Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Voyage Chicago: Meet Asiaha Butler of R.A.G.E.

The article was actually shared to our FB page by JP Paulus last week. Time to share this on the blog with this quote:
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.

My journey started when I decided to relocate from Chicago back in 2008, after my block here in Englewood was in turmoil. A bullet went through my door, someone had climb through my daughter’s window attempting to rob us and there was shootings happening on a nightly basis. I was afraid from my life and the life of my family. After reviewing the housing market in Atlanta where most of my family lives, I was ready to say goodbye to Chicago. Then something hit me when I looked out of my window at four young children playing in a vacant lot filled with bottles, glass and dirt. That moment I decided, that instead of leaving Englewood, I need to stay and add value in order to make a change in my neighborhood.

I didn’t know where to start so I just volunteered everywhere in Englewood. After volunteering, I became frustrated that there was not many event or activities for youth on the Saturdays, which was my day off from my day job and since my husband is a DJ, I felt our first move should be creating a youthful space for young people on Saturdays. My goal, was to connect our young people with our elders, whom were the ones hosting many young programs. So we started showing a series of documentaries, inviting young and older people for “Docs & Dialogue” at libraries, parks, and other locations. We chose films to spark in-depth conversation about provocative issues such as misogyny in hip hop, violence in video games, and the ways societal ills from slavery to drugs have affected black women over time. Then in 2010, I founded alongside two other Englewood residents, a youth journalism program called Media-N-Motion, where we led young people in making videos, writing articles, and publishing a newsletter examining how Englewood was portrayed in the media.

During this time, I met countless residents who wanted more for Englewood who wanted to be a part of the change, like I did. In November of 2010, I brushed off my association experience from my day job and co-founded R.A.G.E. or Resident Association of Greater Englewood. Our mission is to mobilize people and resources to force a change in the community and our primary focus areas are Education, Youth Development, Economic Development and Civic Empowerment. We started with 13 members and looked for ways to empower leadership within the community to help take on the complex problems that impact and stigmatize Englewood. Now our association has more than 260 members with many achievements under our belt, ranging from being the civic pioneers of the Large $1 Lot program, working to repurposing vacant schools and continuing to connect empowerment tools to residents.

A year ago, after 16 years I decided to quit my day job at a real estate association to work on the efforts in Englewood full-time. I opened the R.A.G.E. headquarters in the building I owned across the street from my home, adjacent to a once-vacant lot that was my turning point that I bought from the city for $1. I use my lot for community events, place-making activities, meetings and recently a job fair that brought over 400 attendees.

My journey continues as I served as the architect and lead curator of Englewood Rising, a recently launched neighborhood rebranding campaign actively working to change the community’s narrative. In addition to boosting neighborhood pride among residents, the campaign also aims to show those outside Englewood that the violence and crime and poverty they hear about on the news is only one part of the story. I recently founded my own real estate development group to develop and rebuild the neighborhood with a mission to increase home ownership and work to counter the fears of gentrification. It is my personal mission to continue to love on and show the beauty of Englewood from the people, the movements, the assets, and opportunities. I coined the name “Mrs. Englewood”, because I am truly married to my community, I have made personal vows to see our community revitalized and rebuilt with residents leading every step of the way.
If you're looking to make a different in your communities, hopefully this inspires you. I encourage you to read the whole thing.

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