The Institute centers Black lives, Black thought and Black liberation.

Through a novel approach and bold vision, participants of the Institute develop a 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 the Deaconess footprint.

Twenty-three individuals were selected for the inaugural cohort of the Institute which launched in Fall 2023. The experience is deeply personal and as such Deaconess will maintain the anonymity of participants. Following the completion of the Institute, participants will have the option to choose to share their experiences publicly.

Deaconess Foundation's Institute for Black Liberation has been launched with leadership from Project Manager Cheryl D.S. Walker and Program Director Rudy Nickens.



Participants must be age 25 and older upon the start of the program. Cohorts are comprised of a diverse group of individuals who identify as Black residing in St. Louis City, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois. Special emphasis is placed on St. Louis City and St. Louis County, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois residents. No preferences is given to people who are further along on the liberatory consciousness continuum than others.


Each component of the curriculum has been carefully crafted for this rich and intensive course. Due to the limited time the cohort has together and the intensive nature of the work, it is extremely important that selected participants attend all sessions.


Applications are currently closed. Please complete the Institute's interest form to learn of upcoming applications and dates here.


Each cohort consists of approximately 25 participants. There are three, one-week (weekdays) immersive sessions that are no more than eight hours per day. The first cohort's immersive sessions occur:

  • Immersion 1: Monday, September 18, 2023 through Friday, September 22, 2023 from 9 am to 4 pm daily, with optional community building time from 4 pm to 5 pm.
  • Immersion 2: Monday, January 29, 2024 through Friday, February 2, 2024 from 9 am to 4 pm daily, with optional community building time from 4 pm to 5 pm.
  • Immersion 3: Monday, May 20, 2024 through Friday, May 24, 2024 from 9 am to 4 pm daily, with optional community building time from 4 pm to 5 pm.

In addition, there are a variety of activities designed to enhance learning and maintain community building which include webinars, small group meetings, and check-in sessions with the Institute's senior facilitators. Immersive sessions are in-person and the others are virtual.


Deaconess Center for
Child Well-Being

1000 N. Vandeventer Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63113
We firmly believe that we have the ability to free ourselves from the behaviors that resulted from the oppression we’ve endured, and to build a community that reflects our truth.”
Rudy Nickens, Jr.
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Heal and Transform
Institute participants will be well equipped to create and sustain community change. They will promote a just and whole society and future with impact felt most profoundly in our community.