Meet the Authors

The guidebook is written by Mariame Kaba and Essence McDowell. The two authors are currently working on an extension of their book Lifting As They Climbed that will include Black women from the west side of Chicago. The new guidebook is slated for publication in the spring of 2020.

Stay tuned for updates!



Organizer, Educator and Curator

Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator and curator who’s active in numerous social movements for prison abolition, racial justice, gender justice, and transformative justice.

She is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization with a vision to end youth incarceration, and a co-founder of numerous organizations including the Chicago Freedom School, Love and Protect, the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women and most recently Survived & Punished.

Mariame is also a co-organizer of the Just Practice Collaborative, a training and mentoring group focused on sustaining a community of practitioners who provide community-based accountability and support structures for all parties involved with incidents and patterns of sexual, domestic, relationship, and intimate community violence.

Essence McDowell

Communications Strategist, Writer and Organizer

Essence McDowell is a communications strategist, writer and organizer. She utilizes  media, digital design and communications technologies to amplify the work of community institutions and justice-based organizations.


Essence has worked with numerous national, state and local entities to create digital platforms, organizing tools, and impact strategies in service of social change.


She's worked as communications consultant for the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, national media coordinator for INCITE!’s Color of Violence 4 Conference, and community engagement manager with Chicago's Gallery 400.


Essence has been a part of multiple Chicago based community organizations, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Black Youth Project, and most recently Love and Protect.  She currently works as communications strategist and program manager for the Social Justice Initiative