SHOWBIZ CHICAGO SPECIAL FEATURE: FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES
ShowBiz Chicago and Chicago Pride new section SPOTLIGHT ON PHILANTHROPY will be featuring stories and interviews on our great citizens who made this world a better place. First up is FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES and honorees selected as “Upstanders” in the Choosing to Participate exhibition which opens on August 27th at the Harold Washington Library.
Chicago Director of Facing History and Ourselves BONNIE OBERMAN discusses this remarkable organization.
The formal press release follows:
The Chicago office of international educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves announced today the 12 individuals and groups honored in Upstanders: Portraits of Courage—a featured local component of the organization’s acclaimed multimedia exhibition Choosing to Participateduring its Chicago engagement at the Harold Washington Public Library’s Winter Garden, 400 South State Street, August 27-November 11, 2012. Upstanders: Portraits of Courage features photographs and narratives of the unsung heroes behind 12 initiatives making positive changes in communities across Chicago. Among the remarkable individuals are professionals, volunteers and students such as Nikki Jarvis, a Deerfield High School graduate and active member of the NAACP chapter at Loyola University whose work confronts issues of race and privilege; and former eighth grade classmates Jacques Agbobly, Diamond Lenoir and Elizabeth Adebiyi, who created an anti-bullying and LGBTQ awareness assembly at Chicago’s Stockton Elementary School.
“Choosing to Participate is a catalyst for conversation about civic participation in our community, our nation, and across the globe,” said Bonnie Oberman, the Chicago director of Facing History. “The dedicated individuals honored in Upstanders: Portraits of Courage are living proof that through the choices we make each day, each of us can make a positive impact on others and help to build more inclusive communities.”
The Chicago-area honorees featured in Upstanders: Portraits of Courage are:
- Nikki Jarvis (Loyola University, Chicago): Confronting race and privilege is not easy—though for Nikki, it was made easier through guidance by her Facing History teachers at Deerfield High School. Now Nikki has moved the conversation from classrooms and community meetings in her hometown to the Loyola University campus, where she is an active member of the NAACP chapter, and to the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, where she volunteers to teach English.
- Jacques Agbobly, Diamond Lenoir and Elizabeth Adebiyi (Stockton Elementary School, Chicago): Jacques, Diamond and Elizabeth were the backbone of an entire eighth grade class that was dedicated to building tolerance and fighting injustice. The three were actively involved in creating an anti-bullying and LGBTQ awareness assembly at Stockton last winter. As they move on to different high schools, they will bring with them the leadership and activism they learned while at Stockton
- Chiye Tomihiro (Chicago): Though born in the USA, Chiye and her family were placed in the Mindoka Relocation Center in Idaho in 1942, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. When she shares her experience with young people, she addresses the humiliation of the experience, stressing that the internment camps violated Constitutional rights, and emphasizing the importance of speaking up in the face of injustice.
- Sara and Mazher Ahmed, daughter and mother (Chicago and Batavia, IL): For the Ahmeds, the commitment to building and teaching tolerance and compassion is an intergenerational value and part of a family inclination to help others. Mazher started interfaith work in the family living room, founded a mosque, and helped inspire Sara to become a teacher. At Burley School in Chicago, where Sara has taught for eight years, the language of Upstanders and Bystanders “permeates the school,” and Upstander Awards are granted to exemplary students.
- Zoey Bond (Glencoe): After learning about the Holocaust in her eighth grade Facing History class at Glencoe’s Central School, Zoey wanted to do more: “I felt like if I didn’t do anything about the issue, I would be a bystander too.” After interviewing survivors, she decided theater was the right medium to communicate their stories. The resulting play, Raining Season, has been performed for more than 4,000 people at schools, synagogues and churches, bringing together young people and survivors.
- Henry Henderson (Natural Resources Defense Council – Midwest, Chicago): Henry came to environmental law through St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. Inspired by the transformational thinking and social concerns of those religious thinkers, Henry says, “Practicing law gives me the ability to participate in the public language of my time.” Environmental law ripples from backyards to entire geographical regions—it can empower entire communities.
- Howard Rossman and Adar Cohen (Civic Leadership Foundation, Glencoe): An after-school mobile music production studio. A school greenhouse. A program to increase physical education in the community. All run by students, with support to succeed from the non-profit Civic Leadership Foundation (CLF). Helping to provide programs in schools and after-school that connect education, economics and social engagement, CLF director Adar and founder Howard emphasize how such projects help students “attain and retain personal investment,” empowering them as effective actors in their own lives.
- Student Ensemble and Artistic Staff (Albany Park Theater Project, Chicago): Albany Park Theater Project’s youth ensemble gives voice to the thousands of members of the Albany Park community who have something to say but may not speak the language. “We’re committed to amplifying the voices of people who often don’t control how they’re represented in mainstream media,” says founder David Feiner.
- Tiffany Childress (North Lawndale College Prep High School, Chicago): The non-violent conflict resolution practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired Tiffany to find the potential for peace in her school. Peace Warriors was born, incorporating lessons and readings about peace into student leadership meetings and in-school suspension time. Now, Peace Warrior students are an active presence at North Lawndale, mediating conflicts, actively combating harassment and training students and teachers in other neighborhoods.
- Zio Perez (Nettelhorst School, Chicago): Zio knows she was meant to be a teacher. “What I love doing is helping them fall in love with school,” she says of her pre-K students. Building partnerships with families, she extends her classroom into the community. Innovative co-founder of SwaziKids, a non-profit that provides books and educational materials to children in Swaziland and other African countries, Zio has built a connection in her students’ minds and lives to their peers abroad.
- Scheherezade and Salamishah Tillet (A Long Walk Home, Chicago): A multi-faceted program for victims of sexual assault, “A Long Walk Home,” is a phrase from a poem written by organization president Salamishah as part of her own healing after surviving sexual assault. Her sister, executive director Scheherezade, notes, “Salamishah started this walk alone. Then it was me and her, and now others, through the schools and communities we work with.”
- Tony Wasilewski (Schiller Park): Tony paid little attention to America’s immigration debate until May 2007, when his wife Janina was deported back to Poland, uprooting a marriage, a family and a thriving small business. Their story captured the attention of filmmaker Ruth Leitman, who created the documentary film Tony and Janina’s American Wedding to share their story with others. Now reunited with his wife and their son Brian, Tony is an activist for immigration rights.
Choosing to Participate examines the impact and history of bigotry and injustice, and inspires conversation about the choices we can make every day to foster civic engagement, tolerance, and mutual understanding in our communities. Central to the exhibit are five installations telling stories in the first-person about people and communities that have experienced racism and injustice, and how courage, initiative, and compassion are necessary to protect democracy. In addition to Upstanders: Portraits of Courage, another featured local component of Choosing to Participate is pARTicipation: Young Artists Speak Up, a display of original artwork from Chicagoland students in grades 7-12 that illustrates the importance of choices we make in our daily lives and the value of choosing to participate.
The Honorary Chair for Choosing to Participate in Chicago is Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Co-chairs for the initiative are Greg Case, President and CEO of Aon, and Jim Reynolds, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Loop Capital, and Al Grace, Co-Founder and President of Loop Capital. The national Honorary Advisory Committee for the exhibit includes filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Congressman John Lewis, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other internationally recognized leaders who have made significant contributions to building and strengthening civic life. For a full list of the Honorary Advisory Committee, please visitchoosingtoparticipate.org. The Walmart Foundation is the national sponsor of Choosing to Participate’s current multicity tour. Aon is the lead local sponsor of Choosing to Participate in Chicago.
Since the Chicago office of Facing History opened in 1990, more than 3,000 local educators have participated in Facing History’s professional development programs. These teachers annually reach more than 300,000 middle and high school students in more than 725 public, religious and independent schools in the Chicago metropolitan area. Training provided by Facing History enables students to deepen their knowledge of history, their understanding of the origins of hatred and violence and their ability to relate history to their own lives. A strong alliance with Chicago Public Schools and growing partnerships with suburban, religious and charter schools enable a critical and significant impact to be made.
Visit choosingtoparticipate.org to learn about local sponsors, view a full event calendar and preview resources that include a resource book available in English and Spanish. To schedule a tour, contact Andie Thomalla at [email protected] or 312-345-3234.
FACING HISTORY AND OURSELVES is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators, and its active teacher network reaches nearly two million students annually. For more information, visit facinghistory.org and watch a video at facinghistory.org/video/face-it.
THE WALMART FOUNDATION Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and The Walmart Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. Through its philanthropic programs and partnerships, The Walmart Foundation supports initiatives focused on enhancing opportunities in education, job skills training, sustainability and health. In 2007, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and The Walmart Foundation gave $296 million to communities across the United States. To learn more, visit walmartfoundation.org.