Skip to contents

‘Choose Hope’ Film Series Highlights Chicagoans Building Up The Neighborhoods They Love

The film series, to be screened Thursday at Siskel Film Center, allows residents of disinvested communities to tell their own stories and "to be heard," a panelist said.

Diane Brown (left), a partner with the Greater Grand Crossing-based Kindness Campaign, packs a bookbag with supplies during the organization's short film "If You Can Do Something to Keep Hope Alive — Bring It!"
Strides for Peace
  • Credibility:

DOWNTOWN — Local organizations “working on the front lines” of community building, youth outreach, violence prevention and other neighborhood improvements will be featured in a film screening and panel discussion at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week.

The Choose Hope film screening begins 6 p.m. Thursday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. Tickets are $15, and registration is available through the film center’s website.

The event is run by Strides for Peace, which organized the first Choose Hope screening last year to promote and raise awareness about its on-the-ground partners amid the pandemic.

Credit: Strides for Peace
A participant in an author’s circle organized by Contextos and the MAAFA Redemption Project speaks during Contextos’ short film “We’re Going to Find New Paths to Choose Hope.”

The films uplift Chicagoans supporting their neighbors while highlighting the beauty of the city’s disinvested communities, said Mary Stonor Saunders, Strides for Peace executive director.

In discussions of inequity and disinvestment, “there’s a real focus on the systems, and the roots and the causes of these problems,” Stonor Saunders said. “It’s obviously critical to focus on changing these systems, but the community organizations are working on a different timeline. Their timeline is, they want to save lives now and they can’t wait for systems to change.”

The featured community organizations:

  • The Kindness Campaign, 703 E. 75th St. in Greater Grand Crossing. The organization encourages acts of kindness and generosity through an array of programs, including anti-racism and workforce training, community cleanups, “gourmet” food distributions and financial literacy projects.
  • Ring of Hope, 7421 S. South Chicago Ave. in Greater Grand Crossing, offers boxing, basketball and a media lab for students to “express their anger and emotions” through music, podcasts and more. Ring of Hope participated in a “youth democracy day” in July alongside numerous community groups, including Future Ties.
  • Future Ties, 6418 S. King Drive in Woodlawn, provides kids living in the Parkway Gardens housing complex with homework help, after-school activities and summer camps.
  • Firehouse Community Arts Center, 2111 S. Hamlin Ave. in North Lawndale. Firehouse offers classes in fields as varied as master tailoring and audio engineering, aiming to use the arts to prevent and interrupt violence. The center organized residents to “reclaim their blocks” and hold pop-up events after 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams was slain in April.

The featured nonprofits from Chicago:

  • Chicago Adventure Therapy, which partners with local nonprofits, offering adventure sports like paddling, climbing and cycling to help young people discover their strengths and encourage healthy living.
  • Contextos, which encourages introspective storytelling, working with people incarcerated in Cook County Jail, students in Chicago Public Schools and members of local outreach and violence prevention groups.
  • Jehovah Jireh Outreach Ministry, which works with residents victimized by gun violence on their block, encouraging them to gather and celebrate with neighbors to reclaim their community.
Credit: Strides for Peace
A child participating in one of the Woodlawn-based group Future Ties’ programs drops a tile down a large game of Connect Four, during Future Ties’ short film “A Change Is in the Making.”

Brandi Reed, of Lakeshorehy Media Production, and Patrick Mulvey and Andrew Ramsay, of 5 x 12 Films, made the films for the second year in a row.

Reed and representatives from Chicago Adventure Therapy, Contextos, Ring of Hope, Firehouse and Future Ties will be on hand for a panel discussion following the screening.

The series “provides an opportunity for their stories to be heard by more people, which in turn provides more context,” said Dimitri Hepburn, Contextos’ cross-curricular multimedia producer. “It’s a lot easier to understand what’s happening if everybody’s voice is heard.”

There’s a value to having the film screening and discussion live at the Siskel Film Center that can’t be recreated online, said Laura Statesir, director of operations for Chicago Adventure Therapy.

“Being able to have that five-minute conversation with someone you just happen to see or pass by is so much harder to do virtually,” Statesir said. “It’s hard to get people passionate about things when you don’t actually get to see [the work] or meet people.”

With the chance to meet face-to-face Thursday, the activists can exchange ideas and words of support among themselves — and with the audience, Stonor Saunders said.

“Love is a big part of change, because you only fight for what you love,” she said. “… We’ve got to remember that there are people out there who aren’t giving up. One choice we have is to react to this situation with fear, and another one is we can react to it with hope.”

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: