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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Deaconess Foundation Awards $100,000 to ArchCity Defenders for Freedom Summer STL

St. Louis, Mo. – April 10, 2024

This funding from the Foundation’s Policy Campaign Grant will support civic engagement, community organizing, and grassroots advocacy during this critical election year

Today, Deaconess Foundation (Deaconess) announces its award of $100,000 to ArchCity Defenders in support of Freedom Summer STL. This summer marks the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a pivotal moment in America’s civil rights history, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising following the killing of Michael Brown Jr. This year is also a critical moment in history with consequential elections where voters will make decisions that will impact our communities for generations to come. ArchCity Defenders’ Freedom Summer STL efforts around political and voter rights education and advocacy create a space of service, activation, and recommitment to justice and transformation for the region in collaboration with Action St. Louis, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Freedom Community Center, Homes For All, and other grassroots community partners.

“Sixty years ago, Freedom Summer called into question the disparities between the American ideal and the reality of American democracy,” said Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders. “We step into this legacy knowing that now is the moment to both celebrate the strides we have made and recenter and recommit ourselves in the work to transform the policy landscape to make our region a more just place. With Freedom Summer STL we aim to ensure our community is equipped with the information and resources to actively participate in the democratic process.”

Freedom Summer STL is a multidisciplinary effort focusing on four priority areas: voting, expungement, abolition, and housing justice. Throughout the summer, over a series of community events in St. Louis City and County, ArchCity Defenders and their community partners will, in part: (1) provide civics training and opportunities for residents to engage with elected officials, 2) educate residents on their voting rights – from what documents are required on election day to whether or not their right to vote has been restored following a conviction, 3) conduct voter registration, 4) provide criminal record expungement support, and 5) host legal clinics. Freedom Summer STL will culminate in a rally and march in August.

“ArchCity’s Freedom Summer STL envisions public policy change in a way that inspires us,” said Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois, President & CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “This collaborative and multi-tiered approach to civic engagement, electorate organizing, and policy implementation will have a true impact on the community and it captures the essence of the moment we are in. Components that include the legal clinics will be transformational for many lives in the present while helping to build a more liberated future.”
Funding from the Policy Campaign Grant will allow Freedom Summer STL organizers to build capacity. The aim is to ensure that all information and resources can be easily accessed in a singular setting. The efforts will be a continuation of, and catalyst for, organizing and movement building efforts, providing community members with tools needed to impact policy change.

Deaconess’ Policy Campaign Grants support timely and urgent issue-based campaigns to advance public policy through grassroots advocacy, civic engagement and community organizing aligned with our desired impacts. The grants are designed to support expanded capacity to movement infrastructure. Historically, Policy Campaign grants have supported the successful mobilization of the electorate in support of Medicaid Expansion on the November 2020 Missouri ballot. In 2023, Deaconess Foundation awarded funding to two nonprofit organizations, Alive & Well Communities to support social and emotional wellness policy change for youth and Missouri Jobs with Justice, to build public support and awareness for paid sick leave and economic equity for working families through a living wage.

Freedom Summer STL will kick off on the Juneteenth Holiday, Wednesday, June 19, in collaboration with the annual Juneteenth celebration of St. John’s UCC Church, Faith for Justice, and Freedom Arts & Education Center. The other event dates will be Saturday, June 29 and Saturday, July 27, followed by the culminating march and rally on Friday, August 30. Express interest in learning more about the campaign and events at Learn more about Deaconess’ funding initiatives and opportunities at

About ArchCity Defenders

ArchCity Defenders (ACD) is a holistic legal advocacy organization that combats the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color. ACD’s foundation of civil and criminal legal representation, social services, impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and community collaboration achieves and inspires justice and equitable outcomes for people throughout the St. Louis region and beyond.

ArchCity Defenders envisions a society liberated from systems of oppression where the promise of justice and racial equity is realized; communities where our approach to public safety prioritizes investment in well-being, health, and transformation without relying on criminalization and incarceration; and people living freely in their communities, thriving regardless of their race or income.

About Deaconess Foundation

Deaconess Foundation envisions a community that values the health and well-being of all and gives priority attention to the most invisibilized. Deaconess seeks to create conditions where liberation is the lived reality within seven generations. A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $100 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998. Our grants and cultivated relationships support the accelerated change in conditions through policy, advocacy, and/or organizing efforts building and wielding power to transform systems to respond to the will of the people.

The Foundation’s advocacy and grantmaking footprint includes St. Louis City, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles, and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties in Illinois. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter and Instagram @deaconessfound and on Facebook at


Media Contact:

Reagan Herzog