Press Releases: 2024 Policy Campaign Award & Second Cohort Application Open for the Institute for Black Liberation


This funding from the Foundation’s Policy Campaign Grant will support civic engagement, community organizing, and grassroots advocacy during this critical election year

ST. LOUIS, MO – Deaconess Foundation (Deaconess) announces its award of $100,000 to ArchCity Defenders in support of Freedom Summer STL. This summer marks the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a pivotal moment in America’s civil rights history, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising following the killing of Michael Brown Jr. This year is also a critical moment in history with consequential elections where voters will make decisions that will impact our communities for generations to come. ArchCity Defenders’ Freedom Summer STL efforts around political and voter rights education and advocacy create a space of service, activation, and recommitment to justice and transformation for the region in collaboration with Action St. Louis, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Freedom Community Center, Homes For All, and other grassroots community partners.

“Sixty years ago, Freedom Summer called into question the disparities between the American ideal and the reality of American democracy,” said Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders. “We step into this legacy knowing that now is the moment to both celebrate the strides we have made and recenter and recommit ourselves in the work to transform the policy landscape to make our region a more just place. With Freedom Summer STL we aim to ensure our community is equipped with the information and resources to actively participate in the democratic process.”

Freedom Summer STL is a multidisciplinary effort focusing on four priority areas: voting, expungement, abolition, and housing justice. Throughout the summer, over a series of community events in St. Louis City and County, ArchCity Defenders and their community partners will, in part: 1) provide civics training and opportunities for residents to engage with elected officials, 2) educate residents on their voting rights – from what documents are required on election day to whether or not their right to vote has been restored following a conviction, 3) conduct voter registration, 4) provide criminal record expungement support, and 5) host legal clinics. Freedom Summer STL will culminate in a rally and march in August.

Read the full press release here.



The leadership development program provides Black people in the Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois region with an opportunity to heal from racial trauma and grow as leaders who will pursue a just future

ST. LOUIS, MO – Deaconess Foundation (Deaconess) is now accepting applications for the second cohort of the Institute for Black Liberation (the Institute), a novel approach to developing liberatory consciousness through healing the hurts of internalized racism. The Institute gives Black leaders in the Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois region the opportunity to name, reckon with and heal from racial trauma and the pervasive effects of internalized and structural racism. The applied learnings and transformational experience of the interdisciplinary, intergenerational Institute will prime participants to accelerate the creation of conditions that promote a just, whole society and future with impact felt most profoundly within Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. The application deadline is Friday, May 24. Interested individuals may apply at

“The Institute for Black Liberation is lovingly curated for leaders to learn, reflect, and break free from what holds us back from realizing our greatness,” said Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois, president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “We believe that the transformation that begins from within will inevitably lead to well and powerful leaders who will revolutionize the relationship between systems and people.”

The Institute’s inaugural cohort will complete its nine-month experience this May, completing three, one-week in-person immersion sessions, monthly two-hour virtual group sessions, and some group and individual coaching. Participants in the Institute can expect outcomes that include: 1) self-discovery, reflection, intensive training and learning focused on healing racial trauma and promoting well-being, 2) identifying and dismantling internalized oppression, 3) examining and exploring strategies for celebrating racial identity, 4) building power through collective development of leadership skills and kinship with others, and 5) developing tools to sustain change through generations.

Read the full press release here.