These are the 2022 Leaders for a New Chicago.

They are artists, advocates, educators, organizers, social change agents and storytellers. Coming from different geographic backgrounds and income levels, these leaders represent a diversity of age, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation.

Like our previous Leaders for a New Chicago cohorts, ALL of them are redefining leadership in Chicago. As we think about dialogues around relief, recovery and reimagining in the city, leadership is an essential element.

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 program is unique because leaders select leaders. For this year’s selection committee, we invited last year’s awardees to lead the process and identify the 2022 cohort. Meet the 2022 Leaders for a New Chicago.

Photos by Felton Edward Kizer

Kevin Iega Jeff

Co-Founder, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and Creative/Executive Director, Deeply Rooted Productions

Kevin Iega Jeff (he/him/his) is a co-founder of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT) and creative/executive director of Deeply Rooted Productions, DRDT’s umbrella organization. Jeff is an accomplished dancer, award-winning choreographer, acclaimed artistic director, thought leader, teacher, and mentor for young artists. His work addresses socially relevant issues and has been featured in high-profile productions, such as Spike Lee's movie “She's Gotta Have It,” The National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Awards, and the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Antonio Gutierrez

Strategic Coordinator and Co-Founder, Organized Communities Against Deportations

Antonio Gutierrez (they/them/theirs) is the strategic coordinator and co-founder of Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), an organization that defends its communities, challenges the institutions that target and dehumanize them, and builds collective power. Gutierrez uses their voice to influence the mainstream narrative that impacts them and their community. Gutierrez has helped co-found three social justice organizations in the Chicago area and has been recognized as a change agent on the Windy City Times “30 under 30” list.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Trina Reynolds-Tyler

Director of Data, Invisible Institute

Trina Reynolds-Tyler (she/her/they/them) is director of data for Invisible Institute, whose mission is to enhance the capacity of citizens to hold public institutions accountable. Before joining the institute in 2016, Reynolds-Tyler was an organizer, participating in a 2015 campaign calling for the firing of the off-duty police officer who killed Rekia Boyd. In 2019, Reynolds-Tyler was a human rights intern with the Human Rights Data Analysis group. She received a Master of Public Policy in 2020 from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Scheherazade Tillet

Co-Founder and Executive Director, A Long Walk Home

Scheherazade Tillet (she/her/hers) is a photo-based artist, curator, and feminist activist who explores the themes of Blackness, play, freedom, trauma, and healing. She is currently the Executive Director of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that she founded with her sister, Salamishah, in 2003, that uses art to empower young people to end violence against girls and women. Tillet has dedicated her life's work to Black girls, including those who have been marginalized by society and victims of all forms of violence. Her work has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Columbia University, Rutgers University-Newark, Project of Empty Space, Woman Made Gallery, Museum of Science of Industry, and featured in Gagosian Quarterly, The New York Times, The Cut, The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Teen Vogue, ELLE Decor, and Vice. Tillet is nationally recognized for raising public consciousness, changing cultural narratives, and advancing research and policy.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Dixon Romeo

De facto Leader, Not Me We

Dixon Romeo (he/him/his) is the de facto leader of Not Me We—a community organization focusing on housing, organization education, and mutual aid, which evolved from weekly mutual aid grocery distribution and tenant organizing in 2020. Not Me We is now fiscally sponsored by Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), of which Dixon is a member, and is active in the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition. STOP’s mission is to advance economic and social human rights by organizing and developing leadership among people most affected by economic and racial oppression.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Irene Romulo

Development and Community Engagement Coordinator and Co-Founder, Cicero Independiente

Irene Romulo (she/her/hers) is the development and community engagement coordinator and a co-founder of Cicero Independiente, a hyperlocal, bilingual news outlet focused on government accountability and cultural presence in Cicero. Romulo is an advocate, community organizer, and journalist from Cicero. Prior to launching Cicero Independiente in 2019, Romulo worked in abolitionist organizing with Organized Communities Against Deportations. Romulo participated in City Bureau’s reporting fellowship program and was an Ida B. Wells Fellow at Type Investigations.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

avery r. young

Award-winning artist, composer, and producer. Teaching artist, Urban Gateways

avery r. young (he/him/his) is an award-winning artist, composer, and producer and a teaching artist with Urban Gateways, which helps youth to overcome social and economic barriers so they can access Chicago's artistic and cultural vitality. young’s work focuses on social justice, equity, queer identity, and body consciousness. Through his teaching artistry, he has mentored and influenced a new generation of Chicago artists and thinkers, including Jamila Woods, Eve Ewing, Erika Esperanza-Dickerson and Xavier Ramey.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Tanya Watkins

Executive Director, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation

Tanya Watkins (she/her/hers) is the executive director of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), a multi-issue, faith-based, social justice organization that assists residents in building power. Under her leadership, SOUL has been pivotal in the fight for police accountability and community investment in Chicago and helped pave the way for the passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act. Watkins serves on the board of directors for the BlackRoots Alliance and on the advisory board for Black Lives Matter Chicago.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Emily Blum

Executive Director, Disability Lead

Emily Blum (she/her/hers) is executive director of Disability Lead, a Chicago-based nonprofit network that works toward fostering an equitable and inclusive society by developing power and leadership roles for people with disabilities. As a seasoned nonprofit leader and a woman who experiences a disability, her work with Disability Lead is both personal and professional. Prior to joining Disability Lead, Blum held senior positions at leading nonprofits in Chicago, including Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago Humanities Festival, and Heartland Alliance.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer

Dr. Dorene P. Wiese

Chief Executive Officer, American Indian Association of Illinois

Dr. Dorene P. Wiese (she/her/hers), an Ojibwe tribal member, is chief executive officer of the American Indian Association of Illinois, an urban-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming American Indian education into an experience founded in Native culture, language, and history. Wiese is a political strategist, educator, organizer, artist, media agent, and leader in the Urban American Indian movement. She is a founding member of the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative. In 1972, she became the first American Indian filmmaker in Chicago.

Photo by Felton Edward Kizer