Monday, July 27, 2020

Why Yell NO

Photo credit: Daniel Teafoe
 No allows for tightening of the muscles that protect the body from offensive strikes.

2. No activates breathing that enables a defender to maintain consciousness and supplies the body and organs the oxygen necessary for effective self-defense.

3. No allows a defender to strike with full force and speed without restriction.

4. No startles an aggressor.

Most importantly

5. No represents deep compassionate feelings for oneself. "NO"  represents facing whatever force threatens one's well-being.

Bruce Bio, IMPACT Chicago Board Co-Chair and Retired Suited Instructor

From the Archives, an earlier version was published December 5, 2011.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Anti-Racism Dialogue and Action Resources

IMPACT Chicago board members, instructors, staff, and volunteers have been engaging in dialogue about anti-racism. For our first dialogue, we addressed questions about anti-racism, social justice, and organizational priorities based on our varying knowledge of IMPACT Chicago as an organization and our varying activist experiences as part of organizations with explicitly stated anti-racism missions. For our second dialogue after reading, watching, and listening to a common set of materials representing a range of perspectives, we will come together to share what we've learned and to identify and choose specific actions. 

I identified and organized numerous articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts that I have found compelling and informative. I've organized the material in categories to remind us of the multiple layers of work to do.
  • shared vocabulary and language
  • dimensions of racism (institutional, structural, interpersonal, and internalized)
  • importance of both dialogue and action. 
Board Member and Workshop Leader Tara Brinkman, Board Member Denise Loyd, and Admin Team Co-Leader and Lead Instructor Martha Thompson also suggested content.  Board Co-Chair and former suited instructor Bruce Brio, Board Member and Workshop Leader Deb Mier, and Martha Thompson helped me winnow down the rich number of available materials to a manageable size for pre-work. I hope you find these resources and their organization useful.
Lisa Amoroso, Coordinator for Dialogues 1 and 2
Admin Team Co-Leader and Workshop Leader

Shared Vocabulary & Language 

  1. What makes something racist?, Ibrahim X. Kendi, vid 6:14

  2. Why you should stop saying All Lives Matter Explained 9 Different Ways, read all or just a few, #3 is hilarious, <15m read/watch

  3. Dismantling the 4 Dimensions of Racism (article can be read in full or read the section titled “The Four Dimensions of Racism,” <8m read)

Dimensions of Racism

Four Dimensions of Racism: Dimension 1 - Institutional

  1. Let's get to the root of racial injustice, Megan Ming Francis, vid 19:37

  2. #OscarsSoWhite and The Legacy of Halle Berry, vid 18:43

  3. When Calling the Po-Po is a No-No, Karen Grigsby Bates, podcast 4:37

Four Dimensions of Racism: Dimension 2 - Structural

  1. You want a Confederate Monument?, Caroline Randall Williams, <7m read

  2. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Ep. 1, Emmanuel Acho, vid 9:27

Four Dimensions of Racism: Dimension 3 - Interpersonal

  1. What’s Up with Chicks in Science? Neil DeGrasse Tyson responds, vid 3:32

  2. A trip to the Grocery Store, Joy DeGruy, vid 3:56

Four Dimensions of Racism: Dimension 4 - Internalized 

  1. We all have implicit biases. So what can we do about it?, Dushaw Hockett, vid 12:00

  2. How to overcome our biases, Verna Myers, vid 17:37

Anti-Racist Work in Empowerment-based Self-Defense

  1. Black Lives Matter, Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago blog, 2017, <3m read 

  2. Addressing Stereotypes and Social Inequality in Self-Defense Priya Nelson, IMPACT Chicago blog, 2020, <7m read

  3. Self Defense in a Racist World, Linda Leu, IMPACT Bay Area blog 2020, <3m read 

Financial Literacy in the Black Community, Rachel Christian/Lee Williams,


o    1619 by the New York Times
o    About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
o    All My Relations hosted by Ma
o    Code Switch by NPR
o    The Diversity Gap hosted by Bethaney Wilkinson
o    Intersectionality Matters! Hosted by Kimberle Crenshaw
o    Lynching in America by the Equal Justice Initiative
o    Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
o    Seeing White by Scene On Radio
o    Still Processing hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham
o    #TellBlackStories, extension of Color of Change Hollywood
o    The Stoop hosted by Leila Day and Hana Baba 
o    Witness Black History by BBC World

*added source for podcast 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Should I Yell Fire? A Self-Defense Question

IMPACT Chicago participant setting a boundary
IMPACT Chicago defender setting a boundary

“Should I yell ‘fire’ instead of ‘help’?” I hadn't heard anyone ask that question in years and then in the space of a few weeks, it came up in two self-defense workshops. 

This is a question that has been answered before by Empowerment Self-Defense instructor Lauren Taylor in “Should I Yell Fire,” but because it is still out there as a possible self-defense response to sexual assault, I'm going to address it, too.

Are there circumstances under which yelling “fire” might be an effective self-defense strategy?

Empowerment self-defense training is not memorizing a list of “shoulds;” instead, it involves learning a range of tools and practicing using those tools while assessing situations, the context, and the people involved. In other words, there’s no formula of “if this happens, then do this….” 

So with empowerment self-defense, the question becomes not “should I yell ‘fire’?” but “are there circumstances under which yelling ‘fire’ might be an effective self-defense strategy?” 

It is not common or typical, but there may indeed be circumstances under which yelling “fire” might be an effective self-defense strategy. It would depend upon an individual assessing what's happening, what they want to happen, making a decision about whether yelling is the best strategy in their circumstances, and, if so, what words or phrases will get the response they want. 

It’s important to note that, no matter which tools you choose to use or not use, no matter what, you are not responsible for another person’s behavior: if they violate your boundaries, they are responsible. 

Why yelling “fire” is not typically a tool offered in an Empowerment Self-Defense program

Voice is one of the most versatile tools presented in empowerment self-defense programs. An important facet of that tool is specific messaging: communicating to the person attacking you, others, and/or yourself your assessment of what is happening and/or what you want. 

Yelling “fire” if you are experiencing sexual violence does not communicate to the person attacking you, others, and/or yourself your assessment of what is happening and/or what you want. However, there are words or phrases you can use that say what you want, don't want, or name the violence, such as:


Leave me alone!

That is harassment! Stop!

What you are doing is assault! Don't touch me again!

Another facet of voice is volume. People are most likely to sexually assault someone they know, and their aggression often begins with minor boundary violations and then increases. Likewise, your response to these violations may begin quietly, then grow louder. So I recommend a message that is not only specific, but will work at any level of violation and at any volume. Saying “fire” softly is unlikely to convey the message that a behavior is unacceptable, whereas statements like “No;” “leave me alone;” “that is harassment, stop;” or “what you are doing is assault, don't touch me again,” whether said soft or loud, send a clear message.

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Lead Instructor and Admin Team Co-Leader

Thank you to Amy Harmon for her editing of an earlier version of this post.

Monday, July 6, 2020

IMPACT Chicago Response to Coronavirus, Update: July 2020

We continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and are keeping a close eye on official information and guidance from the CDC, the State of Illinois, and the City of Chicago. We will fully comply with Governor Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan for re-opening, as well as any requirements issued by the City of Chicago's COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. We are committed to providing a safe space for participants and staff in our programs. 

As of now, in-person IMPACT programs and workshops have been canceled through July 31. We are currently exploring online options, as well as a possible return to in-person programming at outdoor venues only. As official information and guidelines are updated and affect our program offerings, we will send updates to program participants and to our entire community via email, on our website, and through our Facebook page.
If you have any questions, please contact us at or send us a message via Facebook  and your inquiry will be routed to the best person to answer your question.