South Side Stories Spotlight, January 2015: Loss

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories project features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago. This January, we reflect on loss. Personal loss challenges, forms, and transforms us. Grief and bereavement are particularly poignant for adolescents. In this month’s spotlight, we feature stories by Charles, Nailah and Jajuan, in which each youth grapples with family loss. Through these stories, we experience death after a long life, death after a brief life, and finally a story of premature loss due to incarceration. South Side Stories highlights the bravery of storytellers and the power of stories. As we welcome the New Year, we salute these youth, their courage, and their stories of loss and of hope.

South Side Stories January 1

In All I Have, Charles presents his perspective on the death of two family members. Charles opens with an emphasis on how important family is to him, juxtaposing images of his family against words about his struggle with his peers and community. His narration has a clear rhyme and rhythm, though peppered with sudden interruptions and pauses, not unlike those brought on by the loss of his loved ones. He fondly remembers times with his grandfather and cousin, then tells of the shock and hurt of his grandfather passing and his cousin’s suicide. Charles incessantly questions, “Why? … I just kept wondering: why?” While he clearly appreciates and loves the family he currently has, he still wonders, “Sometimes, I wish he would just bring them back.”

In In Memory Of, Nailah brings us into the intimate moment of her grandmother’s death. Nailah’s story begins at a festive time — her graduation from grammar school — before quickly turning to the hospitalization of her grandmother.  As “things got really crazy,” she jumps forward two months, when her grandmother’s health has declined. Throughout her piece, Nailah contrasts actual events with ideal events. She tells us how her grandmother felt sick and looked beautiful. She describes her grandmother’s sickness as a blur, but paints a finely detailed scene: the coldness in her grandmother’s hand, the hospital bed, and her own body on a hot day in August. Nailah struggles with the doctors and nurses coming to “help save” her grandmother in those last few moments, as “people of no significance” block Nailah’s view of someone so significant to her. The contrasts in Nailah’s story illustrate the conflict that arises when letting someone go – someone who was so lively, yet passes away quietly.

Finally, in Searching, Jajuan reminds us that loss is not only due to death. Instead, Jajuan struggles when his father is incarcerated. When his father is sent to jail, he struggles with his father’s absence, and with comprehending what his father had done. He starts us just where he started, not knowing why his father was taken away, before slowly revealing the truth he learned. “The day you went away I sat and wondered, ‘What did he do?’ They would never tell me. I guess I was too young to understand…” Despite his father’s absence, Jajuan asks his father pointed questions, and challenges his father to reflect on his actions. However, when his dad returns, Jajuan’s words and description soften dramatically, as he recognizes he is searching not only to  understand his father’s actions and imprisonment, but also for a connection to someone who he had lost.

Click here for the full January spotlight, which includes broader implications and a resource guide.

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.


Ci3’s Lee Hasselbacher Quoted in “Guardian” Article

Lee Hasselbacher

Image courtesy of Lee Hasselbacher

Lee Hasselbacher, JD, policy coordinator for Ci3 and the University of Chicago Section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research, was quoted in a January 15 article on abortion rights, published in The Guardian. 

In the article, entitled “Restricting abortion high on the agenda for Republican-controlled Congress,” Hasselbacher expressed concern that individuals think of abortion as separate from women’s reproductive healthcare, and optimism that this attitude is changing.

Read the full article.

Game Changer Chicago Design Lab Still Seeking Youth for “Bystander” Photo Shoot Jan. 24

Now in development, “Bystander” is a digital game that also serves as an intervention to increase the skills, attitudes, and awareness to empower youth to help end sexual violence.

(Note: please consider submitting even if you have a conflict with the January 24 shoot date, as additional shoots may be scheduled as needed.)

Information below. Interested youth can send name, age, school and photo to Ci3 Research Specialist Erin Jaworski at


Ci3 Seeks Youth Ages 15-24 for Mobile App Dev – PAID

Mobile App development pic

Are you between the ages of 15-24 and interested in contraception, STI prevention and technology?

Ci3 is seeking young people to assist in the development of a mobile app to help youth make healthy decisions about contraception and STI prevention. Please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or to confirm your spot.

  • What will I be doing? You will help to design a mobile app, by engaging in a series of group discussions focusing on pregnancy and STI prevention. We will lead every session, and all you have to do is come ready to participate. We even provide dinner!
  • What is the time commitment? You will participate in 8 sessions (dates TBA) over the next 2 years. Each session will last 1-2 hours.
  • Where will it take place? All sessions will be held at the Ci3 offices (1225 E. 60th St. on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park).
  • What do I get out of it? Over the course of 2 years, you will be compensated $300.

For more information, please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or

“Vessel”: A documentary and a movement

The new documentary “Vessel” leaves the audience inspired, furious, and perhaps above all, gobsmacked with the profile of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch abortion provider and all around revolutionary. Gomperts first gained notoriety in 1999, when she created a mobile clinic aboard a ship and sailed to countries where abortion remains illegal. She aimed to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies by providing sexual health services, including early medical abortions, in international waters. Because the ship flew under the flag and laws of its home country, The Netherlands, the team could provide mifepristone* and misoprostol** (the medicines, when taken together, cause an abortion) to women within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts aboard the ship as it arrives in Spain (image courtesy of

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts aboard the ship as it arrives in Spain (image courtesy of

The documentary highlights the gumption and resources needed to create such a novel (and enviable) social enterprise. When the ship finally takes to sea under the moniker Women on Waves, protesters and media await them at the shore. At nearly every port, authorities and politicians ensured that the ship struggled to dock, stay, and allow local women to board. Yet, as word got out of the ship’s arrival, the team received hundreds of phone calls requesting appointments and information.

The first half of the film follows the ship’s journeys and the mission of relaying the message that medical abortion with misoprostol (with or without mifepristone) gives women the possibility to safely do medical abortions themselves. This option needed a platform, and so Women on Waves transitioned from the open sea to focusing on empowering women how to do a medical abortion by distributing information through the internet, stealth advertising, and by supporting the creation of safe abortion telephone hotlines. If women could not come to the ship, thought Gomperts, she would directly deliver them the pills.

The latter half of the film follows what arose from this experience: Women on Web. Women had already figured out that taking misoprostol, available as an ulcer medication, could induce a miscarriage. Misoprostol was known for being safe, but women around the world kept asking: How do we get it?

So, along with the website, Gomperts and her team launched campaigns around the world—in Portugal, Ecuador, Morocco, and more—where they advertised the information hotline and how women could procure a safe abortion. One scene in the film plays out like a heist as the team schemes to raise a banner advertising their contact number from a statue of the Virgin Mary. Throughout, the calls for help kept coming, as did the backlash.

But Gomperts did not let backlash, or the fear of any such judgment or consequence, hold her back.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

One of the biggest takeaways from “Vessel”, besides the impressive central character, is how much fun the team appeared to be having on the boat and on the ground when planning covert advertisement campaigns. It was a refreshing reminder that empowerment should be enjoyable. Helping women receive normal medical care should feel good.

Although not explored directly in the film, Dr. Gomperts refuses to work with and in the United States. In previous interviews, she explains why she does not mail pills to women in the United States. We know all too well that although abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, women’s access to abortion is constantly restricted by the political and religious right via TRAP laws and other legislation.

Gomperts puts the onus on us—advocates in the United States—to push for legislative change and until then, to provide medical care any way possible. She challenges women’s groups to find reliable sources for misoprostol pills and to refer women or deliver to women in order to administer safely at home. She does not want to endanger her own work, and so she calls out the abortion rights groups in the United States to rise up to the challenge of our time.

Gomperts maintained throughout the film that her work is not a personal mission, but a response to a need. She never intended to be an activist, but a doctor who alleviated suffering.

To wit, when grilled by the media about her personal life (“Have you ever had an abortion?”) she  replies,

“Are you going to ask somebody working for Amnesty International if they’ve been tortured, no, come on, this is about whether or not women have basic human rights” […] “you cannot force any women to go through an unwanted pregnancy… it’s a humiliation, it’s a torture for them.”

Although she did not intend to be an activist or an anecdote, Dr. Gomperts is an ally worth emulating. She saw a need, and set out to meet that need. “Vessel” is essential viewing for abortion rights workers in the United States. May we address the needs we see and meet them, so that when women need an abortion, they do not have to rely upon obscure interventions, but upon equal, affordable, basic healthcare systems already in place.

Thank you to The Nightingale Cinema in Chicago for hosting the screening. See where else the film is screening here or watch on Video on Demand platforms or iTunes now!

*Also known as Mifeprex; RU-486

**Also known as Cytotec

Ci3 Executive Director Named Keynote Speaker at April 18 Diversity Symposium

Ci3 Executive Director, Dr. Brandon Hill. Image courtesy of Dr. Brandon Hill.

Ci3 Executive Director, Dr. Brandon Hill. Image courtesy of Dr. Brandon Hill.

Ci3 Executive Director Dr. Brandon Hill will deliver the keynote speech at Ancona School’s 3rd Annual Diversity Symposium on Saturday, April 18 in Chicago. This year’s symposium will explore gender fluidity and nonconformity in the context of parenting and teaching. Dr. Hill’s keynote will be followed by breakout sessions such as “Reclaiming Our Gender Narrative” and “Custom You, Custom Gender Identity” and a performance by About Face Theatre. Educators, parents, school leaders, and community members interested in multicultural education are welcome to attend. Click here for tickets.

Game Changer Chicago Seeks Youth Ages 14-18 for “Bystander” Characters

Now in development, “Bystander” is a digital game that also serves as an intervention to increase the skills, attitudes, and awareness to empower youth to help end sexual violence.

Information below. Interested youth can send name, age, school and photo to Ci3 Research Specialist Erin Jaworski at

Bystander - January Flyer

Dr. Melissa Gilliam to Present at Discover UChicago Seattle

Dr. Melissa Gilliam. Photo: Associated Press

Dr. Melissa Gilliam. Photo: Associated Press

Dr. Melissa Gilliam will present as part of Discover UChicago Seattle on Tuesday, January 13. The event will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and is part of the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact.

Click here for details and to RSVP.

Dr. Gilliam is Chief of the University of Chicago Section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research, Founder and Director of Ci3, and Co-founder of Game Changer Chicago Design Lab.

Inquiry and Impact is the most ambitious and comprehensive campaign in the University of Chicago’s history. The Campaign will raise $4.5 billion to support faculty and researchers, practitioners and patients, and students and programs across the University. Over the next several months, the campaign will hold events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, New York and London.

South Side Stories Spotlight, December 2014: Bedroom Culture and Providing Safe Spaces for Youth

Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago. In December, we considered bedroom culture and safe spaces for youth. As we all think of things to be grateful for this holiday season, South Side Stories considers those places where young people feel safe and those people who support them.

This topic is particularly poignant as last month, the Chicago community lost one of its own, Brother Mike Hawkins. We take this occasion to honor him and others who create safe spaces for young people. Brother Mike collaborated on some of our earliest digital stories and we will cherish his memory.

brother mike

Brother Mike Hawkins, right, with a student in an early digital storytelling workshop. Photo: Seed Lynn

Click here for the full December Spotlight, including broader implications and a resource guide.

Click here for the November Spotlight.

First in this month’s stories, two young women share narratives that allow us to step inside their most sacred spaces: their bedrooms.  For decades, scholars have theorized about teenage “bedroom culture,” a phrase coined by McRobbie and Garber (1975). For teenage girls, bedrooms were originally conceived of as ideal settings for escaping domestic duties and pursuing home-based leisure activities. Decades later, teenage girls on the South Side of Chicago remind us of the importance of privacy. In their stories, Mariah and Tyana describe the different ways in which their personal spaces respond to their individual needs and lives.

In Precious Things, Mariah reflects on why she spends so much time in her room. With vibrantly colored walls, Mariah’s bedroom is decorated with a number of artifacts that help to keep some of her fondest memories alive. She recognizes that her bedroom is a refuge but asks herself, “What am I trying to escape?” Ultimately, she concludes that her room represents more than simply an escape from the world outside. “It’s my own personal time capsule,” she explains, “where every precious memory finds a home.”

In contrast, Tyana describes her room in Family Life as the place where she escapes from the arguments that occur between her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. The room’s thin white walls don’t actually help to keep the sounds out, so Tyana finds herself feeling “stuck with nowhere to go and no one to love.” Rather than finding comfort or refuge from the outside world, Tyana’s room becomes the space where she questions both her worth and self-beauty. “I wonder, is it me?” she asks aloud. “Am I ugly? Am I not perfect for my own family?”

Finally, in Waiting for the Bell Ava describes being isolated and lonely at school. She pushes open the heavy school door and hears laughter, which might just be a joke or might be people laughing at her. Yet once the school bell rings and the day ends, she has a place that she can go to.  There, “the doors were lighter, the room was brighter, my voice triumphed, and my presence was honored.”

South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.

Happy New Year from Ci3: Still Time to Give!

As 2015 approaches, Ci3 encourages you to help us continue to fulfill our mission by making a tax-deductible donationPlease specify “Ci3” in the Special Instructions box at the bottom of the form.

The Source Summer 2013

We believe that advancing sexual and reproductive health and personal well-being depends on building skills and assets among youth. Give generously today!

South Side Stories September

Questions? Contact Ci3 Executive Director Dr. Brandon Hill, at (773) 834-8509 or via email.