Illinois Humanities Envisioning Justice Creating Conversations for Change
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* Illinois Humanities
* Arts & Incarceration
* Cook County Jail

* Non-profit

* Chicago - Illinois - US

CHICAGO - July 13, 2018 - PRLog -- In April, Illinois Humanities launched Envisioning Justice, a two-year initiative for the people of Chicago that uses arts and humanities programs to engage residents from every neighborhood, race, ethnicity, background and ideology in a citywide conversation about the impact of incarceration on local communities and to devise strategies for lessening this impact. Dozens of arts and humanities activities and conversations have been hosted since then with hundreds more to come.

Envisioning Justice arts and humanities events, including art classes, peace circles and community discussions have been held across the city thanks to partnerships with civic and community organizations, and initial support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge.

"Our elected officials won't make the changes needed to reduce the problem of over incarceration without the involvement and guidance of the people. We have seen so many Chicagoans of all ages and races and from all over the city come together to learn and talk about criminal justice system reform. The appetite is there but our systems need to catch up," said Angel Ysaguirre, Executive Director of Illinois Humanities.

From children learning to draw comics, to formerly incarcerated youth talking with members of the police, to a business leader talking about the importance of second chance hiring, Chicagoans have been engaged in Envisioning Justice. Participants have heard from formerly incarcerated people, police officials, community members, academics, business owners, students, clergy, parents and children. Discussions have not always been easy, but have been highly valued by the people participating.

The first session of Envisioning Justice ( hosted 15 different courses between 5 neighborhood hubs (Bronzeville, Back of the Yards, Little Village, North Lawndale and Rogers Park) including open house events for people from all across Chicagoland. 42 teaching artists were employed between these hubs to guide participants. Envisioning Justice partnered with more than 40 different Chicago Public Schools across Chicago.

Each Envisioning Justice hub, led by a community-based organization, will continue to offer arts classes and public humanities programs within their respective communities to explore questions, imagine solutions and alternatives to the problems inherent in the criminal justice system in their upcoming sessions.  Methods of exploration are as different as each community, with some using hip hop peace circles, visual arts or painting as their vehicle, while others prefer storytelling performances, writing classes and multimedia collaborative art projects.

Upcoming activities include events happening all over Chicago in locations beyond the hubs and with a wide variety of community and cultural groups as partners. Justice Dialogues, a series of community-based discussions, will take place in many corners of the city. Smaller community grants for unique projects have been made to a wide variety of groups from across the cultural, demographic and geographic landscape.

Information on all Envisioning Justice hubs follows:

Back of the Yards
The #BreathingRoom Space, operated by the #LetUsBreathe Collective, is a Black-led liberation hub for arts, organizing, and healing on Chicago's South Side.  Imagining a world without prisons and police is the creative lens that will inform the Envisioning Justice programming in the Back of the Yards community. Hub Director: Kristiana Rae Colón

Bright Star Community Outreach will coordinate programming in conjunction with its existing community advocacy and partnerships - aimed at addressing youth trauma, mental health, and violence in the Bronzeville community. Hub Director: Nichole Carter

Little Village
OPEN Center for the Arts anchors Envisioning Justice's programming in La Villita and will work with a variety of community groups and members to support arts education which will in part focus on the local impact of the current immigration and deportation systems. Hub Director: Gabriella Juarez

North Lawndale
BBF Family Services, with support from Urban Gateways, is directing Envisioning Justice in North Lawndale. Throughout the initiative, BBF will focus its arts and humanities programming on restorative justice and re-entry back into the community. Hub Director: Jeramey Winfield

Rogers Park
Circles & Ciphers is a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by violence.  The Rogers Park hub's method of bringing traditional peace circles, hip-hop music and art together will be at the core of Envisioning Justice programming. Hub Director: AnnMarie Brown

Cook County Department of Corrections and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center

Through Envisioning Justice, Illinois Humanities has partnered with Hub Directors Ryan Keesling (of Free Write Arts & Literacy) and Billy McGuinness (of SkyART and Just Art) to expand upon their organizations' long-standing arts programming in both the Cook County Jail and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

"At a time of historic divisiveness, we need to hear from individuals and communities directly affected by the justice system," said Julia Stasch, president of the MacArthur Foundation ( at the April launch event. "Envisioning Justice will communicate the value of their lived experience and concrete visions for a more just system, with a goal of informing plans for reform that will help repair relations with Chicago communities and restore confidence in the legitimacy of public institutions."

About Envisioning Justice ( Created and facilitated by Illinois Humanities, Envisioning Justice will engage Chicagoans, of all neighborhoods, races, socio-economic backgrounds, and with a diversity of perspectives, in a citywide conversation about the impact of incarceration in local communities and will invite residents to use the arts and humanities to devise strategies for lessening this impact. Envisioning Justice seeks to strengthen efforts to reimagine our criminal legal system and is inspired by the goals of justice, accountability, safety, support, and restoration for all people.  Follow #Envisioning Justice at @EnvisioningJustice on Facebook ( and @envisionjustice on Twitter (

About Illinois Humanities: Our mission is to strengthen the social, political and economic fabric of Illinois through constructive conversation and community engagement.

Kitty Kurth
Source:Illinois Humanities - Envisioning Justice
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Tags:Illinois Humanities, Arts & Incarceration, Cook County Jail
Location:Chicago - Illinois - United States
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