The Survivors Alliance For Healing & Justice

One of CU’s core leadership development vehicles through which we work to engage individuals impacted by the justice system, community, and police violence is the Survivors Alliance for Healing and Justice (SAHJ). SAHJ brings together young people and adults who identify as survivors, including formerly incarcerated individuals, through transformative healing and justice spaces, working to shift narrative away from victim-perpetrator to addressing the root causes of trauma and advancing community justice reinvestment. SAHJ and members of the Reducing Barriers to Recovery campaign are also leading efforts to end the failed policies of the war on drugs that have caused significant harm in our Black and Brown communities over decades.  Through efforts led by survivors, community leaders, and allies, the IL House Judiciary Criminal Committee passed HB3447, which will reclassify the penalty for possession of small amounts of drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor and address drug use as a public health issue.  

To learn more about SAHJ, please contact Jessica Estrada at [email protected]

Transforming the Mental Health Systems Through the Leadership of Youth of Color

CU and VOYCE youth leaders are advancing their vision to transform the mental health system through their experiences.  For too long, Black and Brown communities in Chicago have been impacted by a history of divestment, structural racism, and the criminalization of poverty, resulting in widespread inequities across education, income, housing, health, and all quality-of-life aspects.

The experiences of our members led to the creation of our Healing Through Justice model. Led by survivors of violence and trauma involved in our work, the HTJ model acknowledges that the process of changing systems that both dehumanize youth and families of color and reinforce cycles of trauma is deeply healing for those who have been negatively impacted by those systems.

CU youth leaders are in the process of developing key recommendations to transform the mental health system to address the existing challenges and gaps to fully address community trauma through culturally relevant, and community-led approaches to healing. This work is being led by a dedicated cohort of 25 youth of color in partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“I don't want my cousins to go through the same things I went through. I want them to live healthy, and by us leading this transformation of the mental health system we are making sure that the response to needs of young people will be addressed.” Derion Smith, Communities United Youth Researcher.

The Rebirth of Greater Roseland 

The Rebirth of Greater Roseland (RGR) is an organizing alliance made up of grassroots and institutional partners that focus on collaborating towards a vision of uniting all residents with the purpose of investing in the revitalization of our beautiful communities. Our efforts focus on creating safe spaces throughout the community for everyone, investment in affordable and decent housing, supporting our long-time residents while providing resources for our young people to thrive and succeed, investing in job and business creation for those that live and work in Roseland, and help create an environment that will address trauma and healing for our community.

To learn more about the Rebirth of Greater Roseland, please contact Heather Barnes at [email protected].

Broken Winggz 

Broken Winggz is a survivor-led group whose mission is to give support to people who are paralyzed from gun violence, their families, and building alliances to advance a common goal for safe and healthy communities. 

Watch the recent virtual town hall organized by SAHJ and Broken Winggz leaders, addressing the needs of survivors and formerly and currently incarcerated individuals during COVID-19. 

To learn more about Broken Winggz, please contact Eric Wilkins at [email protected].