Cynthia Bischof Conference on Youth Anti-Violence

Cynthia Bischof Conference on Youth Anti-Violence

I. Project Overviewtop

The Cynthia Bischof Conference on Youth Anti-Violence was hosted on May 22, 2010 at DePaul University in collaboration with the Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community (BRI) and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. The conference brought together community members, activists, students, and faculty to examine the ways in which anti-violence has been conceptualized, theorized, interrogated and implemented in the lives of young people. During the day-long event, several sessions were held including Youth Violence: Examining Effects and Root Causes by the Arab American Action Network, Mobilizing Communities to End Violence by Dr. Ann Russo of DePaul University, and Circles: Acts of Revolution by Ora Schub of the Community Justice for Youth Institute. A performance by AquaMoon, entitled “Don’t Call Me Sassy – Beats and Verses,” was scheduled but not performed.

The conference sought to address the following key questions:

  • How does violence impact the lives of young people?
  • How do intersecting oppressions shape and perpetuate violence against and among youths?
  • How are teachers, parents, activists, and other adult community members and allies to youth challenging and interrupting violence?
  • How are youth organizing and embodying resistance, resilience and healing?

In approaching the topic of anti-violence, the conference organizers worked from the framework established by the group INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence as articulated in the following statement:

“We understand that violence occurs both within communities and is perpetuated against communities. We are committed to acknowledging and making connections between interpersonal violence, state violence, and international violence in ways that challenge sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression.”

II. Session Descriptionstop

Youth Violence: Examining Effects and Root Causes
Arab American Action Network (Youth Organizing Program Staff)
  • This workshop addressed the way youth violence not only affects young people, but also our families and communities. Participants were challenged to think critically about the differences between symptoms and root causes of violence. Facilitated by the Youth Organizing Interns at the Arab American Action Network; Aaisha Durr, Arasele Robles, Muhammad Sankari and Zaineb Abdulia. This workshop was taken from the Project NIA curriculum, titled “Something is Wrong: Exploring the Roots of Youth Violence,” which is available online at
Mobilizing Communities to End Violence Workshop
Ann Russo, DePaul University, Women’s and Gender Studies Faculty
  • This workshop explored the possibilities to build everyday collective actions for support, intervention, prevention and transformation in the context of violence. Drawing from frameworks and practices of organizations like INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Communities Against Rape and Abuse, Creative Interventions and Generation FIVE, participants had an opportunity to imagine and create collective responses to incidents of interpersonal violence (e.g. harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, connected to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.)
Circles: Acts of Revolution
Ora Schub, J.D., Community Justice for Youth Institute
  • This workshop allowed participants to have a Circle experience. Taken from indigenous practices, circles are now being used in Western society to check in, resolve conflicts, heal, grieve and celebrate.
Don’t Call Me Sassy: Synergy – Beats and Verses
AquaMoon, SpokenExistence, Inc.
  • Through the use of Ntoazke Shange’s choreopoem aesthetics of poetry, choreography, and music, “Don’t Call Me Sassy…” goes from transcending to transgressing the race, class and sexual politics of African American girls and womyn by fostering a safe performance space for black bodies, ideas of disenfranchised people, and the portrayal of synergetic “whole beings” that live race, class and gender on a daily basis. This performance renders a space for girls/womyn of color to see themselves as healthy sexual beings.

III. Leadership Team and Conference Partnerstop

DePaul University Planning Committee
  • Dr. Laila Farah, Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies

Laila Farah is a Lebanese-American feminist performer-scholar. She attended Lebanese American University and Eastern Michigan University while working toward her BA in Theatre and Communication Arts. She continued at Eastern Michigan University in order to complete her MA in Performance Studies and Communication. She received her Doctorate in Performance Studies at Southern Illinois University. She is currently an Associate Professor and Graduate Director in Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University. She continues to work on future performance pieces in Chicago, as well as touring with her production of Living in the Hyphen-Nation. Her creative scholarship includes research with and the performance of “Third World” women and women of color, postcolonial identities and “alien-nation,” and ethnographic and auto ethnographic performance. She is active locally and nationally, and globally in gender based initiatives through various organizations including the National Women’s Studies Association and the Arab American Action Network, and the International Oral History Organization. Dr. Farah has taught Performance of Gender, Women in the Middle East, International Women Film Directors, Women in Chicago Theatre, and Transnational Feminisms , and other Women’s Studies and Performance Studies courses at DePaul, Southern Illinois University, and SUNY Potsdam.

  • Sara Goldstein, Program Coordinator, DePaul Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies

Sara Goldstein earned her B.A. in English and Women’s Studies from Kalamazoo College in 2004 and  her M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University. During the 2009-2010 academic year, Sara worked as the Peer Education and Programming Assistant with the DePaul Women’s and Gender Studies program. In this position, she developed, organized, and led a peer education group focused on raising campus awareness about rape culture and organized a community-wide conference addressing local youth anti-violence initiatives. Currently, she is working as the Program Coordinator in the DePaul Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies Program. She manages web-based communication including email, social media, and the program website; develops, updates, and maintains program events and materials; and collects, analyzes, and reports data.

  • Julie Froslan, Graduate Student
  • Jamie Shaw, Graduate Student
  • Claudia Feldhaus, Graduate Student
  • Michelle Emery, Graduate Student
DePaul University Leadership and Support Team
  • Dr. Beth Catlett, Program Director and Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Co-Founder of Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community (BRI)
  • Leo Masalihit, Program Assistant in Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Talina Phillips, Student Assistant in Women’s and Gender Studies
Program Partners and Presenters
  • Arab American Action Network

The Youth Organizing Program Staff for the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), including Aaisha Durr, Arasele Robles, Muhammad Sankari and Zaineb Abdulia, presented the session Youth Violence: Examining Effects and Root Causes. The Arab American Action Network strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change. As a grassroots nonprofit, our strategies include community organizing, advocacy, and education, providing social services, leadership development, and cultural outreach and forging productive relationships with other communities.

  • Dr. Ann Russo, DePaul University

Dr. Ann Russo is an Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at DePaul University. Ann obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. Her scholarship, writing, and activism is grounded in social movements to dismantle interlocking systems of oppression and privilege, with a focus on collective healing, intervention, accountability and transformation. She is the author of Taking Back Our Lives: A Call to Action for the Feminist Movement, co-author of Communities Engaged in Resisting Violence, co-editor ofTalking Back, Acting Out: Women Negotiating the Media Across Cultures and Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, among others.  She has published essays in the International Feminist Journal of Politics, Violence Against Women, and Sojourner; as well as in anthologies, including The Intersectional Approach and Confronting Same-Sex Domestic Violence.  She is engaged with the work of a variety of local organizations committed to community accountability and transformative justice, including Project NIA, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, Community Justice for Youth Institute, Beyondmedia, Chicago Freedom School, and Gender Just.

  • Ora Schub, Community Justice for Youth Institute

Ora Schub is a former clinical law professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and currently serves as a staff member for the Community Justice for Youth Institute. She is known for her work on domestic violence and human rights. She has served as Director of Programs at Access Living, Deputy Public Guardian, and a criminal defense attorney. Ora has traveled throughout the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil speaking and sharing ideas on restorative justice and teen dating violence. She has also been involved in numerous human rights delegation to the Middle East working in the area of Palestinian Rights. She has also trained several hundred people to be circle keepers; youth teachers, probation officers, parents, community activists, etc. and has kept hundreds of circles going.

  • camil.williams and veronica precious bohanan, AquaMoon

AquaMoon is a Chicago-based writing, performance, and teaching-artist team. camil.williams, Aqua, is a multifaceted artist that is constantly exploring herself. williams has appeared in several independent films and has performed at spoken word venues across the nation. She is also a painter and has showcased her work in various art exhibits around Chicago. Her latest endeavors include perfecting her skills as a musician in an all-woman band and completing a screenplay. butta to fly is her debut collection of poetry & art, accompanied by a CD. veronica precious bohanan, Moon, is a moonchild on an excursion to earth. A graduate of the University of Iowa, she earned a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Sciences and an M.A. in Social Foundations of Education. Her poetry can be found in Home Girls Make Some Noise!: Hip-hop Feminism Anthology and Check the Rhyme: An anthology of Female Poets and Emcees. Om: My Sistagyrl Lotus is her first collection of prose and poetry.

IV. Funding & Sponsorstop

Cynthia L. Bischof Memorial Foundation

A special thank you to the Cynthia L. Bischof Foundation, which was a lead sponsor of the Cynthia L. Bischof Conference on Youth Anti-Violence at DePaul University.

Mission Statement

The Cynthia L. Bischof Memorial Foundation is a catalyst for legislative and societal change. We hope to act in a thoughtful manner and serve as a role model for future mission-based, non-profit organizations. We aim to support the network of those who are already serving victims of domestic violence. We aspire to be the voice of the many victims who may not feel that they have a voice. We intend to expand accessibility of resources to those who might otherwise not have resources. Our hope is for a world without domestic violence; a world without the need for the existence of organizations such as ours.

Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Department

The Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies Program was a generous co-sponsor of the conference. The Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies program offers students a curriculum that helps them reflect on the origins and causes of conflict, violence, and social injustice as well as the wide spectrum of conflict intervention, from armed conflict, through governmental and organizational peace building, to local and interpersonal conflict resolution. The Program introduces students to strategies for resolving interpersonal, communal and international conflicts peacefully, as well as tactics that promote the common good in a way that addresses the structural origins of violence.


The Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program addresses the need for a critical examination of the origins and root causes of violence and conflict. The Program includes frank debate about the efficacy of nonviolent approaches in comparison with violent approaches to social change.

The Women’s Center at DePaul University

The Women’s Center at DePaul University was a generous co-sponsor of the conference. Established in 1995, the center’s overall mission is rooted in the fundamental mission of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Mission, the Vincentian community that established and sponsored DePaul University. As a Women’s Center, we interpret and accomplish this mission by bringing about an awareness of women’s issues.


With programming designed to enhance and promote the development and creativity of women, the Women’s Center is a catalyst for positive social change where women can express their needs and concerns, discuss their interests, and network with their peers. The Women’s Center provides advocacy, conferences, discussion and support groups, education, programming, seminars, services and referrals.

Food, Print, and Space Donations
  • We would like to thank R.J. Grunts, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Argo Tea, Donkey Chips, Taste of Lebanon, and Noodles & Company for their generous food donations.
  • We would like to Karen Shaw, Dennis Froslan, Amanda Gallo, and AlphaGraphics for their generosity and donations towards all print publications for the conference.
  • Thank you to the African and Black Center for Diaspora Studies at DePaul University for their support and allowing us to utilize their conference room.

V. Publications and Materialstop