December 6, 2022

Marguerite Casey Foundation announces 2022 Freedom Scholars

SEATTLE — Marguerite Casey Foundation announced the latest cohort of Freedom Scholars, a group of scholars leading research and engaged in organizing that advances a racial and economic justice agenda. Now in its third year, the Freedom Scholars awards provide a one-time award of $250,000 to support their work however they see fit. 

“We are excited to introduce the 2022 Freedom Scholars, each one playing a vital role in cultivating and nurturing movements for justice and freedom,” said Marguerite Casey Foundation President and CEO Dr. Carmen Rojas. “Through their research, these scholars provide critical insight to social justice leaders and encourage all of us to radically reimagine a democracy, economy and society animated by liberation.”

The 2022 Freedom Scholars cohort continues this legacy of highlighting the role of academics in social movements. This year’s Freedom Scholars include:

  • Davarian L. Baldwin is a distinguished professor of American Studies at Trinity College, he examines the roles higher education institutions play in urban renewal projects. 
  • Jared A. Ball is a professor of Communication and Africana Studies at Morgan State University, who explores themes of Black buying power, capitalism, and propaganda.
  • Noura Erakat is an associate professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University and a human rights attorney, who focuses on feminism, internationalism, intersectionality, and anti-imperialism in Palestinian movements. 
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore is a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and American Studies at the City University of New York, and director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, who explores how efforts by grassroots groups, unions, faith communities, movements and states configure liberation. 
  • Sarah Haley is an associate professor of African American Studies and Gender Studies at Columbia University, who focuses on labor organizing, the prison industrial complex and anti-Black racism through a Black feminist lens. 
  • Mariame Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA and co-founder of Interrupting Criminalization, who is an organizer, educator, curator and prison industrial complex abolitionist who documents and teaches histories of marginalized communities.
  • Derecka Purnell is a Scholar-in-Residence and Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University Law School, a human rights lawyer, researcher and author, who works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research and training in community-based organizations. 
  • Beth E. Richie is a distinguished professor of Criminology, Law and Justice and Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, who focuses on intersections of mass criminalization of Black women, survivors of gender-based violence and larger patterns of mass incarceration. 
  • Dean Spade is a professor at the Seattle University School of Law, who focuses on movements for queer and trans liberation and racial and economic justice, including historical and contemporary resistance practices. 
  • Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is an associate professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, who focuses on Africana and socio-political philosophy and emphasizes themes and figures from anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and Black radical traditions of thought and practice. 

The Freedom Scholars awards were created in 2020 to demonstrate the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s commitment to academic research and scholarship focused on shifting the balance of power in society to those who have long been excluded from having it and benefiting from its rewards. Recipients of the award are involved in research on social justice topics, including prison abolition, racial capitalism, queer liberation, and more. The award aims to support the scholars’ work that is embedded in community organizing and to highlight the importance of academic thought leadership in social movements and change-making. 

"If there's a lesson in spring 2020, it's that movements are not events,” says 2021 Freedom Scholar Robin D.G Kelley. “Movements are processes. It took 30 years to get to that moment. It's going to take many more years of constant struggle, organizing, and education to be able to sustain that and move us to the next level. It doesn't happen in a classroom. It happens in living."

“The Freedom Scholars award bridges social justice scholarship and movements,” said Rojas. “With this program, the Marguerite Casey Foundation is putting the power and decision-making in the hands of the scholars advancing progressive movements. That frees scholars to put their ideas into action, to put their theories into practice.”


Marguerite Casey Foundation supports leaders, scholars and initiatives focused on shifting the balance of power in society — building power for communities that continue to be excluded from shaping how society works and from sharing in its rewards and freedoms. Its board members, leadership and staff are committed to building a just economy and fully realized democracy, and to providing unfettered support to the bold strategies and leadership that are required to bring about major change in our lifetime.

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