‘Chicago Fire’ ac­tress launches video se­ries to aid Black-owned South and West side busi­nesses

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY EVAN F. MOORE, STAFF RE­PORTER emoore@sun­times.com | @evanF­moore

Amid the eco­nomic fall­out at­trib­uted to the COVID-19 pan­demic, along with the pub­lic out­cry to­ward po­lice killings in Black com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try, lo­cal ac­tress Deanna Reed-Foster aims to dis­rupt the tide by launch­ing a se­ries of pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments to raise funds for neigh­bor­hood busi­ness own­ers.

On Sun­day, the first episode (“See Me”) of the PSA se­ries named “I AM TIRED” launched on so­cial me­dia in con­junc­tion with a fundrais­ing cam­paign to raise $500,000 for Black busi­ness own­ers on the city’s South and West sides and to pro­mote racial un­der­stand­ing.

The two re­main­ing in­stall­ments are sched­uled to launch Aug. 23 (“Hear Me”) and Sept. 13 (“Re­spect Me”) to close out the se­ries.

“Dur­ing the Ge­orge Floyd protests, I saw all the dam­age that was hap­pen­ing on the South Side of Chicago, as well as know­ing how busi­nesses have been strug­gling dur­ing the pan­demic; I felt a bit hope­less,” said Reed-Foster. “I knew I needed to do some­thing. I would take what I have, which is my art, and try to do some­thing to help my peo­ple.”

Reed-Foster, a South Side na­tive, has a recurring role as so­cial worker Tina Cantrell on the hit NBC se­ries “Chicago Fire.” She has also made ap­pear­ances on Com­edy Cen­tral’s “South Side,” Show­time’s “The Chi,” and the films “South­side with You,” “Last Flag Fly­ing,” “Wid­ows,” and “Roll Bounce,” among oth­ers.

She says see­ing busi­ness own­ers op­er­ate — and live in — the neigh­bor­hood is in­spir­ing to com­mu­nity res­i­dents.

“When I was grow­ing up, I re­mem­ber work­ing in a Black-owned busi­ness on the South Side,” said

Reed-Foster, a Lind­blom Tech­ni­cal High School alumna. “So I know that the busi­nesses don’t just pro­vide a ser­vice, right? It’s a way for the com­mu­nity to come to­gether. It’s a way for us to look at each other as ex­am­ples, and then eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in and of it­self is a way for us to even­tu­ally reach equal­ity in this coun­try.

“And so I know that it’s more than just about a busi­ness. I know that it builds the com­mu­nity; it builds the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity. It gives you some­thing to reach for.

The first video fea­tures “South Side” ac­tors Ronald L. Con­ner and Reneé Lock­ett, as well as ReedFoster.

“I’ve been in the busi­ness for a num­ber of years, so I have a num­ber of friends in the busi­ness,” said Reed-Foster. “And be­cause I give back, and they know that I give back, they were more than will­ing to come and be a part of it as well.”

While Reed-Foster ad­vo­cates for her com­mu­nity, how does she square that with her recurring “Chicago Fire” role? Her char­ac­ter also has ap­peared on “Chicago P.D.,” a se­ries of­ten crit­i­cized as “co­pa­ganda” by pun­dits.

“Hon­estly I haven’t thought about it,” said Reed-Foster. “My mind is pretty fo­cused on what I’m do­ing right now. And so I haven’t thought about how it will af­fect my ca­reer. There’s been a shift, and a shift in our cul­ture and in our coun­try. I don’t think any­thing will be the same; if it af­fects my ca­reer, then it af­fects my ca­reer. One of the things that I’ve said and now con­tinue to say is that I’m an African Amer­i­can be­fore I am an artist.”

PRO­VIDED

Chicago ac­tress Deanna Reed-Foster has launched a PSA se­ries.

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