TOMORROW (ALL DAY): NEIU’s Day of Reflection on Mass Incarceration

Dear UPI – look through and bring your classes and offices to one or more of the events scheduled tomorrow for NEIU’s Day of Reflection on Mass Incarceration. Thanks to FIST and the Justice Studies Club and all speakers for this wonderful event. This will keep us focused on what a university is all about–namely, thinking and acting together collectively.

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NEIU’S DAY OF REFLECTION ON MASS INCARCERATION
(Brought to you by the Justice Studies Club and FIST (Formerly Incarcerated (Students) Standing Together))

SCHEDULE

9:00 Coffee and Registration

10:00 Opening: Mass Incarceration: The New Barracoons in the United States.

Dr. Josef Ben Levi, Ed.D. teaches in NEIU’s Departments of Sociology and Philosophy and in the African and African-American Studies Program. He is interested in the works of pre-Socratic, Socratic and Islamic and African philosophers, as well as ancient African and African American history. He has published, traveled, and lectured widely on a variety of topics related to his fields of interest.

11:00 Session 1 Immigration and Incarceration: Dreamers in America

Carolina Vasquez is the president of Undocumented, Resilient, and Organized (URO) and an undocumented student at NEIU. She is in her second year and working on a computer science major.

Session 2 Living After Lockdown

Originally from Columbus Ohio, Rachel (Rusty) Hall works with U2RSpecial and served 3 years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Rusty is proud to have earned her BA from NEIU and is currently enrolled in NEIU’s MA Program for Community and Teacher Leaders. Her youngest daughter attends Northeastern as well. Upon graduation, Rusty plans to return to Ohio and open up a Community & Educational Action Center.

Session 3 Youth Agency and Resiliency: A Case Study of the “Si Se Puede” Church in Mexican Chicago.

Benjamin Estrada has been a community youth outreach mentor working in Little Village for the past 13 years and serves as the Director of Sport Development for the Urban Life Skills Organization. Jorge Roque has been working with gang-involved youth for over 20 years, with organizations such as the University of Chicago gang reduction program, the CPS gang intervention pilot program, and Ceasefire Interrupters. Jorge currently mentors gang-involved youth on probation for the Urban Life Skills Program. Miguel A. Saucedo is a native of Little Village and a recent PhD graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation focused on the academic achievement, suspension and expulsion, and criminalization of Mexican American male students in Chicago Public Schools. He currently serves as the executive director for the Chicago Youth Boxing Club.

Session 4 Expunging Crime, Changing Lives

Tom Verdun is an attorney working with the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. His practice addresses educational and legal issues facing urban youth, and he works to help youth and adults expunge criminal records so they can define their own future.

12:00 Lunch Welcome from NEIU President Richard Helldobler

1:00 Session 1 Participatory Action Research: Inserting Voice into Discussions of Re-Entry

Marlon Mitchell is a Ph.D. student in the College of Education at UIUC, and he is also pursuing an advanced graduate certificate in Public Policy Analysis at Northwestern University. Marlon founded FirstFollowers Reentry Program, a not-for-profit agency that helps formerly incarcerated individuals secure housing, employment, education, and other needs, and has given several statewide talks on criminal justice reform in Illinois. Bethany Britton is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at UIUC. Charles Davidson, Chris Minor and Tamika Davis are formerly incarcerated individuals who serve as peer mentors at FirstFollowers.

Session 3 Theater, Arts, and Incarceration: One Woman’s Story

Monica Cosby works with Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration and the Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois. A born activist, her father was African American, her mother white. They got together in 1966, when interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 states (although not Illinois), and chose not to marry as a gesture of solidarity with couples who couldn’t marry. From the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Monica was lost to incarceration for 20 years. She is a mother, grandmother, poet, activist, and abolitionist who believes in the arts, in the power of the people, and, in the words of Assatta Shakur, “in the sweat of love.”

Session 4 Expunging Crime, Changing Lives

Tom Verdun is an attorney working with the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. His practice addresses educational and legal issues facing urban youth, and he works to help youth and adults expunge criminal records so they can define their own future.

2:00 Session 1 Ceasing the Fire: Violence Interruption in Chicago

Angalia Bianca grew up in the CHA housing projects where bullets would ricochet past her head daily. She saw many young people killed from gun violence and realized that she would die alone in the streets if she did not change her life. After her last incarceration, she began working for CeaseFire IL as a violence interrupter, and she currently works in the CeaseFire/Cure Violence headquarters at UIC. She is a student in NEIU’s University Without Walls Program and works relentlessly to help young adults involved in high risk activity make better choices to save their lives.

Session 2 Dance, Movement, and Freedom

Anna Martine Whitehead works with the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Projectand makes moves for an uncertain planet. They have shown work across North America and have contributed to projects by Jefferson Pinder, taisha paggett, Every house has a door, Keith Hennessy, and Julien Prévieux. Martine has written about Black and queer performance practices for outlets including C Magazine, Art Practical, and Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance. Their first chapbook “TREASURE | My Black Rupture” debuted last spring.

Session 3 Restorative Justice in Practice: Working and Learning at a Teaching Café for Youth

Ashor Jajou is an NEIU graduate who earned his MSW from UIC and currently works as a social worker at Curt’s Café. He provides case management; group consultation; one-on-one counseling; academic advising; financial aid advising; job placement support; assistance with probation officers, Medicaid and SNAP; access to community mentors; and more to youth on parole or probation.

Session 4 The State of the State: Illinois’ Incarceration Dilemma

Marlon Mitchell is a Ph.D. student in the College of Education at UIUC, and he is also pursuing an advanced graduate certificate in Public Policy Analysis at Northwestern University. Marlon founded FirstFollowers Reentry Program, a not-for-profit agency that helps formerly incarcerated individuals secure housing, employment, education, and other needs, and has given several statewide talks on criminal justice reform in Illinois.

3:00 Roundtable: Mass Incarceration and Modern Day Slavery? Lessons from the Past and for the Future

Members of FirstFollowers (UIUC), Troy Harden (NEIU), Monica Cosby (Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration), and Erica Meiners

ORGANIZATIONS REPRESENTED AT TODAY’S EVENT

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club is a non-profit organization in Little Village, Chicago. Staff and board members act as family to youth facing the challenges of inner-city life. We provide professional boxing instruction, educate youth in work-readiness skills and nutrition, and aspire to integrate entire families into our programming.

CeaseFire is the Illinois partner of Cure Violence and uses a public health approach to interrupt violence and change behaviors to reduce violence in Chicago, the United States, and eight different countries around the world. Cure Violence is a proven, evidence-based program, which when implemented typically results in a 35-64% reductions in shootings and homicides. Cure Violence is ranked #12 among the top 500 NGO’s in the world.

Curt’s Café is a teaching café with two locations in Evanston, one for young men and one for young women. The café uses a restorative model of justice to mentor youth on probation or parole as it offers them training in culinary skills and the restaurant business, job and educational support, and more.

Founded in 2015, FirstFollowers is a reentry program that uses a peer mentoring model: leadership comes from people who have been incarcerated. Mentors provide support to others facing the challenges of living with a felony conviction and a history of being in prison. FirstFollowers run a drop-in center to assist individuals in finding employment and housing and to meet other needs. In 2016, FirstFollower mentors led the first-ever needs assessment of people returning home from prison to Champaign County.

Since 1981, the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy has been ensuring justice and restoring hope with a lifeline of innovative, holistic legal and social work programs because ALL kids deserve: JUSTICE in the courtroom, ACCESS to the classroom, SUPPORT in the community

Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration is an intergenerational membership-based organization that builds the collective strength and power of mothers directly impacted by racial and economic injustice in Chicago.

The Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project is a coalition of artists, educators, and activists who teach university classes in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at Stateville Prison and facilitate exhibitions of work from incarcerated students. The group works to break down barriers between communities and prisons and to create a prison-free world.

The mission of the Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois is to build relationships with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people through inside ministry and to pursue advocacy based on what is learned. The Ministry works to ease people’s re-entry to society through connection with and support from Unitarian Universalist congregations and fights against mass incarceration and to create a future where restorative justice systems reflect UU values of justice, compassion, and respect.

Undocumented, Resilient and Organized is an organization that serves undocumented students and their allies on the NEIU campus. Our work focuses on educating those willing to learn about what it means to be undocumented and providing assistance/support to undocumented students at NEIU.

The Urban Life Skills Program is an intensive Gang Intervention Program in the Little Village Community founded upon mentoring. Each youth entering the program is assigned a mentor and provided a full array of services.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to NEIU, and especially the Student Government Association, for supporting our Day of Reflection on Mass Incarceration. Thanks to students, staff, administrators, faculty, and community members working toward new models of justice and freedom. We hope this day of reflection will contribute to the many actions being taken in Illinois and around the country to create lasting change.