October 26, 2022

Dear Mayor Lightfoot,

It has been seven years since Chicago’s City Council passed unprecedented legislation providing reparations to people tortured by notorious former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the detectives under his command. In doing so, the City of Chicago made history becoming the first municipality in the U.S. to provide redress for racially motivated police violence

With the passage of the legislation, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) and others have worked tirelessly with City officials to implement the reparations legislation providing holistic redress which included: an official apology; monetary compensation; the creation of the Chicago Torture Justice Center; a history curriculum (“Reparations Won”) about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public Schools; free enrollment in Chicago City Colleges; and the creation of a public memorial for the Burge torture survivors. The one component of this legislation that has yet to be fulfilled is the creation of the permanent public memorial.

CTJM demanded the memorial be included as part of the reparations legislation to ensure that this chapter of racially motivated state violence is not erased from public memory by inscribing it onto the landscape of Chicago. The memorial is a testament to the survivors, their families and communities who persevered and struggled for justice as they grappled with their unrelenting trauma. Like memorials in South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Germany, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama, Chicago’s memorial will show the nation and the world how public art can bear witness to the ugly truth of our past and how people can come together collectively to seek change and repair systematic harm. It will serve as a call to action that connects the past with the current struggles to end racist police violence and systemic racism. The City of Chicago, when promising to build the Burge torture justice memorial appropriately acknowledged that “education about the transgressions of the past is essential to laying claim to a future that is free of racism, discrimination, inequality and cruelty.”

CTJM continues to work with City officials to secure a site for the memorial, titled “Breath, Form & Freedom” in the 20th ward where the Chicago Torture Justice Center is currently located. While CTJM has raised $500,000 to build the memorial, the City of Chicago has made no official commitment to financially fulfill its promise to pay for the remaining costs of the project, approximately two million dollars.

The memorial will serve to permanently and publicly acknowledge what the torture survivors endured, particularly in light of the fact that they were disbelieved for decades when sharing their horrifying encounters. The fact that seven years later the memorial still has not been built serves once again to deny or disregard the state sponsored violence the survivors endured.  City officials must not let political will trump justice. It is the city’s and our collective moral responsibility to not further harm or continue to traumatize our neighbors and communities who have borne the brunt of the worst forms of the city’s complicity and silence. Survivors are aging and members of their families have passed. They should have had the opportunity to see this memorial built to honor them. Justice delayed is justice denied!  

Recently the Chicago Monuments Project recommended the City of Chicago build the Burge torture justice memorial, noting that such a memorial, like others, will “require significant government support to access land, expertise and funding.”  This was the most recent call by advisors to your administration, Mayor Lightfoot, to call on you to commit the city to build this memorial.  In May of 2019, the Arts & Culture Transition Team recommended that you fund the memorial as soon as possible. 

By building the public memorial for the Burge torture survivors, the City of Chicago will make history and demonstrate true leadership in condemning racially motivated police violence. It’s time for you and Chicago’s City Council to fulfill its promises. It’s time for them to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk about racial equity and justice.  

Today, we stand with CTJM to demand the City fully fund the development, construction, and maintenance of the Burge torture justice memorial, and that those funds be included in the City of Chicago’s budget for 2023.

Elected Officials:

Brandon Johnson, Cook County Commissioner

Howard B. Brookins, 21st Ward

Maria Hadden, 49th Ward

Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward

Daniel La Spata, 1st Ward

Jeanette Taylor, 20th Ward

Andre Vasquez Jr., 40th Ward

Lakesia Collins, IL State Representative, 9th District

Will Guzzardi, IL State Representative, 39th District

Joe Moore, Former Alderman, 49th Ward


About Face: Veterans Against the War (Chicago)

Action Center on Race and the Economy

ACLU of Illinois

American Friends Service Committee, Chicago

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chicago

Axis Lab

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

Chicago Community Bond Fund

Chicago Freedom School

Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Torture Justice Center

Chicago Women Take Action

Children’s Best Interest Project

CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Collaborative for Community Wellness

Community Enterprise & Solidarity Economy Clinic

Equity and Transformation (E.A.T.)

The Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School

First Defense Legal Aid


Grassroots Collaborative

IL Green New Deal

Illinois Innocence Project

The Illinois Prison Project

The Innocence Project

Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy

Jewish Council of Urban Affairs

John Brown Anti-Klan Committee

Kartemquin Films

The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender

Law for Black Lives

Love & Protect

LYTE Collective

Mamas Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity (MAMAS)

Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School

Museum and Exhibition Studies Program (UIC)

National Lawyers Guild, Chicago

Neighbors for Environmental Justice

Organized Communities Against Deportations

Palenque LSNA

Palestine Legal

Parole Illinois

People’s Law Office

Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project

Project NIA

Pushing Envelopes Chicago

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education

REAL Youth Initiative

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center

SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation)

The Tea Project

United Working Families

Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois

Women’s Justice Institute


Christin Adams, Social Work Graduate Student

Elena Ailes, Professor

Randall Albers, Professor

Simone Alexander

Rebecca Amato, Educator

Bethany Amburgey

Jen Ash, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials 

Ben Austen, Journalist

Beth Awano, Program Coordinator at Human Rights Lab and Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture

Dr. William Ayers

Timothy Barnett, Professor, Northeastern Illinois University

Jane Beachy

Sheila Bedi, Clinical Law Professor, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Peregrine Bermas, Artist

Ionit Behar

Julie Biehl, Director of the Children and Family Justice Center

Alyssa Bierce

Martha Biondi, Lorraine H Morton Professor of African American Studies

Jeanne Bishop, Attorney and Author

Katherine Black

Dana Blanchard, Program Coordinator

Caroline Blanton

Brett Bloom, Artist and Educator

Larry Brent, Jr.

Jennifer Brier, Professor of Gender and Women Studies and History, UIC

Joy Bunton

Ryan Cairns

Jacob Campbell, Environmental Anthropologist

Anthony Cappetta

Len Cavise, Professor of Law (Emeritus) DePaul College of Law

Liú Chen

Ann Cibulskis, Chicago Resident

Harriet Clark

Judith Clark, Hour Children Community Justice Advocate

Cathy Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Nikki Cotto

Sabrina Craig, University of Chicago

Susie Day

Rachel DeWoskin, Novelist, Poet, Professor

Bernardine Dohrn, Retired, Clinical Professor, Northwestern Children & Family Justice Center

Brian Dolinar, Journalist

Jeff Edwards, Labor Organizer

Barbara Engel

Daniel Epstein

Deborah Eptstein, Consultant

Elizabeth Espoz

Roxana Espoz

William Estrada, Multidisciplinary Artist + Educator

Amelia Evans, Executive Director

Patricia Evans

Dr. Eve L. Ewing, Assistant Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago

Sylvia Ewing, Poet

Brian Ferguson

Isis Ferguson, Arts Administrator

Dr. Luke Fiddler, Curator, Institute of the Arts and Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz

Marc Fischer, Artist and Publisher

Michael Fischer, Instructor the Odyssey Project at IL Humanities 

Jason Fountain, Higher Education + Development Coordinator, Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project

Laurel Jean Fredrickson, Professor

Rory Fanning, Author and Activist

Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

Joby Gardner

Maria Gaspar, Artist and Educator

Chris Guzaitis, Resident of Chicago

Sarah Dávila, Director, International Human Rights Clinic at UIC Law

Stacy Davis Gates, President of the Chicago Teachers’ Union

Genevieve Galang

Adom Getachew, Professor

Amber Ginsburg, Artist and Lecturer, University of Chicago

Christina Gómez, Professor, School of Art Institute of Chicago

Eliza Gonring

Deborah Gould, Associate Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

Adam Green, Associate Professor, American History and the College, University of Chicago

Robert Greenwald, President of Brave New Films

Haley Greep

Ryan Griffis, Chicago Resident

Jacky Grimshaw, Chair of Chicago Women Take Action

Donna Guttman, Activist and Organizer

Sandy Guttman, Curator

Susan Gzesh, Professor, University of Chicago

Anne Hallett

Deborah Harrington, Co-Chair of the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative 

August Hastings

Renee Camillee Hatcher, Director and Assistant Law Professor of the Community Enterprise & Solidarity Clinic

Tempestt Hazel, Curator, Writer, Co-Founder of Sixty Inches From Center

Skyla S. Hearn, Archivist

India Hilty

Brian Holmes

Elizabeth Horowitz

Aaron Hughes, Artist

Davida Ingram

Johari Jabir

Mary Jane Jacob, Director, Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Raphel Jackson, Case Manager

Sparsh Jain

Hamza Jilani

Jennifer Johnson, Chicago Teachers Union

Mariame Kaba, Executive Director, Project NIA

Geralynn Kahn

Dima Khalidi, Director, Palestine Legal

Susan Kaplan, formerly with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights 

Maryam Kashani, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Lauren Kaeseberg, Co-Director, Illinois Innocence Project

Dima Khalidi, Director, Palestine Legal

Alice Kim, Director, Pozen Center Human Rights Lab, University of Chicago

Judith Kossy

Anna Krause

Douglass Krause

Kevin Kumashiro, Educational Consultant and Former Dean

Bill Lamme

Daniel Lastres

Lisa Yun Lee, Associate Professor, UIC

Kirsten Leenaars, Artist

Robert E. Lehrer, Attorney

Carole Levine, Board Member, Chicago Women Take Action

Lauren Leving, Curator at moCA Cleveland

Laura Levitan

Amanda Lewis, Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy, IRRPP

Deana Lewis, Survived & Punished National Steering Committee

Sarah Lewison, Artist, Writer, Professor

Maria Eugenia Lopez, Faculty, Museum and Exhibition Studies Program (UIC)

Gabrielle Lyon

Tracye A. Matthews, Documentary Filmmaker

Alex Orfirer Maher, Associate Curator, National Public Housing Museum

Sherrie Malleis, Coordinator of Chicago Women Take Action

Devin Malone, Arts Worker 

Noreen McNulty

Erica Meiners, Professor, Author

Patrick Miner

Shelley Miller, Retired Teacher

Phyllis Mitzen, Consultant

Joey Mogul, Partner, People’s Law Office

Jessica Mueller, Artist/Educator

Nasan Navrab, Artist

Eleanor Nicholson, Retired Education

Laura Nirider, Co-Director, Center on Wrongful Convictions

Meredith Nnoka, Educator

Ydalmi V. Noriega, Chicago Resident 

Isabel Nunez, Dean, School of Education, Purdue University Fort Wayne

Heather M. O’Brien, Assistant Professor, School of Media Arts, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Susan M. Oppenheimer

Francisco J. Ornelas, MAMAS

Sarah Paretsky, Author

Julie Parson Nesbitt

Hilesh Patel, Educator and Consultant

Mary Patten, Artist, Educator, Activist

Aurie A. Pennick

Christina Perez, Associate Professor of Sociology at Dominican University

Nadia Pittendrigh, Artist and Art Educator

Risa Puleo, Curator

Michael Puican

Therese Quinn, Professor

Jane Ramsey, President, Just Ventures

Dr. Barbara Ransby, Professor, Author and Activist

Dawn Reel

Susan Reverby, Professor

Karen B. Reyes, Executive Director, Firebird Community Arts 

Dr. Aja D. Reynolds

Beth Richie, Professor, Author and Activist

Andrea Ritchie, Author and Activist

Oliva Ridge

Josh Rios, Artist and Art Educator

Christina Rivers, Professor

Dylan Rodriguez, Professor, Past President of American Studies Association

Eve Rosahn

Susan Rosenberg

Sarah Ross, Associate Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago 

Dagmar Schalliol

Bianca Schindeker 

Dialika Sall, Professor

Steve Saltzman, Attorney

Vanessa Sanchez

Fred Sasaki, Creative Director

Courtney Sass

Sarah Schulman, Professor and Author

Joel Schwartz, CSEA (Retired) 

Nuria Sheehan, Writer

Robin Semer

Steven Serikaku

Anthony D. Stepter

Eleanor Stein, Professor and Attorney

Katja Stroke-Adolphe 

Flint Taylor, Founding Partner, People’s Law Office

Anson Tong

Leanne Trapedo Sims, Assistant Professor of Peace and Justice

Asia Smith, Community Organizer with Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Anthony Spaulding

David Stovall, Professor

Albert Stabler, Assistant Professor of Art Education

Randolph Stone, Former Director of the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic

Gregory Swygert, Clinical Associate Professor, Center on Wrongful Convictions

Nik Theodore, Professor

Julian Thompson, Assistant Professor

Elizabeth Todd Breland, Associate Professor of History, University of Illinois, Chicago

Sarah Tomas Morgan, Graduate Student, University of Chicago

Fereshteh Toosi, Artist and Educator

Monica Trinidad, Artist

Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza Vanegas, Professor

Sharon Varallo, Director of Augustana Prison Education Program

Kae Vecchia-Zeitz

Jennifer Viets, Restorative Justice Practitioner

L. Vinebaum, Arts Educator

Rachel Wallis, Lecturer, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

April Ward, MAMAS

Lori Waxman, Art Critic

Deborah R. Weaver

Jessica Weller, Museum Professional

Joel Westheimer, University Research Chair in Democracy and Education

Laura Whitehorn, Social Justice Organizer

Anna Martine Whitehead, Chicago Artist

Amanda Williams, Artist

Carl Williams, Business Owner/Activist

Tyreece Williams

Tara Aisha Willis, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Bonnie L. Wishne

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Professor, Author

Andrea Yarbough, Chicago Resident

Dr. Barbara Zeller

Rebecca Zorach, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern University

* Organizations listed for Identification Purposes Only