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EarthHeart Foundation Fundraiser

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EARTHHEART FOUNDATION

For more than 5 years, EarthHeart has provided resources and wrap-around services to mothers in the Chicago communities of Englewood and Woodlawn. Residing in asset deficient neighborhoods – women are often underserved, overlooked and overloaded with daily demands. We believe mothers are the untapped resource and remedy for corners in crisis. Often invisible and voiceless, they are the once hidden figures that bond families and build thriving zip codes. EarthHeart Foundation provides high-touch programs to equip mothers with essential information, education, and resources to produce empowered community leaders, youth advocates, and facilitators of peace.

EarthHeart Board Members

  • Deirdre Koldyke, Founder
  • Jasmine Johnson
  • Marielle Sainvilus
  • Nina Abnee
  • Laura Van Peenan
  • Ashley Floyd
  • Monica Green
  • Monique Mervin

About This Event

Housed in the art gallery of the Chicago Center for Arts and Technology, this portrait installation layers thoughtful statements over graceful images, “Do You See Me?” is a photo exhibition that explores the triumphs and trials of being a black woman in the United States. This collection of stunning images leave a permanent imprint on your heart – telling visual stories that penetrate your soul, and resonate with your conscience.

MARY RAFFERTY

A professional photographer for more than 15 years, Mary began her career as a photojournalist, and continues to draw from her roots as a storyteller. Her current projects explore women in America and the complex lives they lead. She investigates the challenges they face, including the formation of identity, racial discrimination, and their relationships with their bodies. For each woman photographed, she hopes to reveal not only the truth of her life, but also give insights into her resilience and strength.

CHICAT

The Chicago Center for Arts & Technology is focused on the power of unifying communities, the connection between art and technology, and the benefits of engaging and teaching in an inspirational and beautiful environment.

CHICAT opened its doors in Spring, 2017 to offer life-affirming, after-school arts and technology education for students and innovative vocational training for adults. The association is fueled by creativity, innovation, and the passion to leverage community strengths, interests, and wisdom.

“All Things Are Possible,” is the Mantra for Englewood Peace Activist Determined to Make Things #GreatinEnglewood

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From her home at the corner of one of the most dangerous blocks in Chicago – Halsted and 63rd streets – Asiaha Butler is always on edge, praying for the safety of her teenage daughter and the other children in Englewood who are frequently in danger, always at risk for being in the path of flying bullets.

On a recent afternoon, 18-year-old Samaiya is home on Spring Break, calling Butler at the downtown real estate management office she works, eager for her mom to get home and escort her a block away to the library to research funding opportunities for college next Fall.

“Safety is a huge issue and I need to take her everywhere she goes,” says Butler, who has become a vital source of support for children in Englewood. “You’re always on pins and needles. It’s a psychological challenge as a mom living and trying to protect your kids in an environment where you are always hearing gun fire.”

Known as “Mrs. Englewood”, Butler believes that the key to transforming Englewood lies in the residents themselves. In 2007, she began engaging teenagers in the community by hosting free documentary films on weekends and holding discussions on how violence, low-income families and other social justice issues are portrayed in the media.

Word on Butler’s popular movie nights spread quickly. “People didn’t realize you could fill a room of teens by putting on a movie, giving them some popcorn and having a dialogue,” she says.

Growing up on the South Side, Butler is guided by her passion make a difference. When she and her husband just couldn’t take the danger anymore they made the wrenching decision to move away and join family and get a fresh start in Georgia. But, “I’m not a quitter, I just couldn’t leave and not do something to create change,” she says.

So, she rolled up her sleeves, and went door-to-door to mobilize residents and have them become the voice of the community. In 2011, she founded and currently is president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE), formed to encourage residents to take a more active role in the community and transform it for positive change. Five years later, the association boasts almost 200 active members.

A former winner of the EarthHeart Foundation’s Mother of Magnitude (MOM) award for outstanding service and peace building in Englewood, she truly is a mother who is a leader and role model for others.

“EarthHeart has made a tremendous impact on Englewood by creating a space where moms and their children can come together safely,” says Butler. “It’s one of the few opportunities moms can spend time with their children and be calm and peaceful, not worrying that they are in danger.”

She is on a mission.

“I use a simple formula: passion plus commitment times consistency minus doubt, multiplied by inspired action equals ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE,” says Butler, who is supervisor of Education Services for the Institute of Real Estate Management. She applies the business acumen and action-based strategy building skills she’s learned on the job to rally others to create change in Englewood.- organizing residents to get involved in local politics, to speak up.

“Our biggest challenge is the misconception of what others think about the residents of Englewood,” she says. “Most feel we are incapable of addressing and solving our own issues. Therefore, we have to be clear and sometimes provocative in our messaging in order to shift this narrative. While others talk negatively about our community, we have consistently shared the greatness that we observe on a daily basis in order to change the negative perception of this community.”

Sonya Harper: 2015 Mother of Magnitude (MOM) Award Winner

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What’s your role as a mother?

I see my role as being a mother to my own child and to my community. As a mother in the community, my role is to look at the community with a mother’s love, love it unconditionally, and not just focus on at what’s wrong with it. My community is special to me, and just like a mom, I will do whatever I can to ensure my child and my community is prosperous and healthy. My role as a mother is not just for the other children in the community, but I’m a mother to every piece of the community: kids, women, men, parks, animals, etc. My role is to figure out what can I do to help the community to flourish, just as a mother looks at her child. As a mother, I am figuring out how I can make Englewood flourish and the people here to flourish.  I do this through my work on a number of different councils, committees, campaigns and organizations.

How do you envision mothers using their power and voice to make a difference? 

When moms get up and talk, people listen. People have respect for moms when they stand up. There are so many other organization, just like EarthHeart, where moms come together for a common cause (such as against drunk driving, against violence) and they make a big difference and people listen to them. Overall, people look to women to be the outspoken advocates on issues. In that respect, issues arise in a community, but nothing changes until women become the sounding alarm for whatever is going wrong in a community or a society. Women are also nurturing and they are organizers. They know who and what is needed in order to make things better, and can help promote certain things and keep things under control. When you’re simply maintaining or even creating change, it’s up to the women and the moms to be the outspoken entity. We have the world’s greatest assignment in sticking up for our children on a daily basis – and we apply that to our communities and apply that to our society too. Women are also more collaborative and can come from a more collaborative standpoint when it comes to dealing with community issues.

What did receiving the 2015 MOM award mean to you?

Receiving the mom award made me realize that people do pay attention to the hard work that you do. It made me realize that I was doing something special, because maybe on some level, I didn’t feel it was something special – I just felt it was something everyone should be doing. To be awarded for something you’re supposed to be doing, encourages you to do a little bit more, and it makes you step back and think:  How can i be even more effective? If EarthHeart thinks I’ve done some great things, how can I find even more people and encourage them and spread this work to them? How can I have an even bigger impact? In my daily life, it’s hard to know I’m making a difference, and I’m going through the same things my neighbors are going through. At the end of the day, winning the 2015 MOM award was a very encouraging thing. It’s encouraging in the way it can inspire others to action.

Background Information

Sonya Harper is from West Englewood and was very active in her community as a teenager. She worked in TV news as a journalist, producer , reporter, and writer, but she grew tired of adding to the negative stereotypes and so she decided to leave the news behind. She began to work on public relations and community organizing. She wanted to work with organizations in her community to ensure that better stories start coming out of Englewood. She wanted to make sure the stories about her neighborhood weren’t just about  who got shot last night – but instead, she was motivated to tell the TRUE story of her community.  Englewood has suffered years and years of neglect and abuse and exploitation which led to desperate situation. Englewood became an empty community with no jobs for anyone, and Sonya realized that in the presence of being neglected by the city and by the community, nobody was telling what caused these problems in Englewood. Sonya aims to debunk the negative stories and she works with other organizations, inspiring them to work better and more efficiently. Every organization that Sonya works with, she works to spread positive news, perform direct outreach to neighbors, and improve everyone in her communities quality of life. On another level, Sonya works to get elected officials that have power to facilitate change to extend their work even further. Sonya conducts a lot of meeting and organizing and her main goals are:  1. to change the perception of her community, 2. to implement the plans created by organizations and elected officials, and 3. to have a more peaceful community.

Growing Friendships, Hope and a Safe Haven in Englewood: Cordia Pugh Named 2016 Mother of Magnitude by EarthHeart Foundation

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As a child being growing up in Englewood, Cordia Pugh has fond memories of working alongside her grandfather, a farmer from Mississippi who had moved to the South Side, planting tomatoes, lettuce and flowers to transform their tiny yard into a lush garden.

Fast-forward almost 50 years, and today, this mother of five, grandmother and retired executive assistant for the MacArthur Foundation, is being lauded May 7, 2016 by the EarthHeart Foundation for bringing her powerful voice – and her trowel to plant vegetable seedlings and hope on a stretch of land where drug kingpins once ruled.

Planted in 2011, today, the Hermitage Street Community Garden, a family allotment garden in Englewood, has more than 60 gardeners and a waiting list of another 60, demonstrating that those who live in Englewood are determined to give new life to their community by replacing cheap, fast foods, with healthier fare.

The project, and a nearby meditation garden for veterans, speak volumes about Pugh’s efforts to greatly improve the health of the urban poor through her efforts to plant gardens with fresh fruits and vegetables to feed residents in her neighborhood. Her idea was simple: to connect people in this urban food desert to nature.

“It’s not what you plant, it is what you grow,” says Pugh. “We are growing hope, collaboration, friendships and a safe haven in Englewood. The garden also helps to offset hunger, food desert issues and food insecurity and to turn this corner into a bounty of greens for our tables.”

Gardeners are a hardy species, and those who work alongside Pugh at the Hermitage Street Community Garden are too. In addition to planting, the garden leaders also offer workshops about starting seeds, composting, growing herbs, vegetables and their own organic groceries, plus how to cook the nutritious vegetables.

“Gardening grew me,” Pugh says talking about her early years alongside her grandfather and grandmother who raised her. “I have always gardened in flower pots and raised beds in my own yards. Then the idea came on me to see if I could start a project whereby others in the community could also enjoy what I found rewarding, gardening. In 2011 we were allowed to start the Hermitage community Gardens project with a group of about 12 to 15 residents. “

The property was donated to the group through Openlands and the crew set out to clear the piles of trash and tires themselves.

“We cleared the land by hand, it looked like a jungle, piled with trash and tires,” she says. They built the raised beds and hauled in soil and compost. Today, they’ve expanded the garden with the help of students at Lindbloom Math and Science Academy.

“We also developed the Englewood veteran’s meditation garden last year for service persons who have served our nation in the Armed Forces,” she says. “The garden is very therapeutic for the vets and allows them to grow organic produce as well.”

Looking ahead, Pugh says she hopes to model to the Englewood community that everyone can make a difference.

“Small accomplishments matter,” she says. “I have a saying that I subscribe to – ‘Many hands make the load light!’ We all can have a hand in making Englewood a viable community again. “

She’s especially grateful for groups like EarthHeart for “empowering mothers and demonstrating that mother’s matter,” she says. “Mothers are children’s first nurturers, teachers, doctors and advocates. EarthHeart helps demonstrate for all that mothering matters.”