Yoga Journal - - 2018 GOOD KARMA AWARDS -

I Grow Chicago be­gan with a sim­ple ques­tion: “Do you want to take back your com­mu­nity?” In 2014, Chicago busi­ness­woman Rob­bin Car­roll ar­rived in En­gle­wood—a high-crime neigh­bor­hood—with a sim­ple goal: Em­power res­i­dents to bring peace and safety back into their lives. At the time, En­gle­wood was in the news of­ten for its vi­o­lence, and Car­roll wanted to know why a neigh­bor­hood in her own city was be­ing treated like a war zone. With a mis­sion state­ment fo­cused on “cre­at­ing a world where love lives in pub­lic,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fers yoga, gar­den­ing, tu­tor­ing, men­tor­ship, and more through its res­i­dent-run com­mu­nity cen­ter, the Peace Cam­pus. Zelda Mayer, di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment, spoke with us about the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ef­forts to pro­mote heal­ing through a sim­ple yet pow­er­ful phi­los­o­phy: “If in doubt, love.”

Q & A

YOGA JOUR­NAL: What kind of work does I Grow Chicago fo­cus on?

ZELDA MAYER: It ad­dresses trauma and the root sources of poverty, iso­la­tion, and racism. We run pro­grams aimed at bring­ing hope and heal­ing to all—ev­ery­thing from yoga classes and teacher train­ings to job trans­porta­tion and af­ter-school tu­tor­ing. It’s what­ever the com­mu­nity needs.

YJ: How did you get started?

ZM: The area around our cur­rent lo­ca­tion, the cor­ner of West 64th and South Honore Street, used to be in­cred­i­bly vi­o­lent. Our founder, Rob­bin, showed up one day with Sub­way sand­wiches and started ask­ing peo­ple if they wanted to help heal the neigh­bor­hood. The first per­son who ap­proached her was our co-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Quentin Mables, an En­gle­wood na­tive. He just took some garbage bags out of her hand and started clean­ing up the block.

YJ: How do you en­gage the com­mu­nity in I Grow Chicago’s work and mis­sion?

ZM: We hire com­mu­nity mem­bers—that’s part of our model. When we first started, the po­lice com­man­der at the time pulled Rob­bin aside and said, “You know, you’re let­ting cold-blooded killers into your com­mu­nity cen­ter.” Rob­bin said, “I hear you, but those cold-blooded killers are the ones plant­ing flow­ers in our gar­den.”

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