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.


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