Pride ROC Chicago: Ending Violence and Restoring Peace from the Inside Out

(Photo: Pride ROC Founder Ra Frye with an UPOW taken at Chicago Ideas Week Lab by Jim Vondruska)

COMMUNITY AREA #68: Englewood—Pride ROC Chicago

This year, we’ve embarked on a storytelling journey called The 77 Project. We’re sharing the stories of solution-makers in Chicago who are making a positive impact in each of the city’s community areas. We are honored today to spotlight Pride ROC Chicago. Pride ROC is a grantee of Chicago Ideas partner Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, which is committed to bettering the lives and work of people who live in the Chicagoland area.


CHICAGO IDEAS WEEK LAB – OCTOBER 20: Pride ROC’s Urban Prisoners of War (UPOWs) show attendees a glimpse into life on the streets as a young African American in the impoverished neighborhoods of the city at the Hyde Park Arts Center. (Photo by Jim Vondruska / Chicago Ideas Week)

If you joined us at Chicago Ideas Week and attended our Lab presented by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, you may be familiar with the life-changing work of Pride ROC Chicago. If not, we are thrilled to introduce you to them and the work they are doing to rescue young men who are Urban Prisoners of War (UPOWs) from their existing trauma in an effort to end violence and restore safety in Chicago’s neighborhoods.


Pride ROC was founded in direct response to the violence, poverty, and despair turning some of the city’s communities into war zones.  While violence and poverty may seem common in some of Chicago’s neighborhoods, the story that is seldom told is how those stuck in the middle of this vicious cycle are often looking for peace, but are left without a pathway to safety. Pride ROC Founder Ra Frye developed Gang Rescue and Refinement Passages (GRR), which initially took place in Denver, Colorado. In 2016, Frye brought GRR to Englewood—and as of 2018, more than 35 young men have joined the movement and raised their hand to the transformative, passage experience that Pride ROC offers them.


Pride ROC’s passage process is built upon three stages, developed by Board Member, Mary Jo Barrett. The stages are:

1) Creating a Context for Change

2) Challenging Old Patters and Expanding New Realities

3) Consolidating Positive Adaptive Behaviors


One of the main elements to the passage approach is “community extraction” which consists of removing participants from their physical environment to eliminate all potential distraction. Once out of the city, participants (or Passengers, the term Pride ROC uses to identify the young men in their program) take part in an eight-day experience that is split into two parts: a three-day orientation and then five days of passage. During this time, Passengers participate in Egyptian yoga, meditation, conversations focused on restorative justice, group and individualized trauma therapy, musical enrichment, reflection, and wholesome, nutrient-rich meals—and the experience does not end there. Upon their return home, Passengers are assigned a case manager and have access to services like continued trauma therapy and weekly meetings, where they can always count on a meal. Job enrichment programs are offered to Passengers that qualify.


Passenger response to the passage process is hopeful, with all signs pointing to a positive future for the young men involved. As of mid-2018, Pride ROC has reported:

– 75% attendance in weekly meetings

– 98% decrease in contact with law enforcement

– 75% decrease in the desire to “hang out on the block”

– 50% interest and enrollment in individual therapy

– 50% increase in employment

– 90% drop in the “need” to carry a gun


What’s next for Pride ROC? Currently, they are empowering their most dedicated Passengers to transition into their new-found roles as leaders within the organization. As they continue to recruit new Passengers, they also just finished their first “Mama Passages.” These passages create opportunities for women (mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters) raising UPOWs—who are often the strongest influence in these young men’s lives—to have a parallel experience, and creates a platform for dialogue and mutual growth. Pride ROC believes this next phase will lead to long-lasting and positive change in the areas of Chicago that need it most. They’re creating a Peace Renaissance.


Watch the clip below to get a closer glimpse into Pride ROC and their Passengers:

For even more about Pride ROC Chicago and to give back to their mission and cause, visit them at


The 77 Project is a storytelling and media project presented in partnership with Xfinity with additional support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help redefine the narrative of our neighborhoods from the inside out. We’ll spend the remainder of 2018 shining a light on organizations and individuals in each of the 77 community areas of Chicago who are making a positive impact. Know someone we should speak with? Recommend them here.


Vanessa M. Buenger is the director of marketing & content at Chicago Ideas. She is passionate about storytelling and the power it has to change the world.

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