Leadership Development
August 15, 2022

Behind the Organizing – Carlil Pittman

Carlil Pittman is a 29-year-old male, born and raised in the Englewood community where he has witnessed firsthand what the lack of resources, violence, and criminalization of young people can do to an individual, a family, and a community. He is a father of five which keeps him grounded in this work to create safer communities and access to much needed resources. Carlil is the founder of Good Kids MadCity-Englewood and a community organizer at SWOP. In this work, he focuses on youth organizing, public safety and more recently has been diving into the housing and Reclaiming Campaign at SWOP. Carlil has been featured in documentaries produced by NBC that depict life in Chicago and how young people in his organization are helping to impact the lives of youth around the city. He believes that to create change and better opportunities for our people, we must be able to break down the stigmas and normalization that trauma places on the lives of the community.

Growing up in a community that was under resourced, especially when it came to the quality of educational opportunities, his mother did not want him attending neighborhood schools and thought he would have a better chance attending a school outside of Englewood. He attended Kelly high school where there were only around 15-20 black students. They were singled out daily whether it was by gangs or administration. Carlil recalls during his sophomore year, while being at the lunch table with his then girlfriend (now wife) was pregnant. He was in shock and did not know what to do, so when the bell rang, he sat there in silent shock. The security guard noticed he didn’t move and took him to the disciplinary office where he was said to have been skipping class. They then told him to call his mother and tell her that he was being suspended for the rest of the week. After the call, they said “Actually, call your mom back and tell her that you’re expelled.” No one asked him why he wasn’t going to class, no one asked him if he needed someone to talk to and no one asked if he was okay.

Spending the next two months at home due to no other CPS school allowing him into their space, assuming that he was a problem child, they told him “Go to your neighborhood school for the rest of the year and we will consider taking you in depending on how well you do.” He went to Gage Park High School where he attended summer school and Saturday school, every semester, and every year so he could still graduate on time after having been expelled from Kelly High School while raising his first son. Going into his senior year, he met the person who would become his mentor, Joel Rodriguez, who was a youth organizer at SWOP. Joel asked a simple question; how had Carlil ended up at Gage Park and after hearing his story, he asked if Carlil had an expulsion hearing to which he replied, “I don’t know what that is.” Joel responded with, “That happens to black and brown students throughout the state, and I think this program is perfect for you.” Following that conversation, Carlil became a member of Voice of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) and through that program was introduced into SWOP.

He began to see the racial disparities of how the same thing that a black or brown student was being expelled for, their white counterparts were being sent to therapists. He began to see the statistics of how black and brown students were disproportionately affected by zero tolerance policies and the lack of resources and felt he needed to be involved to make a difference. When asked about why he felt so strongly about the work that he does, he replied. “We are all impacted by the different issues and lack of resources in our community, whether it is directly or through someone we know. It is our obligation to create a thriving community and enhance the quality of life for ourselves, for our peers and for our families and we do that by building strong relationships.”

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