Join Hands ESL Presents Local Opportunity to Support Black Lives

(East St. Louis, Ill.) – As St. Louis area businesses look for ways to support racial and economic justice within our local community, Join Hands ESL invites local businesses to join their mission of human dignity and equal opportunity. Join Hands is a non-profit organization in East St. Louis, Illinois with a focus on proactive engagement, educational opportunities, advocacy and the promotion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s principles of nonviolence. In the past five years, the organization has played an integral role in helping 60 students realize their dreams of attending college or serving in the military; in supporting hundreds of people through youth, teen and family programs; and in reaching the greater St. Louis community with the message of Ubuntu, an African word that means “my humanity is your humanity.” In 2020, Join Hands was a recipient of the “What’s Right with Region” award for equity and inclusion presented by FOCUS St. Louis, as well as the St. Louise de Marillac Service Award.

“Our work is relationship-based with a focus on education, opportunity and empowerment, providing an ideal opportunity for area businesses to support the African American community in our region,” said Sheila Burton, Executive Director of Join Hands ESL. “So many barriers to success exist for a child growing up in intergenerational urban poverty. Injustice and inequities are lived realities for our children. We walk in solidarity with those in our programs, opening doors of opportunity.”

She continued, “And as we walk, we see the inequities and the injustices they face. The late Congressman John Lewis recently said, ‘When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.’ It is for this reason that our Ubuntu Center for Peace is the foundation of our work. For without justice and true peace, equity of opportunity cannot exist for our families. We are committed to proactive collaboration and grassroots efforts that directly influence change with regard to structural inequality and racial equity. The message of Ubuntu and Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence serve as the cornerstone of our work.”

Join Hands takes a wholistic approach to walking in solidarity with others and being a catalyst for positive change. Programs are classified into three categories to best serve the East St. Louis community. These include youth programming, the “Dream Path” program and the Ubuntu Center for Peace. Youth programming is focused on building relationships, increasing self-esteem and broadening the horizons of children ages eight to 12 in two public housing projects.

The “Dream Path” program focuses on fulfilling college dreams through family mentoring, teen mentoring, educational services such as college planning, and participation in the Peace Warrior youth leadership program where teens train teens in Kingian Nonviolence. The Ubuntu Center for Peace is the foundation for the organization’s work and programming, where members of the larger East St. Louis community are welcome to come for peace, love and dignity for all. Join Hands recently opened a teen center and is looking to expand advocacy and lobbying efforts by hiring a Director of Advocacy for the Ubuntu Center for Peace.

“Realization of the Beloved Community will require all of us working together. There are so many great organizations to support, but we have the advantage of being local,” added Burton.

“Join Hands ESL provides a structure for true change to happen, one child at a time, one system at time. We welcome dialogue with the greater St. Louis business community as we work together to make a difference.”

For more information about how your business can get involved with Join Hands or to learn more, contact Sheila Burton at