Maggie Arthur is a member of the Education and Training team at Resilience Chicago. As a prevention educator, Maggie facilitates education programs for all age groups on sexual violence; engaging those residing in Northside Chicago neighborhoods in violence prevention strategies; and building community partnerships with agencies who share Resilience’s mission of improving the treatment of survivors and effecting positive change in policies and public attitudes towards sexual violence.
She is also the co founder of OurMusicMyBody, a Chicago based non-profit campaign working to promote a harassment-free music experience for all.
We sat down with Maggie to chat Chicago’s history of activism, being a femme ally in male dominated spaces, and truly listening to our young people…
Where are you from originally and how did you come to Chicago? What neighborhood do you live in now?
I grew up in a really small town in Indiana but I always knew that I wanted to live in a city. I moved to Chicago about eight years ago, and for the last seven of those years, I’ve lived in what I fondly call the Humboldt Square / Logan Park neighborhood, because I’m right on the border of both of those communities. My neighborhood is the type of space that feels like its own small town in a way. I see students of mine at after school programs at the Y where I go to the gym, my landlord and I take the bus together in the morning, people know my dog and recognize my dog before they recognize me, things like that. So my neighborhood feels really, really welcoming and warm and like home. Living in Chicago, I love that I can bike everywhere, I love running into people I know in totally unexpected circumstances. I love Chicago’s history of activism. I love that people from Chicago get stuff done, they identify a problem and they jump in to change it. It’s been really incredible to have the chance to research and study how movements have happened in the city and then live in this place where I get to watch how young folks are honoring that history but also doing it in new and innovative ways. I’ve loved being able to develop my own identity through being forced to be pretty independent here.
What lead you to become a mentor / educator, and why is this work important?
I grew up with loads of adults telling me that my concerns didn’t matter and that I was worried or stressed about things I wasn’t old enough to understand. It led to me being in some really unsafe situations and unsafe relationships. It pushed my boundaries and pushed my limits a lot. So I knew that I wanted to be a violence prevention educator, because I knew that that sort of mentorship would have changed my whole trajectory as a young person. Honestly, I just believe that young folks deserve to be not just heard, but rather listened to and understood. So I’m a prevention educator because I want to be one of the adults in my students lives, who they can trust, someone who they know believes in them and wants to see them succeed.
And my work with OurMusicMyBody intersects with this really well because I am the product of forming my identity around music and feeling really seen by bands that I loved, but then walking into music spaces and immediately feeling isolated and immediately feeling like I didn’t belong as a femme person in a 99.9% male dominated space. I’ve seen how, when you don’t feel welcomed by a community, you’re much less likely to want to contribute to that community. And frankly, that’s how we ended up with old white dudes writing the same songs over and over because other voices don’t feel like they’re being honored in those spaces. OurMusicMyBody is trying to address that by showing up for those folks who maybe feel like they don’t have any allies in those spaces.
How has living in Chicago influenced the work that you do?
Being in Chicago has shaped my personal empathy. It has helped me understand not just individual experiences, but also the systems that contribute to those experiences, especially when we’re talking about violence or trauma. I’ve been privileged to be surrounded by brilliant activists, artists, and educators who have been gracious enough to invite me into their spaces and allowed me to watch them shine and feel their glow. I think that I wouldn’t have the broad understanding of preventing violence that I do if it weren’t for living in Chicago. I want to do whatever I can to help set the stage for young folks to take the lead. And then honestly, I want to get the hell out of their way. I want to take other adults with me and get out of their spotlight and let them do what I know that they’re capable of doing.