Name: Rita Carmona
Title: Cultural Activism Coordinator and Development Assistant
Favorite food: Patacones (Costa Rican fried plantains)
Favorite movie: Pan’s Labyrinth
What do you do with IGC?
I see three important parts to doing my work with I Grow Chicago, none possible without the other. One, I cultivate arts engagement within our community. I help people tell their stories and explore the many ways that story can be told. I hope to push people to see the art around them and bring out the art inside them. Two, I take an educational approach to fundraising with the goal of decolonizing the wealth I engage with. I see our new book club as one of the most exciting ways we’re doing this. Three, I work at the Peace Campus. Anyone who’s visited knows there is no such thing as doing one job when you’re on 64th and Honore. I get to know people of all ages, carry boxes, clean up for afterschool, participate in programming, cook breakfast and make coffee. All of these jobs inform the other. The stories I am blessed to help be told, I share with donors and fundraisers. Working with I Grow Chicago means I get to do a little bit of everything I care about, everything that drives me.
What do you give to this community and what do you get from it?
To this community, I give and receive love. I give caring and concern, my time and my presence. I give a passion for art and connections with other artists. I give hope and hugs, research and laughs. I receive neverending inspiration and stories that I take with me everywhere I go. I receive caring and concern. I learn about different passions for everything under the sun. I meet people from all over this city, from all over the world that are making this place better. I ask and answer questions. This place has blessed me with new eyes to see a much more complicated, much brighter world around me.
What’s the story of how you came to this type of work and IGC specifically?
I’ve always been learning about the disparities of how people are treated in this world in different ways. My mom worked with working class latino immigrants in her spare time and my dad would take all of our extra clothes and my toys to our family and community in Costa Rica. This was normal while growing up. Studying anthropology in college after a few years of raising money for different non profit organizations and serving on the junior board for another taught me intimately about social issues and ways that we commonly approach them. I wanted more. I wanted a place that saw love the way I saw it, as powerful and life changing, as more than hallmark movies. I wanted a place that gave people time, that saw everyone as complicated and full. I wanted to do that and only that, outside of academia and the places I had grown to know. My cousin told me to google some place called House of Peace or something in Englewood that he had studied in a class, and I found I Grow Chicago. I had found the place that saw the world the way I did, that was dedicated to the causes I was. During the summer of 2018 in my internship at the Peace Campus, I knew there was no other place I’d rather be. And now this is the place I never want to leave.
What’s exciting you right now?
I’ve seen some really beautiful sunsets lately. And I’ve been able to travel to visit friends and see new skylines and the way different buildings touch the sky. I’m starting an internship with Kartemquin Films this Friday and I’m excited about the art I’m going to make, the stories I’ll be able to tell with film as a medium. I’m excited about the potential of this new decade, for the art and skies to come.
The vision of IGC is a world where love lives in public. What are some of the ways you bring your love in public?
I try to always smile and say hello to the people I’m passing by. Every interaction I have with people I try to be with them in that moment as much as I can. I think sometimes we forget that we are all people, that we all want to feel loved and seen. I try to remember that as much as possible and see everyone and everything around me.
What does healing justice mean to you?
To me, healing justice is time. One of the tricks that we’ve all been taught in this world is that we’re running out of time, that there is a pressure to reach this ultimate form of success and happiness or life is lost. Healing justice is allowing us to say someone made a mistake, someone needs an extra push. It’s saying what makes this person who they are and what contributed to someone making a decision. It’s holding people in power accountable for the time they’ve robbed of others. Healing justice is saying we’re all human, we’re all connected, we’re all family and we wouldn’t treat anyone without the consideration we’d hope for ourselves.
IGC’s work exposes those involved to both immense joy and pain. How do you practice self care?
I am very introverted, which most people don’t usually believe about me. I need my alone time! Music in all forms is very important to who I am. I like to listen to music and allow my mind to wander, often writing down my thoughts. Playing music is a great way for me to get energy out of my body. I play guitar and cello mostly. I’ve also taken up painting recently which helps me express a lot of that joy and pain and all the confusing intersections between those feelings. Being alone with art helps fuel me to handle any situation.
What’s something you want everyone to know about you?
I love food! I’m not great at cooking it, but I think about it all the time. I love to try new foods and learn about their meaning to different people and different cultures and countries. I think about the significance of food and sharing it with others. I have a spoon tattooed on my foot that represents how I believe that everyone should have food that satisfies them in their soul and their stomachs, that food should be simple and shared. Food to me is a beautiful embodiment of meaning and love.