Inspire & Empower: Women Creating Change in Their Communities

Saturday, March 10, 2018 - 10:30am

Inspire & Empower: Women Creating Change in their Communities
Free Event

In celebrating International Women’s Day, Heaven Gallery invites nine women who are making positive impacts in their communities. This group includes women that are running for office, activists that are creating housing and art cooperatives, and community leaders. These women will speak about their community-based projects, share their stories, and open the conversation about the importance of women in leadership. The goal of this event is to inspire women to create new initiatives and to bring visibility to the various projects being presented. This day is for women inspiring women to aim higher and that no dream is too big. #PressforProgress 

Speakers include: Amara Enyia, Amina Ayo Norman-Hawkins, Barbara Koenen, Carlyn So, Delia Ramirez, Laura Weathered, Natalie Figueroa, Sendy Soto and Elaine Coorens

Starbucks Coffee and refreshments provided

Dr. Amara Enyia is a Public Policy expert on city and state policy as well as international affairs/foreign policy with expertise in Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. She writes extensively on issues of education, economic development, fiscal policy, equity in policy, and systems thinking. Dr. Enyia has worked in various policy areas including economic development, public finance, housing, education, food security, and community development. She holds a Masters degree in education, a law degree, and a PhD in Education Policy. In addition to her public policy consulting work, Dr. Enyia is a political consultant and strategist. She is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Cooperative Economics and Economic Innovation (ICEEI), an entity that seeks to diversify the
economic ecosystem through educating, advocating, and developing policy for cooperative economic models and financing tools that support cooperative enterprises. She serves the Executive Director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and serves as Policy Consultant for several education organizations. Dr. Enyia serves on the boards of
the Chicago Community Loan Fund, the Communities First Association, and Life Development Center. She is a Public Policy Global Leadership Fellow with the Global Strategists Association and serves as a regular commentator and contributor on policy and politics for various media outlets.

Delia Ramirez is currently running for 4th district representative. She an accomplished social service director, community leader and coalition builder who has dedicated much of her life and career to the Humboldt Park and Logan Square communities. She has served as the board president of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, District Advisory Chair of the 14th District Police Department, Co-founder of the Chicago Justice for our Neighbors Free Immigration Clinic and currently the President of LUCHA, a community development and affordable housing organization in the district. Delia is Deputy Director of the Community Renewal Society, Chicago's oldest faith-based social justice organization, where she oversees the development, organizing and policy units. Her bid for office will bring a uniting spirit, political savvy and independent fortitude that will allow her to lead coalition building efforts across caucuses, understanding that leverage, strength and influence in a united black and brown caucus are better positioned to lead a progressive agenda that leads policy change on the issues that impact them most. United With Delia’s campaign has recruited family, friends, neighbors, old colleagues, and fellow voters to join the massive grassroots mobilization effort. Delia is committed to developing the campaign’s volunteer infrastructure into a sustained independent political organization that steers Delia’s legislative priorities as an elected official.

Sendy Soto has been a policy advocate and community activist for over 20 years. Born in Guatemala and raised in Logan Square where she remains a resident, she is the System Director for Community Benefit and Advocacy at AMITA Health System. Her role is to increase access to health for underserved and uninsured populations. She also advocates for federal policies that improve health outcomes across the United States. She is currently a fellow of Chicago United for Equity and a board member of Healing to Action. Sendy spends her free time empowering individuals and families who are assimilating to the United States either by hosting international students or mentoring immigrant and refugee families. Her previous experience includes the offices of then-Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, supporting them in their fight for DACA, DREAM Act, and VAWA. Sendy received her B.A. in Justice Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Carlyn So is active in Chicago’s cooperative housing scene, using her background in web design and architecture to explain and promote co-ops and connect people. She has a passion for design strategy and community development, especially affordable housing, and believes shared property ownership can reduce real estate speculation and increase human interaction. Carlyn grew up in Bridgeport and is working to start a co-op there. She is on the Steering Committee of the Pilsen Housing Cooperative (PIHCO), which is forming as a limited-equity housing cooperative for artists and families in Pilsen; it is an anti-displacement strategy. 

Barbara Koenen is the founder and director of Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx) which cultivates creativity and reduces waste by reimagining and redistributing surplus. Prior to CCRx, Koenen was an artist and bureaucrat who worked for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs for over 20 years, creating and directing programs like Chicago Artists Resource, Creative Chicago Expo, and Chicago Artists Month.

Natalie Figueroa is an activist and community organizer that has lived at the intersection of art and resistance for over 18 years. Natalie, a Chicago Native, began as an HIV activist at age 15, organizing alongside youth of color to address issues of police brutality, segregation, access to comprehensive health education, and racial injustice. As a member of Housing Works and Leftist Lounge Chicago she helped create platforms for artists and activists to come together creating a space for both healing and action. Currently, she is focused on collective liberation, connecting like-minded souls and building with her “Y.G.B.Portland family." 

Laura Weathered is the director of Near NorthWest Arts Council. NNWAC is a artist/activist organization committed to preserving, maintaining and developing community. This non-profit organization directed by artists to advocate for resources that supports affordable space for creative work, to build a vital, healthy, sustainable community. NNWAC worked directly with artists to design, develop and build a 25 unit work/live condo community in a 46,000 square foot industrial building. The organization is also a partner in the Bronzeville Artist Lofts, a mixed use rental property which provides 16 work/live studios on 47th Street completed in 2014.

Elaine Coorens Long time resident and Community leader of Wicker Park. She is the editor and publisher of Our Urban Times, a locally owned and published community newspaper dedicated to news and information relative to the near northwest Chicago community. Elaine is on the Wicker Park Preservation & Development Committee and currently leading a forum on women running for 4th district Illinois State Representative. She is also the author of Wicker Park from 1673-1929 and Walking Tour Guide.

Amina Norman-Hawkins born in the United States and raised in Nigeria, she is an internationally recognized voice of grassroots hip-hop activism. She is a writer, performing artist, filmmaker, and hip-hop practitioner who has spent the past 20 years actively involved in the preservation of Chicago’s hip-hop culture and community; as well as a staunch advocate of Hip-Hop as a vehicle for social change. She is co-founder of Chicago Hip-Hop Initiative, Chicago Hip-Hop Heritage Month, and the ‘B-Girl Power’ movement. In 2010 Amina became a U.S. Cultural Envoy spending two weeks leading a team of three Chicago-based Hip-Hop artists on a Peace & Tolerance tour throughout the West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire. She produced the documentary ‘Keep It Moving-The Movie" which premiered to in the 2011 Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. Currently, Amina performs around the country as one half of the Hip-Hop duo Urbanized Music, alongside producer/emcee Coolout Chris. She is also currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College, and additionally serves as a Teaching Artist for Columbia College’s Community Schools. In both roles she brings her expertise as an artist into the classroom with the hopes of inspiring and empowering students unlock their most authentic creative potential through the arts.