Today Chicago Beyond has announced its partnership on the new #WeMatterToo campaign launched by Imagine Justice, the social impact organization founded by award-winning artist/activist and Chicago-native Common.
Unveiled this week, the #WeMatterToo campaign aims to help incarcerated people as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout America’s jails, prisons and detention centers at an alarming rate. In Chicago’s Cook County Jail, the infection rate is reportedly higher than most anywhere else in the country, underscoring the urgency of addressing the rapid spread of the virus amongst system-involved men, women and youth.
“COVID-19 has both highlighted and exacerbated the deep systemic inequities that existed long before the crisis hit, heightening the importance of finding solutions and building coalition across sectors to support individuals and families,” said Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond. “People of color across the country continue to be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, those of us in social impact spaces have a moral, social and economic obligation to act with urgency and compassion. Chicago Beyond is proud to stand with Common, Imagine Justice and the many partners who have joined forces behind the #WeMatterToo campaign. Now is the moment to demonstrate solidarity and exercise our humanity by showing up for all of society.”
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Chicago Beyond partnered with The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital to launch Beyond Incarceration — a program to reconnect incarcerated individuals with their children and loved ones in a safe, family-friendly environment. The growing public health crisis has heightened concerns about the high risk of exposure to COVID-19 that currently incarcerated people, as well as those who are returning home to their families and communities, face. As part of the Going Beyond COVID-19 relief initiative, Chicago Beyond focused part of its efforts on providing hygiene supplies and food for individuals being released from Cook County Jail.
“The reality is that far too many people remain unnecessarily incarcerated in our jails and prisons, where social distancing and preventive measures like handwashing with soap and use of hand sanitizer are difficult to implement and sustain. This truth combined with the fact that many of these men, women and children have compromised immune systems makes the exposure risks that much more dire,” said Nneka Jones Tapia, Leader-in-Residence at Chicago Beyond and former warden of Cook County Department of Corrections. “Our hope is that the #WeMatterTooCampaign will help to further amplify the obligation to drastically reduce the number of people who are incarcerated using guidelines for safety and improve the living conditions within correctional facilities for those who remain.”
The #WeMatterToo campaign kicked off with the premiere of a new short film produced in collaboration between Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Imagine Justice and the MacArthur Foundation that is directed by filmmaker Savannah Leaf and executive produced by Common. The film showcases the voices of those currently incarcerated at facilities around the country to amplify their stories and illustrate what’s going on behind the walls of the U.S. criminal justice system as COVID-19 continues to spread.
“Let this time show us that we are all interconnected. We have to be there for our vulnerable communities including our people who are currently incarcerated. Our fates are tied together so we must be courageous and act now. I’m proud to launch #WeMatterToo today alongside 60+ organizations who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. Every single life matters,” said Common, Imagine Justice Founder and Emmy, Grammy and Academy Award Winning Artist.
Chicago Beyond joins a coalition of local and national organization supporting the #WeMatterToo campaign, including Color of Change, ACLU, Alliance For Safety and Justice, Chicago Votes, For Freedoms, The Gathering For Justice, The Sentencing Project, United We Dream, Vera Institute For Justice, and many more.
ABOUT #WEMATTERTOO CAMPAIGN
#WeMatterToo is a grassroots movement, started by Imagine Justice and Anti-Recidivism Coalition, composed of organizations, artists and thought leaders who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. #WeMatterToo will look to change the national narrative around COVID-19 and our criminal justice system, pressure public officials to take action to remedy the situation, amplify the voices and stories of people who are incarcerated and empower communities to be agents of change. For more information, visit www.wemattertoo.co.
ABOUT IMAGINE JUSTICE
Centered at the intersection of art and activism, Imagine Justice is dedicated to leveraging the power of art to advocate for communities around the country, to fight for justice and equality and to stand united against injustice wherever it appears. Common’s Imagine Justice focuses on criminal justice reform, coalition/community building, immigration, bringing humanity to communities who are often dehumanized in society, civic engagement and leveraging the power of art to inspire and spark change. For more information, visit www.imaginejusticenow.com.