and communities, and explore how to heal beyond the inflicted trauma.

Over 100 attendees joined Venise Wagner, a journalism professor at San Francisco State University and co-editor of “Reporting Inequity: Tools and Methods for Covering Race and Ethnicity” as she moderated a discussion on race and ethnicity. Panelists included Alden Loury of WBEZ; Fernando Diaz of The Chicago Reporter; Teri Arvesu of Univision; and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein of Grand Valley State University. Special thanks to our partners at The Goodman Theatre, The Headline Club and NABJ for co-sponsoring.

In September, we launched the Chicago Community, Media & Research Partnership with our partner, the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC) (above) at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Over the next two years, our team of trusted community journalists, community advocates, and researchers will explore ways of creating equitable access to essential health research in under-resourced communities across the city.

Journalists from La Raza, Univision, the Chicago Sun Times, Austin Weekly and WBEZ joined us as we hosted Speed Dating for Census 2020 (above) at UCAN. The event gave community organizations that serve Hard to Count Populations the opportunity to pitch stories to the participating outlets. Special thanks to our partners at UCAN, Forefront and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

In October, we honored four outstanding community-focused Chicago journalists at the 25th annual Studs Terkel Community Media Awards (above): Deborah Douglas, Britt Julious, Jerome McDonnell, and Annie Sweeney (also pictured: past Terkel Winners Aurie Pennick, Cheryl Corley and Tracy Baim). We recognized Jeff McCarter with the Uplifting Voices Award, for his years of working with youth via Free Spirit Media. We also introduced a new category, the Ripple Effect Award, to honor the huge impact that Nikole Hannah-Jones had in Chicago and throughout the country with her 1619 Project.

In December, we partnered with Organic Oneness and others to put on the Be the Healing conference with Dr. Joy DeGruy, in observance of the 400th year of when “the 20 and odd” enslaved West Africans arrived at Port Comfort, Virginia, and the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Race Riots in Chicago. Over 300 Chicagoans came together to learn, reflect, imagine and strategize the creation of an equitable city.

Keynote presenter Dr. Joy A. DeGruy at the Be the Healing Conference at IIT Kent Law School in Chicago, Illinois on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. (Photo by Nancy Wong)

My first year as president couldn’t have been all it has been without the support of our friends and partners mentioned throughout this post and at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago Public Square and Zhou B. Art Center. Thank you for the confidence you’ve instilled in me as I continue to lead Public Narrative into its next chapter.

Join us as we do our part in making Chicago an equitable, just, and news-literate city. Help us continue to build it through trainings, programs and events like these, with a year-end donation. We need your support to continue and expand on the work we do with communities, youth and journalists.

See you next year!

Jhmira Alexander

President and Executive Director