Founded in 2009
Project NIA was a collaborator in the African-American Cultural Center exhibit Black/ Inside during the Fall of 2012. AACC Community Relations Specialist Naima Nguvu McDermott coordinated the project under the direction of Dr. Lori Barcliff Baptista. The Center worked with Project NIA, Helen Jun (Department of African American Studies and Sociology at UIC), and Lisa Waggoner/ Stillpoint Theatre Collective to develop
Project NIA’s goals are to empower diverse community members to take leadership in addressing issues faced by youth impacted by the juvenile justice system. To develop effective community-based (rather than criminal legal) means of accountability for violence and crime- using a restorative and transformational justice approach. Project NIA supports youth in trouble with the law as well as those victimized by violence and crime, through community based alternatives to the criminal legal process, and we partner with numerous stakeholders to create such alternatives. We advocate for redirecting resources from youth incarceration to youth opportunities. Project NIA currently has two main initiatives. Our community-based work in Rodgers Park Transformative Justice Center (RPTJC). Our citywide efforts (including work in North Lawndale) come under the Chicago Youth Justice Advocacy and Training Center (CYJATC). Each of these initiatives reinforces the other. Project NIA intervenes directly in the lives of individual youth at-risk and their families while also advocating for systemic changes.
Three overlapping strategies are the foundation of Project NIA’s work: leadership development and capacity-building, advocacy ad organizing, intervention and healing. These strategies work together to help us achieve our mission, which is to transform violence and to ultimately eradicate youth incarceration. Project NIA’s strategies incorporate community dialogue, effective interventions with perpetrators and victims, community accountability, and participatory action research.
Project Nia’s mission is to dramatically reduce the reliance on arrest. detention, and incarceration for addressing youth crime and to instead promote the use of restorative and transformative practices, a concept that relies on community based alternatives. Through community education, participatory action research, advocacy and organizing, Project NIA facilitates the creation of community-focused responses to violence and crime.