Lifted Voices

Portrait by Dan Bellini

Lifted Voices is a collective of Black and Indigenous women and trans organizers and movement educators. Since 2015, we have staged protests, led direct action workshops, and created strategic and material resources for organizers. We believe in advocating for criminalized survivors and have co-organized campaigns to free survivors criminalized for acts of self defense, like Bresha Meadows, who is now a member of our collective.

We also organize strategic, grassroots fundraisers to facilitate mutual aid and free people from jails and detention centers. In 2019, we raised over $190,000 to free incarcerated migrants from detention centers, including people who were facing imminent deportation. The effort freed 22 people from detention and launched a tradition now carried on by others. More recently, we assisted our friends at Maeqtekuahkihkiw Metaemohsak (Woodland Women’s Group) with funds to purchase 15 sewing machines for Menominee women who were sheltering in place on their reservation during the pandemic. The machines allowed an intergenerational, mutually supportive group of Native women to continue their collective activities during isolation, and enabled the group’s members to create items that have helped their community — like masks, or regalia to lift people’s spirits. 

We mainly organize in Chicago, but we are closely aligned with a number of organizations nationally. 

We also facilitate an annual program around Indigenous People’s Day at the Village Leadership Academy that culminates in the youth creating signs and banners for the frontlines of a Native American struggle, which we then deliver to that nation’s frontline activists. The children previously made banners shaped like rivers that were hung in the main kitchen in the largest camp in Standing Rock, and, more recently, made protest signs that we delivered to the Menominee reservation to help stop the Back 40 Mine. In 2019, the children staged a mock protest to free detained immigrant children. 

We are also committed to the fight to end child incarceration. In solidarity with imprisoned youth, we stage caroling vigils outside the juvenile detention center around the holidays. In 2019, we brought a brass band

In June of 2020, we collaborated with the Chicago Freedom School to raise $5,000 to get bullhorns into the hands of young Black organizers around the country, for purposes of empowerment and to reduce risks associated with shared equipment during the pandemic.   

During the pandemic, we have largely focused on mutual aid, including educational webinars for mutual aid volunteers and the distribution of over 30,000 KN95 masks in Chicago. We have also organized large-scale memorialization efforts for victims of COVID-19, including incarcerated victims of the virus. We also offer self defense classes for organizers and at-risk community members on a limited basis.

Praise for Lifted Voices

“Lifted Voices played an early, critical role in bringing support to families of five children inappropriately charged with felony murder in Lake County in August of 2019, and to garnering attention for their plight. That attention ultimately led to the charges being dropped.” Jobi Peterson Cates, Executive Director of Restore Justice Foundation

“Lifted Voices is a collective of highly experienced, intersectionally insightful, and resource rich womyn/femmes/trans people of color offering strategy, vision and action to our collective movements,communities and seasoned/emerging organizers. They play and also DO NOT PLAY.” Tony Alvarado-Rivera, Executive Director of the Chicago Freedom School

“Lifted Voices provides activists in Chicago with timely, high quality political education and superb training in non-violence tactics. I have always seen LV as a smaller, community based Highlander School, and they have had much the same impact on the Chicago movement as the Highlander School did on the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. Their work usually is done in the background, but the results are apparent every day in the streets.” Alan Mills, Executive Director of the Uptown People’s Law Center

“Lifted Voices bridges the important intersections of Black and Indigenous and Black Indigenous organizing that is rooted in abolitionist politics and practice. Lifted Voices makes radical space available for liberatory struggle rooted in justice that deconstructs colonial normativity while actively co-creating life giving and sustaining futures.” – Aislinn Pulley, Co-Executive Director at the Chicago Torture Justice Center and organizer with Black Lives Matter – Chicago

“As a focused collective, Lifted Voices actualizes values of liberation and transformation of material conditions for oppressed communities. The collective is a driving force in meeting the needs of Chicago-based and national movement workers for social justice by providing political education and trainings that convey clarity about the moment we are in, conviction about the stakes we face, and precision about what is unprecedented about political shifts, fascism, and violence today paired with supplying strategic and tactical skills for non-violent direct action and organizing more broadly. The collective also bridges transformative justice, indigenous resistance, and abolitionist values with active defense committee work, mutual aid development, engagement with young organizers around practices of social justice, and targeted fundraising and other capacity building support work responding to community priorities. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial Lifted Voices has been to the complex, effective organizing infrastructure here in Chicago.”Juliana Pino, Policy Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization