Students created presentations to reflect on their time in the course. Photo by Steve Davis

Daniel J. Logan Assistant Professor of Peace and Justice Leanne Trapedo Sims has been chosen as a second-time recipient of a grant from Illinois Humanities. The grant is part of the Envisioning Justice program, which provides funds to more than 20 organizations and individuals working throughout Illinois to address the injustice of mass incarceration. The funded projects utilize the arts, humanities, and community organizing to enact change, inform public opinion, and promote a more just society through community-based approaches to accountability and public safety.

Trapedo Sims’ work focuses on the power of storytelling as an act of healing and connection. Last year, she used funds from a previous Illinois Humanities grant to bring the Denver-based Motus Theater to Knox College and the Galesburg community. Motus Theater’s JustUs project supports community leaders who are impacted by carceral systems share artfully crafted autobiographical monologues that expose the devastating impact of the criminal legal system and inspire action towards a vision of true justice. This year’s grant funded a program at the nearby Henry Hill Correctional Center. Last spring, Trapedo Sims took nine Knox students to study alongside nine students at Hill Correctional Center in a peace and justice studies course titled Life Writing as Social Engagement: Lived Experience and Transformation.

“The prison industrial complex continues to exist partly because there are less-impacted communities who do not know anyone on the inside of a jail or prison—or directly impacted by the carceral system,” Trapedo Sims said. “When we don’t know people who are impacted by injustices, it can be so easy to dehumanize an entire community. I think storytelling through the arts is one of the most powerful ways to speak about contemporary crises. The arts can do it in ways that text often fails.”