Fifty years ago Time magazine (2/21/1964) did a story on Community Renewal Society (then known as the Chicago City Missionary Society) that described us as “a kind of spiritual commando unit” (commando is military language for a special operations unit). Time described us that way because fifty years ago we were on the front lines of addressing poverty and racism in Chicago. We often served as co-creators, partners, or supporters of grassroots organizations in communities. West Side Organization, Casa Central, and West Side Christian Parish are examples. Within two years the Chicago Freedom Movement would emerge, as Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Chicago to partner with local civil rights activists. CRS’ leadership made a significant contribution to those local organizing efforts.
Fifty years later in 2014, the Community Renewal Society is still on the front lines, taking action for economic and racial justice. Our work for social change takes form today in policy advocacy, negotiations and accountability sessions with public officials, protest actions, and highly regarded investigative journalism. We still co-create and partner with other grassroots organizations in this process of social transformation. We believe that systemic change at City Hall, Cook County, and the Illinois General Assembly is a vital part of making this a just society where all of us can thrive. A recent example of the impact of our work comes through our partnership in “The Reclaim Campaign” with Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). As a result of our combined efforts, on November 14 Cook County Commissioners created a new $500,000 fund for community-based Restorative Justice programs. This money will expand the work of churches and community-based organizations in addressing violence in our neighborhoods.
This work would not be possible without the backing and strength of our community partners, our leaders, our donors, and you. I invite you to continue to support our work by both responding to our action alerts and making a financial contribution today. Let us continue to fight on the front lines so that fifty years from now economic and racial justice are much closer to a reality.