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The Celebration of Hope:  An Annual Tradition

Parents create family fun, deep connections to one another and the inspiration to keep moving forward by infusing joy and unity into their work for social, economic, and racial justice.

In 1999, a small group of parent leaders representing the first set of parent action teams, got together for the first time. The parent teams were working in  schools in diverse communities across Chicago.  Parents shared individual experiences and goals they had for themselves and their families.

Maria was enrolled in an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) course. She shared… in English. Carmen had started a business selling crocheted items that she made in her home. And Bernadetta, a grandmother, had begun walking to improve her health.

They shared team accomplishments: In the Austin neighborhood,  they established a Walking Club. In West Town, the teams had succeeded in getting their schools to stay open into the evening to offer adult education, youth recreation and social services to the community.

Every parent had something to say about the challenges of living in communities wracked by violence and the fears they had for their children. Though intense and sad, the shared experiences were not surprising. What was striking, though, was parents’ positive approach. They came up with an idea: to work together across communities and host a safe and fun event for themselves and their children.

Calling it the Celebration of Hope, they brought together 50 parent team members to “celebrate with families from other communities, share our victories and struggles, find some common ground, and have fun.” At the event, each team presented a banner or display that they created to share their team’s accomplishments.

Now a tradition of over 16 years, the annual parent-organized Celebration of Hope Family Picnics bring together more than 250 children and parents from 15 Chicago neighborhoods (and beyond) to celebrate progress, get to know each other and share food and fun across cultures and communities.


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