Schools are starting up again and whether it is online or in-person, students will still need school supplies. With resources being limited and community events like the Bud Billiken Parade being shut down due to COVID-19, there aren’t many options for those who are in need of support right now. COVID-19 has affected the lives of many households and continues to limit the number of resources households can obtain. With help from SocialWorks, GoodKids MadCity, and other organizations, a local nonprofit is holding a social distanced Back To School drive for the community on August 29. This event will be held by TGi Movement.
TGi Movement is a local organization whose mission is “To unite youth throughout Chicago to cultivate and promote a lifestyle of Tranquility, Gratitude, and Innovation.” TGi stands for Tranquility, Gratitude, Innovation and from the day it was started, in 2014 by Devonta Boston, TGi continues to find ways to reach out to the community and give resources people are looking for.
SocialWorks’ correspondent, Carlos Oliva, spoke with Devonta Boston of TGi to hear more about himself, his organization, and the Back to School Drive he put together for those in need during these tough times.
Carlos: What is your background? Where are you from and what do you do?
Devonta: My name is Devonta Boston and I’ve been doing community organizing since I was a freshman in high school in 2011, so for about 9 years now. In the beginning I started doing work with VOYCE, which is a youth organization with the soul purpose of dismantling the school to prison pipeline.and Southwest Organizing Project. I spent a lot of time in Springfield talking with legislators to pass SB100 and SB2793 during my Junior and Senior year of high school.
I started TGi my Junior year of high school so about 2013/2014. Originally it was just started to create safe space for me and my friends because around that time, in Chicago and especially on the south side, south west and west side neighborhoods, that was when the violence was starting to peak. One day my english teacher asked “The work you’re doing with VOYCE is good, but how are you going to continue that work after you graduate?”Which was what kinda triggered the thought in my head to make TGi something more.
In your words, what is TGi Movement? What is it to you?
To me, it’s more of a lifestyle organization. Our mission is to unite youth throughout the city, cultivate and promote a lifestyle of Tranquility; spreading positive vibes, being thankful, and embracing creative energy. As well as I feel it’s important to know yourself, know how to interact with others, have mental health awareness, self care or anything in that realm. Gratitude; you being thankful for the things you do got and acknowledging the work people previous to us put in and what went into that. Innovation; is a big one for me personally because you know, as we grow up we’re taught to not go against the “norms”and I feel like our generation has challenged that pretty well. Just making sure we’re staying creative and staying passionate.
For this Back to School Drive, what made you want to do this and what was the first step you took to make it happen?
I really want to bring life back into the community. Especially with COVID, you know? Everything just got worse. A lot of the resources, the opportunities in Chicago became more scarce. I realized CPS was gonna continue school, whether it’s online or physically in person, but people are still going to need supplies for it. I just wanted to provide resources for the community and make it open for people all over the city.
Just wanted to bring something to the community.
When did the idea come & How long has the process taken?
I believe the idea came about in June and it’s been a tough road because I’ve never planned a back to school drive before. One of the things I had to really learn how to do in the process was to realize my network. Speaking with Justin, he was a big help in the process and learned that there’s people in my network that were and are the best people to reach out to. Meeting all these people but never really knowing how to “activate” these people and I’ve been learning how to do that during this process. So i’d say it’s been a pretty good process. It’s been hard and stressful, like, half my living room is filled with school supplies right now and i’m looking at it like, we still have to go shopping for more with the donations we’ve received so it’s gonna be packed and things like that.
Following safety guidelines, what does event day look like?
So on the actual event day , the space that we got, it has a huge parking lot. People will enter through one side to begin and we will have some ipads set up to sign people in and the volunteers will have lysol/disinfectant to constantly clean the entrance. Then as the families move on to the next spot, that’s where we will ask, “How many kids you guys got?” or “What are some needs in the family?” They’ll receive a number of bookbag kits along with ppe based on need. Then, they will exit through the opposite side when they get everything they need.
For the volunteers, masks and gloves will be provided as well as hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies. Then implementing guidelines like staying 6 ft a part.
Are you still accepting donations? Can donations be made the day of?
Someone is actually bringing a basketball rim the day of, so if people want to then yeah! We’ll be accepting all donations on the day of as well.
Target recently just got on board to donate and that’ll be given the day of as well. So again, if people want to then yes!
Where can people make those donations?
On event day at the event location. 2050 w 59th st on August 29
How have you been spreading the word – getting people involved?
A lot of it has just been self promoting. Going back to what was said earlier and using my resources and networks.Sharing with organizations that I know work with the youth a lot, and organizations like SocialWorks. I also got in the My Block, My Hood, My City newsletter. So like really heavy social media.
Also, some of the youth from Good Kids Mad City passed out flyers at other drives and food giveaways. Hope to get more flyers up around the neighborhoods.
What advice do you have for those who want to accomplish something similar but don’t know how or where to start?
I would say even though a project seems big, take the leap, because to me that’s how the Back to School Drive was. I had never done it before. I think about all these other events and I’m like those are pretty big. So im like what do i start with? How do I go about getting donations? And then I was like wait, where am I gonna put everything? So there’s all these questions you’re going to have when you’re doing something new and it’s going to feel really discouraging when you won’t know all the answers. Sometimes you just gotta leap and once you leap there’s no turning back so you’re going to be forced to look for answers.
But yeah that’s pretty much my advice- just leap and make sure you’re askingthese questions. Also, reach out to people that might have some sort of guidance. Justin was one of the first people I talked to. You just gotta really know your network for this.
What’s next for TGi Movement?
Well I do an event called the Boombox every year. It’s essentially a pop up shop but we treat it as a community pop up shop. Besides selling the new merch, there’s always community event things, like movie nights, open mics etc… We try to incorporate some type of “event” for people but this year it’ll be different because we will be doing something all of September.
Also, back to new merchandise, we got windbreakers, shirts and shorts.
Another thing I’m working on is Reclaiming the hood campaign which will raise money to buy back things that belong to kids in the community.
You can find Devonta and TGi movement on social media platforms at @tgimovement or email them at TGiMovement15@gmail.com . Their website is TGiMovement.com