After the Table

Meet the Host: Darius Ballinger

Pictured above: Chasing23 founder, Darius Ballinger with some of his members during a career development workshop in 2017.

Story by Jasmine Browley; originally published in May 2018.

Darius Ballinger takes the chase out of finding a safe space for youth to gather. Darius is founder of Chasing23, a youth empowerment group that mentors and tutors youth ages 13-21, and gives special attention to African-American males, on Chicago’s South Side. He is a second-year On the Table host who will focus his 2018 discussion on improving the quality of life for Grand Boulevard residents.

How did you first get involved in On the Table?

I was invited to a local On the Table discussion by a good friend in my neighborhood in 2016, and I’ve participated ever since. Last year, I decided to host my own.”

Pictured above: Darius Ballinger, 2018 On the Table host, speaks about the importance of mentorship.

Why did you decide to host an On the Table this year? 

I needed to have a productive conversation about ways to improve the lives of men of color in the Grand Boulevard area, an underserved neighborhood. I grew up there. This is very personal for me. In the spring of 2013, I started Chasing 23, a youth empowerment group, to provide a network of support and purpose through tutoring, project-based learning and focused mentorship.”

What inspired your founding of Chasing23? 

The organization’s name was inspired by my friend, Wayne “Chase” Drummer, who was killed at the age of 23. That day changed me forever. It made me realize how much young, impoverished black men are often overlooked by the people who can actually make a change. That’s exactly why I participated in the On the Table initiative for the first time a few years ago.”

What issues do you want to address at your table?

I plan to address some of the issues that make navigating adolescence and young adulthood more challenging in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood: poverty, lack of resources and lack of education. This reality rings true for many young, black men living on Chicago’s South Side as they enter adulthood.”

Pictured above: Darius Ballinger, founder of Garfield Boulevard-based youth empowerment organization Chasing23, said On the Table sparked his idea to expand his mentorship group across several schools in his community. Here, he speaks to members about career development opportunities through education.

Pictured above: The invitation to Chasing23’s 2018 On the Table