For many years, I’ve thought and talked about a theory of change concerning my African American neighbors and friends who grew up in poor and violent communities. The stories of their lives have always intrigued me because they are filled with complex realities that are not easily solved. There is beauty and brokenness, joy and sorrow, hope and despair in every story.

I wondered whether traveling to unfamiliar places and meeting unfamiliar people and having unfamiliar experiences would begin to change the hearts, minds and world views of my African American friends who grew up in what some call the American ghetto.

So, we took three Street Outreach Professionals (SOPs) who grew up in the Westside ghettos of Chicago to Nairobi, Kenya for a unique African experience. And my theory of change began to prove itself out in the lives of these men as they tearfully reflected on the unfamiliar level of poverty they saw. At the same time they encountered a very different mentality of the beautiful, grateful and industrious people living in poverty in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa.

I shared an idea with our SOPs about us hosting Tribal Peace Summit where we would invite spiritual leaders from Africa to speak to a group of various gang (tribal) leaders across Chicago about what God had done in healing the tribal conflicts in Rwanda and Kenya in hopes of sharing principles of peace we could apply here among the warring tribes of Chicago. And so the first annual Tribal Peace Summit was created.

We had about 200 men and women in attendance hosted by Dr. Charlie Dates of Progressive Baptist Church and we thank God that The Prince of Peace and the principles of peace were shared with men and women eager to hear something that would begin to bring an end to the horrific cycle of violence plaguing 20 neighborhoods Chicago.

– Michael Allen, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Together Chicago