Illinois Humanities Awards Over $150,000 in Envisioning Justice Grants to 24 Organizations and Individuals

Pictured: Envisioning Justice grantee partner Faylita Hicks

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Illinois Humanities

Read Time 5 minutes
October 9, 2023

Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice grants support individuals and organizations throughout the state to develop arts- and humanities-based experiences that provide pathways for understanding the causes of mass incarceration and its impacts on communities in Illinois. 

A Diversity of Approach 

Fourteen organizations and ten individuals across the state received Envisioning Justice Grants for their project-specific work. These grantees demonstrate a deep commitment to restorative practices in service of individuals, families, and communities disrupted by the injustices of the carceral system.  

Among our latest grantee partner organizations, projects range from historical documentation and publishing, educational workshops, and skill sharing—exploring topics of literacy, sustainable food sourcing, police torture, transitioning home after incarceration, and more. Each organization received $8,000 to fund their goals.  

Grants were also awarded to individviduals who each received a minimum of $4,000 to fund their leadership of the projects below. This group of filmmakers, educators, performers, and more are engaging system-impacted communities in work that investigates and expands our understanding of the prison industrial complex. Their projects are a shining beacon of proof that these goals are not only within reach, but that they can be successfully put into practice. 

Meet the Grantees 

  • Beyond the Walls the Movement (Carbondale), to write and publish an Observation / Field Journal Workbook for the You Grow Girl Urban Garden Program. ($8,000) 
  • Chicago 400 Alliance (Chicago), to create a media archive documenting the impact of registries and housing banishment laws on the livelihood of formerly incarcerated individuals. ($8,000) 
  • Chicago Community Bond Fund (Chicago), to enable collaboration with directly impacted people to create a free zine that will shed light on the impacts of e-carceration. ($8,000) 
  • Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Foundation (Chicago), to support production of interviews with survivors, family members, and activists that will accompany the permanent memorial to Chicago police torture survivors that was legislated by the May 2015 reparations ordinance. ($8,000) 
  • Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices (Chicago), to support a day-long summit, which aims to raise awareness about the impact of long-term prison sentences on the lives of the formerly incarcerated, their families, and the communities they return to. ($8,000) 
  • FirstFollowers (Champaign), for production of a video showcasing public events hosted by FirstFollowers and the work the organization does to support individuals impacted by incarceration and violence. ($8,000) 
  • Knox College (Galesburg), for the continuation of an Inside-Out Prison Exchange program with outside (Knox College) students and inside (Henry Hill Correctional Center) students. ($8,000) 
  • Legacy Training and Development (Grand Chain), to support the second Southernmost Illinois Conference on Criminal Justice in May 2024 at Shawnee Community College. ($8,000) 
  • Liberation Library (Chicago), to create a quarterly magazine called Free the Dream, which provides a platform for incarcerated young people to share their own stories and connect with others in similar situations. ($8,000) 
  • North Park Theological Seminary School of Restorative Arts (Chicago), to create arts and humanities curricula and materials for the restorative arts degree program and the growing restorative arts library at Stateville and Logan Correctional Centers. ($8,000) 
  • Piven Theatre Workshop (Evanston), to support arts education workshops for incarcerated women at the Cook County Jail. ($8,000) 
  • Saint Leonard's Ministries (Chicago), to create a theatre piece featuring formerly incarcerated women that tell stories about different chapters in the lives of returning residents. ($8,000) 
  • Stomping Grounds Literary Arts Initiative (Chicago), for arts- and humanities-based workshops with young people at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. ($8,000) 
  • Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (Champaign), for “Voices of Freedom,” an impactful initiative designed to provide formerly incarcerated individuals with the necessary skills and resources to become effective public speakers on social justice issues and their lived experiences. ($8,000) 


  • Aaron Hughes (Chicago), for working with a group of incarcerated veterans at Stateville Prison to host discussion groups and develop a poetry chapbook. ($4,000) 
  • Alex Morelli (Chicago), for production costs and Illinois-based screenings of Untitled Death Row Memory Film, a documentary sharing the friendship between Morelli and Scott Dozier while he was serving time on death row in Nevada. ($4,000) 
  • Anna Martine Whitehead (Chicago), to support a performance of Visioning Beyond the Walls, which uplifts the stories and wisdom of Black women and femmes as the vanguard of caring for the incarcerated. ($4,000) 
  • Chastity Ann Michelle Gunn (Elgin), to develop workshops with young people in the juvenile detention center to write origin stories and create self-portraits to be displayed in local art installations. ($4,250) 
  • Faylita Hicks (Chicago), to support A New Name for My Love: The Live Experience (ANN4ML), a live performance exploring use of cash bail, the compounding violence of misdemeanors, what it means to create access to improved community resources, and innovative techniques for self-healing. ($4,000) 
  • India Hilty (Chicago), to support a publication created by and featuring writing and art from students in an inside-led Violence Prevention and Trauma Healing (VPTH) course. $4,000 + $200 accessibility stipend ($4,200) 
  • Joseph Dole (Joliet), to produce Using Art & Sarcasm to Educate about Criminal Justice Issues, a series of creative texts that encourage new perspectives on criminal-justice issues that are of pressing concern to people with long sentences. ($4,000) 
  • Kirsten Leenaars (Chicago), for screenings of Illinois Humanities-funded A Letter to the City: “jail is not my home” (2022), a video based on letters received from people that are currently incarcerated. ($4,000) 
  • Sojourner Zenobia (Chicago), to support Kindred Earth Collaboration, afro-futurist shorts that highlight five community healers living in North Lawndale and the medicinal plants growing there that mirror their transformative experiences. ($4,200) 
  • Sonja Henderson on behalf of the Mothers Healing Circle (Chicago), to support horticultural therapy with mothers impacted by community violence and grief. ($4,250)  

Envisioning Justice  is supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, the Mellon Foundation, and the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. 

About Envisioning Justice Grants

Through the Envisioning Justice Grants program, Illinois Humanities partners with groups throughout the state to use the arts and humanities to spark statewide conversations about the impact of mass incarceration, envision community-based solutions, and facilitate healing. Funding is available for individuals and organizations, including tax-exempt nonprofits, non-traditional collectives, and those working with fiscal sponsors.

Grants for Individuals

Grants for Organizations