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Updated: Mar 2, 2021

(as it relates to the Black Lives Matter movement)

This week's guest on The Justice Beat Talk Show was Jonathon Peck, CEO of Civic Lab, a nonprofit community-facing "do tank" dedicated to accelerating and deepening grassroots democracy, civil engagement, and social justice efforts through collaboration, education and innovation. We spoke at length with Mr. Peck about socialization and liberation in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Cycle of Socialization helps us understand the way in which we are socialized to play certain roles, how we are affected by issues of oppression, and how we help maintain an oppressive system based upon power. The Cycle of Liberation teaches us how to play our roles in oppression, and how to revere the existing systems that shape our thinking. Movements like Black Lives Matter create opportunities to focus on liberation, which starts within the self. By enacting change on a personal level, we can then reach out to other communities to achieve change on a larger scale.

Understanding the Cycle of Socialization

The beginning of the cycle, depicted by the 1st circle, represents the situation into which we were born. We have no control over this. We are also born without bias, assumptions, or questions. We are either "lucky" to be born into a privileged situation or "unlucky" to be born into an underprivileged situation.

The first arrow represents the fact that our socialization process begins immediately. We are given a pink blanket if we are a girl or a blue one if we are a boy. The rules and norms are already in place and we subtly (and in many cases not so subtly) are made aware of the rewards of conforming and the consequences of rebelling.

The second circle represents the institutions that help shape our views and beliefs, and help instill within us prejudice or acceptance.

The second arrow represents the way in which the instilling of ideas, beliefs, and behaviors reinforce the cycles of oppression. Behaving differently is not as simple as most of us think. We are rewarded for good behavior - conforming to norms and standards. By the same token, we are punished for bad behavior - questioning or rebelling against oppressive societal norms.

The third circle represents the devastating result upon all of us that this self-perpetuated cycle of oppression produces.

The final arrow represents a point at which we all arrive - the results of the cycle. We are forced to make a decision, even if that decision is to do nothing. Doing nothing is the easier choice, especially for those who benefit from perpetuation of the cycle: we are all victims of the cycle and we are all hurt by it. Oppression hurts the oppressed and the oppressor.

And finally, it is the wheel that turns or enables any cycle. At the center or core of the cycle of socialization are fear, misunderstanding, insecurity, confusion, etc.

Check out this video below for more information about the cycle of socialization:

Civic Lab Inc.

Investigate, fabricate, educate, activate, liberate, repeat.

Civic Lab aims to expand civic imagination about what is possible for Chicago's future by recruiting, equipping, and informing new leaders to make that future possible. Since its birth in 2013, Civic Lab has held over 170 community meetings. 204,000 people have attended their online presentations, 200+ have been trained, and over 250 volunteers have dedicated their time. Visit to support their cause.

"Civic engagement and social justice need a shot in the arm in Chicago. The grassroots efforts that are in place to erase inequity and boost neglected communities need help to survive and thrive."

Civic Lab is fervently working towards community organization and involving youth in terms of developing activism in future generations by empowering individuals to think of our social justice system as an ecosystem and nourish it in the same way we nourish the commercial and business ecosystems. In order to achieve this, they seek to provide a space in which tool building, basic research and knowledge sharing, training and leadership development, fellowship, and experimentation can occur.

What is needed to get justice a home in Chicago as we are imagining it?

In 2017, Civic Lab opened the POWER (People Organizing to Engage & Resist) Institute to provide direction and skill building for individuals who want to fight for justice in the city of Chicago and lead in public life. We must reach out to well-endowed foundations and demand they rethink how to do justice, stop funding organizations that do not challenge power, stop supporting out-of-town groups that are unfamiliar with our city that are brought here for one-off efforts whose work leaves little to show.

We need to greatly invest in infrastructure to help build lasting instruments that promote justice and change. Major organizations need to get out of high-rent downtown facilities and build new homes for social change in our communities. We must work to build a more collaborative, supportive perspective within our own work. Philanthropy groups often put one grassroots organization against another and deal with them from a perspective of "don't have." Our civic imaginations must be expanded to become more generous, abundant, and full of possibilities. Chicago needs a robust home for justice, and Civic Lab aims to be just that.

Current Projects

Civic Lab is currently working to...

-implement a physical space

-recruit members

-train social justice warriors

-highlight tax increment financing harms

-reveal $5 billion in sustainable, progressive annual revenues for the city

-explain how our civics got so toxic

-planning for the TIF legal project

What is the TIF legal project?

The goal of the TIF legal project is to litigate against Tax Increment Financing on a constitutional basis. Tax Increment Financing is a tool used by municipal governments to stimulate economic development in targeted geographical areas. TIFs are used to finance redevelopment projects or other investments using the anticipation of future tax revenue resulting from new development. TIFs can create many tax revenue issues for local governments, ultimately causing stagnation of long-term citywide projects. Civic Lab's TIF Illumination Project is an ongoing civic investigation and education project that takes a close-up look at the city on a ward-by-ward basis to inform Chicagoans what TIFs are active and reveal details about these TIFs that are not available elsewhere. Civic Lab's TIF project tells us how much property tax dollars certain TIFs have removed from our wards and placed into a "slush fund" controlled by the mayor. For more information about the TIF project, click here:

Check out this video below for more information about how Tax Increment Financing works:

This week's interview with Mr. Peck can be found at:


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