(CNN)In Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood — which has been plagued with violence and trauma — residents have been working for years to transform their community from surviving to thriving, one block at a time.
And then came Covid-19.More than six months in, the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color in the US.”Look at the amount of Black Americans that are dying from Covid. And let’s look at the fact that these communities just are lacking resources and opportunities,” said CNN Hero Robbin Carroll, whose community-led non-profit, I Grow Chicago, has been embedded in West Englewood since 2013.Through its Peace House and surrounding campus, the organization helps provide anything the community wants and needs to improve their lives — from fresh food and employment assistance to afterschool and wellness programs. Read MoreNow, in the wake of Covid-19, the organization’s efforts are more crucial than ever. “We know that we are in a community that is very vulnerable … and that they would be extremely hard-hit,” Carroll said. “We needed to step in and just provide even more supplies and comfort and security.”Robbin Carroll’s community-led non-profit has worked since 2013 to build a Peace Campus in West EnglewoodSince March, they’ve delivered hundreds of meals a day, medical and cleaning supplies and other necessities. The group also quickly reorganized to provide its regular programming online — from tutoring for children to support groups now meeting on Zoom.The organization established a nursing team for check-in calls, brought in a doctor and have two grieving therapists on call to provide sessions over the phone. “There isn’t a single family that has not been touched by Covid. We’re going to have to really heal from the amount of grief that Covid has wracked through a neighborhood,” Carroll said. “To feel safe in this, we need to know that we’re not alone.” CNN’s Laura Klairmont spoke with Carroll about the impact of recent events on the community and the organization’s efforts to address issues surrounding race and police brutality. Below is an edited version of their conversation.CNN: In what ways has the killing of George Floyd affected the community?Robbin Carroll: I think the amount of anguish when the news first came out was like stabbing a knife in a hole that’s already wounded, that’s already bloodied. It was just so raw. We’d just come off of the Laquan McDonald case. But not only that, we have come off of so many names we can say, and endless names we can’t.When George Floyd happened, it was, again, look, Black America is telling us it’s painful. “You’re hurting me. Your knee is always on my neck. Always, in my job, in my family’s lives. Every time I open the front door.” And I think it just became a call.I struggle with the fact that just to get human rights, people had to protest during a pandemic that could actually kill them. I think that everyone really grappled with it.CNN: Your organization has worked for years to improve community and police relations. How have recent events influenced those efforts moving forward?Carroll: The first time I saw policing in Englewood, the cop car drove down the street and everyone put their arms up in the air. It was so terrorizing to me that that car was able to do that to that many people. I literally got out of the car and threw up. And since then I’ve seen just really, really abusive use of power. And this is being done to a community that doesn’t get the voice to actually say, “I am being hurt.”We were very committed to doing restorative justice circles with the police department and trying to establish a relationship and have people understand each other’s sides and points of view. I believe that is still always necessary in community, that every voice gets heard. But I think that this problem is just so big and so painful that we are going to have to dismantle our systems and imagine what our world would look like if our criminal justice system was different.CNN: What do you tell White people to do to actively support this movement? Carroll: I have no idea what it is like to be Black in America. The only place I can speak to is that I cannot witness all of this any longer. It’s why I Grow was formed.We need to listen to what Black lives are telling us. We have to train (and) educate ourselves, and we have to expect this out of the people we surround ourselves with. We have an obligation to our society to take the time to educate and listen. Understand what it is you’re changing. Take an anti-racist training. Start reading about the history of America and how we were built. Nobody wants to live in poverty. Nobody wants to work 40 hours a week and not be paid for it. Nobody wants their kids to go to schools that are underfunded. White people have to truly use our voice differently. We need to imagine a different America and what that will look like. If we learn to come from a place of love versus fear, we will begin to open the door for change.Want to get involved? Check out the I Grow Chicago website and see how to help.