BRONZEVILLE — Several Black and Brown-led Chicago community groups are receiving the financial help they need to continue helping neighbors thanks to Chicago Beyond.
The impact investor gave $1 million to 25 organizations under a first round of funding from its Rapid Response Fund, designed to give “unrestricted dollars” to those often overlooked in terms of financial support. The grants targeted individuals and groups taking on issues like housing, food insecurity and violence prevention.
Chicago Beyond aims to give $3 million through the fund.
Recipients include Bronzeville-Kenwood Mutual Aid, 360 Nation, Blocks Together, Coalition for Urban Girls, Burst Into Books and ChiFresh Kitchen/Urban Growers Collective.
Groups were chosen with the help of Chicago Beyond’s People’s Assembly — a group of residents plugged into their respective communities — who provided advice and insight.
For Bronzeville-Kenwood Mutual Aid, the $20,000 grant from Chicago Beyond couldn’t come at a better time. Need has only grown in the communities it serves since the group was founded in March 2020.
The mutal aid group hosts weekly activations at the Chicago Defender building in Grand Boulevard, giving away food and other basic necessities.
Group member Cosmos, who declined to give his last name, told Block Club he sees a new face every week.
“We’re helping people with rent, with utility bills, getting them to doctors’ appointments,” Cosmos said.
Requests for help from the Bronzeville-Kenwood Mutual Aid group come from residents as far as Roseland. No one is turned away, as the group relies on the honor system, trusting the person on the other end is in true need.
“We have eight outstanding requests [for eviction help] last week. That may not seem like a ton, but it adds up,” Cosmos said.
Cosmos estimates the team spends $7,000 a month on efforts to keep their neighbors fed and housed — the bulk of that money is provided by folks who also live in the community.
In turn, those neighbors pay it forward by helping others.
While there has been criticism about the effectiveness of mutual aid groups — particularly by those who don’t see it as “radical enough” — the Bronzeville-Kenwood Mutual Aid group has seen an immediate impact. For organizers, it’s simple: providing help without strings or barriers strengthens the community by giving residents a purpose, something in which they can invest.
“I welcome all criticism … accountability is one of the highest, highest forms of love. If I’m accountable to you, that means that you have an opportunity for us to do better, and vice versa,” Cosmos said. “We’re at a point of reckoning, and we need to go further.”
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