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Annual Theme

 Collective Hope is a Radical Practice



“Hope is a discipline.”
“Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” 
- Mariame Kaba

With climate catastrophe looming, the escalation of anti-trans moral panic, and an ongoing pandemic, among other dire concerns, these are indeed messy times. And while more and more people are becoming politicized and aware of the need for radical transformation, it’s overwhelming. The sheer amount of misinformation, disinformation, and flat out violence can and does make the thought of leaving the daunting task of societal change to others–young people, organizers, activists, “experts,” the universe,  – quite tempting. Many of us are exhausted, burnt out, disillusioned, and hurt. Some of us find ourselves seeking comfort in a cold armor of cynicism. This is where the above words of wisdom on hope by abolitionist organizer, educator, and curator and our 2021 MLK Dream Week keynote speaker Mariame Kaba present an intriguing directive and a powerful (re)frame that we at the Women’s Center are taking to heart.

What is hope? What if instead of a fleeting emotion, something you have or don’t have at any given moment, hope is a verb: an action, a skill to cultivate, a craft to hone? Not an aspiration, thought experiment, or toxic positivity, but a daily practice grounded in movement and community. How might this expand how we think of resistance and struggle and simultaneously relieve us from the overwhelm of solving the world’s problems alone? Huge victories like the erasure of Chicago’s gang database or Illinois becoming the first state to abolish money bond via the Pretrial Fairness Act help us chip away at larger targeted structures and are culminations of countless “smaller” invisible victories, radical practices of collective hope embodied. This year at the Women’s Center we will be reading and drawing inspiration from the recently published book Let this Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care, co-authored by Kaba and Menominee organizer and educator Kelly Hayes, as we meditate on what it means to anchor our work in a radical practice of collective hope. 

Join us this year, and stay tuned to our newsletter and Instagram for related content and updates about our upcoming programs. We extend the challenge that Maya Schenwar poses in the book’s forward as an open invitation to anyone engaging with our programming this year: let this radicalize you. As Schenwar advises, “To do this, you will need to let your guard all the way down. Let your inner cynic take a nap. Tell your inner devil’s advocate to take a few days off. Then let yourself be lifted by the stories of the organizers that fill these pages–people who are stubbornly practicing hope each day and taking imaginative action, in spite of doubts, losses, and heartbreak.” 

Lastly, we invite you to lean in the cozy autumnal vibes and feast your eyes on the stunning original artwork above, created by Chicago artist Cori Lin of onibaba studio, that so beautifully captures this year’s theme. Hope, like a fire, is a point of gathering, connection, and warmth that must be diligently tended to. 

What kindling can you offer?

melisa stephen
Program Manager 

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Theme Artistcori

Meet the artist who designed our annual theme artwork "Collective Hope is a Radical Practice"

Onibaba studio 
is fully operated by cori nakamura lin (she/her) in chicago, on the land of the council of the three fires.

cori is a japanese//taiwanese-american illustrator specializing in culture-centered storytelling and radical information sharing. with over 10 years of experience crafting visuals for non-profits, foundations, community groups, and publications, she makes art that fuels action. cori is inspired by cephalopods, visionary fiction, her own hunger, and the future generations of gosei/rokusei.


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