Vickie Casanova Willis, MBA, MAT, and PhD Student in Global and Comparative Education, is a teaching and performing artist/cultural worker with decades of experience as advocate/activist, working with children and families in the Black and Latino communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Her focus is on building capacity for historically marginalized individuals and communities to participate in the decisions that impact their lives and futures. She has spent the last decade collaborating with friends in the legal and activist community utilizing her skills and relationships in business, performing arts, interdisciplinary education, organizing and administration, to bear on a problem that hits very close to home. As a woman of color, mother of two Black Latino males, and teacher/employer to hundreds of primarily African American youth over the last few years, she views the need for transformative action in the criminal punishment narrative as critically urgent. This is truly life or death, and requires a totally new approach.
Ms. Casanova is a founding member of Black People Against Police Torture, the grassroots organization that helped lead a broad based coalition to internationalize Chicago’s police torture issue, while advocating for and winning, state legislative remedies for Burge Torture victims. She has performed as a dancer and vocalist and has presented papers at national and international conferences, speaking on race and ethnicity from an arts, education, and media perspective. Ms. Cassanova serves on the Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team, as African Diaspora Solidarity Chair, and Human Rights catalyst, and is a frequent liaison with the African and Caribbean communities through her work as a community organizer and youth worker. She is a proud member of the US Human Rights network, served on its 2014 USHRN CAT Taskforce selection committee.