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On Tuesday, September 19th, Disclose journalist Ariane Lavrilleux was taken into custody and her home searched by the French special intelligence service (DGSI). Disclose and other prominent journalism organizations are rallying behind this clear symbol of intimidation.

According to Disclose, the French special intelligence service “took the journalist into custody as part of an investigation into compromising national defence secrets and revealing information that could lead to the identification of a protected agent, which was opened in July 2022.” Lavrilleux is a co-author of the “Egypt Papers” series of investigations, revealing through hundreds of classified documents that France was complicit in multiple war crimes in Egypt. It is assumed that the DGSI wants to identify the sources who helped reveal the Sirli military operation in Egypt, which carried out aerial strikes against civilians.

Lavrilleux’s lawyer Virginie Marquet said, “I am appalled and worried about the escalation in attacks on the freedom to inform, and the coercive measures taken against the Disclose journalist.”

Journalist organizations around the world are rightfully denouncing the actions of the DGSI, as there is widespread international recognition that the confidentiality of sources should be protected.

Update 9/21/23: Lavrilleux was released on Wednesday evening after over 24 hours in detention.

Watch “Operation Sirli : France’s complicity in state crimes in Egypt” on Youtube

Jennifer Nelson-Seals, former Interfaith House & The Boulevard CEO, cuts the green ribbon on the door of the new conference room.
Photo credit: Jessie Mott

On September 13, our grantee partner The Boulevard of Chicago hosted an open house & dedication reception event to celebrate the rebuild of their facility’s east wing and dedicate the conference room in honor of Jennifer Nelson-Seals, former Interfaith House & Boulevard CEO. Current CEO, Richard Ducatenzeiler, and Board President, Christy Weimer, proudly welcomed attendees into the beautiful new space. Although Mayor Johnson was unable to attend in person, he recorded a video for guests to provide his well wishes and enthusiastic support for Jennifer’s legacy of leadership and The Boulevard’s innovative health programming. 

“I want to join the chorus of voices today who are thanking and congratulating Jennifer Nelson Seals,” Mayor Johnson said. “Thank you for 25 years of incredible leadership as the CEO of The Boulevard. The amount of good that you have done in that time is, no doubt, immeasurable. The Boulevard is an amazing organization and a critical lifeline to so many of our families and brothers and sisters in Chicago. Thank you to this entire team, who is creating positive ripple effects all across our city. … I am wishing you many more impactful and successful years as an organization.”

In July 2021, a fire completely destroyed the east side of The Boulevard’s residential facility where their program offices were located. The building had suffered extensive structural damage and needed to be completely gutted. Thankfully, no one was injured. 

Poster with the text: "'After fire destroys West Humboldt Park homeless shelter's offices, organization vows to rebuild. No one was injured in the fire, but it was "extremely traumatizing" for residents of the shelter. One of the organization's leaders said neighbors looking to help can donate to the organization online.' The Block Club, Chicago July 9, 2021." Poster also shows four pictures of the fire that occurred at The Boulevard and the destruction it left.
Poster with six photos showing the reconstruction of The Boulevard's residential facility and offices.

The Boulevard is an ADA-accessible residential facility that accepts unhoused adults who need time and a safe, clean place to complete their recovery from an acute medical condition. 

“We’ve serviced so many souls who came through this door,” Jennifer said to an audience outside the new facilities. “Our success was different with each and every one that came through. Success looked like, they’d eat a meal. Success looked like, they were able to talk to their case manager. Success may have looked like, they went to their doctor’s appointment and started trusting their doctor. … And every person that walked through the door, I tell you, the staff, the board of directors, all played a key role in making sure that their living was not in vain.”

Plaque that says: "Jennifer Nelson-Seals Conference Room. In Appreciation and Recognition of her 26 years of tireless passion and commitment to Interfaith House/The Boulevard and to those who have called it home. Commemorated on September 13, 2023."

Sabrina Boggs, from the RDLF, recently interviewed Elgin-Bokari Smith about the long history and recent rebirth of Stomping Grounds Literary Arts Initiative (SGLAI). In addition to being the organization’s Artistic & Executive Director, he is also the Co-Creator of Pocket Con, the President of Elephant Rebellion, and a 2018 3Arts Awardee.

Tell us a bit about your background.

First off, my full name is Elgin Bokari. I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri. I went to a performing arts high school, and then left from St. Louis to go to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I graduated in… 2009? It’s been so long. My focus was graphic illustration. And I also took a side focus in ceramics, because I really love ceramics classes. 

The [interest in] music production came from my entire life, to be honest. I grew up in a Baptist church, so singing was always a part of my life. My grandma was an amazing singer. She’s since passed on. She lived to be 101, which is pretty phenomenal. In church I was in a gospel choir group, part of the men’s chorus. Today, I am a member the men’s chorus at Trinity United Church of Christ. 

Also, I took a minor in piano while I was at Central Vision Performing Arts High School. My piano teacher in high school really changed my trajectory. He is a really famous musician in St. Louis by the name of Ptah Williams, and he’s the master of piano improvisation. When he realized I could play music by ear, he said, “Man, you have a special gift. Let’s train your ear.” And that’s how I started making my own music. So from gospel, to learning classical piano, and just growing up in 90’s hip hop — that was my intro into music. 

I attribute a lot of my later journey in life to two people, one of them being a soul singer from the 70’s by the name of Morris Jefferson. He was also a member of the men’s chorus, and he and I were working on a gospel album together. He had passed on, unfortunately, before we were able to finish the project. And then the other was from a group of activist-artists by the name of Elephant Rebellion. A young man by the name of John Vietnam was getting that group started when he was going to school in Madison. [After his passing], those young men and women decided to keep the group going and they recruited me. I learned more about hip hop production and stuff like that through them. 

The logo for Stomping Grounds is an elephant. Does Elephant Rebellion come into play with that?

It 100% does. Matter of fact, the Stomping Grounds Open Mic started out of Elephant Rebellion. We originally created an open mic called Youth Empowerment Open Mic for the youth that we were organizing at Kuumba Lynx (KL). One of those youth ended up becoming a member of Elephant Rebellion. His name is Angel Pantoja — extremely talented young man. But we can’t bring all the kids to become a member of Elephant Rebellion, so we were like, why don’t we make an official open mic for Free Write Arts & Literacy [called Stomping Grounds], where we bring the young people from KL to help host and put on the event, and we invite our young folks who we’ve worked with inside the juvenile?

Elephant Rebellion’s logo by Elgin-Bokari Smith

It’s a space where they can showcase the skills that they had learned while they were incarcerated, and also be received by a group of kids who have already dealt with the law. And putting it at Chicago Art Department (CAD) in Pilsen was our idea, because that’s a centralized location for everybody to be able to meet. And a lot of the young people’s ops wouldn’t necessarily be going to an art gallery.

The idea of “Stomping Grounds” was, it’s the place where you go and get your feet wet, and get better at your craft. “Let’s all go to our stomping grounds.” Elephants stomp and move together. We wanted to continue that on [after Free Write dissolved], so once we got presented with the idea of continuing under a new entity, it was like, what is a name that the young people would know? That’s how Stomping Grounds Open Stage continued on from there.

How has your history with FreeWrite affected you and SGLAI?

I came into this justice work, specifically working with youth who are incarcerated, because of my work that I did with Free Write. It most definitely changed my life. My first day that I went to teach for Free Write, I was a little afraid. As a fresh 22 year old straight outta college, I was like, these young people aren’t gonna wanna learn from me. So I think I’ll bring some art with me. And maybe when they see my artwork they’ll want to learn from me then. When I was in the line scan, I ran into Jean Meister, who was working on the Know Your Rights booklet. And she was like, “Oh, these are really cool drawings! Here’s my email, do you have a card?” And that ended up being the beginning of “Your Guide to the Juvenile Justice System.

That same summer, I got hooked up with the Hull-House Museum because they were working on a comic zine series called Unfinished Business. And they had recruited me to make a comic book about my experience as a teacher inside the juvenile system. So that entire summer I taught a class for Unfinished Business, teaching young people about comics. And I ended up making a comic book expressing how that summer went. It’s called Youth Stories. It was used to teach instructors things they should know if they teach in an incarcerated space. So two of my publications came from [connections made in] my first year teaching at Free Write.

Because of Know Your Rights, I got a chance to go back to St. Louis when the uprisings were happening with Mike Brown. I was able to take that comic and go speak to lawyers in St. Louis about what they should do and how this material can be transferred over. That’s also how I was able to meet Kristiana and Damon from Let Us Breathe Collective, and talk to the Lost Voices and the rest of the organizers of St. Louis who were holding it down. I was able to share the comic book with them, as well as help them peacefully protest. All this came from that one day of showing up with some sketches to go teach.

At Free Write, I was teaching in the jail, and in the community at the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC). And that’s when I came up with the idea of Pocket Con, because there wasn’t enough artists of color that looked like me working with kids on the South Side. Kids can’t see comic book characters who look like them if there aren’t any artists that look like them doing it. I’m a Black illustrator so obviously we exist, and I wanted them to know more about that. We did the first three conventions at GCYC.

A lot of that work was us flying by the seat of our pants. At the end of the day, I don’t think that I would have been a program director if Free Write didn’t give me the opportunity to grow and the space to be creative. Despite the way that they ended, they helped to inspire a lot of people. It’s a lot to live up to. 

So far, what is your biggest achievement, and your biggest obstacle?

Man, biggest achievement… I don’t really think about myself like that, so it’s kind of a weird thing to think about. Having the courage to continue this organization under my own entity, it’s been a huge accomplishment. I’m tired. I’m really tired. But the fact that we’re able to do this work now in facilities is really amazing. Also, this might sound kind of weird, but between about 2021 to when we started in April [2022], being able to say that I was able to support myself financially through my own music production and creation during that time, while also getting [SGLAI] to the point it’s at right now, is a huge achievement.

When [Free Write] went down, that was probably one of the worst lows of my life. Easily. Imagine everything that you knew, your norm for about the past ten years, is now gone. Not only is it gone but, people say you have to do it on your own now. All those things that you had to help you hide your insecurities, hide what you’re not as good at, you now have to go figure that out. And you gonna be broke for a while. For real. But I’m proud to say I never missed a meal, I never missed a rent payment, nothing. Out of all the awards, songs, gigs, whatever…. Saying that I was able to survive and not worry too much about stuff… That was huge. And I was really proud that Richard Logan believed enough in the work to want to see it continue.

As far as the biggest obstacle… Time. Time management, finding breaks, and I think just taking a chance to just learn a lot of new things. I also think one of the biggest obstacles is the spirit of comparison. Social media is dangerous sometimes. Comparing yourself can ultimately destroy you. It’s like how you just asked, “What’s your biggest accomplishment?” And I’m like, “Uhhhh, well, here’s all the things I haven’t done! Here’s all the things I gotta do!” We live in a society that’s obsessed with what’s next. “Have you seen this, have you seen what that person’s doing?” Trying not to get boggled up into the spirit of comparison is probably one of my biggest obstacles. 

What experience from SGLAI’s short history has really stuck with you?

The online experience throughout the pandemic was pretty cool, mainly because it forced us to grow in a weird way. Also, we were able to bring in some artists that you never get a chance to [work with]. It was cool to be like, “Hey, I’m gonna jump on a Zoom call with Ruby Ibarra,” or “with one of my favorite artists Substantial.” And also to get people to participate from all corners of the world was really fun. Being able to add that hybrid version of it right now, I think this is one of the most creative times we’ve ever had with Stomping Grounds. It’s added another level of safety that people don’t really think about. 

MceeBaby is pictured on the left.

One of the things that sticks with me the most is when we were first getting it together. I made sure that I talked to everyone I knew that was doing open mics. I let them know what I wanted to do with Open Stage to make sure I wasn’t stepping on their toes, but also bringing something that their youth would also want to receive. So it was like a “both, and.” One of my favorite open mics during that time was called The Gala, and the host of that open mic was Binkey. I brought him in to teach a hosting class for the music production crew at Kuumba Lynx.

One of the youth that came to that, his name is MceeBaby. He was the host that first day of Stomping Grounds, and he’s still the host today. So he’s been hosting that open mic for damn near six years now.

We know SGLAI is holding programs at CAD again. Have you restarted Open Stage in the prisons as well?

We’ve done one so far, and the young people are ready for a second one. We did our first Stomping Grounds Open Stage in the Illinois Youth Center (IYC), actually within the first 6-7 weeks of starting programs. Mainly because IYC was really excited about us coming back, and they really wanted an open mic. It was cool, for the first one. We most definitely want to do it on a larger scale. People are asking about it, especially in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC).

But the first one at IYC in Chicago went really well. Our featured artist ended up being John the Author, who is a really amazing musician. He came in on two different occasions. The first was him coming in the third week of programs to do the same workshop he would do within the outside version of Stomping Grounds. But this time the young people had time to sit with his workshop, come up with some pieces, and then have a place to perform it in the next four, five weeks when he came back to do a feature. That way the featured artist is able to see the effectiveness of the workshop that they led. But we are planning more inside of the juvenile. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s only been since April, man, calm down. We haven’t been at it this long.

What changes to the youth justice system would you like to see?

I wanna see more youth creative spaces where young people are able to express themselves, and also have tangible resources that they can use. I feel like right now we’re in a really interesting space because the pandemic has changed everything in a sense. From 2016 to 2019 was the peak, that I saw, of real youth justice social interaction. It was bubbling up after Trayvon Martin, but after Mike Brown died, I think that’s when young people were really like, “Alright, we gotta do something.” And that’s where we see [in programs like] Brave New Voices and Louder Than a Bomb, young people actually have places to express themselves, and are getting rewarded for these types of things. It felt like an energy around the city when folks really wanted to get out and organize on a larger scale.

And I feel like it has significantly dropped off since the pandemic. People are really fighting to feel normal again. I don’t know what it felt like for young people to have to have graduated on Zoom, or meet their classmates online. What happens to our human interactions, you know? Our youth have been crying out for quite a while. When people show up downtown and destroy all your shit, it’s for a reason.

We are trying to turn our kids into adults so quickly. I even see it in the content of what young people wanna talk about. I wasn’t thinking about talking about none of what the kids talk about nowadays. Lean, getting high, sex — I wasn’t thinking about that as a kid, like not really! So I really wanna see us get back to a place where not only do youth feel understood, but feel comfortable being vulnerable, and being just kids. We have to grow our kids up so fast because we’re afraid. But they don’t have a childhood no more. We put so much pressure on kids nowadays to figure it out and be ready, but I think a lot of us are still figuring it out too. You shouldn’t have to do that at 10 years old. You shouldn’t be trying to fight for your life and fend for your family at such an early age. So when we talk about youth justice and juvenile justice, I really want a place where people feel cool just being kids again.

One last question: What do you want the world to know about SGLAI?

That we are small but mighty. That we’re learning. Just like in the title, Stomping Grounds, this is where we figure it all out. That we are very passionate about wanting to do things right, to move with intention. And even when we don’t get everything right, we’re working on it. We are continuing work from an organization that’s been around for over 20 years now, but this is a brand new organization, and I’m treating it as such. It’s about what we’re doing now. It’s about the work that young people are gonna make from this point forward. From April 2022, that’s the work that you are hopefully buying into. We’re getting our feet wet and we are growing every day, just a little bit more. And I can’t wait for the team to expand. And we gotta expand with intention, that’s all.  

An illustration from the Reveal story "My Neighbor the Suspected War Criminal".
Credit: Molly Mendoza for Reveal, used for their episode titled “My Neighbor the Suspected War Criminal”

One of the longstanding organizations in the Foundation’s journalism portfolio and undeniably one of the best non-profit newsrooms in the country, Reveal, from the Center of Investigative Reporting, recently won 3 National Edward R. Murrow Awards

The awards include homegrown investigations, an original partnership with the AP, and continuing coverage pulling from multiple hour-long episodes with both staff and freelance reporters. 

This is a huge haul of awards for any newsroom but even more significant in a newsroom of this size. For comparison, NPR earned three awards this year. “This American Life” and American Public Media each earned one. 

The Edward R. Murrow Awards “recognize local and national news stories that uphold the RTDNA Code of Ethics, demonstrate technical expertise, and exemplify the importance and impact of journalism as a service to the community.” The Code of Ethics includes three major principles: truth and accuracy above all, independence and transparency, and accountability for consequences.

If you haven’t listened to Reveal before, it’s time to start. The investigations always “go deep” and cover a wide range of topics and interest areas. 

Find out more about Reveal here.

Members of Onward House smiling, laughing, and passing out produce
Photo credit: Onward House

On August 5th, Onward Neighborhood House hosted their third annual Community Health Fair. It was a rainy day, but that didn’t stop over 800 individuals and families from visiting the fair, making it the largest event in their 129-year history. Nearly 30 local organizations participated to provide services like health screenings, vaccines, yoga, Zumba, haircuts, clothing, and school supplies, and the Reva and David Logan Foundation (RDLF) provided 8000 pounds of fresh produce. 

Onward House members smiling and holding produce.

To distribute the food, Onward House used a client-choice pantry model giving people the opportunity to choose their own food while providing a sense of dignity and respect, and recognizing that each family has unique needs. The model also limits food waste, since people tend not to pick food they won’t use. Families had a wide variety of produce to choose from, including apples, bananas, citrus fruits, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, and lettuce. 

Mario Garcia, Executive Director of Onward House, was ecstatic about the turnout. “Our 2023 Annual Health Fair was great,” he told the Foundation. “The future home for Onward House’s food pantry at 2644 N. Central Avenue, and its two parking lots, made for a great draw … Thanks to the donation from the Reva and David Logan Foundation, we distributed over 160 cases of fresh fruits and vegetables. We are grateful to the supporters, staff, volunteers and the many partners who came out to share information and provide services.  A special shout out to everyone who joined us and braved the rainy Saturday.”

An Onward House partner giving a haircut to a young child.

The RDLF began their relationship with Onward House in 2021, when program officers Lyle Allen and Jessie Mott visited one of their food giveaways. They recall that Onward House was bursting at the seams, maximizing every single inch of their 9,735 sqft building. We had no doubt they would be able to do even more if they had a larger space, so we provided a 31,000 sqft building in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood for their expanding operations. The RDLF continues to provide in-kind donations to Onward House – produce for their food popups, as well as winter weather wear and personal care items. 

This event is just one example of how Onward House provides relevant and impactful programming for the Northwest side of Chicago. From their 0-5 education programs that support full-time working parents, to their regular partnership with CommunityHealth that gives free, accessible healthcare, they are truly a pillar in their community. Onward House has also shown strong leadership with their initiative to support new migrants through their Illinois Welcoming Center for Immigrants and Refugees. The center provides basic necessities, as well as immigration workshops, legal guidance, and referrals to other free services. 

Onward House members smiling at the clothes table.

We are proud to be a partner with Onward House. Watch the video below to get another glimpse at their important work.

Photo credit: Impact Behavioral Health Partners

On July 26th, Impact Behavioral Health Partners unveiled the new Lanam Rapp building in downtown Skokie. It features 16 stunning new units of individual housing. Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita, Illinois State Senator Laura Fine and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen gave remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony. They were joined by representatives from IHDA, Equinix, Skokie Village, Synergy Construction, WJW Architects, Chrissy Swanson Consulting.

A view of one of the 16 units recently opened during Impact Behavioral Health's ribbon cutting. The picture shows a artfully decorated living room, dining table, and bedroom with a view of greenery outside the window.

Everything in the building is brand new and artfully decorated. In addition, the building offers amenities such as a workout room and ample laundry facilities. The building was designed in partnership with Designs for Dignity, which was founded on the belief that “every individual should have access to environments that support the wellness of the human spirit.”

Through their long-term and permanent housing, Impact provides a safe and stable alternative to homelessness for people living with serious mental illness. They serve over 700 people a year.

The Reva and David Logan Foundation has partnered with Impact since 2018. We specifically support their Housing Services Program, as well as providing in-kind winter-wear donations and support with building acquisition. We are proud to support the life-changing work of Impact Behavioral Health and their continued dedication to housing stability for people with mental illness.

Photo credit: Jessie Mott
Picture from NY Focus Facebook page that shows an SUV driving on a bridge in New York, with the words "New York Focus" in front and center.

“You know it when you see it.” A favorite saying of our Executive Director, Richard Logan. That’s how we felt about NY Focus when we met founders Akash Mehta and Lee Harris on a Zoom call a couple years ago. Determined, excited about the possibility of filling a journalistic gap, fearless and maybe just a little crazy – all essential qualities for a young team creating a non-profit journalism outlet from the ground up. 

We were so impressed, we decided to take a punt on them and offer them a transformational grant. 

Fast forward a couple years. Now, they are taking on lawmakers across New York State, causing havoc, and being profiled in the New York Times.

The NYT article highlights two telling examples of the tangible impact NY Focus has had on policymakers/policy : NY Focus reported on a new prison policy that would block incarcerated people from publishing their work… Just one day later, the prison agency rescinded the policy. And after their disturbing investigation into the severe mishandling of sexual assault allegations against prison guards, the state senate passed a measure to delegate authority over sexual assault allegations to independent outside investigators.

We are so proud to be part of the rise of this unique newsroom investigating power in the Empire State. Great work, NY Focus!

Mustafa showing off a a truck filled to the brim with chips, picked up for our food rescue partners.

Mustafa (pronounced MOOS-tah-fah) Abdul-Maboud is our Building Operations and In Kind Manager at The Reva and David Logan Foundation. He is the lynchpin in our Food Rescue program. As seen in the picture above, he is responsible for picking up food donations of all kinds from our corporate partners and then overseeing distribution of our rescued products to our many pantry and non-profit partners. Here’s what he’s got to say:

Tell us about your background.

Mustafa: “I’m originally from Iraq. I lived there until after the war, and I left the country in 2006. During the war, my brothers worked as US Army interpreters. Eventually we left the country and went to Egypt. We lived there for a couple years, and during that process we qualified to come to this country as refugees. Back in 2008, on July 15th (I remember that day. Ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and I won’t remember, but I’ll remember that day vividly). We’ve lived here ever since in Chicago. We did not move around to different states, some people did. But so many times in our lives we had moved houses, moved countries, so that desire slowed down for me to move to different places or try another state.”

Which neighborhood did you first move into?

Mustafa: “Edgewater. It was one of those buildings that worked with non-profit organizations to accept refugees. We went into the building as the only Iraqi family, everyone else around us were Burmese. It was four floors. We ended up moving out and lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood because we wanted a bigger unit. At that time, my brother was taking care of us, and he wanted me to go back to school which I did. I went to Truman College and got my Associate’s degree over there. And then I went to Loyola after that. I went to school for Biology and Pre-Med.”

Did you want to become a doctor? What changed?

Mustafa: “I needed to start paying for myself. Working two jobs, one part time and one full time, and then going to school at the same time, was very energy draining. At that point, my brother had contributed more than enough and he wanted to have his own place and his own life, which I respect that. So I had to pay for things and find a job. Why didn’t I work in something closer to biology? Because it would have been like working in a lab somewhere and that was it. And that was not something that I was interested in. I was interested in doing research, but never interested in working in a lab. So I’ve been working in non-profit for a while, and it’s one of those things that fascinates me because it’s a whole sector dedicated to helping people.”

Why did you decide to work in non-profit?

Mustafa: “When I came to the United States, I was told that if you need stuff and your food stamps don’t cover it, you can go to a food pantry. But this is not something we were told by the agency that brought us. We learned it from the other Iraqis in the area. That’s when we went to Care for Real for the first time. It was an interesting moment when we saw how many people were standing in line. And the numbers were only going up because it was 2008. I remember hearing from the director at the time that they went from serving somewhere around 60-150 households per month to 100-150 per day. The numbers just skyrocketed. It was not a feel-good moment. For a country so powerful, so involved in aid in different parts of the world, it’s shameful that your backyard is going hungry.

“I was also fascinated by the fact that aid comes from this private entity, when in Iraq it was government subsidized, and it was garbage. The government would give you flour that has gnats, or very low quality stuff. There was no interest in nutrition whatsoever, so you ended up with subpar items that are not good for you. But here the people who work in these fields think about, ‘I need to give these people protein, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, fresh goods, with some extra.’

“And it was interesting to me that we can provide so many different options for people. I realized that it’s almost like all these grocery stores lumped up in one place. As a client you have the dignity of choice and at the same time it’s nothing bad, nothing spoiled. I love that idea. So providing these options to people is something I feel good about. Because it helps a lot of people and at the same time the products don’t go into a landfill. Somebody benefits from it. And people love it because it’s brand-name products.”

What drew you to work at the Logan Foundation?

Mustafa: “Realizing how diverse its work is. The Foundation does not have a single focus, unlike other non-profits and foundations. And they fund areas that traditionally lack funding, like journalism and the arts. When I worked in a food pantry, there was a program for pet food. And some people said, unsolicited, “Why would I donate money for pets? I only care about people.” But you do realize that if you lose your job, and you have a pet, what are you gonna do? Give your pet away? That’s your companion for god’s sake. It’s the same thing happening with arts, with journalism – “Why would I fund this when there’s hungry people outside?” But the fact is it all matters. Because it provides that social net that we so depend on. Some people tend to forget how important and effective it is.

“Also I was fascinated that the Foundation was acquiring buildings and purposing them for specific non-profit organizations. Buildings can tend to be one of your biggest expenses. And having this partnership with non-profits where they can occupy the space and they don’t have to think about spending that large amount of money for rent is fascinating because it can help them do so much work. When I worked on the receiving end of non-profit, I realized no matter what your space is, you end up outgrowing it at some point. I went from working in a space that used to be a storefront to a space that is three times the size of it. And we were joking about how we’re gonna need to start using walkie-talkies. So, seeing that the Foundation helps these non-profits with these buildings demonstrated that it helps them succeed and do better.”

What do you want to see change in Chicago?

Mustafa: “A lot. One of the things is the violence rate. I’ve heard it said so many times in the worst and most racist way possible: Black on Black. Brown on Brown. And, “Because I’m not part of that race, I’m not involved in it whatsoever.” When the fact is it’s impacting us as a whole. It’s so desensitized. In the evening news, it won’t be a main story. Instead, it’s “X amount of people got shot this weekend.” They lump it up and you become part of the statistic instead of an individual. You’re a human being, for god’s sake. Somebody tended to you since you were a baby. That’s what you’re worth at the end of the day? You’re a number? I truly dislike that.

“I also dislike that Chicago is so segregated. We have so many diverse populations, but it’s still extremely segregated. You can truly see it where I live in Austin. It almost feels gray in Austin, and when you hit Oak Park it’s full color. That’s terrible. This is something they systematically put in place to keep people away from each other.

“Food is expensive in Chicago. Even pet food is not cheap. There was a time when food pantries were mainly for seniors, unemployed people, refugees. But that has changed. We’re seeing younger crowds that will leave work and then stand in line at the food pantry. And that tells me that what they’re getting paid is not covering their expenses.

“It bothers me to see so many people on the street panhandling. When I first came to the United States, it was one or two people here or there. There’s a couple people on the North Side here whose faces I recognize, because they’ve been there for more than five years. So there’s a lot to be said about what needs to be changed in Chicago.”

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

Mustafa: “Interacting with people. It’s a very diverse place with a lot of people with rich histories. A long time ago when we would go pick up furniture donations, we would visit this one person around Wilmette. While we were taking the furniture from him, he told us about how he went to Harvard. He used to spend some time in the library. And he said this one guy would come in and they’d chat it up, and he’d try to invite him to go drinking and hang out. And he said, “You know who that guy was? A former US President! (Name withheld.)” It’s stuff like that, just give people enough time and they will tell you their life story, and there’s so much that you can learn from that.”

What’s the weirdest product you’ve seen in the pantry so far?

Mustafa: “Do you really want to know?” (It seemed like many of the things he wanted to say were not family friendly.) “Peepsi (Peeps flavored Pepsi) might be one of them. Also, cheddar flavored chocolate bars. I didn’t try it but I gave some to Richard. He said it was interesting.”

Anything else you’d like to share?

Mustafa: “If all the trees combined together and became one giant tree, and all the men combined together and became one giant man, and all the lakes combined together and became one giant lake, and all the axes combined together and became one giant ax, and the giant man came in with the giant ax and cut the giant tree, and the giant tree fell into the giant lake, it would be a big splash of water.”

OTV, one of the three partners who won an award at the end of June.
American Documentary, one of the three partners who won an award at the end of June.
Public Health Watch, one of the three partners who won an award at the end of June.

Last month, we were proud to see three partners recognized for their outstanding work in their respective fields.

Leadership from Open TV and American Documentary/POV became fellows of the inaugural 2023 Art of Leadership Program for Macarthur Journalism and Media Leaders.

According to the Rockwood Leadership Institute, The MacArthur Foundation Art of Leadership will bring together 24 leaders from across the nation. These leaders work within grantee organizations in documentary film support, participatory civic media, and investigative reporting. Its purpose is to increase the individual leadership effectiveness of these leaders and provide opportunities for relationship building and collaboration. This will support the movement for equity across leaders in the field.

On Instagram, Elijah McKinnon of Open TV expressed his gratitude. “Feeling incredibly grateful to be on this journey. I can’t wait to expand my mind while learning, building and sharing alongside a cohort of leaders working to imagine a brave, new world.”

Also, Public Health Watch won the Los Angeles Press Club Award for their investigation into a deadly workplace epidemic.

Published and aired in December, the story disclosed a cluster of the incurable lung disease silicosis among fabricators of artificial-stone countertops. Public Health Watch and KPCC won first place in the Press Club’s audio journalism/investigative category for the collaboration. It included a television segment on Univision’s news magazine show Aqui y Ahora.

Overall, congratulations to our three partners: Open TV, American Documentary, and Public Health Watch.

Photo from a news story MCIR posted about the dangers of Illinois pesticide exposure.
Photo credit: Heather Coit, The News-Gazette

When program staff at the Foundation design grants, we try to find creative and innovative ways to challenge both grantees and other potential funders. We believe that the organizations that we fund should always be looking to diversify revenue streams, whether that be with individual membership drives, new corporate or institutional funders or even endowments. We always ensure that we give challenge matching grants when we feel that organizations have the internal capability to find those additional funds and leverage the opportunity.

Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting (MCIR), also known as Investigate Midwest, is a key example of this. With a secure $100,000 grant for general operating costs ensuring business as usual, and a solid staff and board of directors, we presented them with an opportunity to raise $125,000 in additional funds through one $25,000 and two $50,000 matching grants.

They did not disappoint – finding three new funders guaranteeing matching funds while forging new relationships and ensuring further sustainability of their operations: three-matching-grants-to-investigate-midwest/

MCIR is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Their mission is to serve the public interest by exposing dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions through in-depth and data-driven investigative journalism.

Congratulations to MCIR on their achievement.

Author: Crystal Logan

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