Devonta Boston is a southside resident, avid shoe collector, longtime organizer and executive director of TGi Movement. Devonta’s roots in organizing began in high school when he joined a SWOP initiative called VOYCE (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education), moving into mentoring youth in the Teen Reach program and become an instructor for the program after graduating. Having found a passion for organizing and justice for the south side of Chicago, especially for its youth, Devonta’s ambition for a safe and thriving community has grown as well. Devonta’s work centers around community development, community events, youth development and meetings at Da Oasis which is the space TGi Movement uses for young people to hangout and participate in recreational activities.
With his organization, Devonta began the “Reclaiming the hood campaign” which started in 2020 to raise money to create more spaces for Black businesses and conversations around generational wealth. Another example of their work is the V.I.S.U.A.L (Visuals Instinctively Sends U Availing Light) initiative which brings awareness to visual trauma and its impact on the community and its residents. It does this through community beautification projects such as community gardens and community murals. They also have a focus on youth development in an initiative called “Omega Chi Omega” which focuses on uniting youth throughout Chicago to create a sense of brother/sisterhood while providing safe spaces and opportunities for personal growth as well as social/emotional learning and mental health awareness.
When asked about what the TGi movement was, Devonta describes it as a lifestyle. TGI stands for Tranquility, Gratitude and Innovation Movement. In 2014, Devonta started TGi in high school as a way to gather with his peers and discuss their lives. They found themselves talking and eventually ballooning the effort into a larger project that focuses on dismantling dream deserts. Devonta describes dream deserts as places where young people forget or denounce their dreams because they don’t have the resources or support to make them happen. “Even in high school they tell you to get a degree just to get a degree and, in some cases, people want specific degrees for art or music and then are told that there is no money in them,” Devonta stated. They created Da Oasis to allow youth to come together in a safe and inclusive space that encourages them to speak their mind and feel welcomed.
When reflecting on what the next steps are for their work and how best they can achieve their goals, Devonta stated that support more than anything is what our community needs. “We must be willing to take a risk on our community. If you go to Da Oasis and look around at the other buildings in the neighborhood, you see so many places shut down and barred from entry. That doesn’t make anyone feel welcome. We need to be able to promote spaces for our community. The more support there is, the more spaces that can be created for others who need similar resources.” Devonta speaks about a recent block party for the community. “That’s what the community members wanted for themselves and their families, so keeping your ear to the ground and following through on those commitments is a huge part of what organizing is and what it should be like to engage in one’s community.”