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The West Pullman Winter Kickback Team held its annual WinterFest kickback at Metcalf Community Academy. Locals in the area were treated to an afternoon of fun and games on Wednesday.
The event is a collaboration between Phalanx Family Services and multiple partner organizations in the Roseland community. Its sponsors include Chicago Park Districts, the Far South Side Coalition, and My Chi My Future. It is an effort to bring activities to people who have to travel far to experience them. Those in attendance could throw paint darts, ride a rodeo bull, or ice skate outside. There was also a small train going around the school for people to enjoy. Two youth supervisors Maria Parker and Zhane Davenport are head organizers for the event. Both women hope to collaborate with more organizations on events like the kickback in 2023.
A Message Behind the Fun
While the kickback is supplying entertainment for all in the family, it doubles as an outlet for educating people. Ramone Giles, a staff member on the Phalanx team, sees to it that Chicago residents are made aware of the multitude of opportunities available to them. He helps connect people to other programs that assist with learning about careers and job readiness. To him, it’s not just about the fun and games. Things like the train and cotton candy attract youth to a safe place where they can also learn about the career programs available to them.
Joyce Chapman works at Phalanx and was giving out gift cards to people who receive vaccinations and boosters held at the event. She loved how the event was completely free and held in a “safe and neutral environment” at Metcalf. Chapman is thankful for men like Principal Stephen Fabiyi of Metcalf Academy who puts community outreach front and center.
To run a school effectively in her mind, officials must look outside the classroom and connect with the Chicago residents in the surrounding area. Events like the kickback allow Metcalf to interact with families outside of class hours. A child’s development goes beyond the books they read, but also the social development gained from interacting with their peers.
Sidney Johnson works with individuals on their trauma as the mental health clinical services manager at Phalanx. He gives health assessments to both clients and staff members and refers them to outside treatment. Events like the kickback are a must for him. He sees it as part of his obligation to the people in the areas he serves. Being present at these Chicago events provides individuals the chance to hear about the services available to them.
This is why we are here, if we can’t connect with the community we are sitting in, then what purpose do we really serve.
There are many who take the time to educate people on what resources they have and how to access them. While doing so, some feel it is time to address the way we approach and talk about certain issues.
Changing the Narrative
One thing that seems to be important to many Chicagoans is changing the way we discuss the problems in minority communities. Giles and others prefer language like “youth who are at opportunity” or “opportune youth” instead of “at-risk kids.” To him, part of his work is to fill the void left by schools when youth go on break.
I want to have the public view them in a different light. Not that we are trying to keep them from bad but we are trying infuse more good.
Giles feels that this type of thinking is destructive as it is not an accurate representation of all youth. The more important thing to him is engaging black youth with more than just recreational and time-occupying activities. The solution has to include activities that help prepare them for the future, such as computer training and entrepreneurship. There is an increasing nonprofit effort in Chicago to push for a diversity of programs for black and brown youth to do when they are idle.
The Hopes for Chicago Going into the New Year
Many philanthropic bodies have made huge strides in their community engagement efforts. Still, many hope that in 2023, there will be more cooperation between these Chicago organizations. One group can not work alone if they plan to be there for those in need.
Along with a more efficient approach, there is hope that more resources and services will be made known to the youth. Getting services available and educating people about them has been a challenge. A lot goes underutilized, and events like the kickback help expose individuals to what is out there to aid them.
People Giles and Johnson are welcoming the wave of entrepreneurship and fellowship between people in the community. Giles believes more “hands on deck” are needed to ensure this movement of self-help and care endures for years to come.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Images Courtesy of Author and The News School