Isioma Odum moved to Chicago in 2015 from Sacramento, Calif., to pursue a degree in social justice from Loyola University. She started her racial healing journey while finishing her graduate degree as an intern at the Br. David Darst Center for Justice & Peace, Spirituality & Education. She facilitated peace circles for immersion retreat participants ranging in age from 13 to 18. Every year, the center hosts hundreds of students from all over the country interested in reflecting on the injustices of our world and their root causes.
What made Isioma’s experience so unique was that the circles weren’t just about everyone sharing their experiences, but were also about creating action plans to address the issues realized from those experiences. They focused on an array of justice issues, such as homelessness, food insecurity, incarceration, education, racism, and immigration. Students not only learned about what was happening all over the world, but what was happening in Chicago, and how many people are doing great work in the communities most impacted by violence and lack of resources.
Isioma’s experience at the Darst Center connected her with other organizations, such as Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation, La Casa Norte, Growing Home, and Arise Chicago. Co-educating with these agencies opened her eyes to see more clearly those change-makers and freedom fighters who don’t always stand in the spotlight, but are in the midst of the chaos, and serve where they are most needed. It also taught her about the importance of addressing injustice through a collaborative approach.