Fighting for equity for everyone within our ‘large quilt’

By Common Threads | Jul 9, 2020

Common Threads supports our students, parents, educators, employees and partners in support of the Black Lives Matter movement

Article by: Linda Novick O’Keefe, Co-Founder & CEO
June 9, 2020

“Our world is a large quilt and its people are the fabric – colorful swatches of beautifully woven material – all joined together by these common threads: family and food.” – Art Smith

Over the past several days, communities across the country have expressed their grief, anger and pain as a result of the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and countless other Black Americans who have died as a result of senseless acts of violence motivated by race.

These incidents of discrimination and police brutality have captured our attention, leaving us horrified, angry, demoralized and anxious in recent days, a reflection of the longstanding systemic racism the Black community has faced for many generations. How can we talk about freedom and the American Dream, when inequality and racial division are staring us right in the face making life as we know it feel fragile and unsafe? Racism is a public health crisis, and we must treat it as such.

Organizations like Common Threads have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life in the communities in which they work, and that is true now more than ever. These incidents come at time where Black people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, experiencing higher infection and death rates. As we prepare to help our communities rebuild after the pandemic, we must also use this time to deconstruct the systems that have oppressed the Black community for so long.

Common Threads predominately reaches communities of color, so this matter is of critical importance to our children, families, educators, partners, staff and communities. Although diversity, equity and inclusion are woven through Common Threads’ history, mission and core values, we are at a time where we must overtly state that we oppose racism, discrimination and the police brutality and violence that so many Black and minority communities face.

We commit to listening to the voices who for so long have not been heard, to using our voices to inspire change and to creating safe spaces for children and families to learn, live, work and play.

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Common Threads was founded in Chicago in 2003 by CEO Linda Novick O’Keefe, celebrity chef Art Smith and his husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro, as a way to bring under-resourced children together, help them celebrate different cultures and teach them about healthy nutrition. From its humble beginnings in a church basement, Common Threads now services children and families in 12 markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Pittsburgh, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, El Paso and Erie. For more information, visit or search #CookingForLife on social media.