WE ARE HERE TO PROVOKE CHANGE
Founded and established for and by post incarcerated and marginalized Black people in Chicago, Equity And Transformation (EAT) strives to uplift the faces, voices, and power of the vast disenfranchised and excluded Black workforce in Chicago. We organize with individuals that operate outside of the formal economy. They are the bucket boys that we pass on the way to the train everyday, the bootleg DVD man or woman at your local barber shop, the person selling loose cigarettes two for a dollar in front of the local liquor store, the trans and cis gender commercial sex workers in our community—they are survivors. They are hip hop, they are jazz, they are artists, they are musicians, they are the hustlers that are the heart beat of every inner city community in the U.S.
The mission of Equity and Transformation is to build social and economic equity for Black chicagoans engaged in the informal economy. We seek a Chicago free from anti Black racism and economic violence in Black communities.
We are are quickly approaching 500 homicides this year in the city of Chicago. Roughly 85% of the homicides were caused by gunshots, while 75% of all victims are Black. The majority of the homicides took place in three neighborhoods in Chicago; Austin, Garfield Park and Englewood, the populations in each area is approximately 80% Black. Meanwhile the per capita income in Austin is $16,962, Garfield Park is $10,951 and Englewood is $12,756—nearly $20,000 below the Chicago average pre capita income of $34,689.
More than a decade of neoliberal reforms have privatized the public sector, increased automation and weakened workers rights overall, limiting both the options and power of state supported interventions to address the Black unemployment crisis in Chicago and across the U.S.
Chicago currently has one of the highest rates of Black unemployment in the nation.
This is the current state of Black safety and equity in Chicago.
Black existence on the margins in Chicago, is the back drop for the theater of the Informal Economy (IE). Here, outside of the protections of unionism and queer to conventional definitions of ‘employed’, Black chicagoans have created informal economies for survival. They are all unemployed by traditional definitions, yet positioned in a social system that requires currency to trade for subsistence, informality is their most reliable system of exchange. Their survival on the margins hold critical lessons for transforming both the informal and formal economy to one that is inclusive, just, and equitable.
EAT developed distinct strategies to work within those marginalized areas in Austin, Garfield Park and Englewood to increase safety and build toward social and economic equity. EAT’s strategy consist of research, media-based organizing, community organizing, advocacy and policy development.
The central aim of the initiative is to mobilize Chicago’s informal workforce in order to:
Transform the narrative of engagement in the informal economy from criminality to survivability, as a intervention to reduce othering and increase safety
Reimagine the definition of laborer through a Black labor lens that takes into account both the history of exclusion of black workers and the depth of creativity in the development of alternative labor systems for survival in capitalist country.
Build bridges into the formal economy for constituents seeking formal employment.
Build out Informal Workers Associations (IWA) that self define their vision of safety and equity.
Develop an Informal Workers Bill of Rights (IWBR) that supplements for traditional labor standards and serve as an alternative system of self organization; an intervention that promotes safety and sustainability within the informal economy.
In order to create a more democratic society, we must develop strategies through which society’s most disenfranchised people can impact the social and economic conditions affecting their lives. EAT believes the most affected people in Chicago are those engaged in informality. Through informality we confront anti Black racism, classism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia…from the bottom up. By mobilizing workers in the informal economy to advance their interest in the informal economy and the public decision making arena, we increase Black engagement in our democracy, influence public decision makers, build authentic Black social and economic equity and create safer communities