Between 1915 and 1970, the Great Migration ushered more than six million African Americans across state lines, out of strained Southern towns and into bustling cities across the North, Midwest, and West. Nicole Robinson’s grandmother, Lueavery Partee, was among them.

Leaving behind three small children in Arkansas, Ms. Partee set out for Chicago, in hopes of making more money and a better life for her family. She found a job at the manufacturing plant, R.R. Donnelley. She would go on to retire from there after more than twenty-five years.

With a remarkable, award-winning career in philanthropy, Robinson often reflects on her grandmother’s “tough life” and the courage it must have taken to leave her children in the care of others and migrate to an unfamiliar place. She honored her family’s history and grandmother’s legacy by starting the Lueavery Partee Fund at Chicago Foundation for Women.

“I loved my grandmother. When I think about my growth and development as a kid, from a small child up until high school (Partee passed away when Robinson was fourteen), my grandmother was a strong influence on me.” The pair were so close that Nicole would walk a block from school to her grandmother’s house for lunch every day. She recalls being treated to “beautifully bound books, and the latest Time and People magazines. I gained a love of reading from the books she’d bring from the plant.” Partee worked the late shift, going into the plant at 10:30 at night, but was always there for Robinson when she returned home from school. “Once I was settled, she’d go to sleep, and then get ready for work. I think a lot of my values around work, helping other women, and standing on my own two feet are inspired by her.”

The time spent with Ms. Lueavery Partee not only made Robinson a champion for the rights of women and girls, it also made her passionate about food security. Once a recipient of nutrition programs when going through Chicago Public Schools, she is now the Vice President of Community Impact at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “Food is a basic human right. I saw what hunger looks like in Ghana, China, and Brazil. Hunger on the westside and southside of Chicago doesn’t look that different. The social fabric is coming apart.”

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A south side native, Robinson wants “Chicago to be a better place,” and recognizes that “CFW plays a pivotal role to help us get there.” Her relationship with the organization began when she became a member of the African American Leadership Council, a precursor to the Women United Giving Council. “CFW has done a great job, particularly through the leadership councils, of bringing women together of different ethnic groups, cultural orientations, [and] sexual orientations. We need to continue more of that. The country’s narrative right now is one that’s becoming more divisive, and I don’t think women should have to choose if Black Lives Matter or women’s lives matter. It’s an opportunity to build a bridge between the two.”

Robinson later joined CFW’s Board of Directors. “CFW has a wonderful legacy of being founded by a group of really strong and proud feminist women. There’s no other organization in Chicago that has a big enough tent or is a big enough champion for women and girls. I think the convening role CFW plays is unparalleled. There’s so much it can do around race, racial equity, as well as economic equity and for anyone who cares about those two things, there’s room for them under the tent at CFW. That could be volunteering, making a contribution, or contributing to a conversation. Just get involved.”

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