CPL Welcomes WNBA’s Candace Parker, Announces “Voices for Justice” Speaker Series

Virtual event with Parker kicks off a new CPL program series focused around social justice, equity and inclusivity

Chicago Public Library (CPL) today announced the official launch of the “Voices for Justice” series, a slate of programs that will engage authors, artists, thought-leaders and other experts that spark conversation on the topic of social justice. After hosting a virtual event with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor earlier this month, CPL will be featuring Candace Parker virtually on Monday, February 28 in celebration of African American History Month.

"It's important that we provide opportunities for our youth to deepen their learning while connecting to relevant, significant topics such as social justice," said Mayor Lightfoot. "The 'Voices for Justice' series provides such an opportunity and enables our children to engage with artists, authors, and their communities." 

Parker will join CPL in conversation with ABC 7 Sports Anchor and Reporter Dionne Miller on CPL’s Facebook and YouTube pages on February 28 at 6 p.m. CPL’s African American History and Women’s History Month committees are co-sponsoring the event in honor of the African American History Month’s theme of Mental Health and Wellness. The Library’s Cultural Committees work to provide culturally relevant programming year-round.

Candace Parker is a Chicagoland native, six-time WNBA all-star, and two-time WNBA champion, including her recent championship win with the Chicago Sky in 2021. She is regarded as one of the WNBA’s all-time great players and has advocated for the inclusion of women and girls in sports and for health and wellness causes.

“With Mayor Lightfoot’s commitment to a more equitable Chicago and racial healing, we see an opportunity to connect as a city through a series of events with authors and thought leaders about topics society is grappling with,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “At Chicago Public Library, we host authors, thought leaders and artists all year long, but a big focus of mine when I started in Chicago was to make sure we hosted a series that is directly responsive to the interests of the community and calls more attention to issues of social justice.”

This series will build on CPL’s rich history and expertise in developing programs, services, exhibits and collections that explore ideas and engage the community in transformative discussion. CPL will present a keynote social justice-focused program on a monthly basis. The programs will feature a variety of high profile speakers, authors, and experts who are representative of the diversity of Chicago's communities and perspectives.

Other upcoming Voices for Justice Keynote events include:

  • March 30 - Activist and Chicagoan Mikki Kendall will appear in conversation with Block Club Chicago’s Jamie Nesbitt Golden. Kendall is the author of several books, including the best-seller Hood Feminism, which was named one of CPL’s Best Books of the Year in 2020.
  • April 28 - Critic Margo Jefferson, author of the memoirs Constructing a Nervous System and Negroland. Jefferson is a Pulitzer Prize winner for Criticism and known for writing on jazz, culture, and literature.
  • More programs will be announced soon.

In addition to these mainstage events, CPL will also present additional speakers throughout the year on the theme of Voices for Justice. Upcoming events include:

  • March 29 - Dr. Jessica Hernandez, Maya Ch’orti’ and Zapotec environmental scientist, speaks on her book Fresh Banana Leaves. 
  • April 27 -   Poet Noor Hindi speaks on political poetry, linguistic activism, and her new book Dear God. Dear Bones. Dear Yellow.

The Library recently hosted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in conversation with Dr. Eve Ewing in honor of her new children’s book, Just Help! CPL also featured a panel of academics and writers on Juneteenth, 2021 to discuss Richard Wright’s previously unpublished novel The Man Who Lived Underground.

At the heart of CPL’s drive for equitable service is the goal of democratizing access to all Chicagoans. In December 2021, Chicago Public Library achieved the goal of opening all branch libraries on Sundays, thanks to the support of Mayor Lightfoot and the City Council. In recent years, CPL has eliminated overdue fines, opened new libraries, and co-located libraries with affordable housing developments and child-care centers. The Legler Branch Library reopened after $12 million of capital improvements as the first regional library serving the west side in nearly 50 years.

“The pandemic has further reflected so much inequity in this country, and CPL has an opportunity to discuss these important topics of our day that are more relevant and present than ever before,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “We would like to thank our partners at the Chicago Public Library Foundation for their commitment to the Library’s work and for helping make this program possible.”

Voices for Justice is a natural extension of the Mayor's Office of Equity and Racial Justice’s Year of Healing 2022 (YOH22) initiative to support racial healing and transformation in Chicago. YOH22 was designed in response to community calls for more cross-neighborhood dialogue and connection; public events to celebrate culture; and the City's commitment to institutional change.

The YOH22 framework has three core pillars:

REFLECT on our past - Educate and engage about past/present racial injustices and structures of racial inequality.
RECLAIM our present
 – Identify lessons learned of the past to inform new values and norms that shift power.
REIMAGINE our future
 – Vision a more inclusive future state and design policies to produce and sustain more equitable outcomes.

In Spring 2022, the City will release a $5M YOH22 Creative Placekeeping grant to allow artists and community-based organizations to engage in the framework through public arts and culture programs.