Nurturing black youth activism

Some of Charlene Carruthers’ strongest memories from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago are of visiting the public aid office with her mother. Caseworkers spoke condescendingly from a desk so high it was difficult to see over. The desk reinforced the feeling of being talked down to. “I just remember as a child being very conscious of the differences when it came to class and race and even gender,” she said. “But I didn’t have those words at the time.”

Years later, Carruthers entered Illinois Wesleyan University as a pre-med student, hoping to become a surgeon.