Special Campus Memo: Grinnell Prize Week Events

September 27, 2017

Grinnell Prize Week honors winner Gina Clayton, founder of Essie Justice Group

Sept. 27, 2017

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, I will award the $100,000  Grinnell College Innovator in Social Justice Prize to Gina L. Clayton, an attorney, activist and advocate for women. She founded and directs the Essie Justice Group, an organization that supports women with incarcerated loved ones and helps the women mobilize to advocate for reform of the criminal justice system.

Gina Clayton's innovative work supports the one in four women and nearly one in two black women who have a family member in prison. "Essie is about sisterhood because our hypothesis is that sisterhood creates change," Clayton says. "In our healing-to-advocacy model, which was built by women with incarcerated loved ones for women with incarcerated loved ones, we focus on three pillars: advocating for self, advocating for family, and then advocating for community."

The award ceremony, keynote, and lunch will take place in room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center. Throughout Prize Week, Oct. 2-5, students, faculty, staff and guests will have the opportunity to interact with Clayton and learn about best practices in designing, organizing, and implementing initiatives that address social justice issues facing our world today.

A complete list of events during Grinnell Prize Week follows.

Monday, Oct. 2, Rosenfield Center, Room 101:

  • Alumni Panel Discussion: Careers that Intersect with the Industrial Prison Complex from noon-1 p.m. Alumni panelists represent a broad cross-section of fields (law, social work, theater, museums, education) that intersect with the prison industrial complex. Panelists will discuss their career paths, their work, and the social justice issues they both witness and are addressing through the various aspects of their careers. Lunch will be served.
  • Grinnell Prize Retrospective Reception from 4:15-5:15 p.m. Since 2011 the College has awarded the Grinnell Prize to 20 deserving individuals who have worked with 14 different social innovation organizations. Come learn what our past prize winners are now doing! Hors d'oeuvres will be served.
  • Panel Discussion: Grinnell Liberal Arts in Prison Program from 7:30-9 p.m. will feature formerly incarcerated students, along with Emily Guenther '07, director of the Prison Program, and Clark Lindgren, professor of biology, all of whom will discuss their experiences with the program.

Tuesday, Oct. 3, Rosenfield Center, Room 101

  • Grinnell Prize Award Ceremony and Keynote Address by Clayton from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Lunch will be served.
  • Panel Discussion: The Power of Our Stories: Achieving Mental Health and Criminal Justice Transformation Through Women's Advocacy from 7:30-9 p.m. with Clayton and representatives from the Essie Justice Group, as well as Tammy Nyden, associate professor of philosophy, Dionne Benson-Smith and representatives from Mothers on the Frontline will discuss the power and perils of uplifting the experiences of women in advocacy work. Panelists will explore the significance of bringing women's stories into stigma-laden public debates, through a focus on advocacy at the intersection of mental health and incarceration.

Wednesday, Oct. 4, various locations:

  • Workshop: Gender, Patriarchy and State Control in the Age of Mass Incarceration with Clayton from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101. This conversation with founder and executive director of Essie Justice Group, Gina Clayton, will explore the intersections of patriarchy and the rise of the prison industrial complex. The session will engage students in a conversation about the historical and present day forms of state control experienced by people who do not identify as men, present a new analysis, and discuss observations of intersectionality in the decarceration movement. Lunch will be served. RSVP required: noltonvi@grinnell.edu.
  • Coffee with Clayton from 3-4:30 p.m. at Saint's Rest Coffee Shop.
  • Workshop: Building Power from the Margins: Strategic and Principled Community Organizing with Clayton from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Digital Liberal Arts Lab. This workshop will provide students with a primer on fundamental community organizing principles and examine how they translate into scalable social change strategy. Specifically, Gina Clayton and Essie Justice Group member leaders will share the origins and application of their award-winning nominations recruitment model and examine primary challenges and opportunities faced by base-building organizations today. RSVP required: noltonvi@grinnell.edu.

Thursday, Oct. 5, Rosenfield Center, Room 101:

  • Kickoff and Community Panel: Collaborations in Social Innovation - SPARK, a Community-Based Social Innovation Challenge from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. in the Whale Room of the Dining Hall. Sponsored by the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership, this year's challenge focuses on poverty-related issues. RSVP required for those who do not have a Grinnell College meal plan.

The Grinnell Prize reflects the College's longstanding commitment to educating individuals who will make the world a better place. I hope all of our students benefit greatly from interacting with this year's Grinnell Prize recipient in classrooms and informal settings.

Raynard S. Kington

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