I had a mindset shift. My initial mind was this community is horrible. Then I'm meeting phenomenal people and hearing phenomenal narratives. I'm like, wait, these stories are not told.

Asiaha Butler, Englewood: Reframing the Narrative



Change Agents Episodes

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Taken Away

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When We Organize, We Win

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Englewood: Reframing the Narrative

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One Code: One Austin​

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Learning on the Line

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People v. Environmental Racism

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A New Hospitality Labor Movement

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Trust, Learning, Caring

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Do the Math

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Who We Are

Agency | ˈājənsē |

noun

action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect

Too often the actions of real people of color making ​real​ ​change​ in their neighborhoods and lives are ignored in the media.

Even worse are portrayals that people of color lack the ​agency​ to address the wrongs and find solutions that empowers residents and improves conditions. Too often these stories are told from outside, not inside, the community.

Developed by Judith McCray and Maurice Bisaillon of Juneteenth Productions, Change Agents is a partnership between community organizers and emerging journalists of color who are provided the tools to produce professionally crafted episodes that highlight issues, challenges and ground level efforts for change.



Behind-the-Scenes Team

Executive Producer

Judith McCray

is an award winning documentary filmmaker, broadcast journalist and producer. Twenty three years ago she founded Juneteenth Productions to find and tell stories from the perspective and experiences of people who matter, whom we hear too little about or from. She passionately believes that media is an effective tool for positive social change and reaching people and communities that are underrepresented. She loves sailing and horseback riding - but rarely gets to do either.

Executive Producer

Maurice Bisaillon

is a media producer with more than 20 years of broadcast production experience, working with A&E, History Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS and more. His A&E Biography on Barack Obama is the most widely viewed episode in the history of the franchise. He’s a recent transplant to Chicago and has thoroughly lost his mind trying to furnish his apartment through Facebook Marketplace.

Project Assistant

Maribel Ang

is a visual artist born and raised in Chicago. For the past several years, she's held educational support roles for teens and adults across the city. Maribel is never without her dog, Cubby, or a pair of knitting needles.

Sound Designer

Ariel Mejia

is a Chicago native who came to audio art and radio production by way of feminist praxis, community organizing and sexual health education. Her work has been featured on the BBC show ​Shortcuts ​from Falling Tree Productions​,​ as well as on ​The Heart​, and ​Antibody​, a podcast series from Jacobin Magazine’s ​The Dig.​ Ariel also teaches audio storytelling to teens at After School Matters and aspires to become a skilled tap dancer.

Funding provided by the Field Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust. City Bureau is our fiscal sponsor.

Our Stories

Season 1

COVID19 rocked the world in 2020.

Life, work, school and activity came to a screeching halt for most as stay-at-home orders and other restrictions dramatically changed how we interacted and lived. Despite these restrictions, the lack of information and a vaccine, community organizations, organizers and activists stepped up and in to fill the void. They provided food and other basics while keeping to their charge to improve the conditions of their communities and lives of their citizens.

Taken Away

Taken Away

Alex spent 18 months incarcerated in a county jail in Wisconsin as a detainee of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE ambushed Beto after a routine check in and incarcerated him for 9 months before he was deported to Mexico. Both men fought deportation with the help of the Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), a Chicago organization supporting undocumented people. This episode explores the harrowing, often untold conditions of immigration detention and the damage done to detainees psyches.

When We Organize, We Win

When We Organize, We Win

Davetta Brooks and Pastor Eartha Sutton live in the Congressman George Collins Apartments, a section 8 building for seniors on Chicago’s southside. Davetta moved in about 8 years ago, and immediately was confronted with deplorable living conditions such as pests and filth. Over the years she tried to address the conditions with management and was met with intimidation and threats. It wasn’t until about a year ago that she became connected through the new alderman of the 25th ward, Byron Sigcho Lopez to the Jane Addams Senior Caucus. With the help of the senior caucus, Davetta joined up with Pastor Eartha Sutton and many others in the building to build a Tenants Association together, and make demands of the building management collectively to get their needs addressed. When COVID-19 hit, the seniors at George Collins and seniors across the city organized to get a city ordinance passed to provide wellness checks for residents living in low income senior buildings during emergencies. This episode showcases the powerful and vigilant organizing of the seniors at Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

Englewood: Reframing the Narrative

Englewood: Reframing the Narrative

Englewood, on Chicago’s south side, is cast as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world. But activists and residents are challenging the stereotypes and changing the narrative with community initiatives, services and beautification projects. Community activists like Asiaha Butler and Tonika Johnson have been working to show the world a different side of Englewood, while also providing free services, community engagement, and public art in order to lift up those most in need. This episode goes into Englewood as residents reclaim space and counteract its negative media image.

One Code: One Austin​

One Code: One Austin​

Known for its high number of shootings and open illegal drug market, the Austin community on Chicago’s far west side struggles between its bad rap, high levels of poverty and lack of jobs and resources. Providing a life line to its residents are organizations like the Institute For Non-Violence Chicago, Westside Health Authority, and Amplify, doing their part to rebuild the community and it’s name. This episode follows Artimmeo, a re-entry specialist at the Institute for Non-Violence Chicago, and others as they’ve established a code to support and assist residents in need.

Learning on the Line

Learning on the Line

In September 2020, the Chicago Public Schools went into its second term of remote learning. At issue were the approximately 115,000 students, predominantly African American and LatinX who were without the technology required to “do” school. In Belmont-Cragin, a predominantly LatinX community on Chicago’s northwest side that held the city’s second highest number of COVID19 cases in November, parents struggle to get on line, get computers and keep their children from falling behind. This episode explores the efforts by Northwest Side Center for Housing to provide financial assistance, computers and technology needs.

People v. Environmental Racism

People v. Environmental Racism

Chicago’s southeast side community has strong views on environmental health due to a history of being the City of Chicago’s dumping ground. The newest injustice: Reserve Management Group is slated to bring the highly controversial 100-year-old General Iron shredding facility from Lincoln Park to the south east side community in 2021. Deep in the fight to stop this are community activists and organizations like the Alliance of the South East, struggling to be heard and have a seat at the decision-making table. This episode examines the actions and proposed solutions at the heart of grassroots activism.

A New Hospitality Labor Movement

A New Hospitality Labor Movement

When marginalized restaurant workers are abandoned by an industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, a local organization helped them pick up the pieces. Now, as the U.S paces itself towards recovery and the restaurants gear up for a safe reopening, they suddenly encounter a nationwide labor shortage. After surviving through a deadly pandemic, some workers are asking if it’s worth it after all, to go back to the industry that abandoned them.

Trust, Learning, Caring

Trust, Learning, Caring

Trust Learning Care,​ covers the Brighton Park Neighborhood Councils as it brings parents and teachers together to demand a say in how Chicago Public Schools will allocate the $1.8 billion dollars it has coming from the American Rescue Plan.

Do the Math

Do the Math

A parent and community-led coalition is fighting to keep three elementary schools in the North Lawndale neighborhood open after another community group proposes to close the schools in exchange for one STEAM school. Students, parents and teachers rally against the closures and come up with a proposal of their own.



Our Voices



Jonathan Aguilar​

is a freelance multimedia journalist in Chicago, he spent his summer covering the COVID pandemic and social justice protest. His podcast, ​Education on the Line,​ covers Chicago’s largely LatinX community Belmont Cragen, as its students and their families struggle to meet the demands of remote learning without the proper technology and hardware. Jonathan is a sneakerhead who currently has over 20 shoes and is hoping to continue to grow his collection.

Julia A. Hunter​

is the Founder and CEO of Work2gether4peace, a website dedicated to documenting community activism in the south east side of Chicago. Julia partnered with Bia Medious to produce the ​Change Agents​ episode​ People v. Environmental Racism.​ It illustrates how environmental racism and developmental inequity represents a fundamental breakdown in American democracy.

Bia Medious

has a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill’s Graduate School. Bia has worked as a civic reporting fellow with Chicago’s City Bureau and has produced podcasts with USA Today & WBEZ. Her episode of Change Agents, People v. Environmental Racism,​ ​ documents the relocation of metal recycling plant General Iron to the 10th Ward. Comprised mainly of Black and LatinX residents, the 10th Ward is surrounded by nearly 70 polluting industries. She is passionate about storytelling, investigative reporting, and the value of great audio. She is currently on a mission to build a media empire.

Ariel Mejia

is a Chicago native who came to audio art and radio production by way of feminist praxis, community organizing and sexual health education. Her work has been featured on the BBC show ​Shortcuts f​ rom Falling Tree Productions​,​ as well as on ​The Heart​, and ​Antibody​, a podcast series from Jacobin Magazine’s ​The Dig​. Ariel’s episode When We Organize, We Win​ ​showcases the efforts of seniors organized by the Jane Addams Senior Caucus to take charge and demand improvements in their senior housing living conditions. ​ Ariel also teaches audio storytelling to teens at After School Matters and aspires to become a skilled tap dancer.

Jesus J. Montero

is a multimedia journalist from Chicago. He graduated from DePaul University with a Masters in Journalism, Media and Communications. In ​Taken Away​, Jesus explores the traumas of two individuals who were arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Chicago native is a first-generation college graduate in his family, and a recipient of the 2019 Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship. Jesus is a reporter at Cicero Independiente, a former Investigative Researcher at NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago, and a former Fellow at NBC News for Dateline.

Julio Rodriguez

was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago. With 8 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Julio has provided direct service through organizing in education, housing , and small business development in Chicago’s disinvested communities. Julio holds a Masters in Public Administration, and serves as the director of organizing at Northwest Side Housing Center where he and his team organize around Immigration, youth and education to improve the quality of life in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. He teamed with journalist Jonathan Aguilar to produce ​Learning on the Line.

Kortni Smyers-Jones

is a multimedia journalist from Oakland, CA. and recently graduated from DePaul University with a Master’s in Journalism. This is her second stint with Juneteenth productions as a podcast producer. As a student, her love of storytelling and documentaries inspired her to form her own production company, Behind the Dream. In ​One Code: One Austin ​ Kortni and community activist Artimmeo Williamson tell the story of Austin, an inner city community on the West Side of Chicago contending with minimal resources and recurring violence. Kortni is dedicating her career to focusing on the needs of people and to be a force of good.

Alex Torres​

grew up in the north west suburbs of Chicago. After Organized Communities Against Deportations successfully secured his release from an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, he was inspired to become an active member of their support community. Alex teamed with ​Change Agents’ producer Jesus J. Montero on the series episode ​Taken Away.​ He enjoys reading, cooking, and dogs.

Natalie Wade​

is a recent graduate from DePaul University with a masters in journalism. She is a multimedia journalist who enjoys creative storytelling and digital mediums. Wade was a winner in the 2019 National College Media Association Film and Audio Festival, and has interned at the Chicago Tribune and ABC 7 Chicago. Natalie’s episode of Change Agents explores the Englewood community’s repurposing and community engagement initiatives while drawing on her own experience of growing up Black in Chicago. Wade was also the captain and president of DePaul’s Women’s club soccer team during her undergrad years.

Artimmeo Williamson

started at the Institute of Nonviolence Chicago in 2017 as an outreach worker. He worked diligently to build relationships with the community and at-risk population. Artimmeo worked with producer Kortni Smyers-Jones on the ​Change Agents ​episode ​One Code: One Austin.​ His passion for aiding and assisting others awarded him a promotion and Artimmeo was hand picked to become a re-entry specialist for INVC’s Newly started Re-entry program.

La’Nita Brooks

is a journalism grad student at DePaul university. Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, it has always been her goal to be able to use her voice to make a difference and tell others stories. Upon graduating she would like to get into news production and reporting and eventually host her own talk show.

Kenni Terrell

Kenni Terrell is a freelance multimedia journalist in Chicago who in 2021 received their master's in Digitial Communication and Media Arts. Their podcast, ​Trust Learning Care,​ covers Brighton Park Neighborhood Councils' efforts to close the gap between Black and Brown students in Chicago Public Schools. Community originations, parents, and Chicago Public School teachers came together with this plan to outline their needs and where the $1.8 billion dollars from the American Rescue Plan should be spent.

Huy Do

Huy Do is a Vietnamese home cook, writer, researcher, and designer currently based in Chicago. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Communications, and is currently taking that degree Digital in DePaul University’s DCMA program. As a multimedia creative, Huy seeks to generate a body of work that strikes the intersection between food, queerness, identity, culture, and justice.

Damita Menezes

Damita Menezes is a journalist, audio & video producer, born and brought up in Dubai to Indian expats. She graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor's in Journalism and a minor in Digital Cinema. Damita is a former general manager of Radio DePaul, an investigations intern at ABC7 Chicago and a part-time producer at Americaneagle.com Studios. She will soon attend Northwestern University's Medill School for a Master's of Science in Journalism. She can also eat Thai food and sushi anytime, anywhere.

Jocelyn Martinez

Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales is a journalism graduate student at DePaul University. Martinez-Rosales is an associate producer at TEDxWrigleyville and a content creator for MyBlockMyHoodMyCity. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois. Martinez-Rosales strives to tell the stories of marginalized communities who are often underrepresented.

Our Community

The following grassroots organizations serving communities of color across Chicago land partnered with the ​Change Agents​ journalists, generating authenticity, insight and trusted connections for our stories.

Events

Contact

If you have a story idea or know of activists organizations working to bring solutions to the needs of a Chicago-land community of color, please send us a message.






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