Exploration of how arts and culture and community organizing challenge traditional notions of community justice, and how they can be reimagined.
May 4, 2022
Please join us as we explore how arts and culture and community organizing challenge traditional notions of community justice, and how they can be reimagined. We will discuss how community leaders are radically transforming their communities by addressing current and historically unjust laws, policies and conditions at the local, state and national levels. Join practitioners Syrita Steib of Operation Restoration, Ayanna M. Cole of Carnegie Hall, and Mordecai Cargill and Brandon Wafford of ThirdSpace Action Lab. This virtual conversation is dedicated to sharing and learning how creativity, mindfulness, and moral clarity are being used to advance criminal justice organizing and systems change.
This webinar is sponsored by the Kresge Foundation. In 2019, the Kresge Arts & Culture and Human Services Programs supported a cohort of five community-based organizations using arts and culture to reimagine justice in their local communities. This webinar provides an opportunity to learn from two of the participating organizations and will highlight some emerging learnings from the initiative and ThirdSpace Action Lab’s engagement with the cohort.
Mordecai Cargill, co-founder + creative director of ThirdSpace Action Lab + Third Space Café
Mordecai Cargill is a co-founder and Creative Director of ThirdSpace Action Lab + Third Space Café. Prior to this exciting venture, he served as the Director of Strategy, Research & Impact at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, an intermediary whose mission is to foster communities of choice + opportunity throughout Cleveland, where Mordecai provided oversight and analysis for the implementation of CNP’s 2017–2021 strategic plan. He joined the CNP team in 2014 as Manager of Fund Development; during his time there, he also contributed to CNP’s emerging Policy, Advocacy & Research body of work, and co-led the organization’s efforts to elevate racial equity + inclusion as a citywide community development priority. Mordecai earned his Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies from Yale University, with a concentration on Black Culture in the 20th century. He was awarded the William Pickens Prize for his senior thesis, entitled, “The Black Arts Iconography of John Coltrane.”
Brandon Wafford, Analyst at ThirdSpace Action Lab
Brandon Wafford is an Analyst at ThirdSpace Action Lab. In this role, he supports client engagement and racial equity research and analysis. A Chicago-native, Brandon came to Cleveland as a Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow working with Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Director's Office. In partnership with The Office of Homeless Services, Brandon interviewed local nonprofit leaders within the Continuum of Care to assess the impact of the COVID-19 relief funds on local organizations and their clients. Previously, Wafford was a Versatile Research Fellow with Stanford’s Center for Inequality and Poverty national research endeavor, American Voices Project. Brandon holds a B.A. in Spanish and Sociology from Denison University and is a proud Posse Foundation alumnus.
Ayanna M. Cole
Director, Social Impact Programs, Carnegie Hall
Ayanna M. Cole is a social impact leader committed to serving youth in historically underserved communities by cultivating partnerships with institutions that can help level the playing field that structural racism made unequal. Ayanna draws from a unique combination of corporate, media, grassroots, and nonprofit experiences, collaboratively and creatively seeking solutions to complex social challenges with youth and partners across NYC.
In addition to her commitment to youth advocacy, Ayanna has served various functions in small and large media production companies, including as a Producer at A&E Television Networks/ History Channel. At A&E, Ayanna co-produced an Emmy Award-winning special for middle school and high school students illustrating the life altering impact of drug addiction and the strength of recovery.
Ayanna founded Life Light Street Productions, a street outreach program that taught youth how to produce social issue documentary films. She also serves as the Director of Social Impact Programs at Carnegie Hall’s Weil Music Institute. Ayanna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morgan State University, a Masters of Business Administration from Fordham University, and a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University. She is determined to use her life so others
may live better.
Founder and Executive Director, Operation Restoration
A native of Vacherie, Louisiana, Syrita Steib graduated from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center as a licensed and certified clinical laboratory scientist. In 2016, Syrita founded Operation Restoration, a New Orleans-based nonprofit that works to support women and girls impacted by incarceration to recognize their full potential, restore their lives and discover new possibilities.
Syrita is recognized nationally for her work on dismantling the legal system and removing barriers for women and girls impacted by incarceration while transitioning back into the community. She serves on numerous local and national boards and appears regularly as a keynote speaker and panelist on topics of incarceration and injustice. Syrita was one of 73 people granted a full and unconditional presidential pardon in January 2021.
With her science background, Syrita was named by 500 Women Scientists as one of five Fellowship for the Future fellows. Her fellowship project is to train incarcerated women as lab assistants for healthcare facilities. In 2021, she was recognized as one of the New Orleans 500, New Orleans Women of the Year and a Young Leadership Council Role Model.
Syrita was also a 2020 recipient of the Rubinger Fellowship; 2020 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Angel Award Honoree; and recipient of the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund. In addition, she is serving a three-year term on the Bureau of Governmental Research board of directors and was named a Culture of Health leader by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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