Meet the Lab

Erika Chavez

Intention:My mother never failed to emphasize that as bad as things were, that change was possible. I learned how to live under those circumstances while also inhabiting an imagined world. Also recognizing that one day things would be different, and I’ve always recognized my own role as an activist as helping to create conditions of possibility for change. And that means to expand and deepen public consciousness of the nature of racism, of heteropatriarchy, pollution of the planet, and their relationship to global capitalism.” – Angela Davis

With this project, I hope to help create conditions of possibility for change that expand our understanding of the Chicago River, dismantle systems that disproportionately burden Black and brown communities along its bank, and challenge us to wildly reimagine what’s possible. Through a deepening of our collective consciousness on issues of slow violence and environmental justice, we are empowered to make connections that make an imagined world a reality and compelled to move beyond the transactional toward the relational. We begin to see that the outcomes of slow violence are just as harmful, rampant and far-reaching as those of fast violence, structural racism and inequity. The river wants to flow forward. We can change course too. 

Bio: Erika Chávez has been a member of the UIC Freshwater Lab since the fall of 2019 and is a marketing communications professional who helps organizations achieve objectives through strategic outreach, experience design and brand management. A daughter of immigrants and lifelong Chicago resident, Erika’s personal mission is to advance justice, equity and opportunity for all of its residents. Currently, Erika serves on the board of directors of Healing to Action, an organization dedicated to ending gender-based violence; is the chair of the Casa Central Emerging Leaders Auxiliary Board, the largest Latinx social service agency in the Midwest; and is a pro-bono communications consultant with Blacks in Green, a green community economic development organization in West Woodlawn. Erika is a first-generation college graduate who holds a BLAS in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a MS in Communications from Northwestern University.