Curtis Amir Toler is one of the leading advocates for peace and non-violence in the City of Chicago. As Director of Outreach for the Chicago CRED Program, Curtis is committed to impacting the culture of violence in Chicago by linking at-risk young men with chances to reset their lives through job training and permanent employment opportunities.
A native of Chicago and a former leader of one of the city’s most notorious street gangs, today Curtis focuses on leading current gang members into settling their disagreements on the streets, and into a new future reconnected to jobs and community restoration. His central passion is to link neighborhoods suffering from poverty and violence to corporations and community-based organizations best poised to provide both an economic and social pathway to peace stability. He is also passionate about educating others about becoming bridge builders in their own communities.
Before joining CRED, Curtis was a gang intervention specialist and spokesman for the peacemakers at the Faith Community of St. Sabina Church, serving two of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Auburn-Gresham and Englewood. Curtis also worked as a co-creator and coach for the Chicago Peace Basketball League, under the guidance of Father Michael Pfleger, the pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina Church. The basketball league uses the game of basketball as a tool towards reshaping the mindsets of young men, encouraging them to embrace non-violent methods to solve disagreements.
Previously, Curtis worked as a lead trainer and community liaison for the National Center for Violence Interruption and as supervisor of outreach at Ceasefire.
Curtis also advises a number of filmmakers and journalists working to tell the story of peacemaking in Chicago. He served as an actor, consultant, and street liaison for Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq: The Movie, a film focused on bringing international awareness to Chicago’s gang violence. He’s also provided expert analysis to documentary specials, including Diane Sawyer’s Hidden America: Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
A member of the Community Justice Task Force and a Chicago Gang Historian, Curtis has received recognition from the State of Illinois Senate for his leadership efforts to bring peace to the streets, his commitment to improve the quality of life in the community, as well as his commitment to advocating for positive changes that will reduce violence in our neighborhoods. He has been a lecturer and motivational speaker around the issues of violence at high schools, universities, and community-based organizations all over the country, and plans to create non-traditional methods of peace that can lay the foundation for the creation of a curriculum for teaching the practice of peace in urban centers struggling with gun violence.