About WCRJ 


WCRJ was founded in 2012 by a group of unemployed and formerly incarcerated Black workers. We aim to eliminate barriers to sustainable, living-wage employment for Black workers; to strengthen economic security for Black families and communities; and to advance a progressive, pro-worker agenda that will lead to inclusion and prosperity for all marginalized workers.

WCRJ seeks to improve the economic conditions and stability of Illinois’ Black communities by addressing issues of labor market discrimination and over-criminalization. Our work rests at the intersection of these two issues, which are inextricably linked and constitute root causes of many related problems including systemic poverty, mass incarceration, violence and poor health outcomes in Black communities.


What we do 


  • - Build an active and engaged base of unemployed, low-wage and formerly incarcerated Black workers with critical consciousness and deep analysis of structural racialization
  • - Develop and advance a set of policies at the metropolitan and state levels that help to eliminate persistent racial inequality in the areas of employment and criminal justice
  • - Improve working conditions and earnings in low-wage job sectors
  • - Directly challenge implicit bias associated with Black workers, in order to change the narrative about them
  • - Shift the public discourse on race to advance a grassroots racial justice agenda


Who We Are


WCRJ Staff

Deangelo Bester, Executive Director

Yolanda Godwin, Operations Director

Kandice Harris, Field Director

Antonio Lightfoot, Organizer

Nicole Watson, Organizer

Louisa Manske, Policy and Communications Coordinator

Sarah Wilson, Development Associate

Street Outreach Team

The WCRJ employs a group of canvassers known as the Street Action Team (SAT). This team supports WCRJ by conducting strategic canvassing campaigns to engage Black workers and family members in WCRJ advocacy work, campaigns and Get Out the Vote efforts. The SAT is largely comprised of low-wage and formerly incarcerated Black workers.




Follow Us






Twitter Feed