Amid the economic fallout attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the public outcry toward police killings in Black communities across the country, local actress Deanna Reed-Foster aims to disrupt the tide by launching a series of public service announcements to raise funds for neighborhood business owners.
On Sunday, the first episode (“See Me”) of the PSA series named “I AM TIRED” launched on social media in conjunction with a fundraising campaign to raise $500,000 for Black business owners on the city’s South and West sides and to promote racial understanding.
The two remaining installments are scheduled to launch Aug. 23 (“Hear Me”) and Sept. 13 (“Respect Me”) to close out the series.
“During the George Floyd protests, I saw all the damage that was happening on the South Side of Chicago, as well as knowing how businesses have been struggling during the pandemic; I felt a bit hopeless,” said Reed-Foster. “I knew I needed to do something. I would take what I have, which is my art, and try to do something to help my people.”
Reed-Foster, a South Side native, has a recurring role as social worker Tina Cantrell on the hit NBC series “Chicago Fire.” She has also made appearances on Comedy Central’s “South Side,” Showtime’s “The Chi,” and the films “Southside with You,” “Last Flag Flying,” “Widows,” and “Roll Bounce,” among others.
She says seeing business owners operate — and live in — the neighborhood is inspiring to community residents.
“When I was growing up, I remember working in a Black-owned business on the South Side,” said Reed-Foster, a Lindblom Technical High School alumna. “So I know that the businesses don’t just provide a service, right? It’s a way for the community to come together. It’s a way for us to look at each other as examples, and then economic development in and of itself is a way for us to eventually reach equality in this country.
“And so I know that it’s more than just about a business. I know that it builds the community; it builds the people in the community. It gives you something to reach for.
The first video features “South Side” actors Ronald L. Conner and Reneé Lockett, as well as Reed-Foster.
“I’ve been in the business for a number of years, so I have a number of friends in the business,” said Reed-Foster. “And because I give back, and they know that I give back, they were more than willing to come and be a part of it as well.”
While Reed-Foster advocates for her community, how does she square that with her recurring “Chicago Fire” role? Her character also has appeared on “Chicago P.D.,” a series often criticized as “copaganda” by pundits.
“Honestly I haven’t thought about it,” said Reed-Foster. “My mind is pretty focused on what I’m doing right now. And so I haven’t thought about how it will affect my career. There’s been a shift, and a shift in our culture and in our country. I don’t think anything will be the same; if it affects my career, then it affects my career. One of the things that I’ve said and now continue to say is that I’m an African American before I am an artist.”