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CJG News and Events

This September, the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago hosted its the first in-person event since the 2020 pandemic, the grand opening of the Chicago Justice Gallery. Attendees were able to view the exhibition, Belonging: Place, Power, and (Im)Possibilities featuring the work of social justice photographer and artist, Tonika Johnson including a mural by Joe “Cujodah” Nelson.

In a series of portraits and interviews, Johnson chronicles the ways in which nine young people have been made to feel they don’t belong in their own city. While Johnson’s portraits of young peoples’ experiences paint a grim picture of hierarchy, surveillance, entitlement and narrow mindedness, it is not a tale of defeat. Through their own creative agency, young people push back against the politics of racism, exclusion and containment by creating their own “free spaces” and organizations that contest the commons.

In addition to the artwork, the exhibition scholarly research and an interactive map encouraging visitors to explore their own experiences with belonging and exclusion.

The Chicago Justice Gallery (CJG) is a non-commercial arts space at the University of Illinois at Chicago that supports social justice artists and arts activism through exhibitions and public events. Developed as an extension of the Social Justice Initiative, the gallery’s focus is to serve as a bridge to connect scholarship, activism and educational arts with social justice themes. The gallery is located two blocks south of the Chicago Arts District. It is one of the only galleries in the city solely dedicated to the presentation and exploration of social justice through the lens of art.

In-person visits to the exhibition and gallery are by appointment only. Email the Social Justice Initiative at to schedule an appointment. The exhibition is also available in a virtual format online at