Circles & Circles & Ciphers is a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by violence. Through art-based peace circles, education, and direct action we collectively heal and work to bring about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex.

Programming

YOUNG MEN’S CIRCLE

1545 W. Morse Avenue
TUESDAYS 5-7:30 PM

Young Men from across Chicago come together in a Hip-Hop Peace Circle to rap, write, and speak their truth. Young men are welcome.

FREE DINNER.

WOMEN OF COLOR CIRCLE

1545 W. Morse Avenue
EVERY OTHER TUESDAY 5-7:30 PM

Women of Color from across Chicago come together in an arts-based Peace Circle to create, listen, and speak their truth. Women/fems of color are welcome.

FREE DINNER.

.

FREESTYLE CIRCLE

1545 W. Morse Avenue
WEDNESDAY 3-5:30 PM

All of Chicago comes together in a Hip-Hop Peace Circle to freestyle rap.  Improvisation sets us free. All are welcome.

COMMUNITY CIRCLES

1545 W. Morse Avenue
EVERY OTHER WEDNESDAY 6-8:30 PM

All of Chicago comes together in an arts infused Peace Circle to create, share, and support one another.

SCHOOL, PRISON, GROUP HOME CIRCLES

THURSDAY 1-5:00 PM

Youth Leaders bring weekly Hip-Hop Peace Circles to institutions across Chicago.

 

History

In Spring 2010, community members complained repeatedly that a DCFS Group Home in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, and the six young men residing there, were a source of criminal activity in the neighborhood.

Seeking a way to address the challenging situation facing Group Home residents, and to improve their contentious relationship with the surrounding community, two Project NIA volunteers partnered with the Group Home. They used their experience as restorative justice practitioners to start a bi-monthly young men’s group for residents. In this young men’s group, hip-hop infused peacemaking circles were used to guide conversations on a variety of themes, including: manhood, relationships with women, substance abuse, goal setting, violence, and the media.

As the young men became increasingly comfortable expressing themselves in the safe and creative space that was provided, they took more ownership of the group. Slowly and steadily, the healthy relationships cultivated in the bi-monthly peacemaking circles began to translate back to the Group Home, where an authentic sense of community was forged. DCFS staff noticed improvements in behavior among Group Home residents, in their individual decision-making, and in their interpersonal relationships with each other and with staff.

In Summer 2011, this young men’s group was expanded into Circles & Ciphers, a hip-hop youth leadership development organization that currently offers a variety of programming – in prison, school, group home, and community settings – to young people of color who are disconnected.

 

Values

RESPECTING THE WISDOM OF YOUNG PEOPLE, ELDERS, AND ANCESTORS.

We honor those who came before us as we move forward. Learning from our ancestors helps us on our journey to creating a new sovereign community based on principals of restoration and transformation. We honor the voices of young people as being the best way forward. We ask our elders to build new models of “safe communities” with young people.

RESTORATIVE AND TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE

At the center of our work are restorative justice peace circles. Circles for healing. Circles for celebrating. Circles for understanding. We reject and challenge the systems of mass incarceration, white supremacy and all injustice. We do this through our circle work, by partnering with other like-minded organizations. We practice and model compassion. We practice and model respect. We practice and model leadership. We practice and model fearlessness. We begin with ourselves, our families, our neighborhood, our city.

 

EXPRESSION THROUGH THE ARTS

We recognize that music and poetry and story and movement help us work towards that freedom we imagine. Whenever we share space, we endeavor to use the arts.

IMAGINATION

We imagine a world where all people are free. Free from cages. Free from poverty and injustice. Free of fear. We use our collective imagination to actively push against systems that keep us bound – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.