December 2022 with AFSC in Chicago

By Debbie Southorn

Dear Friend,

This year was full of abolitionist youth organizing, resource creation, and campaigns here at AFSC Chicago Peacebuilding. So it feels only right to close it out by inviting you to take action with us twice in the next week, to show solidarity with youth inside and to demand Governor Pritzker free a queer incarcerated survivor through executive clemency.

With the added support of our incredible inaugural Michael McConnell fellow Alicia Brown, we were able to expand our programs to include incarcerated youth and grow the campaign to close youth prisons.  With the support of Wellington UCC we were able to develop the WILD Youth Organizing Institute and train over 20 Chicago teens in the essentials of community organizing.  With our friends at BPNC and #DefundCPD, we helped grow the campaign for #TreatmentNotTrauma.  With our national partners across AFSC, we helped expand conversations about how to build community safety without police.   And that's just some of what we did this year! 

We couldn't do any of it without the support of our wider community, and we know we still have a long ways to go to #FreeThemAll, and to divest from the carceral systems that are devastating Black communities and lives.  

This is our final newsletter of the year, so read on for ways there's still time to plug in and take action with us to help bring a beloved community home for the holidays, and more.

In solidarity,

Take Action


Join us in action with the Final Five Campaign on Thursday, December 15th at 5pm (meet at 136 N Western Ave) for a rally and car caravan to show love and support for the youth inside IYC Chicago (aka the Chicago youth prison) and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Young people should be #HomeForTheHolidays, not locked up away from their communities and families. Bring lights, noisemakers, warm layers, and your friends — let’s get Loud & Lit Up for our youth!

We welcome those with cars to join us with your vehicle, as we will caravan from IYC Chicago to the JTDC. 




Bernina Mata has spent 23 years in prison after a homophobic prosecution that argued her lesbian identity caused her to kill and ignored her extensive history of sexual and physical abuse.  She was sentenced to die in 1999. In 2003, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison as part of a successful clemency campaign that commuted all death sentences in Illinois. If prosecutors had not sought the death penalty, she would likely be free today. 

Bernina’s only chance for freedom is to receive clemency from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.  In January 2022, Bernina and her team submitted a clemency petition to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, who reviews petitions and makes recommendations to the governor. At a hearing in June 2022, Bernina’s team made the case for her freedom, accompanied by dozens of supporters. 

Now, the decision is squarely in the hands of Gov. Pritzker. He has the power to commute her sentence to time served. Please Join us in calling on Gov. Pritzker to bring Bernina home for the holidays!

#FreeBernina Hannukah Light Action 
Monday December 19 | 6:00 PM
Meet at E North Blvd & N. Astor St

Come show support for Bernina Mata’s clemency & release! Join the #FreeBernina Team for a light installation, Hanukkah sing along & jelly donuts outside of Governor JB Pritzker’s home.

Please note: This location is quite inaccessible via public transportation. It is an estimated 14 minute walk from the Clark/Division red line, and a 13 minute walk from the Sedgwick Brown Line. We recommend carpooling. Please reach out to us directly by replying to this e-mail about support attending, if needed.  

Can't make it on Monday but still want to support? Take 30 seconds to send this e-mail to Governor Pritzker asking him to sign Bernina's clemency petition! Let's flood his inbox with support for freeing criminalized survivors this holiday season.  






This fall, youth from across Chicago gathered for a youth summit to demand #TreatmentNotTrauma in Chicago.  Then they took action at City Hall during the Chicago Police Department's budget hearing to demand funding for mental health, not criminalization.  




We celebrate the incredible victory of the #DefundCPD campaign, which after months of canvassing in the 20th ward, won over 96% of residents' support for #TreatmentNotTrauma on the ballot in the November election.  Our WILD youth helped canvass twice, and we couldn't be more proud to have been a part of this historic effort.





In this recent blog post for AFSC, fellow Alicia Brown writes about our work this summer training up a new generation of abolitionists with the WILD youth organizing institute.  



Community Safety Beyond Policing

Understanding Copaganda


What is "Copaganda?" And how does it influence policymaking and elections? At our recent Community Safety Beyond Policing webinar, we heard from Alec Karakatsanis, Palika Makam, and Tori Bateman about the many ways in which popular and social media and politicians push narratives that constrain our imagination around safety and surpress an analysis of systemic violence.



Community Support

Ronnieman Holiday ToyDrive

Every year, the Ronnieman Foundation acts as a community santa to distribute toys and essential goods in honor of the late Ronald "Ronnieman" Johnson who was killed by CPD in 2014.  We've supported this toy drive every year since it started, and hope you will consider donating to help his mother Dorothy reach her goal.