IPCE Welcomes Community Advocate Robert Douglas

Robert Douglas is the first "voice" in new "Voices of the Community" series

The Institute is proud to welcome Robert Douglas, a community advocate and lifelong resident of Roseland, to UIC to present his report on his civic engagement work in his neighborhood. "Roseland Civic Engagement Study: Corridor for Collective Action" is a report documenting Douglas's experience in a richly diverse community of activists, families, and entrepreneurs that is also afflicted by violence, unemployment, and economic blight. He examines the structure of the community and its leaders and provides both critiques of institutions in place in Roseland and recommendations for further community improvement.

IPCE's "Voices of the Community" series aims to highlight civic voices from communities around Chicago and showcase their work to a broader audience.

Robert Douglas is set to visit UIC on Thursday November 8 from 10am-11:30am in CUPPAH 418. Learn more about his visit in "Events."

Robert Douglas in his own words

Robert Douglas

Robert Douglas believes no one can unpack their dreams efficiently without God. Education was never viewed as the path to a better life in Robert’s household.  As a child, his mother didn’t impress upon him the importance of school and making the most of the opportunities that an education afforded us. Robert’s childhood was filled with abandonment, multiple levels of abuse, and abject poverty as my grandmother attempted to nurture nine fatherless children.  The neighborhood Robert grew up in was poverty-stricken, gang infested, and generally hard on fatherless, young, black men like him. Robert didn’t consider education as a way out until his oldest brother was murdered as a result of gang violence.  Robert’s brother was his world and without him life felt empty and without purpose. Seeing Robert headed down the same path as his brother, his grandmother pleaded with him to at least graduate high school to give himself a fighting chance in society.  Robert promised her he would and he did.

At the age of 33, Robert decided he wanted more for himself and for his future, therefore Robert made education a priority.  Robert earned a Bachelor of Arts degree through the Board of Governors Program in 2013 at Chicago State University.  While earning his degree, Robert worked in community building and organization development projects throughout the City of Chicago.  Over the past 15 years, Robert has led the charge for quality schools in low-income neighborhoods, fair workforce development opportunities, civic engagement, hunger relief efforts, research, violence reduction, and healthy community development projects.  In an advocacy role,  Robert organized and got approval for an elementary charter school, Roseland Preparatory Academy, on Chicago’s Far South Side.

In 2012 as an undergraduate student worker at Chicago State University, the Dean of Library and Instructional Services offered Robert a Research Assistant position.  To his great amazement, this position was to research the social and economic impact a presidential library/museum would have on the community.  Robert’s extensive experience in community building coupled with this research assistant opportunity has taken his professional and educational career to another level.

In August of 2014, Robert was accepted into the Masters of Science in Communication Program at Northwestern University.  Never the less, God had another plan, because in that same month, Christopher and Sheila Kennedy offered Robert an internship at Top Box Foods.  Graduate school was deferred because Robert could not let this opportunity pass. Robert went from an AmeriCorps VISTA, Outreach Manager at Top Box Foods to now Maafa Redemption Project a community partner of Top Box Foods.

As Robert ends his journey with the Kennedy’s in 2016, he begins another with New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church and the Maafa Redemption Project.  Robert has participated in many citywide violence reduction initiatives but with Maafa, Jesus Christ is our strategy. So, as Langston Hughes wrote, “What happens to a dream deferred…..does it dry up like a raisin in the sun”.  No, the opportunities offered to Robert will develop, engage and set free a caged bird who is determined to take every advantage offered in this life.

Read Robert Douglas's Roseland Civic Engagement Study