On Monday, Mar. 27, 2023, Public Narrative, in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust, hosted “The Story of Us: A Public Forum,” which was a deeper dive into “The Story of Us: Community Image in the News and Other Forms of Media,” a 2021 report published by Public Narrative that highlights ways in which media impacts the longstanding and many harmful narratives about young men, boys and communities of color in Chicago and beyond.

In 2021, to address the ongoing killings of Black people at the hands of police and the general uptick in racial harm across the country, we worked with the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Chicago) and the National Association of Black Journalists Chicago chapter to assess narratives of Black young men and boys in the news.

Public Narrative conducted a series of conversations among Black, Indigenous and People of Color leaders, journalists, and other media makers. Participants provided thoughtful insights and perspectives highlighting the harmful impact of news and media on Black and Brown communities. They also shared possible solutions to shift harmful narratives.

The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services ‘Healing Illinois’ initiative, funded this study.

About the speakers

Our speakers included participants of the listening sessions that Public Narrative conducted in partnership with the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance for the report. The panel also included the report’s co-authors and a former contributor to the funding support of the report.

Adeshina Emmanuel, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

Adeshina Emmanuel joined KyCIR as Managing Editor in June 2022. Adeshina (or Ade) came to KyCIR from Injustice Watch — a Chicago-based investigative newsroom focused on courts, the criminal justice system, housing and immigration — where he served as editor-in-chief. His work over the past decade has spanned local and national coverage with a focus on institutional injustice. Adeshina has also covered public education at Chalkbeat, investigated race, class and poverty at The Chicago Reporter and served as a neighborhood reporter at hyperlocal news outlet DNAinfo Chicago.

Brandon Pope, Block Club Chicago and WBEZ

Brandon Pope is an award-winning and Emmy-nominated journalist, host, podcaster, media critic and columnist with experience covering a range of topics from politics to sports. His work has been featured at CW26 Chicago, WBEZ, WGN Radio, WVON, Ebony Magazine, Medium, REVOLT and the Chicago Sun-Times. Brandon is currently the host of “On The Block: Powered by Block Club Chicago” on CW26 and the MAKING podcast series from WBEZ and NPR. He is president of the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, where he focuses on shepherding in the next generation of journalists and raising money for scholarships. He’s also an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago.

Carlos Ballesteros, Injustice Watch

Carlos Ballesteros is an investigative reporter at Injustice Watch. He’s most recently written about Chicago police blocking hundreds of undocumented crime victims from applying for legal status and a troubling new report on abuse and neglect of youth with learning disabilities in custody at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Carlos was born and raised in Chicago.

Daniel Ash, Field Foundation

Daniel is president of the Field Foundation of Illinois, a private and independent foundation that, along with its strategic funding partners, distributes more than $4.5 million annually in grants to organizations working to address systemic issues in Chicago’s divested communities. Throughout his professional career, Daniel has focused on developing and using marketing and communication tools to advance social causes. Prior to his current role, Daniel was associate vice president of Community Impact for the Chicago Community Trust. He previously served as the Trust’s chief marketing officer. Before joining the Trust, Daniel was vice president of Chicago Public Media (Chicago’s primary NPR station), where he was a key voice in shaping its overall focus. Daniel earned his M.P.P. from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Economics from Oberlin College. He also completed a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Princeton University.

Evan Moore, DePaul University 

Evan F. Moore is a Chicago-based writer who is the co-author of the book, “Game Misconduct: Hockey’s Toxic Culture and How to Fix It.” Evan’s work has been published in Rolling Stone, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader, and ESPN’s Andscape (formerly The Undefeated). Chicago Magazine, and The Athletic, among many others. Evan, whose hockey writing was featured in the 2019 edition of The Best American Sports Writing book series, attended the Donald Trump Chicago rally and lived to tell about it. He is an adjunct professor at DePaul University.

Jennifer Kho, Chicago Sun-Times (moderator)

Jennifer Kho, co-author of The Story of Us, is the executive editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and president of the Journalism & Women Symposium. She previously served as the managing editor of the Guardian US and HuffPost – where she led the development of new audience engagement, storytelling and revenue models, including membership – and as vice president of journalism and information equity at consultancy DoGoodery. Kho has also conducted journalism research on building healthy news communities, solutions journalism, news habits and gaps. She is an adviser for Bay City News Foundation, The Diversity Pledge Institute and The Pivot Fund, and a subject matter expert for A Picture’s Worth. She belongs to the Asian American Journalists Association and the Online News Association.

Josh McGhee, MindSite News

Josh McGhee covers the intersection of criminal justice and mental health with an emphasis on public records and data reporting at MindSite News, the only national nonprofit news organization dedicated exclusively to mental health reporting. He previously reported for Injustice Watch, the Chicago Reporter, DNAinfo Chicago and WVON, covering criminal justice, courts, policing, race, inequality and politics.

Judy Tozin, MetroMorphisis

Judy began her career as a third-grade teacher in the Harlem section of New York City in 2003 and later became the founding principal of an elementary school in East New York, Brooklyn. Prior to returning to school in the fall of 2020, she served as the Managing Director of Principal Preparation for a rapidly scaling Texas-based charter network. In Judy’s experience as a teacher, principal, and leadership coach, she has consistently sought to help create affirming environments for Black boys and young men. In August 2016, she self-published her first book, ExceptionAL: Black Men Leading, Living, and Loving to amplify the beauty, brilliance, and humanity of Black men and boys across the country. In February 2017, Judy launched The ExceptionAL Project, an extension of that book. Since then, she has worked alongside champions in the Black male achievement field to help share the images, voices, and stories of Black men and boys in hopes of shifting the narrative about who they are and who they get to be in our society. In July 2022, Judy joined MetroMorphosis, a Baton Rouge-based nonprofit organization, as a Doctoral resident to help explore the nature of partnerships that allow collective impact networks to persist and create lasting change. In that role, she has devoted most of her time to helping the city relaunch its local My Brother’s Keeper chapter in partnership with the Capital Area YMCA.

Matthew Harvey, WeHome

Matt Harvey Sr. is an award winning-journalist and creative entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of WeHome, a wellness and creative services enterprise based in Uptown, the neighborhood where he was born, raised, and calls home today. He is the father of one-year-old Stinky Matt, the rightful heir to his fortune.

Vic Brand, Freelance

Victor Brand, co-author of The Story of Us, is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. He has worked for Esquire, Elle, and Paper magazines, as well as HuffPost, where he spent 10 years specializing in issues of style and standards. He is the researcher and author of In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955 (2009).

Vondale Singleton, C.H.A.M.P.S.

Vondale Eugene Singleton Sr. was born on the Southside of Chicago. He is a first-generation college student earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and his Master’s degree in Marital and Family Therapy from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK. He credits his mentor, Steven Robertson as the person who invested in him sacrificially to help him become the man he is today. For the last 20 years, he has worked as an advocate in primary, secondary, and higher education as both a teacher and administrator. He believes that “salvation plus education is an unbeatable combination.” He started C.H.A.M.P.S. for young men in an effort to mentor young men with similar circumstances. He helped organize the award-winning music video for the White House Film Festival, which landed the C.H.A.M.P.S. a visit to the White House with President Obama. Vondale has won numerous awards and many recognitions for his work with C.H.A.M.P.S. He was named the MLK Community Champion, “Father of the Year” for the State of Illinois by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, Walmart Community Playmaker through the coveted Chicago Blackhawks, an Illinois Distinguished Gentlemen of the Year, and most recently a Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand 2023 Community Grantee. He is married to his College sweetheart, Dr. Patrina Singleton and resides in Chicago, Illinois, with their two beautiful children, Promise Singleton, 14, and Vondale E. Singleton, Jr, 9.

Yaseen Abdus-Saboor, Public Narrative

Yaseen Abdus-Saboor is a designer, storyteller and overall creative with a range of graphic design, visual arts and fashion design. After completing his Bachelor of Arts in graphic design at DePaul University in 2019, Yaseen has worked in the nonprofit space with Thrive Chicago and the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative developing and executing strategies to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color. Yaseen also has experience leading an education program focusing on youth media literacy and community engagement as the Education Program Manager and Storyteller with the nonprofit Public Narrative. His passion for equity for Black and Brown communities has led him to bring his creativity and skill set to organizations and initiatives that provide those resources and strategies.

Our partner

Thank you to our venue host and event partner, The Chicago Community Trust, for collaborating with us on the event and for their funding support in our report and the work leading to the published analysis. The Chicago Community Trust is a platform for change that connects philanthropy to impact. CCT makes grants, leads, convenes and collaborates to address the greatest and most critical needs facing the Chicago region, entrusted by the philanthropic resources and visions of individuals and families to the Trust’s stewardship.


Davon Clark took photography of the event for Public Narrative.

"The Story of Us: A Public Forum" by Public Narrative & The Chicago Community Trust

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"The Story of Us: A Public Forum" event hosted by Public Narrative in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust, Monday, Mar. 27, 2023. Photo: Davon Clark for Public Narrative.

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