Featuring panelists Amanda Berman (Deputy Director, Regional Programs| Center for Justice Innovation), Grace Ortez (Freedom Agenda, Campaign to Close Rikers Island) , and William Chan (Mutual Aid). A discussion on the intersection between policy advocacy, grassroots organization, mutual aid work, and how we, as New Yorkers, can be a wrench in the system.
Amanda Berman has dedicated her career to reforming the criminal legal system at the individual as well as systemic level. She began her career as a public defender with the Bronx Defenders, where she represented thousands of clients, fighting not only for their legal rights but for their human dignity every step of the way. She also served as a trainer, supervisor, and team leader for newer attorneys. She went on to serve as the senior director of court advocacy for the Fortune Society, and now works at the Center for Justice Innovation, where she joined in 2015 as the director of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a renowned community court that has served as a model for justice reform locally, nationally, and internationally. She currently serves as the deputy director of regional programs, overseeing teams who are designing, implementing, and operating innovative programs that work to end mass incarceration, promote healing, and reduce the harms of the legal system.
Grace Ortez is a systemic transformation-minded Bronx Native with Indigenous Salvadoran refugee roots, dedicated to building up civic power in socioeconomically oppressed and underserved Black and Brown communities within NYC - and beyond.
Grace serves her community as a decarceral grassroots organizer and advocate, peer crisis support worker, healing circle facilitator, reentry coordinator, harm reduction advocate in recovery, psychiatric survivor, artist, and challenger of the punishment paradigm. She is a proud member-organizer of Freedom Agenda, the Campaign to Close Rikers Island, Re/Creation Writing Collective and Institute for the Development of Human Arts (IDHA). She also works as a Paralegal at Legal Action Center advocating for those facing discrimination due to arrest and conviction records, substance use disorders, or an HIV status, empowering community members with legal information and resources that open doors to justice, equity, and opportunity. Additionally, she is a founding member of the Fix the 13th New York campaign, and a volunteer at Dream Deferred Inc. Grace is also involved in the defender side of federal death penalty work, and advocacy to abolish felony murder rule laws in the US.
William Chan is an artist and mutual aid organizer. His critical statements on the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 are considered some of most important works in response to the Iraq war. His book, Ten Years After Iraq, are used as course materials and collected by institutions such as Tate Modern, Tim Hetherington Library at the Bronx Documentary Center, Brooklyn Museum, Yale University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University among others. He is currently the Director of Home Gallery and Co-Director of Transmitter Gallery.