Social Justice Initiative receives grant for ‘Intellectual Quilting’ think tanks

Barbara Ransby

Barbara Ransby, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies and History; Director, Social Justice Initiative at UIC
Photo: Jenny Fontaine

The Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago has received a grant from the Lannan Foundation to convene a series of education-focused national think tanks.

The aim of the seminars will be to engage researchers, civic leaders and community organizers in dialogues over the coming year pertaining to social and racial justice issues.

A goal is to encourage scholars to speak to non-academic partners in an accessible language to underscore the “reciprocity inherent in all learning,” says Barbara Ransby, director of the SJI and principal investigator for the $50,000 grant.

“We hope to build new bridges of understanding and new bases for collaboration,” said Ransby, who is professor of African American Studies and History.  “We think of this as a kind of ‘intellectual quilting’ as we stitch together ideas and information drawn from a variety of sources inside and outside the academy, with social justice as our theme.”

Since its inception in 2012, SJI has worked to build ties between academics and community social justice practitioners through conferences, seminars, public programming and informal gatherings.

Most recently, SJI concluded a yearlong Andrew Mellon Foundation-funded seminar at UIC, “Geographies of Justice,” which hosted scholars and artists from three continents to talk about issues related to education, prisons and wealth inequality.

With the funds from the Lannan Foundation, SJI will host three gatherings, involving some 50 participants, to wrestle with challenges facing social justice projects in various regions of the country. Topics include racism, poverty, violence, immigration, human rights, indigenous rights, ableism, LGBTQIA issues and gender justice.

The Lannan Foundation is a family organization dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects supporting exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities.

More about SJI and upcoming programs at

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