2014 - The Beginning
The #LetUsBreathe Collective started in 2014 as an initiative to support protesters and activists following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Most of us were artists and educators, and suddenly found ourselves in the world of community organizing. Some of us were already activists, longing for a community to explore new ideas around liberation. We found ourselves responding to an initial moment that soon engulfed us in a movement.
2016 - Freedom Square
In Summer 2016, the #LetUsBreathe Collective launched Freedom Square, a 41-day occupation, protest encampment, and block party opposing Homan Square, the CPD “black site” where thousands of Chicagoans have been illegally detained and tortured. The encampment soon grew into a community laboratory for police abolition and divestment, providing free clothes, free books, free meals, free arts programming for the children of North Lawndale, and free sleeping tents for community members, protestors, and neighborhood residents experiencing homelessness. Freedom Square was built on the principle that the resources necessary to keep communities safe are: restorative justice, education, employment, housing, mental health and physical wellness, addiction treatment, access to nutritional food, and art.
2017 - Spaces to Heal & Create
In October 2016, #LUBC harnessed the momentum we built during our 41-day occupation and decided to create a permanent space to continue co-creating the world we want to see. We signed the lease on the #BreathingRoom space, which became our arts, healing, and organizing hub. Renovated in 2017 by members of our collective, the #BreathingRoom is a 4,000 square foot building on the South Side of Chicago that had suffered years of water damage and disrepair. Today, it serves as our coalition-building, consciousness-raising headquarters, where we combine solidarity work with anti-capitalist, abolitionist artistic production.
2018 - Growth
In 2018, the Collective expanded our space to include a community garden, A People’s Farm and Liberation Oasis.
Today - Service & Healing
In the midst of COVID-19 and the global uprising, #EverybodyEats offered space and food for both local and citywide mutual aid efforts like Getting Grown Collective’s “Farm. Food. Familias.” and the South Side Food Distribution Network. Although our food justice programming grew out of the pandemic, we continue to distribute up to 100 meals each week, and we are committed to distributing even more in the coming year. Our Gardens, too, are continuing to grow and transform thanks to the dedication of our community and volunteers. We have built a greenhouse and a pond, created accessible walkways, and tended to the health of our soil and plants. In 2022, we are growing our community healing events with our partners and continue to build out the #BreathingRoom with a Maker Space, Liberation Lab, and Apothecary.