On the Brink of Historic Legislation: Reparations for Burge Torture Survivors

The City of Chicago is poised to enact historic legislation which will provide long overdue reparations to the Burge torture survivors and their family members.  This legislation is the culmination of years of dedicated activism, advocacy and organizing.  Thanks to the truly inspirational campaign co-led by CTJM, Amnesty International, Project NIA, We Charge Genocide with the support of actions by BYP100 and the Chicago Light Brigade, and to everyone who worked long and hard over the past six months—the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance is on the brink of passage.

Today at a special hearing of the Finance Committee of Chicago City Council, it was announced that an agreement was reached with Mayor Emanuel and the Ordinance co-sponsors Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward), Howard Brookins (21st Ward) and Joe Moore (49th Ward) on the terms of a comprehensive reparations package for those who survived torture at the hands of former Chicago police commander Jon Burge and police officers under his command.

However, the fight is not over yet—we still need alderpeople to vote in favor of this legislation in the Finance Committee in a couple of weeks and at the full City Council meeting on May 6, 2015. We ask for your help to ensure that this historic legislation is passed and swiftly implemented to bring a measure of justice to survivors of Chicago’s police torture scandal.

A Reparations Package for Burge Torture Survivors

Rooted in a restorative framework and reflecting critical provisions of the original Reparations Ordinance filed in October of 2013, the reparations package the City has agreed to includes a myriad of remedies that aim to meet the concrete needs of the Burge torture survivors and their family members. It will include:

  1. A formal apology from the Mayor and City Council for the torture and abuse committed by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and police officers under his command;
  2. A permanent public memorial acknowledging the torture committed by Burge and his men;
  3. Inclusion of a lesson in the Chicago Public Schools 8th and 10th grade U.S. History curriculum on the Burge torture cases;
  4. Provision of trauma and other counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and family members on the South Side of Chicago based on the model of services provided by the Marjorie Kovler Center and Heartland Alliance;
  5. Free tuition or job training at Chicago’s City Colleges for Burge torture survivors, their family members, including grandchildren;
  6. Job placement for Burge torture survivors in programs designated for formerly incarcerated people;
  7. Priority access to City of Chicago’s re-entry support services, including: job training and placement, counseling, food, housing & transportation assistance, senior care, health care, and small business support services;
  8. Financial compensation to the Burge torture survivors who are still with us today.

The City will set aside $5.5 million to establish a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Survivors.  Every person found to have a credible claim of torture or abuse committed by Burge or his men at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 to 1991 will receive the same exact amount from the fund.

It is important to note that the passage of this legislation does not foreclose a Burge torture survivor who is later exonerated from suing the City at a later date.  But if they choose that course of action, they cannot take part in the financial reparations offered here.  Like many class action lawsuits, people can choose to opt-in or opt-out from filing for and receiving these reparations.

This package is not perfect. The financial compensation is not the amount we struggled for. But it does bring us closer to our goal of each claimant receiving $100,000. To quote torture survivor Darrell Cannon: “This isn’t the world.  It’s just a small piece of the world … but we are in the world!” Additionally, the counseling services will not initially be offered to all people who have been tortured by law enforcement officials.  We have always recognized that law enforcement torture did not begin or end with Burge and there are many others in need of these services as well.  But our hope is that with private fundraising and other donations we can develop a center on the South side that can provide holistic services for others who have been affected by police violence.  As torture survivor Anthony Holmes shared, “There’s still so much work to do … Don’t let this struggle be for nothing. Keep going forward, together.”

A Strong Message

The legislation now before Chicago City Council sends a strong message that activism and organizing matter in the ongoing struggle for human rights and social justice. The City of Chicago is for the first time acknowledging its responsibility for gross human rights violations, violations recognized by the UN Committee Against Torture, and committing significant resources to begin to repair some of the harms inflicted on the torture survivors, their families and the communities from which they come.

A Historic Victory

Remarkably, this legislation marks the first time in U.S. history that a city has passed legislation providing reparations, including financial compensation, for police violence.   The City of Chicago’s recognition that people who were tortured by law enforcement officers deserve compensation and redress—regardless of any crime that they were accused of or may have committed—is an important recognition that torture is never excusable and the ends do not justify the means.  Every individual’s dignity matters.

Community Dinner to Discuss the Legislation and On Going Struggle

You’re invited to a Dinner for Reparations this evening from 6 to 8 pm at Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn. This will be a chance to share updates, discuss recent developments especially following the hearing, share food and build together. No cost to attend. Thank you to Project NIA and CTJM for helping provide food!

We Still Need YOUR HELP to Make This Historic Victory a Reality!

This fight is not over.  We still need you to call your Alderperson to urge them to vote in favor of the Chicago Reparations Ordinance at the next Finance Committee meeting.

You can find their names and numbers here.

Once the legislation passes out of the Finance Committee, we need you to call your alderpeople once again to urge them to vote to pass the Reparations Ordinance on May 6 at the full City Council meeting. You can find your alderperson here.

We will post other action items here.

Come out and be part of achieving a measure of justice and making history on May 6th! Join us at City Council and show your support for the Burge torture survivors, family members and the Chicago Reparations Ordinance!

With Hope for Justice.

See you on May 6th!


Update on the Burge Torture Survivors Reparations Fight

We are thrilled that Alderman Ed Burke, Chair of the Finance Committee, announced that the committee will hold a hearing on the Reparations Ordinance on Tuesday, April 14 at 10 am. In recent months, Project NIA and our friends at Amnesty International, BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade, CTJM and We Charge Genocide have stepped up to organize marches, demonstrations, rallies, sing-ins, exhibition-ins, teach-ins and more to demand a hearing and passage of the ordinance; and our efforts are paying off. As torture survivor Darrell Cannon told the Sun-Times: “People power has a way of getting the attention of the hardest of hearts of politicians.”

Now that we have a hearing, we need you to show up on April 14 at City Hall to demonstrate your support for the ordinance!

april14hearingHow You Can Support the Campaign for Reparations
Leading up to the hearing, please help us keep up the momentum and continue to build support.  Here’s what you can do:

  1. Please call the finance committee members listed here, and ask them if they plan on attending the finance committee hearing on 4.14.15 at 10 a.m.  Ask them to commit to doing so.  It is important for the aldermen and women who support our ordinance to attend that meeting and publicly demonstrate their support for our ordinance with their presence and their votes.
  2. Here’s how you can “Fight for Reparations in 10 minutes or Less.” Please participate and invite others to do the same.
  3. Join us on March 31, 2015 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at a rally outside of the Mayoral debate at WTTW studio. Chicagoans are talking about reparations. The Mayoral candidates must do the same.
  4. Come meet others in the movement at a potluck on April 1st, from 6 – 8 p.m. at Grace Place, 637 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605
  5. Attend, host and spread the word about #TeachBurge Teach-Ins taking place through mid-April.
  6. Attend a screening of End of the Nightstick, a documentary about the struggle to expose brutal interrogations and torture by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, on April 12, 2 pm, at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria). Part of the 2nd annual Injustice for All film festival organized by Trinity Church. If you are planning to attend the hearing on 4/14, we especially encourage you to stay for the discussion following the screening. We will be explaining what to expect at the hearing.
  7. Please donate to the Reparations Now Campaign. Every dollar counts as we continue to seek justice for Burge police torture survivors.

Chicago Police Torture and Reparations Exhibition-In at City Hall

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/18/15)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/18/15)

The commitment and creativity of activists involved in this struggle has been truly inspiring. Take a peek at the Chicago Police Torture & Reparations Exhibition-In (captured in Storify), a dramatization of the history and legacy of Chicago police torture through an interactive art exhibition and teach-in at City Hall, right outside Mayor Emanuel’s office, organized by us and friends.  Read our friend Kelly Hayes’s recap of the event here. Check out a set of terrific photos of the exhibition and teach-in by Sarah Jane Rhee and Tom Callahan HERE.

Kuumba Lynx Brings Down the House at #LTAB2015

Don’t preach about terrorism when you keep it breathing and beating.”

On Saturday, an incredible group of young poets and activists from Kuumba Lynx showed Chicago what it means to speak out against the cycle of police torture and genocide. They blew the audience away – and made clear the need for reparations, for making amends. Watch the brilliant performance that won the Louder Than A Bomb team finals, and listen closely.

If you would like to get more involved in the campaign for Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors, please email  justicememorials@gmail.com.

For more information on the ordinance and the Chicago police torture cases check out www.chicagotorture.org.

Upcoming (Chicago) PIC-Related Events – March 2015

The following are some events happening in Chicago that are focused on the PIC. Please feel free to email niapoetry@gmail.com if you’d like to include your event on the calendar.

February 13-May 9 Try Youth As Adults Photo Exhibition


Until April 11thCrime Then & Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune – Roosevelt University, Gage Gallery 18 S. Michigan Ave

The spring show at the Roosevelt University Gage Gallery is Crime Then and Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune. Compelling photos related to crime in Chicago since the 1920s are on display for the first time at the Gage Gallery as part of the ongoing series, Above the Fold: 10 Decades of Chicago Photojournalism. The show tells the story of crime photography and how it has changed over the decades through 65 Chicago Tribune photos from the early 1920s through the present. The show is co-curated by Chicago Tribune picture editor Michael Zajakowski and the Gage Gallery’s Tyra Robertson. The show runs through April 11, 2015.

March 1, 11:30 am — Rest in Peace March – info here: http://bit.ly/RESTINPEACEMARCH

Join your community for a Rest in Peace March from Rosehill Cemetery to the nearest Chicago Police Department. This procession is safe for all ages and each person stands up for black people needlessly killed by police. The Rest in Peace March is a symbolic walk of the dead back to the hands of their killers and we ask that everyone wear black in mourning. Peace signs, flowers, and music are welcome. We will take our prayers to the doors of the police. R.I.P.

Rosehill Cemetery
Western Ave & Bryn Mawr Ave

Chicago Police Department
5400 N Lincoln Ave

March 1, 4 pm — Black + Pink Pen Pal Orientation — UIC

Hello current and prospective pen pals! Black + Pink Chicago is hosting a pen pal orientation to talk about pen palship, the Prison Industrial Complex and our Abolitionist framework and also to match new pen pals and write first letters!

All present pen pals are warmly welcome and encouraged to attend! There will be something to learn and share for everyone. If you are a current pen pal and you have something (e.g., words, artwork) from your inside pen pal that they’d like to share, please let us know.

March 2, 6 pm — Reparations Not Black Sites: Rally for the Run Off — Daley Plaza

Jon Burge began his parole on February 13, and will collect a city pension. The city spent $20 million dollars defending a torturer who will now live out his days in sunny Florida, at our expense. And yet his victims go uncompensated. Rahm didn’t think he would have to answer to them, or anyone else he has harmed, because of his multi-million dollar war chest. Now he knows better. Lets remind him that a mayor is always answerable to the people.

March 4, Noon-1:30 pm — Gender in the City: Street Harassment & Safety — 400 S. Peoria, Lunch Provided, FREE.

March 5, Noon to 2 pm — Justice not Homan, Shut the Torture House Down 3379 W Fillmore St. Chicago, IL

We are outraged by the existence of the notorious Homan Square facility, where Chicago police illegally hold civilians, torture, intimidate and deny them their rights! We clearly understand that the Homan Square facility would not exist without the complicity and protection of Mayor Emanuel and Anita Alvarez, Illinois Cook Co District Attorney. We demand Homan be shut down now!

Contact: Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (312) 513-3795 contact@naarpr.org

March 5, 5:30 pm — Restoring Justice – Film Screening & Community Discussion, North Lawndale College Prep – Collins Campus, 1313 S. Sacramento Avenue — RSVP HERE.

Join The School Project, Free Spirit Media, and Ebony.com
for a community discussion and film screening of The School Project: Restoring Justice

5:30pm Reception
6:00pm Film Screening and Community Discussion including panelists:
Mariame Kaba, Project NIA and Karen VanAusdel, Chicago Public Schools Office of Social & Emotional Learning

Light refreshments will be available. Event is free and open to the public.

About Restoring Justice:
The School Project’s third segment, Restoring Justice, young documentary filmmakers from Free Spirit Media explore the impacts of discipline policies on students, school communities, and society. Historically, excessively punitive policies have served to push allegedly disruptive students out of class and school and have fueled the school to prison pipeline (a term that illustrates the severity of the issues). The film that this event centers around examines the movement toward more youth-centered, restorative justice practices, which began as a grass-roots effort and have subsequently been adopted to district leadership.

March 8, 6 pm — International Women’s Day with Rasmea Odeh — U.E. Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave.

March 8, International Women’s Day, born of the struggle of working women, of immigrants, in New York 100 years ago – is a day of celebration and resistance. There can be no more fitting way to mark the occasion than to revisit the past struggles and victories won, in order to continue to build the struggle for women’s liberation.

We’ll have as our special guest Rasmea Odeh. Her courage and strength as she faces ongoing persecution by the U.S. Dept. of Justice has made her a symbol of Palestinian women’s resistance, and of women in the struggles for national liberation all over the world.

Sponsored by Committee to Stop FBI Repression, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, the American Party of Labor, and Anakbayan

March 10, 4 pm – Chicago Police Torture Teach In: Burge and Beyond — Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted St.

March 11, 8 pm – Women to Celebrate – 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd
In honor of Women’s History month, We Charge Genocide will be hosting an event celebrating women who have made significant contributions to Chicago’s organizing communities in the last year. This year’s “Women to Celebrate” event will focus on women whose work challenges state violence, in all its forms. This includes women whose work is focused on ending police brutality, dismantling the prison industrial complex, and pushing back against criminalization.

March 14, 2 pm — The Homestretch Screening and Resource Fair

The Homestretch follows three remarkable homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a more stable future. Each of these smart, resilient teenagers – Roque, Kasey, and Anthony – challenge stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while coping with the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film explores their plights within the larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQ rights.

This free screening will be followed by a discussion and a resource fair, with local organizations that are tackling the issues of housing insecurity and homelessness. The Resource Fair features activities, performances and more.

March 18, Noon to 5 pm — Chicago Police Torture and Reparations Exhibition-In – City Hall

Join us on March 18 as we dramatize the history & legacy of Chicago police torture through an interactive art exhibition and teach-in at City Hall. We encourage educators to bring your students as we share information and art that will raise awareness about the impacts of police violence and the importance of reparations. It will be a unique experience that we are bringing right to the Mayor’s doorstep.

CTJM_exhibition-inposter2 (2)

March 18, 6 pm – Talking About Injustice: A Free Community Conversation in Chicago with Bryan Stevenson — Thorne Auditorium at Northwestern University School of Law

Join Facing History for a free Community Conversation with Bryan Stevenson, attorney, human rights activist, and author of “Just Mercy.” Stevenson is one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers and social justice advocates. A MacArthur fellow and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson is a leader of the movement to fight mass incarceration in the United States. His electrifying TED talk on the subject of injustice has been viewed nearly two million times.

As part of Facing History’s national series of Community Conversations, sponsored by The Allstate Foundation, this event is free and open to the public, but you must register HERE to attend.

March 19, 11:30-2 pm, 2015 Loyola Race & Law Symposium: “A Post Racial Police State: Examining the Role of Racial Bias in Police Action.” – Phillip Corboy Law Center, Kasbeer Hall, 15th Floor, 25 East Pearson Street – RSVP HERE..

Loyola University Chicago’s Race and the Law Symposium is designed to bring awareness to legal issues that affect minority communities. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times published the article “Obama’s Post-Racial Promise,” which examined how the election of America’s first black president ushered in a new and improved era of race relations in our country. To the contrary, the killings of unarmed African American men by law enforcement officials in the past year has casted more than a shadow of doubt on the premise that we have truly moved past racial bias in our society. Within the last year, the killings of Mike Brown, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, and most recently, 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hands of law enforcement officials, have made our society question what role racial bias may play in law enforcement actions. Our esteemed keynote speaker and panelists will explore this issue while offering solutions based on their professional and personal experiences

This year the panel consists of Jay Stanley – Senior Analyst with ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, Tom Dart- (JD ’87) Cook County Sheriff, and Stan Willis – Civil Rights and Criminal Defense Attorney. The Special Address will be given by Jasson Perez – National Co-Chair of Black Youth Project 100.

March 19, 4 pm — No Selves to Defend: Criminalizing Women of Color For Self-Defense, Columbia College, 624 S. Michigan Avenue, Collins Hall, Room 602

Mariame Kaba will be discussing “No Selves to Defend,” an exhibition that she organized and co-curated, that features the stories of women of color who have been criminalized for self-defense. The exhibition also addresses the campaigns and mobilizations that emerged to resist their criminalization and demand their freedom. “No Selves to Defend” explores the intersection of gender justice, racial justice and mass incarceration. Mariame will address how she uses cultural work in her anti-prison organizing by focusing on her work with the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA). Time permitting, she will also share the example of Black/Inside, an exhibition that she organized and co-curated about the history of black captivity and freedom in 2012.

March 21, 1 pm — Rally for Rekia & All of Our Sisters — Douglas Park
Please join the family of Rekia Boyd in celebrating her life, grieving her murder, and demanding NEVER AGAIN.

Please meet FURIE and allies in Douglas Park at 15th & Albany promptly at 1pm for a rally and speak out. It will have been three years since Rekia was murdered. Rekia Boyd was only 22 when she was shot in the back of the head and killed by an off-duty Chicago police detective.

March 24, 5 to 7 pm — NLG Police Brutality Panel — JMLS, 315 S. Plymouth Court

The JMLS chapter of the National Lawyers Guild is having a panel on police brutality. There are five speakers on the panel:

-Page May: an organizer with We Charge Genocide, to speak on local organizing and bringing local issues to an international arena
-Mariame Kaba: an activist, writer, and co-founder of Project NIA, to speak on larger social and historical issues of police abuse
-Iveliz Orrellano: a civil rights attorney and JMLS alumna, to speak on legal remedies available to address police misconduct
-Joey Mogul: a civil rights attorney, author of Queer (In)Justice, and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project organizer, to speak on combining litigation with organizing and policy work
-Rozette Long: a family member of a person killed by the Chicago Police Department who was subsequently arrested at his vigil, to speak on the experience of abuse, the litigation process, and the effect it had on those around them

Food and beverages will be provided.


March 25, 7:30 pm — Writing Lives: Books Beyond the Prison Bars — Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St.

Join Chicago Books to Women in Prison along with authors Crystal Laura and Maya Schenwar for readings from their recent and acclaimed books, and for conversation with all of us on making vital connections behind bars, prison issues and more at this special event.

March 26, 12:30 to 2 pm — Matthew Freeman Lecture. Carlos Javier Ortiz: Images of the Aftermath of Violence on our Communities — Roosevelt University, Sullivan Room, 430 South Michigan Avenue — RSVP HERE

Award winning and critically acclaimed photographer, Carlos Javier Ortiz, will discuss the importance of art as activism, his most recent photo documentary work, “We All We Got.”

March 26-29Incite! Color of Violence 4 Conference, Beyond the State: Inciting Transformative Possibilities

This gathering will mark INCITE!’s fifteen years of engaging in grassroots organizing projects, critical conversations, national actions, transnational campaigns, and community building strategies to end colonial, racial, and gender-based violence against women of color, trans and queer people of color, and our communities.

COV4 will highlight emerging strategies and new frameworks that focus on ending violence without relying on policing, mass incarceration, restrictive legislation, and other systems of violence and control.

March 28, 1:30-4:30 pm — Understanding the IL Juvenile Justice System — Pre-registration is REQUIRED to attend.

Join us on Saturday March 28 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm for the workshop “Understanding the Illinois Juvenile Justice System: the Basics.” This introductory workshop will provide basic information about the points of contact for youth with the juvenile justice system as well as information about rights that young people have in the system. The workshop is appropriate for community members, parents, educators, young people, and organizers who have minimal knowledge about the juvenile justice system.

March 30, 6 pm – Black Trans Lives Matter—featuring CeCe McDonald and Monica James – Depaul University, 2320 N Kenmore Ave

Transmisogyny and racism are stealing the lives trans women of color. News media erase their murders, and police abuse and unjustly arrest the living. CeCe McDonald and Monica James stand for solidarity and struggle to defend Black trans lives.

March 28: Understanding the IL Juvenile Justice System – A Workshop

Join us on Saturday March 28 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm for the workshop “Understanding the Illinois Juvenile Justice System: the Basics.” This introductory workshop will provide basic information about the points of contact for youth with the juvenile justice system as well as information about rights that young people have in the system.

The workshop is appropriate for community members, parents, educators, young people, and organizers who have minimal knowledge about the juvenile justice system. At the end of the workshop, participants will:

a. Know the points of contact for youth in the juvenile justice system.
b. Better understand some of the issues that young people in conflict with the law experience.
c. Learn about the rights that youth have in the system.
d. Be able to identify some of the existing resources that can support young people in conflict with the law in Chicago.

The workshops are youth-friendly. Workshops are offered at no cost to participants. However PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Sign up to register for this workshop HERE.

Saturday, March 28
1:30 to 4:30 pm
David Weinberg Photography, 300 West Superior Street, Suite 203

Pre-Registration REQUIRED HERE

We are excited to partner with the Try Youth As Youth exhibition to offer this workshop. Come early to view the exhibition before we kick off the workshop at 1:30 pm.


2/14: A People’s Hearing on Chicago Police Torture Reparations

Project NIA to Participate in People’s Hearing on Chicago Torture Reparations Ordinance

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (City Hall, 1/15/15)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (City Hall, 1/15/15)

CHICAGO — Project NIA will be partnering with Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Amnesty International USA and We Charge Genocide to hold a People’s Hearing this Saturday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. CST to discuss the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors. Despite ongoing and repeated requests for a public hearing, the City Council has not scheduled a hearing, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has failed to take meaningful steps to move the ordinance forward.

Therefore, the people of the City of Chicago, are holding a People’s Hearing. Mayoral candidates have been invited to come and state their position on the Ordinance so that voters know where they stand and the chief co-sponsors, Howard Brookins Jr. (21st ward) and Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) will discuss the ordinance and its passage.  Reverend Hatch of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church (NMP) will also speak in favor of passage of the ordinance.

The Ordinance, which would provide meaningful redress to over 110 African American men and women tortured by notorious former Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives, has been stalled in the City Council Finance Committee for over a year, although it has the support of over half of the current City Council members. Saturday also marks the day Burge is expected to be released from house arrest after serving less than four years in prison for perjury.

The People’s Hearing will also feature testimonials by survivors of Burge torture and community leaders who will give voice to the specific objectives of the Ordinance. Young poets from Young Chicago Authors will perform original poems inspired by the history of Burge torture and the struggle for restorative justice.

Saturday, Feb. 14 at 1:00pm – 3:00pm in CST


Chicago Temple, the Sanctuary
77 W. Washington St
Chicago, Illinois 60602

RSVP on Facebook

Volunteer Opportunity: Books to Youth in Prison

In the next few weeks, we plan to launch a pilot program similar to Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

Chicago Books to Youth in Prison will be a volunteer-led project that collects and distributes books to children in three Illinois Youth Prisons. The project will also invite donors to write letters to incarcerated youth.

by Peter Yahnke

by Peter Yahnke

Details of this project are still to be determined. For now, we are seeking potential volunteers who might want to become leadership team members to develop and execute the project.

Come to our initial meeting on February 3 at 6 pm at Civil Lab 114 N. Aberdeen for a preliminary discussion, to learn more and to contribute your ideas.

Please RSVP to confirm attendance by Saturday January 31st to niapoetry@gmail.com.

Upcoming (Chicago) PIC-Related Events – February 2015

January 28 & February 11 A Threat To Justice Everywhere: From Ferguson to Chicago, Depaul Law School, 25 E. Jackson Lewis building room 803

image-1 (11)

January 31-February 6 Build Presence: A Movement Supportive Happening for Racial Justice

Build Presence invites you to participate in a public interactive art project for study, action, and solidarity in support of the growing movement for Black-centered racial justice and an end to police brutality and overall systemic violence.

The event will take place Saturday January 31st and then Tues-Friday noon to 4 pm, in the Cultural Center’s first floor public studio space. Thank you to artist and curator Alexandria Eregbu for opening her studio residency to host this event.

This public installation will be a site where meditative action cultivates presence and embodied knowledge. By providing visitors with various opportunities to educate themselves and act on that knowledge, we hope to foster awareness, empowerment, solidarity, and momentum.

Build Presence is created by a group of feminists who are queer and non queer, women and non women, artists and non artists, of color and non color.

Thursdays and Fridays, January 29th-February 6th — TRACK 13: A playformance for Deonta Mackey. Special performance February 10th. 7pm. Tickets HERE (pay what you can)

In February of 2014, before Ferguson, before Eric Garner, 16-year-old Deonta Mackey mugged an off-duty Cook County sheriff who then shot and killed him. Before police brutality became the focus of national attention, Free Street’s Young Fugitives agreed that black lives matter. Using physical theater and mime, “Track 13″ explores youth violence, police brutality and the conditions of both. Young people grow up with meaning projected onto their bodies by society, the media, and the people who live on the block, meanings often based on skin color.

February 1, 11 am to 4 pm — Justice for Stephon: A Freedom Ride for #BlackLivesMatter — starts at Village Leadership Academy, 1001 W. Roosevelt. If you plan to join the Freedom Ride, you MUST register HERE.


February 1, 2 pm — Cornel West: “The Radical King” — University of Chicago, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel 5850 S. Woodlawn.
The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture Annual Public Lecture presents Dr. Cornel West discussing his new book, “The Radical King.”

February 5, 7 pm — 2015 Kent Lecture: Hill Harper, Mandel Hall, 1131 East 57th Street

The State of Black Youth: How We Fare in a System of Brutality and Incarceration

Hill Harper is an award-winning actor, best-selling author, and philanthropist. Harper starred on the CBS TV drama CSI: NY from 2004 to 2013. As of March 2013, he joined the USA Network spy drama Covert Affairs. Harper is the author of four New York Times bestsellers and he has earned seven NAACP Image Awards for his writing and acting. He is founder of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship, and grant programs.

Hill Harper 2015

February 7, 10 to 3 pm — Racism, Police Violence, and Health “Teach In” — UIC School of Public Health Building, 1603 W. Taylor St, Auditorium Room 109. Admission is free (organized by Radical Public Health)

“Hands up Don’t shoot” can be heard throughout the world. Over 120 days after the killing of Michael Brown, protestors continue to mobilize as the movement grows. RPH, and MSAPH present a “Teach In”, with community leaders, students and those who have dedicated their time peacefully protesting for social justice on the ground in Ferguson. Come dialogue with us on this Public Health issue. Please RSVP if you plan to attend, breakfast and lunch will be provided!


February 7, 6 to 8 pm — Why Ayotzinapa? – ¿Por Que Ayotzinapa? — 1011 W 18th Street

Foro Comunitario / Community Forum:
Las voces de la rebelión / Voices of the Rebellion

1) Autodefensa comunitaria contra narcos y el gobierno estatal: enfoque en caso de Nestora Salgado, presa política.
2) Aguas ancestrales vs corporaciones transnacionales – La lucha indígena contra la extracción de recursos naturales: enforque en los presos políticos de la comunidad Yaqui
3) La batalla por la costa: Ganancias de empresas transnacionales y la guerra del narco. El narco-estado y beneficios corporativos: puertos, extracción de recursos naturales y el comercio global. (www.semillas.us)

1) Community self-defense against narcos and state government: political prisoners Nestora Salgado
2) Ancestral waters vs transnational corporations – Indigenous struggles against resource extraction: focus on Yaqui political prisoners.
3) The battle for the coast – Transnational profits and the narco wars. The narco-state and corporate profits: ports, resource extraction and global trade. (www.semillas.us)

February 10, 4 to 6:30 pm, Ferguson and its afterlives, University Church, 5655 South University Avenue

What can solidarity, alliance and organization look like in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter? Join activists in discussion! Dinner will be provided. The location is wheelchair accessible.


February 11, 6 pm, Making Connections, Building Alliances to End Police and State Violence, Depaul University, Schmitt Academic Center (SAC) 161, 2320 N. Kenmore Avenue


February 12, Noon to 4 pm — Richard Ross: Images of Juvenile Justice — Roosevelt University, Gage Gallery 18 S. Michigan Ave. Register HERE

Richard Ross will be presenting a workshop for Roosevelt University students and other young people in Chicago. He will focus on ways to utilize photography as story telling through which we can create spaces to allow for the often ‘silenced’ voices to be heard.

February 12, 5:30 pm — Stop the School to Prison Pipeline — Fruitvale Station — film screening and discussion with CTU, the Police Accountability Council and Social Justice Initiative — Gallery 400, UIC, 400 S. Peoria St. You must RSVP HERE.

Why do young black men in the Chicago Public Schools get suspended disproportionately and 11 times the expulsion rate of district schools within charter schools? What is the relationship between budget cuts, school closings and the school to prison pipeline? How do racially unjust police practices play out in the school system and what can we do about it?


February 12, 5:30-9 pm, Opening Exhibition Reception: The Forgotten: Chicago Youth Lost to Gun Violence (2011/13), Josef Glimer Gallery, 207 West Superior Street — To RSVP please email lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com or call 773.704.7246 — Exhibition runs through Friday, February 27, 2015

Uplift Community High School Students’ series of mosaic linoleum relief prints represent the spirits of youth claimed to senseless violence on the streets of Chicago. These prints, presented alongside works by noted Chicago artists, all respond to the horror of the growing youth violence in Chicago.

Inspired by the play The Gospel of Loving Kindness, this exhibition portrays the souls of children murdered in Chicago. Our goal is to honor the memories of a generation too often lost in obscurity. Our hope is to bring their lives, aspirations and dreams to the forefront. Our wish is to call attention to the horror of the war that is taking place almost daily on the streets of Chicago.

February 13-May 9 Try Youth As Adults Photo Exhibition


February 14, 1 to 3 pm — Rally for Reparations: A People’s Hearing, Chicago Temple 77 W. Washington St.

The time is now to pass the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors. Chicago has waited too long to provide meaningful redress for over 110 African American men and women tortured by notorious former Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives. This racially motivated violence included electric shock, sexual abuse, suffocation, and beatings. The City of Chicago has acknowledged this torture, and the UN has called for redress. Yet scores of survivors still suffer from the ongoing impact of the trauma they endured — without compensation, assistance, or recourse.

The Reparations Ordinance has been stalled in the City Council Finance Committee for over a year. Despite ongoing and repeated requests for a public hearing, Finance Committee Chair Ald Burke has not scheduled a hearing, and Mayor Emanuel has failed to take meaningful steps to move the ordinance forward. Therefore, we, the people of the City of Chicago, are holding a People’s Hearing.

Reparations 2.14 Event Flier

February 18, 3 to 8 pm — UnWanted: Immigrant Detention-Deportation & Mass Incarceration — UIC Student Services Building, 1200 W Harrison St. — RSVP to Ryan Viloria at rvilor1@uic.edu.

Come to this unique IRRPP screening event to discuss the links between immigrant detention-deportation and mass punishment and incarceration. How does the prison state reinforce injustice related to race, ethnicity and sexual orientation? What are the factors driving persistent injustice against immigrants, women, queer people and people of color?

We will have two simultaneous screenings of “Documented,” about undocumented Americans, and “Out in the Night,” about the New Jersey Four. A panel discussion with dinner between screenings will draw the connections between these forms of state control. Come for one documentary or both but make sure to attend the panel discussion. Panelists include Renata Hill, one of the four women featured in “Out in the Night,” and blair dorosh-walther, director of “Out in the Night.”

3pm- Simultaneous screenings of Documented and Out in The Night
4:45pm- Panel discussion and dinner
6pm- Simultaneous screenings of Documented and Out in The Night.

Documented, by Jose Antonio Vargas
In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. Documented chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his public struggle as an immigration reform activist/provocateur; and his journey inward as he reconnects with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years. A broken immigration system leads to broken families and broken lives. http://documentedthefilm.com/trailer

Out in the Night, by blair dorosh-walther
One hot night in August 2006, a group of young African American lesbian friends are harassed in a gay friendly neighborhood of New York City. They defend themselves and a fight ensues. Charged with gang assault and labeled a “Lesbian Wolfpack” in the mainstream media, four of the women begin an emotional and psychological battle as they claim self-defense. Trailer: http://vimeo.com/58462469

February 19, 5:30 to 8 pm – Fruitvale Station Viewing — Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn (organized by NLG Chicago)

February 20, 7pm, They Don’t Give a Damn: The Story of the Failed Chicago Projects

Premiere screening of this vivid and revealing documentary about the demolition and ‘transformation’ of the notorious Chicago housing projects. In 1999, the City of Chicago undertook The Plan for Transformation, a redevelopment agenda that purported to rehabilitate and construct a total of 25,000 new public housing units. The film provides a look at the worldview of the displaced residents: their identity formation, their perceptions of public housing, their thoughts and feelings about redevelopment, their underlying fear of neighborhood gentrification, the cultural myth that perpetuates status value, adult learning, and the implementation of Chicago’s transformative plan.

Based on the book Where Will They Go?: Transforming Public Housing by Dr. Dorothy Appiah, the film was developed by director Kenny Young, producer Phil James, cinematographer Jeffrey T. Brown and producer Karon Hamlet. Screening will be followed by a discussion with the author, the filmmakers, and Audrey Petty (University of Illinois, editor of High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing), moderated by Jacqueline Stewart (University of Chicago, Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the College).

February 21, 1 to 4 pm, American Denial You must RSVP HERE. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington St.

In the wake of recent events that have sparked a national dialogue on race dynamics, American Denial explores the impact of unconscious biases around race and class, using Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 investigation of Jim Crow racism.

Follow the story of foreign researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal whose study, An American Dilemma (1944), provided a provocative inquiry into the dissonance between stated beliefs as a society and what is perpetuated and allowed in the name of those beliefs. His inquiry into the United States’ racial psyche becomes a lens for modern inquiry into how denial, cognitive dissonance, and unrecognized, unconscious attitudes continue to dominate racial dynamics in American life. The film’s unusual narrative sheds a unique light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans. Archival footage, newsreels, nightly news reports, and rare southern home movies from the ’30s and ’40s thread through the story, as well as psychological testing into racial attitudes from research footage, websites, and YouTube films.

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM:
Come early to take the Implicit Bias test. Tablets will be provided (courtesy of Chicago Freedom School) and test assistance provided by Chicago Council on Science and Technology. You can also take the test in advance HERE.

1:30 PM – 2:00 PM:
Carlee Beth Hawkins of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Project Implicit will lead a presentation and discussion about implicit bias before the film.

How do basic mental processes impact our perception, judgment and action as social beings? In what ways do we develop expectations, beliefs and attitudes about social groups? Could the discovery of our own implicit bias be a starting point towards changing attitudes and behaviors?

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM:
Screening of the film American Denial

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM:
A discussion about racism and implicit bias in the U.S., with David Stovall, Associate Professor of Education Policy Studies and African American Studies at UIC, Ric Wilson, artist and organizer with BYP100 and young leaders from Chicago Freedom School.
Moderator: Brandis Friedman, Correspondent, Chicago Tonight, WTTW

Presented by ITVS and WTTW in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the Chicago Freedom School.

February 27, 10 to 3 pm — Young Adults: Moving From Prison to Pathways of Hope – Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, 10th floor Library — Register here.

Please join Mansfield Institute & JJI as they engage in dialogue on a more effective approach for young adults in conflict with the law. They will discuss successful global initiatives, learn about potential community alternatives such as restorative justice as well as possibilities for legislative changes in order to support this population.

Featured Speakers:
Brent J. Cohen, Policy Advisor, Office of the Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Ralph Grunewald, PhD. Professor, Legal Studies Program, University of Wisconsin Madison

February 27, 6 pm , Dandelions in the Concrete: Peaceful Transitions — Depaul University, Cortelyou Commons
2324 N Fremont St, Chicago

Please come join us in celebration and community for one of our favorite evenings of the quarter. Dandelions is an open event that welcomes students, faculty, community members, and their friends and families to create a space that cultivates a sense of transformation and healing for all bodies and people. There will be arts and crafts, food, storytelling, self care practices, and creative performances.

Dandelions is also a night dedicated to relationship building and practices of transformative justice within communities at DePaul and Chicago. AND, it is the perfect opportunity to meet new people!


February 28 — 1 to 4 pm — Caged Streets: An Exploration of the School-to-Prison Pipeline — Loyola University Chicago, 6430 N. Kenmore Ave, Cuneo Hall Room 218 — RSVP by Feb 18 at intransitempowers.org

Youth ages 14-24, Free art workshop, lunch provided.

January 2015 Upcoming Events…

There are a number of upcoming events that we are either co-organizing or co-sponsoring this month. Below is a list.

January 15, 9 am — Sing-In For Reparations – City Hall, 2nd floor.

Keep up the pressure to to demand passage of the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors. On October 16, 2013, a Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors was introduced in Chicago’s City Council. It has already garnered the support of 27 alderpeople.

Despite ongoing requests from Chicagoans, the Finance Committee of Chicago’s City Council, headed by Alderman Ed Burke, has not yet scheduled a hearing for the ordinance.

At the next Finance Committee meeting on January 15, we will sing-in for Reparations at City Hall, 2nd floor.

January 15 – 6 p.m. — Reclaim MLK Day, 1001 W. Roosevelt
“On January 15, 2015, an intergenerational coalition of activists and community members, led by youth of color, will be holding a march and rally aimed at reclaiming the radical legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Grade schoolers, high school students, young adults, and longtime activists have collaborated on this march, rally, and call to action. We are asking organizations and groups of concerned community members around the city to organize their own daytime actions, and join us at 6pm for a march and rally that will begin at a local school (1001 W. Roosevelt, at the corner of Morgan and Roosevelt), and end at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.”

We are proud to co-sponsor this event.


January 22, 5 to 7 p.m. — Students Teach: Racial Profiling From the Classroom to the Street — Register HERE.

An educational after school event bringing together a diverse group of CPS students, Chicago youth leaders, social justice organizations (particularly youth and education oriented ones) CPS teachers and other educators. We are proud to co-sponsor this event.

image-1 (8)

January 24 – 9 to 5:30 p.m. — Watching the Watchers: Strategies to End Police Violence – Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave (Congress Lounge, 2nd floor)

Join us along with members of We Charge Genocide and other organizations and unaffiliated individuals for a day-long discussion about strategies to end police violence.

Workshops and discussion topics will include the role of ICE and deportations in our communities, how to create more sustainable citywide jail support, the creation of a permanent revolving local bail fund, the role of art in movement-building & resistance, youth leadership within the movement, the impact(s) of oppressive policing on women and trans people, and more….

Who Watches the Watchers (1)

January 27, 6 to 8:30 p.m. — “The Princess Who Went Quiet:” How To Talk To Kids About Incarceration – Grace Place 637 S. Dearborn St

Chicago-born artist Bianca Diaz has written a beautiful children’s book titled “The Princess Who Went Quiet.” In Bianca’s own words:

“This comic was inspired by the stories that many people have shared with me about how incarceration has impacted their own lives, the lives of their family members, and the life of their communities. Thank you so much for letting me listen.”

Join us on Tuesday January 27 from 6 to 8:30 pm as we address how to talk to kids about incarceration. We will be joined by formerly incarcerated parents who will share their experiences. We will also share resources (including Bianca’s book) that can help open up discussions about incarceration with children.

This event is co-sponsored with Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, 96 ACRES, Free Write Jail Arts Program and the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander.

New Resource Available: Teaching About the PIC and Criminal Legal System

Teaching about the Prison Industrial Complex and Criminal Legal System: Exercises, Simulations, Resources, and Discussion Ideas
By Dr. Michelle VanNatta

As we kick off 2015, we are making this guide available as a PDF at no cost. You can complete the following survey to receive the link for downloading the guide for free.

Project NIA is a small grassroots organization with limited resources. We rely on individual donors to do our work. If you would like to make a donation for using the guide, we would appreciate it. You can send a check to us, Project NIA/CFS, 1527 West Morse Ave, Chicago, IL 60626.

This curriculum offers ideas for exercises that can be adapted, shared, and transformed to meet the needs of different groups. These activities are offered as potential tools in the hopes they may be useful in sparking discussion and in the development of more curricula.

All of these exercises can be used with adults and youth in different settings, usually requiring little equipment or technology. Each begins with information about the recommended number of participants, materials and technology needed, set-up, and structure for the exercise. Facilitators can modify each exercise based on their own understanding of the backgrounds, knowledge, needs, and perspectives of their participants. While one exercise may be too basic for one group, another group using the same exercise may require background information or analysis about relevant issues.

The curriculum is in no way meant to provide a comprehensive look at issues in the prison industrial complex or criminal legal system. This is not a systematically developed, integrated group of exercises intended to provide a thorough view and analysis of all the critical issues about the prison industrial complex that communities, students, and activists need to learn about. Rather, it’s a set of tools intended to be adapted and integrated into curricula, popular education, or training efforts by teachers, organizers, and community builders.

Complete THIS SURVEY to download a copy of the guide.

We are indebted to our friend Dr. Michelle VanNatta for generously sharing her time and resources to write this guide. We also thank you friend Jacqui Shine for designing the guide.

Table of Contents:


I.                   Introduction

II.                Exercises


Project NIA: 2014 Year in Review

In 2014, we at Project NIA continued our efforts to end youth incarceration and to support young people in conflict with the law. We taught hundreds of people through workshops, we wrote reports that reached thousands, we organized direct actions to garner the attention of those in power, we produced curricula that were used to teach thousands, we curated an exhibition that reached hundreds of people, we advocated for policies that will impact thousands across the state and we also collaborated with dozens of partners along the way. Below are some of the highlights of 2014.

We are so grateful to everyone who has and continues to support our work. In 2014, we had hundreds of small donors along with grants from a few Foundations who believe in what we do. We cannot survive without your ongoing support. We have big plans for 2015 and we hope that you will join as we continue to work towards the abolition of the prison industrial complex.

2014 was a year of transition and change for us at Project NIA. In February, we said goodbye to Circles and Ciphers, a project that we helped catalyze and incubated for 4 years. Circles has grown into an independent project and it continues to do inspiring and important work with young people across Chicago. Please support their critical work in the coming months and years. We are proud of all they have and continue to accomplish.

Happy New Year! May 2015 bring us more justice and some peace.

Ending the School to Prison Pipeline

In February 2014, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released school discipline data broken out by various demographic categories for the first time on their website. This was due in part to our advocacy efforts through the Chicago Student Safety Act Coalition which we convened. The coalition included several allies from across the city. The most recent 2013-14 school discipline data was released by CPS in December.

In April, in collaboration with CPS, we organized and co-hosted a forum on school discipline to gather community input for changes to the CPS discipline code. CPS released a revised discipline policy in June. We continue to offer our input on school discipline policy through the Chicago Collaborative for Supportive School Discipline convened by CPS.

Also, in April, we organized and facilitated a free workshop titled “Understanding the School-to-Prison Pipeline 101” attended by over 40 educators, parents and community members.

In May, we convened and co-organized a Locked Up and Locked Out march and rally as part of the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth. The march and rally were attended by hundreds of youth and adults from across Chicago. For details about this action, you can read here and see more photos here.

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/19/14)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/19/14)

As part of our ongoing commitment to make data and research accessible to our communities, we developed several fact sheets about CPS suspensions and expulsions in 2014. We also shared data fact sheets from others including the Mayor’s office.

In 2014, the advocacy and organizing of Project NIA and other local groups, including COFIVOYCE, and Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law (CLC), achieved major victories in the fight to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. In October, we released a white paper written by Dr. Michelle VanNatta that documented the gains and as well as some ongoing challenges in creating positive futures for Chicago’s children. The paper can be accessed here.

For the third time in five years, we participated in the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s National Week of Action Against School Pushout (October 4-11). On October 8, with financial support from DSC, we organized an event called Pushed Out: An Interactive Youth-Led Experience of the School to Prison Pipeline in collaboration with Free Street Theater. It was a sold out event with  a performance by Kuumba Lynx and culminated in a light action by the Chicago Light Brigade (photo below).


Visit our School-to-Prison Tumblr for more information about our week of action efforts, quizzes to test your knowledge of the STPP and other related information.