For those unfamiliar, what can you tell us about Bright Star Community Outreach?
Bright Star Community Outreach is a nonprofit organization founded by myself. Our mission is to empower residents to share in the responsibility of building community through pooling resources and forming partnerships. We will accomplish our mission by developing innovative performance-based projects and programs to address issues of community engagement, economic development, education and family. We serve some of the needs of more than 3,000 residents on an annual basis. All of the services that BSCO offers to the community are provided at no cost, with the exception of the 10-week, day long summer camp for youth from Kindergarten through eighth grade.
How did you come up with the idea for the Bronzeville Dream Center and what are some of the things you’ll look to provide to the community?
The Bronzeville Dream Center project began with and was inspired by NATAL, an Israeli trauma center established to treat victims of terror and war, which I visited during a trip to Israel. NATAL believes that when individuals suffering from combat stress, people injured in terrorist attacks, children who lost their parents, and others affected by violence overcome their initial shock and return to their normal routines, they remain in a state of pain and suffering. While Chicago is not a traditional war-zone, we all know that there is no lack of trauma that our community is facing.
The BDC endeavors to focus on five core competencies: counseling, parenting, mentorship, work-force development and advocacy. Its unique model will utilize faith and community leaders as post-trauma counselors and use community surveys as the basis for services that directly correspond to the unique needs of its residents. This approach offers a replicable, evidenced-based template for risk assessment and program evaluation. It is the hope, that through the work of Bright Star Community Outreach and the Bronzeville Dream Center that many people who have survived nightmares will begin to “dream again.” Although the BDC will sit in Bronzeville, it will serve all Chicagoans and the ultimate goal is to replicate this model across the United States in other traumatized communities.
Do you think counseling for victims of violence and their families is something that lawmakers and general powers tend to overlook?
I believe the community, lawmakers, general powers, faith and community leaders, etc. need to place more focus on mental health and trauma. We need to realize, hurting people tend to hurt people. Before we can heal, we must first listen. I always say our people don’t tend to go to counseling primarily for four reasons. 1.) They don’t know the counselor. 2.) We don’t trust the counselor as a result of no relationship. 3.) We don’t think we can afford a counselor. 4.) The stigma in our community where every fears being labeled “crazy.”
Tell us about the upcoming fundraiser and what attendees can look forward to for the evening?
For the eight years that BSCO has been in existence, we’ve secured funding for all of the programs that have been mentioned. However, in order to continue the present services and to expand services that will further address the violence that is plaguing our city we’ll need help. This is a tremendous philanthropic opportunity for peace-loving people of all faiths and backgrounds and offers a way to lift your voice in support of our youth.
This great day of unlimited fun, food, drinks, fellowship and sowing promises to give all in attendance an experience they will never forget. The group American English will sing many of the Beatles greatest hits and R&B sensation Dave Hollister will serve as headliner for the evening. Myself, along with Bright Star’s Music Ministry will rock the house with some amazing Gospel Music and the DJ will surely give everyone there a reason to dance.
What’s next for Pastor Chris Harris?
I simply plan to continue using songs, sermons and service to our community to impact lives, educate and empower youth, strengthen families and bring hope to the Bronzeville Community and beyond.
BSCO’s inaugural Fundraiser will be held on Sunday, Jan. 17 from 3 – 7 p.m. at the venue 115 Bourbon Street located 3359 West 115th St., Merrionette, Illinois.
For more information, please visit www.BrightStarCommunityOutreach.com.