SJI Team PIcture at Fall Reception, 2014

Staff Profiles


Barbara RansbyBarbara Ransby


Professor Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer and longtime community activist. She received her B.A. from Columbia University and her M.A. and Ph.D in History from the University of Michigan. Barbara Ransby is currently a Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies (director, 2008-2013), and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative. She previously served as Interim Vice Provost for Planning and Programs (2011 -2012). Her highly acclaimed biography, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision received eight national awards and recognitions. Professor Ransby is also winner of the prestigious Catherine Prelinger Prize for her contributions to women’s history. Her most recent book is Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson (Yale University Press, 2013).

Ransby has also published in numerous scholarly and popular publications and lectures widely. She serves on the editorial boards of The Black Commentator, (an online journal); the London-based journal, Race and Class; the Justice, Power and Politics Book Series at University of North Carolina Press; and the Scholar’s Advisory Committee of Ms. Magazine, as well as the National Advisory Board of “Imagining America”. In the summer of 2012 she became the second Editor in Chief of SOULS, a critical journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society published quarterly since 1999. In addition to her scholarship, Professor Ransby is a public historian who works with many community based and activist organizations.


Emily WilliamsEmily Williams

Associate Director

Emily is an educator with a background in curriculum and program design in community settings. She has taught on the U.S.-Mexico border in Reynosa, Mexico and in the U.S. public school system. Additionally she coordinated the Community Service Scholarship program at DePaul University. Emily is involved with the Chicago Girl Talk Collective, the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce, and the U.S. Africa Network. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Beloit College and an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University.



CharlotteCharlotte Jackson

Business Manager

Charlotte Jackson, Assistant to the Director. Charlotte received a B.A. in History from University of Illinois Chicago. Having assisted with the West Side Women in Action project several years ago, Charlotte is interested in examining the legacy of Chicago’s west side Lawndale Community in the aftermath of the King Riots of 1968. After a long leave, Charlotte will return to working on a M.S. in Library and Information Science at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, concentrating in Community Informatics.  



Photo of Marco RocMarco Roc

Graduate Assistant

Marco Durce Roc received his B.A. in Sociology and African American Studies from Temple University and his M.A. in Sociology from University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is currently a doctoral student. His dissertation project critically explores how community-police partnerships address community violence. He is also currently part of a research team that focuses on the experiences of youth who trade sex. His research interests also include anti-Black racism, social control, and state violence. In addition to his role with the Social Justice Initiative, he has also been active on campus. He was member of the Student Advisory Group on the DSTP Committee, has been an assistant for IRRPP’s writing accountability group program, and a Black History Month Planning Committee member. He is currently president of Mojo’s Pen, which is a student organization that hosts open mics and gives artistic expression to the African Diasporic experience. He is also a member of the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow.



DaisyDaisy Zamora

Graduate Assistant

Daisy Yessenia Zamora Centeno received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Latin American & Latino Studies. She was born and raised in Chicago. She is now a grad school student in the College of Education, Youth Development program at UIC. She was a founding board member of the Chicago Freedom School and Women and Girls Collective Action Network/Females United for Action ( Daisy co-taught a course on Black and Latino Unity for Freedom Fellows at the CFS. As part of the WGCAN she developed a media justice tool kit for non for profits. WGCAN testified at the FCC hearings and launched a campaign to bring down La Ley's 107.9 pegaditas sexist and not culturally sensitive billboards (

She is most currently working on making films with her partner about LGBTQ issues. Daisy is interested in Queer Latina Health.



alice kim

Alice Kim

Alice Kim is an educator, cultural organizer, activist, and writer. She teaches and develops curriculum for the Gender and Women’s Studies program and Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also the Editor of Praxis Center, a new online resource center for scholar activists hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. A long-time death penalty and prison abolitionist, Alice is a founding member of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials project, a collective that documents the history of Chicago police torture through the arts and seeks justice for the survivors of police torture. In her activism, Alice embraces radical imagination, multi-ethnic organizing, and intersectionality. She writes about identity, family, coming of age as a first generation Korean American and issues connected to race and the prison industrial complex. You can read her writing on her blog Dancing the Dialectic. Alice was previously the Director of The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council that creates spaces for public conversations about social, political and cultural issues. She also worked as a national organizer for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Consortium Administrator for the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. Alice received her B.A. from Northwestern University, M.A. from DePaul University, and most recently, her M.F.A. from Bennington College Writing Seminars.



jassonJasson Perez

Jasson Perez is a Chicago-born organizer, parent, subpar rapper in the rap group BBU and Third World liberation romantic. As a high school dropout and formerly incarcerated youth, Perez discovered on a personal level what’s at stake when schools become a pipeline to prison. Perez worked as a labor organizer with SEIU Local 73, working with the support staff at Chicago Public Schools in the fight against school closings since 2004 when CPS announced Renaissance 2010. He currently serves as national co-chair of BYP100, Black Youth Project’s nationwide network of one hundred young black activists working to build a transformative justice movement that centers on a feminist, queer, differently abled, and decolonial praxis.



skylaSkyla Hearn

When I was a child I enjoyed “rummaging” through my Grandmother’s purse and treasure hunting in my parent’s den. My father was an antique collector with an eye for the obscure. He collected late 19th and early 20th century furniture, oil and pastel paintings, books with African-esque focused subjects including photography books and personal relics---clothes, jewelry and other folks’ family photo albums. It was the search, research and lack of discovery that has lead me into my various “callings” as a fine art photographer, curator, special collections librarian and archivist. In my primary line of work as an archivist, I am excused for my nosey practices, praised for not tossing “stuff” and champion for the unknown, often unsung community, cultural and societal contributors often from African American and other marginalized backgrounds. My professional journey began in 2006 with the Katherine Dunham Digitization Project in the Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library (SIUC) and has included a plethora of amazing encounters from working with acclaimed librarians, archivists, scholars and artists to completing and collaborating on projects at the University of Turabo in San Juan, the Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature (Chicago Public Library), the Institute for Museum and Library Services/The HistoryMakers, Inc., Never-the-Same Chicago Ephemera Archive, the South Side Community Art Center and currently with the UIC Social Justice Initiative and UIC Library-Special Collections. I hold a Master of Science in LIS with a Special Collections certificate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; a Bachelor of Art in Mass Communications and Media Arts with a minor in Black American Studies (currently Africana Studies) from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; and an AGS from Harold Washington City College of Chicago.


breBre McFadden

Through the numerous experiences in her life, Bre McFadden has settled upon a commitment to the sexual health of the general public. She is a volunteer in their HIV/AIDS and STD Services program, and as a volunteer, she hands out condoms, safe sex kits, hotline cards, and information on STD and HIV/AIDS. Bre seeks social justice by providing sex education, information and access to safe sex practices. Her goal is to educate others so they can make thoughtful and informed decisions about their health. Having autonomy of one’s own self lends itself to the health of families and communities.


liliLilian Marie Paniagua Leppe

Administrative Assistant

Lilian is a Urban Planning and Public Policy undergraduate student. Lilian has experience working at the City Colleges of Chicago and the Jane Addams Hull House Museum as an educator.




jen bioJennifer Ash

Jennifer Scism Ash is a native North Carolinian where she was a campus community organizer and graduate of Western Carolina University (BA, history) and UNC-Greensboro (MA- U.S. history).  Currently Jennifer is a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in History at UIC, where she focuses on African American women’s history and is also earning a graduate certificate from the Gender and Women’s Studies program.  In NC, she helped organize students, faculty, and staff at local colleges and universities and was a faculty member at Bennett College from 2008 until 2013.  In particular she was a faculty advisor to Bennett College’s LGBTQ/straight alliance- BRIDE, a faculty advisor to the social justice living/learning community, and served on the Africana Women’s Studies Steering Committee.  She is also an affiliate of Scholars for North Carolina’s Future, an organization of people in higher education committed to using knowledge across a variety of disciplines to foster informed conversations about North Carolina’s history and current challenges.