My name is Sandra Barnhill. I am a Southern Black woman who has, since the age of eight, been consumed with what it would mean for us to live in a “ just” world. As a kid, I saw the disparities between the haves and the have-nots and thought we could make things better and right every wrong. As an adult, I still see those disparities. I still think we can make things better. I am not too sure about righting every wrong, but I do think each of us has a role if we want a just world.
I have spent my entire career in the independent sector working on issues of social justice. First, as a lawyer working with a nonprofit legal group that focused on prisoners’ rights and then, as the founder and chief executive of Foreverfamily, a nonprofit that focuses its efforts on children with an incarcerated parent or parents and supports them as they, their parents, caregivers and extended families work to remain a family.
Over the last 34 years at Foreverfamily, my work has taken me to prisons, jails, communities, neighborhoods, houses, buildings, and offices full of people in need of healing and support. I have come to understand that all of us– those locked in, those locked up, those locked out, and those with the locks — have work to do if America is to truly be “the land of the free”.
My law degree and my academic training as a political scientist have given me the tools to interact with the criminal legal system. My deep love for people and my intimate knowledge of what it means to be marginalized have helped me understand the need for, and remain committed to, justice work for 30+ years. Along the way, I have worked with awesome women and men whose work has intersected with mine, and together we have worked on issues of racism, sexism, domestic violence, workers’ rights and wages, food security, human rights, housing, and community development.
In fact, I have worked closely with a small group of awesome women and men under a rubric called the “Sandra Barnhill Project” to create this website, interview activists, do research and brainstorm around the new social justice models that will be highlighted in my forthcoming book. In the section called “Foot Soldiers”, you can read more about each of them.
Also, special thanks to the Arcus Centerfor Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College for giving me a fellowship where I could rest, reflect, team-teach a class on social justice, and conduct many of the activist interviews and to the Annie E. Casey Foundation whose Children and Family Fellowship provided me with resources for a book coach and to the Fellow’s Network which provided me with a mini-grant to develop this website and work on the book. I am also grateful for my Encore Public Voices Fellowship (EPVF) which helped me sharpen my writing skills and get two op-ed pieces published. Both of which talk about solutions and strategies for change, If you want to read them click the links below:
Beyond special thanks to Kim Brundridge an awesome freelance editor who worked with me in 2021, together we brainstormed ways to make the book I began in 2011 even more relevant for the critical times we live in. I owe her so much and thank her for helping me get back to writing again. The structure of the book has changed, and you can learn more about that if you click on the Book tab on the menu bar. What remains the same is my desire to highlight activists and the work we do.
Lastly, special, special thanks to my family, inner circle, and friends who have been a source of support and encouragement.
If you want more detail on my professional career, review the career pathway chart, look at the article or press release about the launch of this website. Each of these pieces of collateral material talks about my credentials. If you want to learn more about why I am proud to be called an activist, read the stories of the women and men are profiled on this website. They make me proud and remind me of how important it is for each of us to have a role in making our world a more just place.
For more information on Sandra’s organization, Foreverfamily, click the logo below.