Project NIA: 2016 Year in Review

2016 was a year of transitions for us. Our founder and director Mariame Kaba moved back to her hometown of NYC after over 20 years of living and organizing Chicago. Most of the projects that we helped to catalyze and incubate over the years are now their own independent groups. Please continue to support and keep up with information about Circles and Ciphers and Liberation Library. You can also find most of the resources that we’ve developed over the years here.

In 2016, we continued our advocacy, organizing and political education in service of our goal to end youth incarceration. Below please find some highlights of our 2016 work.

1. Bye Anita: A Campaign to Defeat Anita Alvarez
We helped to develop popular education materials, provided intellectual scaffolding and mobilized our communities through digital and community organizing to help defeat former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in the Democratic primary in March 2017. We also collaborated with our friend Tom Callahan to create a video documenting part of the #ByeAnita campaign this fall.

2. #ShutDownChi Solidarity Action: Close Youth Prisons
In solidarity with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, on April 1st, we joined tens of thousands of Chicagoans to stand up to Rahm Emanuel, Governor Rauner and their cohort of corporate conspirators who are working to protect the rich while implementing massive cuts intent on destroying our communities, disproportionately impacting black and brown lives. We organized a rally at the IYC-Chicago youth prison to underscore that one of the ways that we can secure more funding for the things that matter most is to CLOSE YOUTH PRISONS across Illinois. The action was co-sponsored with Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter – Chicago, Brown People for Black Power, Chicago Freedom School, Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Young Women and Girls, Chicago League of Abolitionist Whites, For the People Artists Collective, Kuumba Lynx, and Lifted Voices.

Our co-strugglers at Kuumba Lynx beautifully documented the rally and action in a video.

The action was also lovingly documented by movement photographer Sarah Jane Rhee.

by Sarah Jane Rhee (4/1/16)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (4/1/16)

3. Restorative Questions Poster Project
We invited artists to contribute beautiful posters based on a set of restorative questions. Over a dozen submissions were then made available to everyone for free downloading. As Paul Kuttner wrote about the project:

“The posters, and the questions they pose, are deceptively simple. However, if we were to truly use these questions as our starting point to address crime, violence, and conflict, we would find ourselves veering far from the punitive path. To ask someone who has been harmed, “What is needed to make things right?” is to privilege healing over retribution. To ask someone who has done harm, “Who do you think has been affected by what you did?,” is to assume that learning and growth are possible.”

We began this summary by saying that 2016 was a transition year for us. In 2017, we are suspending the bulk of our work as we take time to evaluate and assess our mission, organizational structure, and capacity. We will continue to have a presence on social media during this period. Keep your eyes and ears open for future announcements from us about how we will move forward. Thanks to everyone for your support over the past 8 years.

Project NIA: 2015 Year in Review

In April, we screened the “End of The Nightstick,” a film that documents the torture inflicted upon over 118 Black men and women by police Commander John Burge and his fellow officers from 1972 to 1991. It begins with a memorable quote from Alexander “Clubber” Williams, an N.Y.P.D. Lieutenant, in 1877.

“There is more law in the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.”

Chicago’s legacy of police violence runs deep, and persists today. We at Project NIA have worked to resist state violence and to advocate for both the living and the dead.


This year, Project NIA joined with Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, We Charge Genocide and Amnesty International to co-lead an intensive six-month-long organizing campaign, #RahmRepNow, to pass a reparations ordinance for survivors of torture under Burge. And on May 6, 2015, we won. This victory was a long time in coming and built upon decades of previous organizing. It is the first time that any municipality in the U.S. will provide reparations to those harmed by law enforcement violence!

The #RahmRepNOW campaign was supported by several other groups and individuals who contributed their time, talent, and much more. These included the Chicago Light Brigade, BYP 100, Elephant Rebellion, Kuumba Lynx and others.

A sample of actions and events can be seen in this short video that we produced as part of the campaign.

We are so proud of what we accomplished together here in Chicago. In 2015, our work to address police violence was anchored by our successful fight for reparations for torture survivors. We also worked in various ways with many co-strugglers to raise awareness and organize against law enforcement violence, including co-organizing a conference attended by over 350 people in January and a teach-in this December about the new pattern and practice investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the Chicago Police Department precipitated by the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Throughout the year, we focused on the ways that police violence, of which the Burge case is an egregious example, impacts Black women and girls in particular. We also continued to center the experiences of youth in conflict with the law. Below, read about our year of work centering these two topics, and their nuances and intersections.

Black Women and Girls

11012094_10152907118111104_5667935191470925851_nCis and trans Black women and girls are major targets for police brutality and criminalization. Black girls in particular are the fastest growing population in the juvenile legal system, and are suspended, expelled, and arrested from school at a higher rate than their peers. In October, Project NIA, Lifted Voices, and The Chicago Light Brigade joined students at Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy to share radical art and discuss the school-to-prison pipeline that increasingly impacts Black girls in Doing the Math: Resisting High School Pushout.

In recent years, we’ve seen the stories of a few Black women who have suffered horribly at the hands of the law come to light, such as Rekia Boyd, murdered by off-duty Chicago police detective Dante Servin, and Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail after a bogus traffic stop and violent arrest.

In 2015, Project NIA focused on women like Rekia and Sandra, hosting numerous events and exhibitions with allied organizations aimed at lifting up their stories and experience with prisons, police, and their safety, or lack thereof. In July, we partnered with our friends at the Chicago Light Brigade to co-organize an action in support of Sandra Bland’s friends and family. The Chicago Tribune produced a beautiful short video of the event.

Following the unjust acquittal of Dante Servin, Project NIA, and allied organizations reclaimed August as Black August—Women and State Violence, hosting events including Killing Black Women: Race, Gender, and Capital Punishment and Criminalizing Black Girls: A Workshop. In these spaces, we considered how and why Black women and girls (trans and non-trans) are targeted, what are the effects of this disproportionate criminalization, and how we can interrupt the cycle of state violence.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2015)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2015)

Showing up, showing love, and showing solidarity takes a large emotional toll on our community. In 2015, we helped catalyze community building around the lives of Black women and girls, as well as resistance and education. In October, for example, a group of people gathered for a potluck closing event for the Blood At the Root: Unearthing Stories of State Violence Against Black Women and Girls Exhibit at Holy Covenant Church in Lakeview.

Check out these pieces from the exhibit highlighting Black women criminalized over the years. What do you see? We see women who fought back against violence, survivors, visionaries, and those who remind us of our mothers and sisters.

While perusing the exhibit (as seen above) before closure, people were encouraged to write letters and cards of love and encouragement to incarcerated Black women. The story Niya Kenny, a young Black student who was arrested for standing up for her fellow classmate, a young Black girl brutalized by a police officer in their classroom, was also a topic of letter-writing.

Criminalized and Incarcerated Children

12304140_10153747069598454_8970853397037735782_oBlack children are too often denied the chance to learn, grow, and simply play and enjoy their childhoods free of the danger of violence. Every year, Project NIA dedicates a significant portion of our work to advocacy for children in the system, and those who are victims of state violence.

This year was no different. On November 22, 2015, it was the one-year anniversary of 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s death. He was killed by Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback playing outside of a youth center. So on November 23, 2015, Black Lives Matter:Chicago, the Chicago Childcare Collective, and Project NIA joined forces to celebrate the precious life taken from us through a “play-in”— where children and youth PLAYED group games, made art, and created cards for Tamir’s family and more. By gathering community to play without fear, we refused to allow Black children to be robbed of their childhoods and their right to have fun.

Another way that the state harms Black children is through incarceration. To increase public awareness of the destructive impact of the juvenile justice system on children, we facilitated a workshop, Understanding the Illinois Juvenile Justice System: the Basics. Community members, parents, educators, young people, and organizers were trained to identify the resources and rights that youth have in and outside of the system, some issues that young people in contact with the law face, and more.

We didn’t stop at teaching about the juvenile justice system. We continued to provide direct support and advocacy for young people in conflict with the law. We also reached out to Chicago’s incarcerated children and those impacted by the incarceration of family members.

As part of this year’s National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth Bobby Biedrzycki, writer, artist, and educator, led a an interactive session where participants wrote letters, poems, and prose to incarcerated children. These beautiful notes will be compiled into a zine mailed to children incarcerated in Illinois youth prisons as part of a project that we catalyzed this year called Liberation LibraryLiberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing. Book donations are always needed. Find the list here.


As we continue to fight for incarcerated children, we also need to consider how to talk to children about their incarcerated loved ones. We strongly believe that art, like the zines mentioned above, are a powerful tool for reimagining what our community health and safety can look like outside of relying on systems like the Prison Industrial Complex. Chicago-born artist, and our former intern, Bianca Diaz explores new ways to talk about incarceration through a beautiful children’s book titled The Princess Who Went Quiet, which she wrote and illustrated. The Princess Who Went Quiet serves as a visual entry point to address how to talk to kids about incarceration.

Young People in Chicago Resist Criminalization

Young people in Chicago are organizing hard and consistently against police violence and criminalization—many of them queer, black women.

With all that our community has accomplished this year, Project NIA with Tom Callahan produced a visual love note to our fellow activists and organizers who spent all year in righteous struggle to end police violence:

An important way that we tangibly contributed to the development of young Chicagoans this year was by piloting along with the Chicago Freedom School a new program called “Young Leaders for Justice (YLJ). YLJ was an opportunity to support young people ages 17 to 24 to develop their knowledge about criminalization and to learn organizing skills. Over eight sessions spanning four months, participants learned about the dynamics and nature of the prison industrial complex, oppressive policing, the juvenile justice system, healing justice, using social media as a tool for organizing, and more. In the final couple of sessions, participants learned about strategies for grassroots fundraising and embarked on a historical walking tour of Chicago.

Understanding that many of Chicago’s young organizers are actively inspired by Assata Shakur’s life and legacy, we also co-organized a well-attended teach-in in May to connect our current historical moment with Assata’s resistance as a Black woman and member of the Black Panther Party.

In a letter to the members of the Hands Off Assata Campaign who were organizing actions in honor of her 60th birthday (in 2007), Assata wrote:

“I am 60 years and it is doubtful that I will ever live to see my people free of oppression and repression. But I am totally convinced that our collective dream of freedom will some day be realized.”

Let us be inspired and heartened by Assata’s words. We are so proud of what we have built in 2015. Let’s keep rising in love and solidarity with one another to work towards our collective freedom.

*Exhibition Highlight 2015*

Over the past few years, Project NIA has documented the ways that oppression and criminalization impact specific groups (particularly Black people). One of the ways that we’ve done so is through creating exhibitions that bring together thousands of people across Chicago to learn about and address these issues. This fall, we co-curated a new exhibition titled: Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness Through Racist Postcards and Images

From the 1890’s through the 1950’s, thousands of postcards depicting racist caricatures and stereotypes of Black people were produced across the United States and the world. In our exhibition, Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness Through Racist Postcards and Images, we asked:

How did white people justify their continued subordination of Black people post emancipation?

Our exhibition illuminates the racist attitudes and ideologies that were/are endemic to U.S. culture and society. Relying primarily on postcards from co-curator Mariame Kaba’s collection, this exhibition speaks to the legacy of anti-Black racism that still structures our present. The racist images underscore the ‘routine’ denigration of Black people. They illustrate how little Black lives have mattered in this country. They belie the need for a hashtag and a movement affirming that #BlackLivesMatter.

Get your photo gallery fix here. The exhibition ends at the end of January 2016. Find visiting information and more at the website.

Research and Curriculum Development

This year, we continued to host discussions about the importance and uses of data, and to analyze/summarize relevant juvenile justice-related information. You can find two recent reports about juvenile and school-based arrests here and here. Our work and research continued to be cited in the press this year.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2015)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (2015)

We also held true to our mission of educating as many people as possible about the impact and effects of the carceral state by developing and sharing (free) curriculum resources like Teaching about the Prison Industrial Complex and Criminal Legal System: Exercises, Simulations, Resources, and Discussion Ideas. To date, over 500 copies of the curriculum have been distributed at no cost. Thousands of people around the world rely on our resources.

Thank You

We would like to thank all of our donors, volunteers and partners for their contributions to our work this year. Without you, nothing that you read about in this end of year summary would be possible. Project NIA is a volunteer-driven organization that operates on a very lean budget. But we do a lot with a little. If you would like, you can continue to support our work by making a financial contribution today.

Happy holidays and see you in 2016!

Illinois Juvenile Justice Legislative Updates

Thanks to our friends at the Children and Family Justice Center (Northwestern University School of Law), we have summary of juvenile justice related legislation passed during this GA session.

Three significant pieces of legislation concern youth subject to adult sentencing or who are in the deepest end of the juvenile system:

HB 2471 – brought by Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children member Restore Justice Illinois, with technical and legal expertise provided by the Children and Family Justice Center’s Shobha Mahadev and Scott Main, this bill is a step towards bringing Illinois into compliance with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding youth “categorically less culpable” than adults and requiring courts to take into account how children are different. The bill applies to any youth in adult court; eliminates mandatory life without parole for juveniles; creates a list—based on factors enumerated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama—of youth-specific mitigation evidence that a court must consider (in addition to what a court already considers in aggravation and mitigation) in determining an appropriate sentence; and empowers judges, where appropriate, to depart from mandatory firearm enhancements.

HB 3718 (known as the “automatic transfer reform” bill) – provides an amenability hearing in juvenile court to most youth who are currently excluded from juvenile court and sent directly to adult court, including:
All youth aged 13-15, regardless of charged offense;
All youth aged 16-17, unless charged with first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, or aggravated battery with a firearm;
Youth previously charged or tried in adult criminal court.

Concerning youth who will continue to originate in or be transferred to adult court, the bill expands judicial options for criminal sentencing and requires data and outcome reporting for youth subject to adult charges and sentences.

SB 1560 (known as the “DJJ right-sizing” bill) – bars commitment of youth to state facilities for status offenses and misdemeanor offenses, limits the time youth spend on aftercare supervision following release from state facilities, and requires that youth facing new adult charges be subject to local bond or pretrial detention rather than being returned to a state facility in advance of trial.

In addition, the General Assembly also passed legislation:
1. Reducing certain cannabis possession penalties for youth and adults, adding some record confidentiality protections for youth facing municipal tickets for violations (HB 218)
2. Barring children aged 12 or under from being admitted to a juvenile detention center unless a local youth service/crisis housing provider is contacted first but cannot accept the child (HB 2567)
3. Increasing communities’ ability to establish and participate in local juvenile justice councils (HB 4044)
4. Limiting the use of suspension, expulsion, and zero-tolerance policies in publicly-funded schools (SB 100)
5. Incentivizing educational attainment by youth and adult offenders by reducing the waiting period to seal eligible offense records upon receipt of a degree/certificate (HB 3149)
6. Increasing police accountability to communities [“body cam” guidelines; “receipts” for frisks and searches; data reporting on all stops culminating in detention] (SB 1304)

Young Leaders for Justice: An Update

March 28, 2015

March 28, 2015

On February 14th, a group of young people gathered at the Chicago Freedom School (CFS) to participate in the inaugural session of the Young Leaders For Justice (YLJ) program. YLJ is the result of a collaboration between CFS and us at Project NIA.

We conceived of this program as an opportunity to support young people ages 17 to 24 to develop their knowledge about criminalization and to learn new organizing skills. Over the past 8 sessions spanning 4 months, participants have learned about the dynamics and nature of the prison industrial complex, oppressive policing, the juvenile justice system, healing justice, using social media as a tool for organizing, and more. In the final couple of sessions, participants will learn about strategies for grassroots fundraising and will participate in a walking tour of Chicago. YLJ participant Dan reflects on what he’s learned so far:

“Throughout this program, I have learned so much about living in America in 2015. I’ve had a chance to talk with so many wonderful people who have ideas that will positively impact the world. We’ve discussed the school to prison pipeline, prison industrial complex and so many concepts that have restricted the freedom and movement of black and brown bodies. I decided to apply for this program so I could better understand how this world works. I have received more than I thought possible through this program. What I’ve learned in these sessions will carry with me for the rest of my life. We were never meant to survive, so we must act and build to remember.”


This program is also born of a need for more spaces in Chicago for young people to engage in collective political education. A couple of YLJ participants commented on this in a reflection about the program. Latia highlights the importance of being able to develop critical consciousness for action:

“Being a part of this program has allowed me to critically think about and analyze the history of policing and mass incarceration. In this space, we are able to ask questions and look at the prison culture in ways that are impactful. We are able to talk about the world in ways that can create change. It is great to be around like-minded, passionate people that are eager to create a new way of living. I have learned so much from each individual and I am eager to put all of our discussions and lessons into action. The question of imagining a world without prisons is one that we should all think about!”

Hugo stresses coming to consciousness about state violence through his participation in the program:

“We have been problematizing the idea of prisons, capitalism, police and other tentacles of the State. It has been a radical experience to be part of a group where everyone is open-minded and transparent. If there were more places and opportunities like CFS/YLJ, the world would be a better and revolutionary place.”

May 16, 2015

May 16, 2015

The YLJ program is rooted in a philosophy that activism is a life-long pursuit so it’s therefore important that it be infused with an ethic of care (including self-care). Some participants shared their reflections about the impact of this program on their identities and selves. Josephine spoke to the effects of YLJ on her personal development as an activist and human being:

“The YLJ workshops have been crucial to me as an activist and as a person living in Chicago. It has made the city and the history of its people, particularly black people, very intimate to my own sense of self and convictions on justice. The workshops not only teach us how to be more efficient, erudite activists of color, but teach us how to take care of ourselves, how to take up space, how to “be okay” in our bodies. The workshops have been holistic and healing and I always leave feeling full with a knowing that I am learning and becoming the kind of human being I need to be.”

YLJ has helped participants to see their worlds with new eyes. This has been a recurring theme throughout the sessions. Makiah, a high school senior, describes an awakening over the past few weeks:

“I’m learning to think critically about the patterns I see every day. You notice instances where cops are present. You, as a POC, know that you are targeted unjustly. But this program really gives you insight. We can all sit down and have conversation. We leave knowing, okay, this is what is going on. And this is why. And then we all go back to our own communities making all these new connections. We all have these suspicions about what it happening but we get them validated in this program. Now we’re in a phase of learning, ‘what now? what do I need to do’.”

2015 YLJ1

Lynda speaks to incremental changes in her perspective as she’s learned more about criminalization through YLJ:

“I notice the impact of my experience with YLJ in small ways. I have slowly developed a more critical lens when it comes to police in our communities. When my neighborhood association printed posters with the words ‘we call the police. We report all suspicious activities to the police,” I viewed it as a narrow-minded approach to safety. While we live in a police-centered world, we can’t rely on them to keep us safe. I still don’t have the answers but at least I now question more deeply.”

At the end of the 10 sessions of political education (end of June), some YLJ participants will execute action projects over the summer. We are excited to see how they apply the knowledge that they have gained through tangible projects. Stay tuned for future updates this summer!

We have cobbled together resources to run YLJ over the past few months. We received no significant foundation funding and have relied almost entirely on individual financial and in kind donations to make the program happen. We at Project NIA have volunteered our time to plan and co-facilitate this program because we are committed to youth leadership development. However, there are program costs that we have incurred including food and stipends for participants. We are still fundraising to support our work. If you are able and feel moved, please make a donation HERE today. All donations are tax-deductible to full extent of the law.

City Council Makes History In Passing Reparations Legislation For Burge Torture Survivors!

image by Monica Trinidad

image by Monica Trinidad

Chicago, IL – This morning Chicago Police torture survivors and their family members attended a Chicago City Council hearing to witness passage of historic legislation providing reparations for the torture they and scores of other African American men and women survived at the hands of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command. Some of the torture survivors and family members traveled from out of the City and State to attend the hearing.

The reparations package is the product of decades of organizing, litigation, and investigative journalism, and represents the culmination of an inspiring intergenerational and interracial campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International, USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, re-invigorated by the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Forty-six organizations endorsed the ordinance, the U.N. Committee Against Torture specifically called on the U.S. Government to support the passage of the legislation and scores of Chicagoans attended demonstrations, rallies, sing-ins and a Citywide Teach-ins over the last six months to urge Mayor Emanuel to support the reparations ordinance.

“Over the course of the past 6 months, a coalition of individuals and groups organized tirelessly to achieve this goal. Today’s historic achievement, passage of the reparations ordinance, is owed to the decades of organizing to bring some justice to the survivors of Burge and his fellow officers’ unconscionable torture. We have successfully organized to preserve the public memory of the atrocities experienced by over 110 black people at the hands of Chicago police torture because we refuse to let anyone in this city ever forget what happened here,” said Mariame Kaba, founder and executive director of Project NIA.

The reparations resolution represents the first time Chicago’s City Council has formally acknowledged and taken responsibility for the police torture that occurred in Chicago, and recognized its obligation to provide concrete redress to the survivors and family members. In addition to the establishment of a $5.5 million Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims, the City will provide survivors and their families specialized counseling services at a center on the South side, free enrollment in City Colleges, and priority access to job training, housing and other city services. Additionally, a history lesson about the Burge torture cases will henceforth be taught in Chicago Public schools and a permanent public memorial will be erected to commemorate the torture and survivors.

“It is the first time that a municipality in the United States has ever offered reparations to those violated law enforcement officials,” said Joey Mogul, a co-founder of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, partner at the People’s Law Office and drafter of the original reparations ordinance. “This holistic model should serve as a blueprint for how cities around the country, from Ferguson to Baltimore, can respond to systemic racist police brutality.”

The final legislation was the product of an agreement reached with Mayor Emanuel, CTJM and Amnesty International, USA on the eve of an April 14, 2015 hearing on the original reparations Ordinance introduced into City Council by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward) in October of 2013.

While torture survivors, family members, and activists were pleased with the reparations package passed today, they noted that much more work needs to be done to address racially motivated police violence in the City of Chicago.

“Today is an important and historic day, and the result of a courageous, decades-long effort to seek justice. But this is not the end. We must make sure that this curriculum places torture under Burge in a broader context of ongoing and endemic police violence. We must expand counseling and treatment services so they’re available for all survivors of police violence. And more broadly, we must fight for an end not only to these horrific acts of torture, and police shootings of Black youth, but also against the daily police harassment and profiling of young people of color in Chicago and across the country,” said Page May, an organizer and activist with We Charge Genocide.

The Reparations Ordinance was drafted to provide redress to approximately 120 African American men and women subjected to racially-motivated torture, including electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings by now former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991. Although Burge was convicted on federal charges for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the torture cases in 2010, he continues to draw a taxpayer funded pension.

Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance Passes Out of the Finance Committee!

Today, the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance unanimously passed out of the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee.

On the eve of a hearing on the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance (April 14), Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) and Amnesty International – USA reached an agreement on a reparations package with Mayor Emanuel and his administration. The legislation is historic and will be the first time a City in the U.S. has provided reparations to victims of racially motivated police violence. If passed, the legislation will provide concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members, including a formal apology; specialized counseling services; free enrollment in City Colleges; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools; a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims.

The legislation comes after an impressive grassroots campaign co-led by Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Amnesty International – USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide.

Tomorrow, on May 6th, the full Chicago City Council will vote on this historic legislation that will provide reparations to the Burge Torture Survivors and family members. The largest gathering of Burge Torture survivors and family members will assemble to watch the City Council vote on the legislation.


Join us at 10 am at City Hall for the vote!

For those who cannot make the meeting, we will gather at Chicago Temple for a celebration lunch after the vote. We anticipate being there around noon. All are invited to join us at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, James Parlor Room, 2nd Floor after the City Council Vote.

Upcoming PIC-Related Events – May 2015

May 2, 9 to 1 pm – Student-Led Discipline Conference at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren. (Free garage parking available) – Register HERE.

This is an opportunity for students to share their perspectives on discipline and restorative practices, and to collaborate with community members and CPS on solutions for making our school discipline systems more effective and fair. FREE breakfast, lunch, giveaways, and raffle prizes!

May 4, 6:30 pmEmory Douglas: Arts & Resistance — at Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, 5733 South University Avenue, Facebook RSVP here

Emory Douglas in conversation with local artists and activists about arts, resistance and revolution. With Cairá Lee Conner from We Charge Genocide’s Radical Education Project, and James T. Green, 2014-15 Arts + Public LIfe/CSRPC Artist-in-Residence. Co-presented by CSRPC with The Black Death Project, a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry.

May 6, 10 amHistoric Vote on Reparations for Burge Torture Survivors — City Hall

Come to City Hall on Wednesday, May 6th, at 10am, when the City Council votes on the reparations legislation. We need your help to pack City Hall and stand in solidarity with Burge torture survivors. Let’s show a strong show of support as we urge the City Council to vote to approve the reparations ordinance.

May 7, 6 to 9 pmSentenced: Architecture and Human Rights — Art In These Times, 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave

An art exhibit about the architecture of incarceration featuring:

• a full-size model of a solitary cell
• drawings of solitary confinement cells by people currently being held inside
• rarely-seen designs for execution chambers built in the US
• other artwork made by prisoners held in solitary confinement

May 9, 1:30 pmSafety Beyond Police: Creative Brainstorm Session — at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave.

In July, We Charge Genocide, Project NIA and hopefully many more Chicagoans will kick off a ‘Safety Beyond Police’ consciousness-raising campaign. Our aim is to engage our various communities through messaging and discussion to consider more expansive ideas of safety. The campaign is in its infancy and we welcome contributions and ideas from anyone who is interested in developing the campaign. To begin, we invite all interested individuals to a creative brainstorming session where we will develop ideas around messaging for the campaign. We make a special appeal to artists, designers and others who can help us to imagine new ways to craft messages and to convey ideas.

May 9, 11 amMother’s Day Vigil with Moms Incarcerated at Cook County Jail — at Cook County Jail

This year Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration invites individuals and groups to join us as we honor the many moms (and daughters and sons) inside Cook County Jail. We’ll gather near Division 17, which houses pregnant women and women struggling with addiction and mental illness. We insist that they never be forgotten behind those walls–on this or any other day.

May 9, 2 to 5 pm — Opening of The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates — at Northwestern University, Fisk Hall, 1845 Sheridan Road, room 217

Julie Green, Professor of Art at Oregon State University, will present her project The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates. Following this talk, Green will be joined by Rob Owen, Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern, and Elliot Reichert, Curator of Special Projects at the Block, to discuss issues of representation, the criminal justice system, and social justice. A reception at the Block will follow this conversation. This exhibition runs until August 9, 2015.

May 12, 7:30 pmIn Loving Memory of Rekia Boyd  — at Depaul University

“We the members of MOVE are hosting a Candle Light Vigil for our slain sister Rekia Boyd. We have not forgotten the many women who have fell victim to the same injustices which continue to plague black men. We are coming together to remember our sister and calling the nation to acknowledge that #BlackWomenslivesmatter”

May 14, 6 pmWhat Assata Teaches About Black Lives Mattering: A Teach In — Depaul University, 2320 N. Kenmore –  RSVP is REQUIRED  here. Space is limited. We prioritize the participation of young organizers of color.

Assata Shakur’s life and legacy have been invoked recently as young Black people resist police violence and criminalization. What, in fact, are some of the lessons that we can learn about our current historical moment by focusing on Assata’s life and her resistance? Join Project NIA and other local groups on May 14th for a teach-in about Assata’s resistance and its application to current Black Lives Matter organizing.

May 15, 7 pmScreening: The Thin Blue Line — at Block Museum of Art

Randall Dale Adams lived through a nightmare. In 1976, someone shot and killed Dallas police officer Robert Wood. In 1977, a Texas court convicted Mr. Adams of the crime and sentenced him to death. The Supreme Court took up his case, and in March 1985, Errol Morris arrived in Texas to work on a documentary about psychiatrist known as Dr. Death for his damning testimony. Adams’s case fascinated Morris, who at the time held down a day job as a private detective. Applying those investigative skills, Morris crafted The Thin Blue Line. The movie stirred an outcry about the case and launched Morris’s career. In 1989, the Texas justice system released Adams from prison. Adams died in quiet obscurity in 2010, the New York Times reporting his death some eight months after it had occurred.

May 16, Noon to 6 pm — Creative Practices for Envisioning a World without Police — at HI Chicago Youth Hostel, 24 East Congress Parkway – Space is limited. Registration is required here.

Using science fiction and exploring emergent strategies such as adaptation and resilience, we will work together to generate community based practices for resolving conflict and addressing interpersonal violence without unjust police systems. We’ll start the day by creating a science fictional Chicago in which to explore alternatives to policing, and then explore lessons from the natural world through the science of emergence to see what practices the community can generate to create more possibilities for a just future.

May 16, 1 to 5 pm — Robeson High School Peace Rally.

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May 16, 2 pmRace Matters: From Chicago to Palestine – Mass Incarceration and the Militarized Policing of Youth — at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St, Oak Park, IL 60301

Please join Charlene Carruthers, Ethan Viets-VanLear, and Ahmed Hamad as they discuss the connections between struggles against police and military repression, mass incarceration and juvenile detention by communities of color in the US and Palestine.

May 18, 8:30-4:30 pm —  Schhool to Prison or Cradle to Career: Imagining a Different Pipeline,  Philip H. Corboy Law Center, 25 E. Pearson Street, 10th Floor. You must register here.

Why not a “ cradle to career” instead of “school to prison” pipeline? What is the school to prison pipeline and how and why did it evolve? What has the impact been in Chicago on childhood, children’s futures, and communities? To what extent is implicit bias at work? What can we do differently to confront the challenges faced in the schools by children, their families, and our communities? This one-day multidisciplinary program will explore current responses and new directions for lawyers, social workers, educators, law enforcement, psychologists, and child advocates to better serve children in our communities and our schools and move us toward a cradle to career pipeline.

May 19, 3 to 5 pm Building Partnerships for a Brighter Future: Making the Commitment to Improve the Juvenile Justice System — at Roosevelt University – Chicago Campus, 430 South Michigan Avenue, Library, 10th Floor

This forum will bring together system stakeholders and community based partners to engage in a dialogue that promotes the agreed upon “Commitment to Improvement in the Juvenile Justice System in Cook County” document. We will aim to elevate partnerships and collaboration between community and systems stakeholders that will lead to better outcomes for our youth.

May 19, 6 pm — Seen from Inside: Perspectives on Capital Punishment — at Block Museum of Art
In partnership with the Center for Capital Defense and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, the Block will host a series of acts exploring various perspectives on capital punishment—an exhibition overview by Block Curator of Special Projects, Elliot Reichert, followed by a capital case closing argument enacted by a death penalty defense attorney, a conversation with a former prisoner exonerated from death row, and insights from a family member of a homicide victim.

May 20, noon to 7DAMO DAY — Location TBA

Dominique Franklin Jr. who was also known as Damo by friends passed away on May 20th, 2014. He was murdered by the Chicago Police Department. Dominique was a brother, a son, a friend, and family of many people in the city of Chicago. We created this event not only to protest the perpetual Racist brutality carried out by the State and all its affiliates, but also to Celebrate the Life of someone filled with so much light. We gather May 20th to greet death with Life. We gather to show the system they cannot take us away without hearing from us. We gather for Damo. (THIS EVENT IS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE OF COLOR AND FRIENDS/FAMILY OF Dominique)

May 21, 5:30 to 7:30 pmSending Kites: Letters & Poems to Incarcerated Children (National Week of Action against Incarcerating Youth) — Hull House Museum (Dining Room), 800 S. Halsted St.

As part of the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth (, please join us on May 21st from 5:30 to 7:30 for an interactive session focused on incarcerated children.

With support from writer, artist and educator Bobby Biedrzycki, participants will collaborate to write letters, poems, prose to incarcerated children. All items will be included into a zine that will be mailed to children incarcerated in Illinois youth prisons as part of Liberation Library.

This is an all-ages event with a special invitation to young people to attend.

May 21, 7 pm Screening: The People vs. Paul Crump — at Block museum of Art (Evanston)

Before making his splash in Hollywood, 26-year-old Chicago-born director William Friedkin made a short documentary about Paul Crump (at that point the youngest death row inmate in Illinois history) to be shown on television the night of his execution. The film depicted the alleged torture by the police that Crump endured. The People vs. Paul Crump was not publicly screened, but Friedkin expeditiously showed it to the Illinois governor who commuted Crump’s sentence. The documentary’s use of reenactment anticipates Errol Morris’s famous use in the similarly themed The Thin Blue Line (screening May 15).

May 23, 2 pmKick the Kickbacks — at Little Village Community Church


May 25, 11 am to 2 pmRemember Rekia and all of our Fallen — Douglas Park, 15th and Albany

As we honor the servicemen and women who have lost their lives in the many wars this country has waged, remember that there is no plot in Arlington Cemetery for the lives lost in the war waged on Black lives – a war that has been disguised as the “war on drugs,” the “war or crime,” the “war on gangs,” a war fought in America’s city streets, in its classrooms, detentions centers, its playgrounds and parks. Black Americans are dying in a centuries-old battle that we didn’t sign for, and this Memorial Day, we honor our deaths and celebrate our lives.

Join the #LetUsBreathe Collective in Remembering Rekia and all who have fallen in the war on Black lives. We will meet in Douglas Park, where Officer Dante Servin confronted Rekia Boyd and murdered her with impunity. We will lift up her name and the names of all Black women and girls, trans and queer lives, men, boys, and veterans and build them an altar. Then we will celebrate our ancestors and that we are still breathing with a spoken word and music performance & picnic.

Bring an object to add the memorial, your art, your heart, (some food to share!) and your love.

May 27, 6 pmWhen You CAN’T Shake It Off – at Block Museum of Art (Evanston)
A cell phone camera captures the death of Eric Garner. White men toting assault rifles film confrontations with police officers over their right to openly carry firearms. A video of a cop lip-synching to Taylor Swift goes viral. Join Will Schmenner, Block Cinema interim curator, and Harvey Young, Northwestern University associate professor, as they discuss the role and use of social media in creating a national conversation about race, law, and the limits of police power. How does civil resistance operate in the Internet era?

May 28, 7 pm — Screening: Un condamné à mort s’est échappé (A Man Escaped)

Bresson loosely adapted this thriller from the memoirs of André Devigny, a French resistance fighter held in a German prison during World War II. One of the masterpieces of this unrivaled director, Bresson strikingly mixes the tedium of jail with the nail-biting suspense of the preparations for escape. At every turn, this darkly Catholic film wonders aloud whether the dumb luck also needed to attain freedom comes by chance or by the grace of God. This is perhaps the only film about death row that throws away all questions of guilt and asks, what does it mean to be saved from certain death?

May 29, 6 to 9 pmDandelions in the Concrete: Growing Our Roots — Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N Fremont St, Chicago, Illinois 60614

Please come join in celebration and community for one of our favorite evenings of the quarter, and BCEV’s last Dandelions of the academic year. 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. We also hold an open mic starting around 7 pm, and we’d love for you to bring something to perform or share with the community!

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.

Take Action: File A Witness Slip for HB2567 Today

HB2567, HCA#1 requires that prior to admitting a child ages 10-12 to a county juvenile temporary detention center, a determination be made that a local youth service provider is not able to accept the child. Illinois allows children as young as 10 to be confined before trial in county juvenile detention centers. Detained children are isolated from their families, their schools and their communities, and studies reveal significant harm to children from even a short period of detention. This bill requires that for 10-12 year olds an effort is made for an alternate placement such as with a provider in the Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services (CCBYS) network.

This bill passed out of the House with bi-partisan support on April 15, 2015. Sen. Heather Steans is the senate sponsor of the bill. Text of the bill is available here. Here is a FACT SHEET.

This bill is now up in the Senate Criminal Law committee, Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.   Please file a witness slip in favor of this bill. You can do so here.

How to File A Witness Slip:
1. Click HERE (after reading the steps below)
2. Under Section I, fill in your identification information
3. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also fill in N/A.
4. In Section III, select “Proponent”
5. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only,” unless you are submitting other forms of testimony, in which case select those as well.
6. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
7. Select the “Create Slip button

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

For more information on the ordinance and the Chicago police torture cases check out