Members Briefing Recap

A hand holding a pencil above a map of Illinois.
A hand holding a pencil above a map of Illinois.

What is redistricting? And why should we care?

To help answer these questions, we partnered with CHANGE Illinois for a virtual Members-only briefing led by guest speaker Liliana Scales (Advocacy Director, CHANGE Illinois), who demystified Illinois’s redistricting process for us and laid out a few simple ways we can all use our power to keep the process fair and equitable.

What is redistricting?

Every ten years following the United States Census, the state governments redraw the electoral districts, essentially deciding which communities vote for which representatives in local, state, and federal elections. This process is called redistricting.

A breakdown on how this happens…


A recap of our End-of-Year event

Despite a long and volatile year fraught with death and uncertainty, we created room for celebration and reflection in Advancing Power and Influence, our virtual end-of-year event (now live on our YouTube channel!). In addition to congratulating, announcing, and welcoming our Advancing Leadership Members and Fellows, we showcased three disability rights activists: the Honorable Congressman Tony Coelho, Keri Gray, and Lateef McLeod. Because we focused on our Members and Fellows in last week’s announcement post, today’s post will focus only on these three guests of honor.

Watch the video: Advancing Power and Influence

Too Pretty for Some Ugly Laws

Lateef McLeod is a nationally recognized poet…


2021 in giant pink and purple text and a graphic of colored paint-like illustrations of the headshots of all 16 fellows.
2021 in giant pink and purple text and a graphic of colored paint-like illustrations of the headshots of all 16 fellows.

On December 8th, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership announced its class of 16 Fellows for 2021! These accomplished leaders represent a cross-section of professionals from across the nonprofit, government, corporate, and education sectors in Illinois.

Four new individuals were also welcomed to the Members Network, now comprising almost 170 diverse leaders with disabilities. We also celebrate the 19 individuals who are graduating from the 2020 Leadership Institute this year.

What Gives Us Power

Nationally recognized poet, blogger, and activist, Lateef McLeod opened our closing end of year event with an impactful reading of his poem, “I am too pretty for some Ugly Laws.” Our 2020…


Apply to win our Excellence in Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Established in Honor of Michael W. Ferro Jr.

The top half of a young woman’s face looks up at a chalkboard with entrepreneur-related words written all over it in chalk.
The top half of a young woman’s face looks up at a chalkboard with entrepreneur-related words written all over it in chalk.

Calling all Advancing Leadership Members and Fellows: Are you an entrepreneur and own your own business? Founder of a non-profit or social enterprise? Do you have an emerging business idea that just launched?

If so, we want to hear from you!

ADA 25 Advancing Leadership just announced a new award to recognize an outstanding Advancing Leadership Member who exemplifies excellence in entrepreneurial leadership.

Members are invited to submit a brief application for consideration between now and January 11, 2021. The awarded individual will be selected based on criteria that embodies strong entrepreneurial leadership traits including, embracing critical questioning, innovation, and…


Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity Day 4 Recap

Six individual side-by-side smiling headshots framed by pink, purple, and orange blocks across the top and bottom.
Six individual side-by-side smiling headshots framed by pink, purple, and orange blocks across the top and bottom.
Left to right: Congresswoman Pressley, Rebecca Cokley, Candace Coleman, Lydia X.Z. Brown, Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, Danyelle Solomon

Meaningful change includes systemic change. In the final session of our Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity forum, national disability and racial justice policy advocates share how current policy can be built and shaped to advance the rights and voices of the multiply marginalized.

“This conversation quite literally has made my year.”

Unpacking a lot in its tight 80 minutes, Mapping Our Paths Towards Liberation features Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Rebecca Cokley (Center for American Progress), Candace Coleman (Access Living), Lydia X.Z. Brown (Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network), Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán (AIDS United), and Danyelle Solomon (Center for American Progress).


Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity Day 3 Recap

2 headshots. Rachel: white, brown hair, a black blazer. Candace: black, long black cornrows, red blazer. Both smiling.
2 headshots. Rachel: white, brown hair, a black blazer. Candace: black, long black cornrows, red blazer. Both smiling.
Rachel Arfa (left) and Candace Moore (right) each pose in front of the Chicago flag in these professional headshots

Featuring Rachel Arfa—Commissioner of the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)—and Candace Moore—Chief Equity Officer for the City of Chicago—the third session in our Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity forum illuminates the ways in which a local government should connect disability and race in its policymaking.

Watch Setting an Equity Agenda now

[Video transcript]

Conversation Highlights

Change Against The Machine

Our conversation begins with an introduction by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who appointed both Candace and Rachel in their roles, both of which have historical and institutional significance.

As Chicago’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer, Candace describes her role as being the personal…


Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity Day 2 Recap

Illustration of Leroy. Xavier poses in a suit. Dior speaks into a mic. Benji poses with sass. Jae smiles on a sunny day.
Illustration of Leroy. Xavier poses in a suit. Dior speaks into a mic. Benji poses with sass. Jae smiles on a sunny day.
Left to right: Leroy Moore (an artist’s rendering), Xavier Ramey, Dior Vargas, Benji Hart, and Jae Jin Pak

Moderated by Xavier Ramey (Justice Informed), and featuring Leroy Moore (Krip-Hop Nation), Benji Hart (author, artist, and educator), Jae Jin Pak (social justice advocate), and Dior Vargas (queer Latina feminist mental health activist), the second session of our Disability Justice in the Fight For Racial Equity forum explores the disability justice and racial equity movements and how a cross-justice framework liberates all of us.

Watch now — Building Intersectional Movements

[Video transcript]

Conversation Highlights

Powerful Poetry

Leroy kicked off the session with a reading of some of his original work: “Ramp the White House,” “Black Disabled Art History 101,” and “When Can We Come…


Disability Justice in the Fight For Racial Equity Day 1 Recap

L to R: purple bar, Derrick, pink bar, Jared, orange bar. Derrick is black, bald, smiling. Jared is white, blond, relaxed.
L to R: purple bar, Derrick, pink bar, Jared, orange bar. Derrick is black, bald, smiling. Jared is white, blond, relaxed.
Left: Derrick Dawson; Right: Jared Sprowls

Speaking authentically about race and disability requires courage and intention. Featuring Derrick Dawson and Jared Sprowls of Chicago ROAR, the first session of our Disability Justice in the Fight For Racial Equity forum explores the strong connection and history of race, disability, and the intersectional justice movements that have advanced the rights of people of color and people with disabilities.

Watch now—From Access to Liberation: Race and Disability, Racism and Ableism

[Video transcript]

Conversation Highlights

Intersectional Historical Figures Involved In the Disability Rights Movement

During his presentation, Derrick put the spotlight on three prominent people of color with disabilities who have made a profound impact on social change.

  • A member of…


By: Nicole Kelly

Text: #ADA30 Blog Series: Nicole Kelly. Photo: Nicole, blonde, smiling, wearing a tan jacket.
Text: #ADA30 Blog Series: Nicole Kelly. Photo: Nicole, blonde, smiling, wearing a tan jacket.
Photo credit: AJ Abelman Photography https://www.ajabelman.com

“ Being crowned Miss Iowa may have led to my disability identity crisis, but it also put me on the path to finding a new way of thinking. ”

ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Member Nicole Kelly gained national attention as one of the few individuals with a physical disability to ever compete in the Miss America Pageant. She is a professional public speaker represented by Keppler Speaking Agency and has proudly spoken at hundreds of K-12 schools and lectured at universities across the country. Her recent speaking engagements include Google, Microsoft, and NPR’s The Moth Mainstage. Nicole is a board…


In partnership with Fair Fight featuring Stacey Abrams

Emily is listening, the interpreter is mid-sign, and Stacey is smiling.
Emily is listening, the interpreter is mid-sign, and Stacey is smiling.
Top right: Emily Blum; top left: ASL interpreter Rivka; center bottom: Stacey Abrams

We recently hosted an invite-only Disability Power Series virtual conversation featuring national leader and best-selling author Stacey Abrams, founder of the New Georgia Project, Fair Fight, and Fair Count. Her newest book Our Time Is Now has been called a striking manifesto on reshaping the future of democracy. A recognized expert on fair voting and civic engagement, Stacy is best known for fighting against voter suppression and fighting for voters of color both in her home state of Georgia and around the country.

Because this Disability Power Series installment was intended for a private audience, we will not be publishing…

ADA 25 Advancing Leadership

We connect Chicagoans with disabilities to leadership positions throughout the region. Learn more & apply for the 2020 Leadership Institute at ada25chicago.org

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