2020 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO

We are extremely proud to present the 2020 Leaders for a New Chicago.

Artists. Organizers. Journalists. Storytellers. Visionaries.

Like our 2019 group, these 11 individuals represent a broad array of Chicago residents, with strong representation from African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American (ALAANA) communities. These awardees include a diversity of religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and practice, and those from different geographies and income levels. Some are Executive Directors, some are co-founders, some are organizers, and some are part of collective or shared leadership models. The story that this cohort is telling isn’t just celebrating leadership, it is redefining leadership in the city of Chicago. More than ever, leadership, which is the umbrella over all our program areas at Field Foundation, needs to be part of the city and state dialogues around relief, recovery and reimagining.

This award recognizes past accomplishments in the fields of Justice, Art, or Media & Storytelling and promotes and advances a range of leaders whose influence will inform decision making across the city of Chicago. Each leader will receive a $25,000 cash award in recognition of past accomplishments, and their affiliated non-profit organizations will each receive an additional $25,000 general operating grant.

This year, we also asked our first round of awardees to be the voice in determining who comes next. Eight of the 2019 Leaders cohort made up the majority of the selection committee and join us in presenting this new cohort to you. Their unique perspective and experience working in justice, art, and media & storytelling was pivotal in picking the 2020 cohort. We look forward to seeing how this group of individuals collectively elevates leadership and equity in Chicago.

Please learn more about each of them below

Juliet De Jesus Alejandre

Executive Director - Logan Square Neighborhood Association

As of May 1, Juliet De Jesus Alejandre is the new executive director of Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), its first new executive director in more than 30 years. For 14 years under Juliet’s leadership, LSNA’s Youth Organizing Team developed a strong racial justice framework that centers Latinx youth from the community in actions, policy conversations, and strategy meetings. She leads Latinx youth to do the critical work of healing from internalized antiblackness and anti-indigeneity in order to heal and deepen organizing efforts across other communities. Growing up in the same community as LSNA’s youth leaders, she has done deep work around healing justice and racial and gender equity with youth and parent leaders both locally and regionally. She has also formally studied issues that most deeply impact ALAANA communities. Juliet’s work is both specifically local and strategically connected to city and statewide coalition building and national movements. LSNA’s Youth Organizing Team partners with other community-based organizations like Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, citywide coalitions and organizations such as Generation All, Grassroots Education Movement, and the Grassroots Collaborative, and statewide bodies such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the youth collaborative NextGen Illinois.

Though her previous title was youth director, Juliet had been recognized for a long time as an organizational leader, bringing a deep political analysis and organizing framework to issues that penetrate the neighborhood, especially as Logan Square has been experiencing an exponential increasing rate of gentrification. She leads collectively, bringing LSNA staff and youth into decision making and using every opportunity to build the capacity of those around her and has a commitment to racial justice and restorative practice. Educators, youth, restorative justice practitioners, and other community leaders who are currently working across Chicago credit her as the catalyst for leadership roles.

Hoda Katebi

Co-founder - Blue Tin Production Co-operative

Hoda Katebi is a community organizer and founding member of Blue Tin Production, an apparel manufacturing workers cooperative run by immigrant and refugee women using a creative, arts-based approach to systems change. Formally launched in January 2019, Blue Tin Production works to fill a major gap in sustainable and ethical production within the fashion industry while simultaneously centering the economic mobility of women of color who sit at the intersections of violence, trauma, and systemic oppression. Hoda populated Blue Tin with members ranging from domestic violence survivors from Nigeria to widows and single mothers fleeing the Syrian civil war and trained them to manage and run the cooperative independently in order to put agency and power back into the very hands of those who have been systematically disenfranchised. Hoda is also the voice behind JooJoo Azad, a creative political fashion online publication. She is an activist and community organizer and part of campaigns to end surveillance programs and police militarization.

Hoda’s work is centered on bringing an arts-based approach to systems change. She steadfastly built Blue Tin Production into a cooperative model that removes oppressive fast-fashion practices of extractive and dangerous work conditions. She created this fashion house that brings together those who have historically been most marginalized in this industry, working class women of color, to collectively profit from the work they create. In doing so, this organization shares power, agency, decision-making, and creative work. Ultimately, she works to destabilize historic notions devaluing the labor of women of color, while flipping structures of power within the fashion industry’s supply chain.

Elijah McKinnon

Co-Founder and Development Director - Reunion Chicago

Elijah McKinnon is the co-founder of Reunion Chicago, an exhibition space and project incubator prioritized for queer, women-identified and people of color in creative roles; is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of OTV - Open Television, a web TV platform for queer, trans and artists of color; co-produced and starred in Chicago's #PrEP4Love campaign; and is a curator in residence at Estudio Teorema, a culturally-charged activist gallery and production studio located in Guadalajara, Mexico. As an award-winning strategist, creative director, entrepreneur, artist and advocate, Elijah is on a mission to make “queer” an actionable verb in community, media and policy spaces. Elijah seeks to bring more understanding to queer history, queer artmaking and queer practices in Chicago.

In addition to serving as the Founder and Director of People Who Care, Inc. --- an independent consultancy that works exclusively with nonprofits and grassroots initiatives such as AIDS Foundation Chicago, Northwestern University, The Andy Warhol Foundation, Grindr for Equality, Raúl Anguiano Art Museum, Center for Disease Control and many more -- they are also deeply involved in queer, creative and philanthropic communities around the globe.

They are constantly moving and shaking in an attempt to build meaningful relationships and encourage resource sharing. Elijah’s artistic practice and advocacy work currently centers around the intersection between trauma, wellness, race, sexuality, gender, new media and storytelling. They push community and self-care to the forefront of all conversations and interactions, extolling values of healthy practices for all people to take care of themselves before they begin to guide a team or initiative.

Dorothy Burge

One of the original organizers and members - Chicago Torture Justice Memorials

Dorothy Burge is a multimedia artist and community activist who is inspired by both historic and current social justice issues. She is recognized by many as one of the strongest voices in Chicago for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture. In 2013, a 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 (no relation) and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991. Dorothy played an invaluable role on the negotiation committee with other representatives from Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), the People’s Law Office and Amnesty International. As part of a collective leadership model, she and others successfully advocated for the grandchildren of torture survivors to be recipients of free tuition at Chicago community colleges in addition to painstakingly working out the forms of redress in the package. Dorothy was also one of seven people who were invited to testify at the City Council Finance Committee hearing on the reparation’s ordinance, astutely making the point that “We have not come here talking in your traditional manner about justice. We are here talking about…the harm that was done to our community. We’re talking about who was involved in that harm and now what is needed to begin the healing process so we can be made whole.”

Dorothy is a quiet leader who is amplifying the voices of survivors of police torture and of activists in the movement. She is one of the key figures in Chicago who has changed the way police violence is publicly talked about and engaged with. She merges on-the-ground activism with a push to change city-wide perceptions and policy and brings together people from art, justice and grassroots organizing to work together towards a common goal. She designed curriculum to expose students to the problem of police violence but also to involve them in building further awareness and contributing to the work local organizations are doing to address police violence. A trusted voice across Chicago, she has a keen ability to work with, move through and influence diverse activist and civic communities. She did this on top of the work she did as a faculty member Associated Colleges of the Midwest Chicago Program where she taught seminars on systemic racism, criminal justice, and social problems for twenty-six years ending in 2019.

Ryan Keesling

Founder & Executive Director - Free Write Arts & Literacy

Ryan Keesling is an educator by training, artist by will, and prison abolitionist by necessity. As founder of Free Write Arts & Literacy, Ryan has worked in locked facilities, such as the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and in the community with criminalized youth and young adults for two decades. He specializes in designing arts-driven, healing-centered, liberatory pedagogies with criminalized youth as they move through and away from experiences with incarceration. Ryan is nationally recognized for his work as an arts educator, presenting at conferences such as Create Justice at Carnegie Hall and the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. He has trained hundreds of pre-service teachers and social workers at National Louis University, Northwestern University, the School of the Art Institute Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Loyola University, and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. As a steering committee member and hub director for Envisioning Justice, Ryan connects Free Write and partner organizations with national conversations, strategies, and resources. As an educator-turned-director of a non-profit, Ryan challenges the colonial structures embodied by philanthropy, acknowledging and calling out the connections between the Non-Profit and Prison Industrial Complexes.

As a DJ, producer, and audio engineer known as Ryan Searchl1te, Ryan has toured nationally and internationally while holding down DJ residencies on WNUR 89.3 FM and throughout Chicago’s underground dance music and club culture. He brings these skills to his students through Free Write’s Sound & Vision (S&V) program. S&V is committed to social justice and employment equity in the arts industry. S&V hires and trains alumni of Free Write Arts & Literacy and other young adults who have historically been excluded from the field, creating pathways into an industry that is in need of a diverse, young workforce.

Jackie Taylor

Founder and Executive Director - Black Ensemble Theater

Jackie Taylor, actress, producer, playwright and founder/executive director of Black Ensemble Theater (BE), created the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Founded in 1976 by Jackie, BE has grown from a small community arts organization to a vibrant nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. Over the last 45 years, Jackie has built BE into a platform for driving civic dialogue through theater, making racial equity primary in its mission and unapologetically centering Chicago as a national hub of production. As much as she is rooted in theater and the arts, Jackie is also an entrepreneur, utilizing the theater company as an agent for social change. Jackie’s latest initiative, Free To BE, aims to create a village surrounding the Black Ensemble Theater that will feed into the earned revenue of the theater so that it will sustain itself outside of the dependent revenue streams of ticket sales and fundraising. Free to BE is a 50 million dollar neighborhood revitalization plan that will accelerate economic development, create jobs, foster entrepreneurship, create affordable housing and provide earned revenue for Black Ensemble Theater. Grounded in collaboration with local community partners, businesses, cultural institutions, government leaders and strategic partners, the Free To BE Village will be an impactful cultural corridor that serves as a global model for engaged community development.

Jackie has a firm, immovable vision of racial equity in all her work. With a vision defining all aspects of BE, she has created a theater company committed to eradicating racism that is recognized throughout the nation for its outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs. As an actress she refused all roles that were derogatory in their portrayal of African Americans and made that a core mission of Black Ensemble Theater. As president of the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago for the past 24 years, Jackie has worked directly with most African American arts leaders in Chicago to help them strengthen capacity and grow their organizations. She has changed the culture, trajectory and narrative for hundreds of arts organizations and individual artists, providing resources, creating programs and developing systems that directly affect their sustainability and effectiveness.

Asiaha Butler

Co-founder and President - Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E)

Asiaha Butler is a community leader and president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), which uses education, youth development, economic development, and civic empowerment to uplift, inspire, and change perceptions of the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. As a key community strategist and through her use of social media, blogging, and other communication mediums, she has become one of the most recognized and powerful voices in the Englewood community. Her work in Englewood is a way to, in the words of many community members, “reclaim and rebrand” the neighborhood. She views community development as separate from real estate, empowering residents to recognize and uplift the positive things that already exist in the neighborhood and, subsequently, building the capacity of community members without sacrificing to gentrification. Her model is community development of the mind, which is an essential component to revitalization of a devastated community.

Asiaha galvanizes residents in the areas of civic engagement, education and youth development, economic development, arts activism and public safety, by hosting bi-monthly community village meetings where members and residents share information, discuss and debate current Englewood issues, and establish solution-based action plans to improve Greater Englewood. Through programs such as voter registration, anti-violence block parties on blocks grappling with high-crime violence, and engaged youth programming throughout Englewood. Butler has played a crucial role in Englewood’s 40 percent decline in shootings/homicides in 2019. Through R.A.G.E. she advocated, designed and implemented the Large Lot Program which allowed homeowners to purchase city owned lots for $1. She served as the Action Champion/Chair of the Englewood Quality of Life Housing and Public Spaces Task Force, leads the Buy the Block Home Ownership Campaign and R.A.G.E. served as the lead organization for the Englewood Public Safety Task Force for two years. Butler recently founded her own housing development company to ensure that housing development in Englewood happens from the bottom up to avoid gentrification or displacement of current residents. Asiaha’s authentic approach to community development sits on a foundation of grassroots, asset-based, change-making organizing driven by Englewood residents.

Faheem Majeed

Co-director - Floating Museum

Faheem Majeed currently serves as one of four co-directors at Floating Museum, a non-profit arts organization that creates a new model for exploring relationships between exhibitions, public art, community, and public institutions. Faheem is a builder—literally and metaphorically, using site-responsive art, design and programming to explore the potential in these relationships, considering the infrastructure, history and aesthetics of a space. A resident of the South Shore neighborhood in Chicago, Faheem often looks to the material makeup of his neighborhood and surrounding areas as an entry point into larger questions around civic-mindedness, community activism, and institutional critique. His work began at the South Side Community Arts Center (SSCAC), an organization underinvested in by the city and broader art community. As first a curator and then executive director, Faheem worked tirelessly alongside the community to address these obstacles and steer the Center towards continued expansion and improvement. The Floating Museum was conceived to bring art and cultural activities to multiple Chicago neighborhoods. For their 2017 project, “River Assembly,” the group transformed an industrial barge into a mobile gallery, bringing art and programming to sites around the city, reaching an estimated 100,000 viewers. “Cultural Transit Assembly,” their current project, is a public art activation of the CTA’s Green Line aimed to reach South and West Side residents. Beyond space and events, he believes in nurturing deep engagement with communities focused on mutually beneficial, sustainable partnerships between neighborhood spaces, municipal organizations, and larger cultural institutions.

Faheem blends his unique experience as a non-profit administrator, curator, and artist to create works that focus on institutional critique and exhibitions that leverage collaboration to engage his immediate and broader community in meaningful dialogue. At Floating Museum, he has a commitment to collective leadership, facilitation of public discourse, active listening, and generous community engagement. Faheem’s personal art practice has demonstrated a model of how to use art to facilitate and elevate important citywide conversations in areas like racial justice, access to cultural assets, and systemic disinvestment in communities.

Tiffany Walden

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief - The TRiiBE

As co-founder and editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE, Tiffany Walden has impressively built a news organization that has become a vital piece of Chicago’s media landscape and a voice for black Chicago. Tiffany began as a Breaking News reporter at the Orlando Sentinel before returning to Chicago to continue her reporting career and co-found, with Morgan Elise Johnson, The TRiiBE in 2017, an independent, alternative news source and digital media platform that is reshaping the narrative of black Chicago and giving ownership back to the people. As an on-the-ground reporter, editor, media visionary and fierce advocate for systemic change, she uses resources and access to advocate for others while also creating a pathway for them to gain agency. She envisioned The TRiiBE as a radical act to spark change in Chicago media. She has openly critiqued legacy media’s portrayals of black Chicagoans in crime reporting and opened the door for a new demographic of journalists and storytellers to reshape that narrative. Within The TRiiBE, she is rewriting the rules of media & storytelling, proving that the makers can also be the owners.

Since The TRiiBE’s founding, their audience grew to an average 30,000 monthly page views by spring 2020, with a combined social media following of over 15,000, making The TRiiBE a recognized and stalwart news source in Chicago. In 2018, they started partnering with the Chicago Reader to publish “The Block Beat,” an award-winning multimedia series about black Chicago musicians and the neighborhoods they cherish. Tiffany has placed outreach and community impact at the core of its mission, producing stories that spark necessary dialogue within Chicago’s black communities and reaching beyond the digital realm into face-to-face interactions. She pushes community access to news and information to the forefront, asserting, “It’s unfair to ask someone, ‘Can I come in your community and write a story on you?’ and then they turn around and don’t have access to that story.” Tiffany strives to repair the relationship between the most disenfranchised communities and the media while simultaneously humanizing black life.

Sharlyn Grace

Executive Director - Chicago Community Bond Fund

Sharlyn Grace is a founding member of Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) and currently serving as the executive director. She is a lifelong organizer who went to law school with the goal of using her legal skills, credentials, and access in support of grassroots movements for social change. In the eight years she has been doing justice work, she was the senior criminal justice policy analyst at Chicago Appleseed, managed a school-based restorative justice program in Back of the Yards, and coordinated the Juvenile Expungement Help Desk at the Cook County Juvenile Center. Having long been interested in racial and economic justice, she has steadily focused on changing the criminal legal system. Beginning in late 2015, Sharlyn was part of conversations about forming a policy change initiative that would eventually become the Coalition to End Money Bond. Since CCBF and the Coalition formed, the number of people in Cook County Jail has decreased from over 8,500 people per day to around 4,500 today. The use of money bonds has decreased by nearly 50 percent in Cook County thanks to pressure from litigation and community organizing led by CCBF and the Coalition under Sharlyn’s leadership. In 2020, Governor JB Pritzker announced his intention to end money bond, which is a testament to the efficacy of public education work done by CCBF and their partners. The movement to end money bail has shifted the politics of this issue such that it is not only safe but politically advantageous for the governor to announce this goal.

Sharlyn brings organizing experience and values into her role as a leader, building strong partnerships and coalitions and engaging individuals in both community organizing and policy change. She pushes CCBF forward by acknowledging that all the wins, both policy and on the ground, are not won alone. In the justice field, it is also essential that legal system reforms are addressed in a way that takes into account the US’s distinct histories of racial oppression and exclusion, particularly anti-Blackness, and seeks to highlight and move on root causes and not merely tangential or easy issues.

Stephanie Manriquez

Executive Producer and Educator - Yollocalli Arts Reach

Stephanie Manriquez is the executive producer and educator at Yollocalli Arts Reach, where she leads the Your Story, Your Way audio journalism program for youth and produces the organization’s radio programs. A Mexico City native, Stephanie has also reported on issues including adult education, literacy, housing, mental health and migration. While rooted at the National Museum of Mexican Art, her work involves close partnerships with many community organizations, including: Casa Aztlán, Frida Kahlo Community Organization, Elevarte Community Studios and the Resurrection Project. As an educator, she strikes the hard-to-find balance of pushing young people to challenge themselves while also allowing them to pursue their creative desires. As a radio producer and media maker, she creates politically engaged and socially conscious content while creating professional pathways for those around her, whether it's partnering with City Bureau, Medill's Social Justice News Nexus, Lumpen Radio or NPR. She has collaborated with and contributed to publications including Extra Newspaper, Remezcla, Pilsen Portal, Gozamos and Revista Contratiempo. Her extended collaboration with Contratiempo, a Latinx-led monthly Spanish-language magazine and 501(c)(3) literary and publishing center, since 2008, and as member of their editorial team since 2010, has allowed her to focus efforts on issues concerning Little Village and Pilsen’s immigrant community, development and arts and culture. She is a trusted voice and mentor in the Chicago radio community.

Stephanie helps train and mentors her community members to have access to the equipment, networks, and ecosystems for their voices to be shared between each other and their respective communities. As a teacher, she is mentoring the next generation of Latinx media makers and cultural workers, who are civically minded, and artistically innovative with a larger goal of changing the representation of public and alternative radio. As a journalist, she consistently speaks on the topics that most affect her communities. As a cultural organizer, she develops spaces for diverse voices to be heard and respected by a larger audience.