Posts Tagged Black Fire Brigade

Chicago Fire Department news

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The Black Fire Brigade is all about channeling young Black men and women in the right direction and launching their careers in the fire service that pays dividends financially and personally.

Formed back in 2018, the Black Fire Brigade has helped close to 450 students to get jobs in the fire service field. They also have a social club on 84th Street and Kedzie Avenue. Coming up soon, they will break ground on a new state-of-the art location.

It once was known as Engine 61. Today, situated at 53rd Street and Wabash Avenue, it houses the Chicago African American Firefighters Museum. And while it is steeped in honoring the first African Americans that came on the Chicago Fire Department 150 years ago, it’s present-day mission is training the firefighters and paramedics of tomorrow. Enrollees range in age from 18 to 30.

Javar Murphy, who experienced homelessness not that long ago, is part of the current class. As a child, around 7 or 8, he and his cousins survived a fire. He now works in the medical field.

He and the others at the museum get EMT and firefighter training under the direction of Lt. Quention Curtis, president and founder of the Black Fire Brigade. In November, Curtis will retire and dedicate himself full time to this cause, and this place and increasing the number of African Americans within the CFD.

Presently, the objective is two-fold: get at-risk young Black men and women positive direction and along the way increase the numbers within the active duty ranks of minorities including women on the Chicago Fire Department.

The next generation is ready to make a career of public service to us like Ryan Blackmon whose father Eugene Blackmon Jr. died in the line of duty in a rescue attempt in the Little Calumet River in May 1998.

Dec. 22, 1872 was when the first Black firefighters started in the CFD.

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Fire service news

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“The Black Fire Brigade is the first of its kind in this country,” said co-founder Quention Curtis, a 32-year veteran of the Fire Department. “It was built around getting young people off the street away from gun violence, and things of that nature, and so our motto became: ‘If you teach a kid to save a life they’ll be less likely to take a life.’”

The Chicago-based nonprofit is also working to increase the ranks of African American firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. The Chicago Fire Department has long been overwhelmingly white – and has paid out millions in racial discrimination lawsuits. Today the force is still just 17% black and 16% Hispanic.

All of the students in the program are between the ages of 18 and 30. They get their primary EMT training at area schools or ambulance companies, but the Black Fire Brigade helps them every step of the way, with tuition for those programs if needed, additional training like the gunshot scenario we described, test prep, and job placement. Most EMT students plan to become paramedics and firefighters, and the Black Fire Brigade offers similar support and training for those careers.

The Black Fire Brigade started in June 2018 and in the first 18 months put more than 250 people through the program, including 60 single moms and three homeless students. They are 100% volunteer run and supported by donations.


Of interest … Black Fire Brigade student saves a life

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A recently-trained teen EMT heard calls for help at a beach on Chicago’s South Side and sprang into action to save a 5-year-old girl drowning in Lake Michigan around 9 p.m. Tuesday at Rainbow Beach.

19-year-old Kianti Champion heard someone screaming for help. Just moments earlier, a swimmer had found a girl unresponsive in the water and pulled her to shore. 

Bystanders said Champion performed CPR on the little girl until paramedics arrived – a skill she had recently learned during her training to be a firefighter/EMT. She had just completed training at the Black Fire Brigade, a not-for-profit that provides training for African Americans pursuing careers in fire and rescue service.

The girl was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in grave condition, where she remains hospitalized. 

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Chicago Fire Department news

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A single parent of two toddlers, Tashonna Williams has mostly worked at fast-food restaurants since graduating Bogan High. She is among 30 young people from the inner city set to begin EMT training on Monday, through $30,000 in donations from the city’s Black Fire Brigade group, to cover their tuition, books, and uniforms.

When black Chicago firefighters launched the nation’s first such organization in June, among their stated mission was to impact inner-city violence by mentoring young people from their new Ashburn neighborhood headquarters at 8404 S. Kedzie. At the grand opening, president and founder Quention Curtis had presented his own personal check for $10,000 to send 10 young people from the South and West sides to EMT school. In the wake of news coverage, however, the Brigade was flooded with inquiries — from young people seeking that life-changing opportunity, and from donors wanting to help.

After the 90-day course, the 15 male and 15 female candidates between the ages of 18 and 30 will receive the certification required for an Illinois EMT license, which is transferable nationwide. They’ll also get job placement from the Brigade, which was founded to preserve the history and heritage of Chicago’s African-American fire and EMS personnel and help prepare more African-Americans for the firefighter exam.

Out of a total force of 5,100 firefighters, 697 are African-American; of 840 paramedics, 53 are African-American.

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