It was 2015 when Niketa Brar first envisioned a “Chicago that works for all of us.” In-depth news stories on education inequities, along with a house meeting with friends to discuss segregated and integrated schools, stoked her designs.
The following spring, she teamed up with Elisabeth Greer to work on segregation and serve as local school council members in the South Loop. In 2017, Kathleen Yang-Clayton joined the efforts, and the trio launched community dialogues.
They wanted to live in a city permeated by racial justice – a city where all children shine, where leaders listen to everyone’s voice, and where zip codes don’t predetermine resources. They believed Chicago could be stronger if lines drawn around race, class and wards could give way to ties that bind shared goals. They decided to do something.
They founded Chicago United for Equity – or CUE – a nonprofit organization that promotes racial justice in schools and communities by building and sharing tools for equity, connecting people who promote racial justice, and transforming policies.
The founders say that their On the Table experiences helped shape CUE. In 2016, Kathleen hosted five tables on race for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, where she served as deputy director. In 2017, Niketa hosted four Tables for her then-employer, the City of Chicago Treasurer’ Office.
“I would say that our early work…shifted after leading OTT dialogues,” said Niketa, who is now CUE’s executive director. “As a result, we created a different protocol for engagement in the 10 dialogues we held in the South Loop starting in spring 2017. This rewrite was heavily influenced by the experience of being an On the Table host and seeing how effective dialogue can build bridges across lines of difference.”
To date, CUE has trained 75 leaders in government, advocacy, research and media in the use of its Racial Equity Assessment tool. It has been a prominent voice in the 2018 debate over Chicago Public Schools’ closings.
The Chicago Community Trust was an early funder of CUE and supports its Racial Equity Fellowship.
We are neighbors who believe in racial justice. We’re fighting for a Chicago where all of our children have an equal opportunity to shine. Where zip codes can’t predict school resources. Where our voices matter to our leaders. And we’re working across race, class, and ward lines to build the Chicago we deserve.