FEATURE: Dr. Ayo Maat

Ayo Maat, Ph.D. balances work or business with community involvement despite economic or disability issues. As a local and national community activist, educator, and organizer, she is the founder, President /CEO of BNICEH (‘be nicer,”), the Black Network In Children’s Emotional Health and IMPRUVE (Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles, Equality).

With a Ph.D in philosophy, M.S. in Healing from University of Healing and a journalism/art degree with minors in accounting and social science studies at Truman College, she worked there as a tutor in social science and English. She attended Illinois Institute of Technology for computer science and math, took business management training with various corporations, and the Entrepreneurship Training Program with Uptown Hull House.

She is a person who is disabled (PWD), uses a wheelchair, eats organic vegan food, grows an urban organic vegetable garden, rides paratransit, makes handmade jewelry one-­of-­a-­kind, and supports green employment for PWDs, youth, seniors, ex­-offenders, and those with low income. She has lived in Chicago for almost 7 decades.

She is a former Chicago City Colleges and Eduteach teacher, former acting chair of Chicago Together, a computer professional who was the first and only female president of Systems Programmers Society, retired minister, artist/writer, and presented special programs at NorthPoint, Ibeji Resource Center, Probation Challenge, United Church of Rogers Park, Truman College, New Concept School, public libraries, and Insight Arts. She taught at Malcolm X and Central YMCA Colleges, Control Data Institute and Eduteach;was a certified IL substitute teacher. She co-­led family literacy programs, ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) prevention programs, back to school music fests, and no smoking video-documentaries.

She produced the only National Black Mental Health Forum in Chicago in February 1993, worked with youth to deter them from shoplifting and joining gangs, and ran a tobacco public awareness campaign in 2006 (billboards on public transit) for one year. Her experience comes from early involvement in the civil rights movement from age 16, paralegal training at Uptown People’s Law School, accessible housing law training by John Marshall Law School, a 14­ day community organizing fellowship at Advocacy Institute in Washington DC in 1993 by former FCC chair Mike Pertschuk, 14 weeks of community organizing training at Hope Leadership Institute with then State Senator Barack Obama, one of her instructors, and two days of community/political advocacy training in 2009 by Wellstone Action and 1Sky.

She was awarded for her work in social and economic justice and disability rights as a local Every Day Hero on October 7, 2016. She was also awarded the Toby Prinz­Dovie Thurman award by NorthSide Action for Justice (NA4J), the (female) Role Model of the Year by Ibeji Resource Center in February 2015, Black Woman of the Year for Community Organizing in Media by Woman to Woman February 2012, and the Spirit of Volunteerism award by Rogers Park Community Council in 2003.

She is currently running as a delegate for Bernie Sanders in the March 15, 2016 primary in the 9th IL Congressional District.