Deaconess Foundation Awards $100,000 to ArchCity Defenders’ Freedom Summer STL

Deaconess Foundation (Deaconess) has awarded a policy campaign grant of $100,000 to ArchCity Defenders, a holistic legal advocacy organization that combats the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color, in St. Louis. The grant will be used for ArchCity Defenders’ Freedom Summer STL program.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a pivotal moment in America’s civil rights history, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Ferguson (Mo.) uprising following the killing of Michael Brown Jr. This year also is a critical moment in history with consequential elections coming in the fall.

ArchCity Defenders’ Freedom Summer STL efforts around political and voter rights education and advocacy create a space of service, activation, and recommitment to justice and transformation for the region, in collaboration with Action St. Louis, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Freedom Community Center, Homes For All, and other grassroots community partners.  

“Sixty years ago, Freedom Summer called into question the disparities between the American ideal and the reality of American democracy,” said Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders. “We step into this legacy knowing that now is the moment to both celebrate the strides we have made and recenter and recommit ourselves in the work to transform the policy landscape to make our region a more just place. With Freedom Summer STL we aim to ensure our community is equipped with the information and resources to actively participate in the democratic process.”

Freedom Summer STL is a multidisciplinary effort focusing on four priority areas: voting, expungement, abolition, and housing justice. Throughout the summer, over a series of community events in St. Louis City and County, ArchCity Defenders and their community partners will, in part:

  • Provide civics training and opportunities for residents to engage with elected officials
  • Educate residents on their voting rights — from what documents are required on election day to whether or not their right to vote has been restored following a conviction
  • Conduct voter registration
  • Provide criminal record expungement support
  • Host legal clinics. 

Freedom Summer STL will culminate in a rally and march in August.  

“ArchCity’s Freedom Summer STL envisions public policy change in a way that inspires us,” said the Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois, president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “This collaborative and multi-tiered approach to civic engagement, electorate organizing, and policy implementation will have a true impact on the community and it captures the essence of the moment we are in. Components that include the legal clinics will be transformational for many lives in the present while helping to build a more liberated future.”

Funding from the Policy Campaign Grant will allow Freedom Summer STL organizers to build capacity. The aim is to ensure that all information and resources can be easily accessed in a singular setting. The efforts will be a continuation of, and catalyst for, organizing and movement building efforts, providing community members with tools needed to impact policy change. 

Deaconess’ Policy Campaign Grants support timely and urgent issue-based campaigns to advance public policy through grassroots advocacy, civic engagement and community organizing aligned with our desired impacts. The grants are designed to support expanded capacity to movement infrastructure. Past Policy Campaign Grants have supported such programs as the successful mobilization of the electorate in support of Medicaid Expansion on the November 2020 Missouri ballot; funding in 2023 to support social and emotional wellness policy change for youth; and funding, also in 2023, for Missouri Jobs with Justice, to build public support and awareness for paid sick leave and economic equity for working families through a living wage.

Freedom Summer STL will kick off on the Juneteenth holiday, June 19, in collaboration with the annual Juneteenth celebration of Saint John’s United Church of Christ (The Beloved Community), Faith for Justice, and Freedom Arts & Education Center. The other event dates will be June 29 and July 27, followed by the culminating march and rally on Aug. 30.

Join Our Mailing LIst

Follow on Facebook

Quick Links