Contact: Sabrina L. Miller
FIELD & MACARTHUR FOUNDATIONS ANNOUNCE
2021 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO
10 Leaders awarded for groundbreaking work across the city
CHICAGO – The Field Foundation, in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced the 2021 Leaders for a New Chicago cohort. The leadership awards, created in 2019, are part of Field’s ongoing investment in racial justice visionaries and organizations addressing systemic issues in Chicago’s historically underserved communities. The MacArthur Foundation committed $2.1 million to support the awards to recognize and support a diverse group of leaders from communities directly impacted by Chicago’s history of structural racism, discrimination, and disinvestment.
Each Leader will receive a no-strings-attached award for $25,000 in recognition of past accomplishments, and their affiliated organizations each will receive an additional $25,000 general operating grant.
The 10 leaders, whose work aligns with Field’s grantmaking areas of Justice, Media & Storytelling, and Art, represent a diversity of religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and expertise, and individuals from different geographies and income levels. Some are CEOs and executive directors, some are creators and co-founders, some are activists and organizers, and some are part of collective, shared leadership models.
“We continue to be inspired by these powerful visionaries,” said Field Foundation Leadership Investment Program Officer Hilesh Patel. “The Leaders for a New Chicago Award continues to find where power lives inside our communities, and provides the support and funding these folks need to dream bigger so they can continue to create change.”
Said MacArthur Senior Program Officer, Chicago Commitment, Geoffrey Banks: “We are proud to play a part in elevating the voices of individuals who are leaders in their communities and professional fields and to provide them with unrestricted support to keep pursuing their goals and personal growth as they change the landscape of our city.”
2021 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO:
LaSaia Wade, founder and executive director, Brave Space Alliance
Wade founded Brave Space Alliance, Chicago’s first Black-led, transgender-staffed LGBTQ center located on the South Side designed to create and provide affirming and culturally competent services for the entire LBGTQ+ community in Chicago. These services include mutual aid programs, a food crisis pantry, support groups, an LGBTQ + BIPOC-centered job board, HIV-testing and more. She is amplifying the voices of transgender people of color in Chicago and building their capacity and decision-making at individual, community and city-wide policy levels.
Grace Pai, director of organizing, Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Chicago
As an experienced community organizer with a demonstrated history of working to advance racial, economic, social, and environmental justice, Pai has built strong relationships with local institutions and elected officials to build coalitions and pass legislation. Recently, she played an integral role in the Illinois Legislature passing The Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act (TEAACH) mandating Asian American history be taught in all Illinois public schools.
Damon A. Williams, co-director, #LetUsBreathe Collective
Williams is a movement builder, organizer, hip-hop performing artist, educator and media maker from the South Side of Chicago. He has led direct action and program development that started with mobilizing resources to support the Ferguson, MO. uprisings following the 2014 death of Michael Brown by police. As the Movement 4 Black Lives emerged, #LetUsBreathe became the primary bridge between Ferguson and Chicago. Williams organized a mass effort to redistribute police funding toward health facing services in the city.
Tony Alvarado-Rivera, executive director, Chicago Freedom School
Alvarado-Rivera creates a unique and radical educational space in Chicago dedicated to youth activism, leadership, and movement building. Last summer, on the evening of the George Floyd protests in the Chicago Loop, Chicago Freedom School opened its doors in the South Loop to young protestors and were cited by the Chicago Police Department. In response, Alvarado-Rivera led a 10-count lawsuit against the city citing that the victims’ constitutional rights to free speech and freedom from “unreasonable illegal search” were violated.
Aislinn Pulley, co-executive director, Chicago Torture Justice Center
In her role with Chicago Torture Justice Center, Pulley works toward healing for survivors and communities impacted by police violence in a practice that is survivor-led and built on shared power. A founding member of Black Lives Matter’s local Chicago chapter, she helped to bring the nationwide impact of racial justice work home to Chicago in response to the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO. police. She works with movement leaders nationwide and continues to connect Chicago Torture Justice Center’s work to broader dialogues around reparations.
Brandon “Chief Manny” Calhoun, co-founder, the Era Footwork Crew
Calhoun is recognized as one of the strongest voices in Chicago for dance and is committed to using footwork as a connector and teaching tool to bring communities across the city together, while simultaneously bringing attention to the South and West Sides of Chicago. In 2014, he co-founded the Era Footwork Crew. Pioneers of Chicago footwork, a style of music and battle dance that’s been gathering pace in Chicago since the late 90s, the Era Footwork Crew has expanded upon what it means to be a dance crew, addressing inequality and racism through their practice.
Malik Gillani, co-executive artistic director, Silk Road Rising
Through Silk Road Rising, Gillani has long challenged the misperceptions and inequities reinforced in traditional theater practices and institutional theater models. In his role as co-executive artistic director, he counters negative images and stereotypes of Asian, Middle Eastern and Muslim people with representation grounded in authentic, multi-faceted, human experiences. His presence in the performing arts sector is vital to a field that struggles to decenter whiteness within storytelling and performance.
Meida Teresa McNeal, artistic and managing director, Honey Pot Performance
With Honey Pot Performance, McNeal supports the development of new works by artists of color aligned with its commitment to performance, storytelling, and the Black experience. She drove and helped launch the Chicago Black Social Culture Map, documenting Black social life through live programs, a digital map, and archiving events. A multi-organizational collaboration, Chicago Black Social Culture Map researched Chicago’s Black social culture across the 20th century from the First Great Migration through the birth of House music.
Monica Lynne Haslip, founder and executive director of Little Black Pearl
Initially operating out of her home 26 years ago, Haslip founded Little Black Pearl as an innovative arts and culture institution designed to create positive vehicles for children and families to thrive. She has utilized the Little Black Pearl platform to demonstrate the power of art as a social justice tool, using imagination and the critical role of transformation in meeting community needs. Her philosophy and art practice are anchored in racial equity and the intersection of art, education and community development.
MEDIA & STORYTELLING
Maira Khwaja, director of public strategy at Invisible Institute
Since joining the organization in 2016, Khwaja has built an entire area of the organization around civic education and sustained listening, and has facilitated citywide public dialogues to eradicate police misconduct. As managing editor of the recently released Chicago Police Torture Archive, Khwaja played a central role in shepherding a four-year project to document torture experienced by over 100 Black people and make their stories and legal papers accessible to students, families, organizers, researchers, and attorneys.
This year, Leaders from the 2020 cohort recommended the 2021 award recipients and served on the Award Selection Committee, which is co-facilitated by Field Foundation Leadership Investment Program Officer Hilesh Patel and MacArthur Foundation Senior Program Officer Geoffrey Banks.
About the Field Foundation
Founded in 1940 by Marshall Field III, the Field Foundation is a private, independent foundation that has been dedicated to the promise of Chicago for more than 80 years. The Field Foundation aims its grantmaking toward the goal of Community Empowerment through Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. With racial equity at the center of its giving, it directs dollars to critical organizations working to address systemic issues in Chicago and aims to directly benefit some of our city’s most divested communities. Learn more at www.fieldfoundation.org.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. MacArthur has invested $1.4 billion in more than 1,600 organizations and individuals across the Chicago region—more than any other place in the world. The Foundation’s Chicago Commitment is focused on strengthening organizations, contributing to civic partnerships, investing in vital communities, advancing influential and diverse leaders, and cultivating creative expression and art. Learn more at www.macfound.org/chicago