There should be nothing about us without us.

Everyone is entitled to just live their best life and thrive, yet there are some families who have to think, “Are we going to eat today? Do we have to live outside?” instead of just being able to have food, shelter, and all the things that human beings need.

We all love our families. We all love our communities. Unfortunately, some communities have systematically been challenged—placed in positions of poverty and kept from education because of systems and policies that we know need reform.

I have a loud, strong voice. But not everyone has that voice, so I try my best to encourage others to know that their voice matters. Your lived experience matters.

Fines and fees are a huge barrier for so many people. Women of color, particularly mothers, are usually the most impacted by these economic policies. Often times, people say, “Oh, just save.” Or just do this or that, like it’s a magic bullet. But the truth of the matter is, many people make all those efforts, but they’re bombarded by these predatory practices that suck not only every dime that they could possibly save, but the money that they already don’t have in the first place. It’s very important to me to look at these systems and see how we can reform them.

Decision-makers have not paid attention and respected our lived experience. In fact, we usually have the solutions. They try to find all these experts… but we are right here! We know what it takes to change the circumstances. We’re willing to come to the table. As a matter of fact, we should be at every table that is making a decision about us, our children, our families, and our communities. As the saying goes, “there should be nothing about us without us,” from planning to implementation. 

A group of five women, addressing the crowd at a summer celebration picnic, laughing together

Rosazlia (Ms. Rose) Grillier is the mother of two now-adult daughters, a longtime activist in her South Side Englewood community, and President-Emeritus of POWER-PAC IL. She is the former co-chair of POWER-PAC’s Stepping Out of Poverty Campaign. As a COFI Parent Peer Trainer, she has traveled the country, providing trainings on The COFI Way and serving as inspiration to hundreds of other low-income parent leaders. In 2021, Ms. Rose was honored by the Chicago Foundation for Women with the Founders Award. She was also awarded Allstate’s Give Back Day Award, a national recognition honoring community volunteers in 2011. She currently serves on COFI’s Board of Trustees and on the national Governing Council of the United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN).

Here’s Ms. Rose talking about bringing recess back to Chicago elementary schools with POWER-PAC IL: