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. With an emphasis on developing liberatory consciousness, 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.


Participants must be age 25 and older upon the start of the program. Cohorts will be 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 will be 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 be able to attend all sessions.


Each cohort consists of approximately 25 participants. The program is for nine to 12 months. There will be three, one-week (weekdays) immersive sessions that are no more than eight hours per day. Immersive sessions will occur in September 2023 (Monday, September 18 - Friday, September 22), January 2024 (dates to be announced), and May 2024 (dates to be announced).

In addition, there will be monthly two-hour group sessions during the months where this is not an immersive session and individual coaching. Additional components include weekly check-ins and office hour visits between participants and Institute leaders. Immersion sessions will be in-person and the others will be a combination of in-persona and virtual.


Applications are available online here and due Monday, June 26, 2023.

2022 CDF Freedom Schools® Program Information

Please contact Deaconess Foundation with all inquiries/questions at
cdffreedomschools@deaconess.org or 314.436.8001.
Please do not contact the individual host sites.

Christ the King UCC

11370 Old Halls Ferry Rd.
Florissant, MO 63033

Deaconess Center
for Child Well-Being

1000 North Vandeventer Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63113

Peace United
Church of Christ

204 East Lockwood Ave.
Webster Groves, MO 63119

Saint John’s Church
(The Beloved Community)

4136 North Grand Blvd.
Saint Louis, MO 63107


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.