NOTES FROM THE FIELD :: Online Lobby
Welcome to the Notes from the Field Online Lobby experience! We are in the process of expanding the information shared here; please return to check out updates during the run.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. — Congressman John Lewis, June 2018
Here, we offer a few Chicago-based and nationally recognized organizations where you can help make change right in your community. Consider researching these organizations, understanding their missions, and contemplating ways to support and/or lend a helping hand. Collectively, we can make our community more equitable, just, and resilient.
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CHICAGO FREEDOM SCHOOL
Chicago Freedom School (CFS) equips young people and adult allies with the tools to develop actionable strategies for social change. Inspired by the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the civil rights era, CFS takes an innovative approach to youth activism, leadership development, and movement building. They do this primarily through youth programs, youth organizing, workshops and trainings, and more.
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IMPACT FOR EQUITY
Impact for Equity is committed to addressing the structural racism and systemic oppression that has led to inequities and injustices, particularly for people and communities of color, in Chicago and Illinois. An innovative public interest law and policy center, Impact for Equity utilizes a combination of legal tools, policy research, advocacy, organizing, and convening to work toward transformational change. By fostering dialogue and driving positive change, Impact for Equity aims to build a future where everyone has equal opportunities and experiences justice, irrespective of their background.
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CHICAGO JUSTICE PROJECT
The Chicago Justice Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system of Chicago. The organization works to increase public understanding of law enforcement practices, court proceedings, and incarceration trends through research, analysis, and advocacy. The Chicago Justice Project aims to empower communities with information to foster a fair and equitable criminal justice system in the city.
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THE SENTENCING PROJECT
The Sentencing Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to criminal justice reform in the United States. Founded in 1986, it advocates for fair and effective criminal justice policies, with a focus on addressing mass incarceration and racial disparities and promoting alternatives to imprisonment. The Sentencing Project seeks to create a more equitable and humane criminal justice system that prioritizes rehabilitation and community well-being through research, advocacy, and public education.
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CITIZENS FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE
Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ) is a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights and well-being of young people involved in the juvenile justice system. Committed to systemic reform, they work toward fair and equitable treatment, providing legal support and promoting policies prioritizing rehabilitation over punishment. Through research, education, and advocacy, the organization strives to create a more just and compassionate juvenile justice system that supports the positive development of youth.
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AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNIONT
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and laws. Founded in 1920, the ACLU works tirelessly to protect freedom of speech, privacy, equal protection under the law, and other fundamental rights for all Americans. With a commitment to challenging government abuse and discrimination, the ACLU engages in litigation, advocacy, and public education to ensure that constitutional rights are upheld and expanded. The organization’s work spans various issues, from LGBTQ rights to criminal justice reform, making it a prominent defender of civil liberties in the United States.
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ACLU OF ILLINOIS
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and laws. With a focus on Illinois, the ACLU of Illinois works through litigation, advocacy, and education to safeguard civil liberties across various issues, including free speech, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and criminal justice reform. The organization plays a vital role in promoting and protecting civil rights for all residents of Illinois.
President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Sherrilyn Ifill, a prominent civil rights lawyer, served as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) from 2013 to 2022. A Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation, she will become the inaugural Vernon L. Jordan Chair in Civil Rights at Howard Law School in 2024. Ifill began her career at the ACLU, later joining LDF, where she litigated voting rights cases. She pioneered law clinics as an educator at the University of Maryland School of Law. A prolific scholar, Ifill’s influence extends to groundbreaking litigation, a book on lynching, and shaping the national conversation on race. Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2021. Ifill, with a BA degree from Vassar College and a JD degree from New York University School of Law, holds numerous honorary doctorates and prestigious awards. She serves on the Mellon Foundation, Baltimore Museum of Art, and NYU School of Law boards.
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Videographer of the beating of Freddie Gray | Deli Worker
Baltimore native and deli worker Kevin Moore witnessed and filmed the controversial arrest of Freddie Gray on April 30, 2015. Gray, detained for an “illegal” switchblade, was shown in Moore’s video being handcuffed, pinned, and dragged to a police transport van, unable to move his legs. Despite aiding the investigation by sharing his footage, Moore was arrested at gunpoint on the same day, facing “harassment and intimidation.” His cooperation included providing the video, yet police publicly released his photo, prompting him to be “wanted for questioning.” Moore was released the next day, while two others remained in custody. The same day, medical examiners reported Gray suffered additional injuries inside the transport van, apparently breaking his neck.
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Allen Bullock, an 18-year-old YouthWorks maintenance laborer, participated in Baltimore protests following Freddie Gray’s death and was captured on video damaging a police car with a traffic cone. Turning himself in on misdemeanor charges, he faced a controversial $500,000 bail, higher than the officers involved in Gray’s death. After 10 days in jail, an anonymous donor posted his bail. Bullock pleaded guilty nearly a year later, receiving a 12-year sentence (six months served) for property damage, as well as probation, community service, and a GED mandate.
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JAMAL HARRISON BRYANT
Pastor and Founder of Empowerment Temple AME Church
Jamal Harrison Bryant, minister, and author, uniquely blends spiritual gifts with practical experiences, bridging pastoral leadership, discipleship teaching, and prophetic preaching with courageous social action. A dynamic speaker and social justice activist, Dr. Bryant, a former NAACP youth director, has led 70,000 young people globally on non-violent campaigns. With a Morehouse College bachelor’s degree, a Duke University Master of Divinity, and a doctorate from The Graduate Theological Foundation, Bryant, a Kappa Alpha Psi member, founded the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore in 2002. On April 27, 2015, Pastor Bryant delivered the eulogy for Freddie Gray titled “No Justice, No Peace,” which ended with him leading the civil rights movement slogan: “No justice, no peace.” In 2018, he assumed leadership at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, poised to inspire theological revival and community development.
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Politician | Former Councilman and Mayor of Stockton, CA
In 2012 at age 26, Michael Tubbs became Stockton, California’s youngest and first African American mayor. Raised in Stockton, he faced economic challenges and over-policing. Tubbs earned honors in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, later completing a master’s degree. As mayor, he addressed poverty and violence, gaining national attention for SEED, a guaranteed income pilot program. A vocal advocate for criminal justice reform and education, Tubbs published the acclaimed memoir The Deeper the Roots in 2022. He serves as Special Advisor for Opportunity and Mobility under California Governor Gavin Newsom.
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Yurok Fisherman and Former Inmate | Yurok Tribal Reservation
Taos Proctor was a Yurok fisherman and former inmate who lived on the Yurok Reservation in Klamath, CA. He tragically passed away in a 2021 boating accident.
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JUDGE ABBY ABINANTI
Chief Judge, Yurok Tribal Court
Chief Judge Abby Abbinanti, affectionately known as “Judge Abby,” was the first tribal woman to pass the state bar in 1974 and become a judge in California. Judge Abby has served as a Yurok Tribal Court Judge since 1997 and has held the title of Chief Tribal Court Judge since 2007. For 17 years, she worked within San Francisco’s Superior Court in the United Family Law Division, mainly presiding over juvenile cases.
Judge Abby incorporates Yurok culture into her courtroom. She seeks to rehabilitate individuals who need it most and provide justice to people who are often failed by the criminal justice system. Her approach allows tribal and nontribal courts to serve as a guide as they attempt to move away from an utterly punitive system. She focuses on a restorative justice approach, making her community whole rather than further dividing it.
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LETICIA DE SANTIAGO
Parent and Volunteer
As described in the Lodi News-Sentinel in 2017 upon being honored as Volunteer of the Year by the Mexican American Hall of Fame: “Leticia De Santiago has lived in the United States since 1968 and moved to Stockton, CA, in 1998. Before moving to Stockton, she worked at the San Antonio Clinic, a community health center in Oakland, where she first began helping to care for those who could not afford to care for themselves.
“In 2008, she began cooking meals for Stockton seniors and driving them to medical and legal appointments. As that number grew to 70, she enlisted other volunteers, got Mexican restaurants on board with the program, and began arranging field trips to casinos and other destinations.
“De Santiago’s Senior Program now feeds, aids, and entertains more than 145 seniors daily.”
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Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist and bestselling author, contributes regularly to The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Politico. Specializing in conflict mediation, she trains journalists to cover high-conflict topics and explores transformative journeys in her work. Ripley’s recent book, High Conflict, delves into how people navigate and escape various conflicts. Her previous books, The Unthinkable and The Smartest Kids in the World, achieved international success and were adapted into documentaries. With a background in crime reporting and a decade at Time magazine, she has won two National Magazine Awards. Ripley, a trained conflict mediator and occasional youth soccer coach, resides in Washington, D.C.
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Former Student, Spring Valley High School
Niya Kenny was 18 years old, sitting in her Algebra One class, when she watched her classmate Shakara be thrown out of her desk by Spring Valley High School’s resource officer, Ben Fields. Kenny saw the situation escalating and took out her phone to record the incident. Still, her actions were deemed a violation of the school’s code of conduct, and she was arrested for taking a video of the assault. Because Kenny was 18 at the time of the incident, she was charged as an adult and was briefly sent to jail. Kenny received an onslaught of media attention that led to her dropping out of high school, despite being on track to graduate.
Kenny later received her GED and is now training to be a dental assistant. She also has become an outspoken advocate for issues that disproportionately affect Black students, including the school-to-prison pipeline.
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Teacher and Teacher Educator, University of Helsinki Teacher Training School, Finland
Dr. Sari Muhonen has worked in Finnish classrooms since 1994. She has taught all grade levels and specializes in music education. Dr. Muhonen also works within the Teacher Training Program at Helsinki University, educating the next generation of teachers, primary education specialists, and music teachers. As part of her practice, Dr. Muhonen is not only part of the organization that writes the Finnish curriculum but also leads international seminars for education specialists worldwide to learn about Finland’s education system.
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Inmate, Maryland Correctional Institution for Women | Student, Goucher Prison Education Partnership
Denise Dodson is a former inmate who was enrolled in Maryland’s Goucher Prisoner Education Program during her interview with Anna Deavere Smith. She was sentenced to 23 years in prison after her ex-boyfriend killed someone who had attempted to rape her. Although she had not committed the crime herself, she was charged with first-degree murder. There is no public information about Dodson since her release in 2018.
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VICTOR G. CARRIÓN
Psychiatrist | Director, Stanford Early Life Stress Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Victor G. Carrión, the John A. Turner, M.D. Professor at Stanford University, specializes in researching the effects of trauma on children. As Vice-Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he directs the Stanford Early Life Stress and Resilience Program, focusing on the behavioral, academic, emotional, and biological impacts of trauma. Dr. Carrión’s work led to innovative interventions and the development of Cue-Centered Therapy for traumatized youth. His research, published in top journals, explores the neuroscience of pediatric PTSD. A co-founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, Dr. Carrión has received accolades for his contributions to mental health, serving on various advisory boards and commissions.
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Former Inmate | Dishwasher, Disney Hall
Steven Campos is a former inmate who was working as a dishwasher in Los Angeles, CA. There is no public information available about him.
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Emotional Support Teacher
Stephanie Williams is an educator from Philadelphia, PA. After working within the public school system as a dynamic support teacher, she became the principal of Belmont Charter, a charter school in Philadelphia.
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Activist | Lawyer | Founder and Executive Director, The Equal Justice Initiative | Founder, National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Bryan Stevenson, a fierce justice reform advocate, launched his public interest career in 1985 after earning a JD degree from Harvard. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in 1989, addressing mass incarceration, racial inequality, and the death penalty. EJI advocates criminal justice reform, combating over-policing, harsh sentencing, and the system’s disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. Stevenson successfully fought to end life-without-parole sentences for juveniles in 2012. With EJI, he reversed convictions for more than 140 death row individuals, earning numerous awards. Stevenson also founded the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL, which connects America’s racist past to the present criminal justice system.
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Artist and Activist
Bree Newsome Bass gained national attention in 2015 for courageously removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol building. The flag, raised in 1961 as a symbol against the Civil Rights Movement, sparked renewed controversy after the 2015 Charleston church massacre. An artist, activist, and musician, Newsome Bass’ roots in activism were nurtured by her parents’ commitment to social justice. From a young age, she displayed artistic talent and won a scholarship for a short film at 18. Involved in movements like Occupy Wall Street and addressing racial injustice, she co-founded The Tribe and organized grassroots initiatives in Charlotte. A film graduate from NYU, Newsome Bass blends her artistic pursuits with activism. In 2016, she created “Rise Up and Go,” a performance piece for The Monticello Summit, exploring the legacy of slavery.
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CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS
U.S. Representative (D-Georgia, 5th District)
John Lewis, born in 1940 in Alabama, epitomized the promise, success, and ongoing challenges of Black civil rights. As a key figure in the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights movement, he co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and led pivotal events like the Freedom Rides and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The youngest prominent leader of the era, he addressed the March on Washington and faced threats and violence, notably during the “Bloody Sunday” Selma March in 1965. In the late 1960s to the 1980s, Lewis focused on community organizing and voter registration. Elected in 1987, he represented Georgia’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, embodying the “conscience of the Congress” for civil rights, until his death in 2020.
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Student Concerns Specialist, North Charleston High School
Tony Eady is an educator of more than 20 years and the boys’ varsity basketball coach for North Charleston High School.
Racially biased media coverage has been a substantial factor contributing to unreliable and unjust outcomes in the criminal legal system. News media have often reinforced a presumption of guilt and dangerousness assigned to Black people when reporting on crime while devaluing the lives of Black people and the harm they suffer when victimized. American media can and should do better in eliminating racially biased coverage. — Bryan Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative
The Equal Justice Initiative, under Bryan Stevenson and in collaboration with Global Strategy Group, released a report titled “Innocent Until Proven Guilty? A look at media coverage of criminal defendants in the U.S.” in 2021.