$10 Million to Communities United for Youth-Led "Healing Through Justice Project"

October 11, 2022

Chicago Group gets One of Five W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grants in Global Challenge to Advance Racial Equity


CHICAGO – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded Chicago’s Communities United $10 million over the next eight years for its partnership with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital to advance “Healing Through Justice: A Community-led Breakthrough Strategy for Healing Centered Communities.”

The Racial Equity 2030 Challenge has five awardees who will help build and scale actionable ideas for transformative change in the systems and institutions that uphold racial inequities.

“We are facing a national youth mental health crisis compounded by a pandemic and our city is looking for solutions to address its impact on safety and the wellbeing of young people,” said Laqueanda Reneau, Youth Organizer of Communities United. “Young people are leading us in an effort to address the trauma, especially in communities of color, that they and their families are experiencing. Our Healing Through Justice model is proving that a youth-directed vision can reshape our mental health system by working for and making positive change. Our partnership with Lurie Children’s has helped us refine the model, and will be paving a roadmap for how other mental health institutions can address racial equity by centering youth leadership.”

Healing Through Justice was developed by Communities United and has been informed by the narratives of hundreds of participating young people who have experienced personal and collective healing while taking social action to address issues impacting them and their families. While traditional medical approaches rely heavily on treatment, this model of community healing focuses on supporting the leadership and action of Black and Brown youth in Chicago to create new pathways for recovery, and positive health outcomes for themselves and their communities. 

The Healing Through Justice Initiative builds on the 11-year partnership between CU and Lurie Children’s to support youth leadership in transforming systems to be racially just and accountable to the communities they serve. Most recently, CU and Lurie Children’s collaborated on the release of “Changing the Beat of Mental Health,” a youth-led participatory action research project that identified systemic inequities and the normalization of trauma as key drivers of worsening mental health among young men of color.

Additionally, the work on the Healing Through Justice partnership is a fundamental part of Lurie Children’s 2023-2025 Community Health Implementation Strategy, which was developed in response to a 2021 survey of Chicago residents that identified mental health and the need for equitable access to mental health services as their priority health concern. Lurie Children’s has made it an institutional priority to address systemic racism and create safe and supportive spaces for youth.

“The youth that we work with face acute trauma on an ongoing basis. We want to empower them to heal and take on the challenges that they and their communities face. For me, this is an inspirational story and adaptable to any youth-facing organization," shares John Walkup, MD, Chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The award grant will be used to support the eight-year project to document, evaluate and disseminate new youth-led strategies for community healing and their engagement with systems. Communities United and Lurie Children’s will also be creating a model of how a large health system can effectively partner with the leadership of the community to significantly improve health outcomes, with youth and community members at the center. 

The project will:

  • Invest in the development of 3,000 young people as leaders in the community that will inform new strategies for Lurie Children’s and other health systems to support youth-led and community-centered healing. 
  • Convene a network of community-based partners to support youth leaders and the implementation of new mental wellness strategies. 
  • Document and evaluate this new model that supports community-led healing to improve health outcomes in communities of color.

"It’s very exciting to know that our work is being recognized, especially at this moment when we are seeing a lot of need for healing in our communities," said Bezaleia “Bezzy” Reed, a Youth Leader with Communities United who became involved in the organization after losing her older brother, Caleb Reed, to gun violence. "Being part of the work to create change in my community has helped me in my healing journey and I have witnessed the same effect on my friends. We are ready to continue to grow our work and engage institutions on how they can support our vision for healing in our communities.”

The Racial Equity 2030 challenge was announced in 2020, 90 years after the founding of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and received 1,453 submissions from 72 countries around the world. In September 2021, the Kellogg Foundation announced the top 10 finalists for the challenge. All finalists moved through a process of multiple levels of review, feedback and diligence involving peer applicants and multi-disciplined experts from across the world. 

 “Communities United is empowering young people to  identify the social injustices they see and advocate for change,” said Ciciley “CC” Moore, senior program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Youth leadership and action will be the driving force to achieve community-centered mental health in Chicago. We are proud to be partners for the next eight years”

The Racial Equity 2030 Challenge was managed in partnership with Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that connects donors with bold solutions to the world’s biggest problems—including issues like racial inequity, gender inequality, lack of access to economic opportunity and climate change.

More information about the Racial Equity 2030 Challenge, the awardees, and the finalists can be found at www.wkkf.org/re2030.  



About Communities United:

An intergenerational racial justice organization in Chicago, Communities United develops grassroots leadership to build collective power to achieve racial justice and transformative social change. Communities United focuses on advancing health equity, affordable housing, education justice, youth investment, immigrant rights, police accountability, and shifting resources from the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems into restorative justice alternatives. For more information go to www.communitiesunited.org.  

About Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Lurie Children’s:

Lurie Children's is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries, with over half of its patients insured by Medicaid and more than one-third living in under-resourced communities. 

The hub for community health initiatives at Lurie Children’s is the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities. The Magoon Institute facilitates partnerships and programs between Lurie Children’s and the community to address root causes of health disparities and advance health equity for youth.  

Lurie Children’s Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides high-quality inpatient, partial hospitalization and outpatient behavioral health services to children and adolescents. We are the largest provider for ADHD and Trauma-Related Disorders in the 7-County Chicagoland Area, and among the top five providers (by volume) of all pediatric outpatient mental health services. In FY 20, more than one-third of the children we serve in our inpatient behavioral health programs and 60 percent of children in our outpatient programs are insured by Medicaid. For more information go to  www.luriechildrens.org.  

About W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. 

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. To learn more about WKKF, visit www.wkkf.org or follow WKKF on Twitter at @wk_kellogg_fdn

About Lever for Change:

Lever for Change connects donors with bold solutions to the world’s biggest problems—including issues like racial inequity, gender inequality, lack of access to economic opportunity, and climate change. Using an inclusive, equitable model and due diligence process, Lever for Change creates customized challenges and other tailored funding opportunities. Top-ranked teams and challenge finalists become members of the Bold Solutions Network—a growing global network that helps secure additional funding, amplify members’ impact, and accelerate social change. Founded in 2019 as a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Lever for Change has influenced more than $1 billion in grants to date and provided support to more than 145 organizations. To learn more, visit www.leverforchange.org.