Barry McNamara  |   Published June 17, 2020

Making a Difference Where She Can

Fannetta Jones ’11 taking a leadership role in social initiatives in her Chicago neighborghood.

Huey: What do you do when you can’t do nothing, but there’s nothing you can do?
Granddad: You do what you can. – The Boondocks


MONMOUTH, Ill. – Fannetta Jones is doing what she can.

The 2011 Monmouth College graduate was already doing a lot in her role as an English teacher at King College Prep High School on the south side of Chicago.

FANNETTA JONES: ?When you're told about another life lost, another individual unjustly treated or... FANNETTA JONES: “When you're told about another life lost, another individual unjustly treated or killed, it takes a toll on the psyche, on the spirit as a whole. But knowing that I'm part of the effort to help people keeps me going. I want to do what's right and serve in the way I can.”But with a global pandemic changing the way she educates her students, followed by the Black Lives Matters marches and rallies, Jones was called to an even higher level of action.

One of her projects, serving as editor and a contributor to the book You Do What You Can: Black Expression in the Current Uprising, chronicles “how our people are feeling right now,” she said. Available on Amazon.com as a $5 ebook and a $15 paperback, You Do What You Can is set up much like Monmouth’s literary arts magazine, COIL – to which Jones was a contributor as a student – featuring poems, artwork, essays and photographs.

Jones was asked how she is feeling right now.

“I am feeling exhausted, truthfully,” she replied. “When you’re told about another life lost, another individual unjustly treated or killed, it takes a toll on the psyche, on the spirit as a whole. But knowing that I’m part of the effort to help people keeps me going. I want to do what’s right and serve in the way I can.”

#FeedThePeople

That service is also highlighted by an initiative Jones helped start for neighbors in need. She started it with her friend and Knox College alumnus Jordan Lanfair, whom she met through an Associated Colleges of the Midwest diversity initiative, and who, like her, is a participant in the state’s Golden Apple program. Another Monmouth graduate and Golden Apple participant who is involved in the initiative is Edy Ramirez ’13.

“One of the big things I’ve been doing in light of all the unrest and challenge, both because of the quarantine and the rioting in light of George Floyd, has been working to start a #FeedThePeople initiative,” she said.

The community effort, which started as making sandwiches for those in need, has grown as contributions and donations have poured in. Two Chicagoland restaurants – Urban Grill and Ms. B’s Kitchen – have either donated meals or provided them at a reduced rate.

“We’re providing food for people in the community to combat food apartheid or food deserts,” said Jones. “A lot of communities have been hit hard, with some of the businesses being vandalized during the riots or closed for precaution. We coordinated an effort to help on the Monday following George Floyd’s death. It was going to be just that Monday, but we’ve kept up what we’re doing and now we’re in our third week. We’ve added non-perishables like diapers and hygiene products, just getting whatever it is that’s needed to the community.”

Her role as a teacher

Jones has continued to work with her high school students, who last attended King College Prep on March 16.

“I had pretty good relationships with my students already established,” said Jones. “So that allowed me to approach remote learning on a more personal level, asking them, ‘How are you doing? How’s your family? Do you need anything?’ I teach juniors and seniors, and many of them had to take on extra responsibilities in the household. They had a lot to juggle. Sometimes they’d say, ‘I can’t do it this week.’ At that point, how much do the assignments really matter? I had to think, ‘Is there a way we can adapt?’ There was, and we did. A lot of people think this remote learning time is a vacation for teachers. It’s not.”

Jones has assisted the Chicago Public School system by helping create two-week educational packets for students without digital access. She’s currently preparing to teach a three-week summer class for the Golden Apple program, a course she’s taught for the past five years to aspiring teachers.

“Golden Apple emphasizes four strands of significance that help make a teacher successful,” she said. “One of them is how much you know about the world outside your community. When I first started teaching the class, it was called ‘Diversity,’ but now it’s ‘Cultural Competency.’”

Prior to the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones was also co-coach of her high school’s poetry slam team, which competes in the nation’s largest youth poetry competition, Louder Than A Bomb. At Monmouth, she led a similar group, Sulci.

“I was involved in pretty much everything, other than Greek life and sports,” she said. “I was a Scot Ambassador, I was in the chorus, I was in honor societies and I was in the Coalition for the Ethnic Awareness (which is now called Umoja). My ability to be involved in so many different things and with so many different people prepared me to give back today in a variety of means.”

She hopes to still be involved with Monmouth.

“I’m hopeful that with all the changes and how people are being enlightened that my connections to Monmouth can continue,” she said. “There’s already a network called MINA – the Monmouth Intercultural Network of Alumni. I hope they reach out to us.”

How to donate to Jones’ initiatives

Proceeds from You Do What You Can go to the #FeedThePeople initiative, as well as to the #FreeThePeople initiative, which provides bail funds. Individuals can also support #FeedthePeople by visiting the Instagram pages @feedthepeople2 or @MsJones214. Mobile payment services – such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle and Cash App – are accepted. More information is also available from Jones at fcjones07@gmail.com.

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