Proviso Partners for Health Members at Upswell Chicago

Proviso Partners for Health Members at Upswell Chicago

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In early November, Healthy Communities Foundation sponsored two members of Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) as Fellows at Upswell Chicago, a three-day convening that gathered changemakers from all over the United States to share ideas and solution-based approaches to issues our communities face each day.

Our two Fellows, Deniene Willis, leader of PP4H Community Leadership Academy (CLA) and Executive Director of Trustycup Productions and Jasmine Lopez, founder of The Firehouse Dream and participant of CLA, took part in the experience and were exposed to innovative ideas and inspiring people. We thank them for their openness and look forward to seeing how this experience will influence the Proviso community!

Below are their personal reflections of their time at Upswell Chicago:

What was the best part of your experience at Upswell?

Deniene Willis:

“The best part for me was the inspiring Englewood tour conducted by Asiaha Butler, the founder of Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.). I realized that I could relate to her experience and most of the things she was sharing. Maywood has similar challenges as Englewood. Asiaha only wants to bring hope and peace to Englewood and is never looking for anything other than changing lives. Her Spark Talk, “Community Development of the Mind”, was great, too. I also enjoyed the meditation and mindful breath exercises facilitated by Carmen Cueva from Soluzion Holistica.

Deniene visiting RAGE

Deniene visiting R.A.G.E

Upswell Chicago also had a virtual reality area where I experienced seeing and feeling someone’s story of injustice as they tell it with pictures and real-life examples. I cried! This could be a tool to use while hosting a session on Race and Racism to build the ability to sense other people’s emotions (empathy).

There were other workshops that I enjoyed:

      • “Activating Collective Purpose through Your Story” was very inspiring. I now understand the power of sharing your lived experience and stories that have helped transform your life.
      • “Words Matter: Amplifying the Message” was very educational for me. What Asiaha Butler talked about earlier at Upswell Chicago reinforced the importance of messaging.


Jasmine Lopez:

“My favorite part, by far, was doing the Tour to Englewood. I loved how Asiaha shared her heart for her community and the positive language she used to describe it. You could tell she was very intentional with language and that has challenged me to think of how I choose to talk and share about my community.

Workshops that I truly enjoyed were one on storytelling and one about the youth from YMCA! I’m super passionate about storytelling, so anything that’s about that, I’m all for!”

Because of your experience at Upswell, how might you change the way you think about or take action in your community?

Deniene and Jasmin visiting RAGE

Visiting R.A.G.E in Englewood

“Because of this experience, what I would bring to PP4H is the idea of using the Arts as a way to bring awareness to matters that are normally challenging to talk about. For example, CLA and Veggie Rx can organize a community event in which our local artists can help us deliver the message of mental illness, teen suicide, healthy lifestyle changes, overcoming depression through canvas painting, music, dance, poetry and offer inspiration and hope.

There was a session at Upswell that allowed participants to play drums. The power of hearing drumbeats is special; drumbeats touch the heart, connects us to each other and brings peace to our bodies and mind. I also envision the community event having drums played on the four corners of town as a way to connect with each other through sound. Based on what Asiaha shared, this was very successful for Englewood.

My experience at Upswell Chicago was amazing.”


“In my experience, I have code-switched depending on who I’m speaking to so navigating that, and my use of language, is huge. I want to focus on language through an asset-based lens rather than focusing on the negatives.

In terms of implementing what I learned over to PP4H, I love how we are community-led and driven. I think often we, as humans, can overcomplicate next steps. I was truly inspired by the simplicity of Asiaha’s approach to leading and community organizing. I could see us doing that here through PP4H.

It was a great experience and loved getting to meet so many other nonprofit organizations.”


Thanks again, Deniene and Jasmine!


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