Winner of the 2017 Winter/Spring Reading Residency / by Ally Hasche

We are so very excited to announce the winner of our first ever Reading Residency: the compassionate,  driven, and incredibly impressive Tasasha Henderson!

Tasasha Henderson, 2017 Winter/Spring Reading Residency Winner

Tasasha Henderson, 2017 Winter/Spring Reading Residency Winner

Tasasha is the Assistant Development Director at Connections for Abused Women and their Children, a domestic violence shelter/outreach services organization. She serves on the Board of Directors of Project Fierce Chicago, is an organizer with Love & Protect, whose mission is to support women of color who have been criminalized for defending themselves against domestic violence, and is also a freelance writer. When she is not working, volunteering or writing, she loves to read, listen to music, and just explore the beautiful city of Chicago.

on working toward social progress, Tasasha writes:

Since 2010, I have been dedicated to providing tangible resources to Black women and girls who have been criminalized for surviving various forms of violence, and organizing events to educate the public about the issues facing Black women and girls who are incarcerated. The first project I volunteered with, Girl Talk, from 2010-2012, was a program of films and art projects provided to girls incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. There was very little programming available to girls in the detention center at that time, and while we believed that the girls should not be in jail at all, the fact of the matter is that they were, and needed and deserved a space to be teen girls, talk amongst each other, watch movies, and express themselves through art. The structure of Girl Talk included an eight-member leadership team and 20-30 volunteers, who would provide programming twice per month. As a member of the leadership team, I participated in creating the curriculum of films and accompanying art projects, recruiting, and training the volunteers, and implementing the program. Girl Talk was my first experience with any type of social justice work, and it came at a time when I was just beginning to learn about the criminal legal system and its impact on poor Black and Latino communities. Being a part of this project changed the trajectory of my life; before I was interested in traditional non-profit work, but now a whole new world of possibilities opened for me, and I began to seriously think of how to use my strengths to contribute to social change.

In late 2013, I furthered my commitment to addressing the needs of criminalized Black women and girls by joining the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA), a defense committee made up of a small group of people whose mission was to help ensure that Marissa Alexander, a woman who had been incarcerated for defending herself against an abusive partner, would not spend 60 years in prison, which was her original sentence. Over the course of a year and a half, we raised funds for her legal defense and home monitoring, organized over a dozen events to raise awareness of her case, and wrote op-eds and articles that situated Marissa Alexander in the context of a history of Black women who had been criminalized and even killed for defending themselves against violence. After Marissa accepted a plea deal which resulted in her being sentenced to two years of home monitoring, instead of a retrial where she was facing 60 years in prison, CAFMA changed our name to Love & Protect, and transitioned to helping women of color in Illinois who have been criminalized for defending themselves against domestic violence. Working with the women of CAFMA/Love & Protect has been the most rewarding experience, and has deepened my passion for ending gender-based violence without relying on the criminal legal system.

This residency is appropriate and timely for me right now because I am currently thinking through what my commitment to social change looks like for going forward. Right now it including fundraising for a domestic violence shelter, grassroots mutual aid with Love & Protect, and serving on the working board of Project Fierce Chicago, an organization that is creating housing for LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness. No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality is a book that has been on my list to read for awhile, and it feels very important for me to read in this moment. As Project Fierce moves into its next phase of growth, reading a book that centers the voices and experiences of the most marginalized, while warning of the potential harm that people with good intentions can cause, is crucial. It will be an important reminder for myself, as I move deeper into this work, that I am not here to "save" anyone; I am in solidarity with young LGBTQ folks, and should use my resources in a responsible way to help them meet their basic needs. I would share what I learned from my reading with the other members of Project Fierce, and plan to implement and integrate the knowledge and skills learned into the organization's practices. A weekend to read, reflect, and rest my mind and body will be an important way to re-energize me in the new year, as I continue to build community, organize and resist.

THE 2017 Winter/Spring READING RESIDENCY

Winner: 

Tasasha Henderson will receive an accommodating residency on a weekend of her choosing, a $100 stipend for reading material + food, and a STILL LEARNING tote including a Candor Arts publication and handmade product of her choice.

Honorable Mentions:

Nina Yeboah is a writer and creator of Chicago Reading Africa, a local initiative for readers in search of global perspectives.

Michael Fischer is a freelance writer and storyteller, as well as a recent StorySlam winner at The Moth for his stories focused on his experience of being incarcerated in state prison. 

Nina and Michael will each receive a copy of the book they intended on reading at the residency.

Panel of Jurors:

Tempestt HazelWriter, Curator, and Executive Director of Sixty Inches from Center

EJ Hill — Artist and Educator

Lynnette Miranda — Artist, Curator, and Writer, Founder of Present Futures and Make-Space

David Bell — Artist, Curator, and Writer, Director of Visitor Welcome Center and Notes on Looking

Etta SandryArtist, Educator, and Writer, Co-director of Make-Space

Jesús MejiaArtist

Amir GeorgeArtist, Filmmaker, and Curator, Founder of The Cinema Culture and Co-Curator of Black Radical Imagination

Justin Nalley — Artist and Educator, Author of TAKE CARE