Change Agents The Podcast

Change Agents The Podcast

Reparations Media & Juneteenth Productions Are YOU a “Change Agent”? Organizer. Activist. Educator. Policy maker. Block club leader. Nonprofit founder. Religious leader. Business owner. Voter. Neighbor. Change Agents is a documentary series revealing the power of community-driven activism told by those in the fight. These are the stories you aren’t hearing — told by and for communities of color and other marginalized communities that have long been overlooked, misrepresented and maligned. Headquartered in Chicago and produced across the Midwest, we highlight authentic, actionable, grassroots solutions to society’s most pressing problems — including reentry after incarceration, homeownership disparities, anti-Blackness, the mental health crisis, and more. Produced by a team made up of BIPOC, female, queer and disabled journalists, for Reparations Media, with support from Juneteenth Productions. Executive Producers: Judith McCray and Maurice Bisaillon. Senior Producer: Mary Hall. Operations & Digital Manager: Nicole Nir. Head of Development: Alina Panek. Sound Design: Erisa Apantaku & Will Jarvis. Follow us wherever you get podcasts, or at Subscribe to our newsletter at


June 19, 2024 26 mins

Michelle Clopton was in her twenties when Chicago police attempted to force her to confess to a crime she didn’t commit. For 72 hours, she was brutally questioned, deprived of food, and tortured. Today, she is one of the few women to publicly share her experience of abuse. But she’s not alone. 

Under the leadership of CPD Commander Jon Burge, more than 100 Black people were tortured by Chicago police in the ’70s and ’80s to elicit f...

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When Mercedes Pickett set out to buy her first home, she wanted to do it in the same way her mom had — by living in a two-flat, renting out the bottom apartment, and making the building into an investment property. 

For over a century, owning and living in a rental property has been one of the most effective ways to build wealth for Black and Latino communities. Yet these quintessential Chicago homes are in danger of extinction. 


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June 19, 2024 21 mins

When Matthew Cage’s father died, Matthew knew it fell on him to financially support his mom. But there was a problem. Matthew had just been released from prison — and many don’t want to rent or employ someone with a criminal record. 

Experts say a good indication of whether someone will return to prison is how quickly they find housing. A group of nonprofits across Chicago’s South and West sides are trying to break that cycle. Their...

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January 9, 2024 22 mins

Produced by Corli Jay  |  Chicago’s Choose To Own program gives low-income residents the educational and financial support to buy their first home, helping them navigate a confusing and discriminatory mortgage and appraisal system. Still, some participants worry their newfound financial stability may push them out of the program — jeopardizing the wealth the program was designed to build. 

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January 9, 2024 21 mins

Produced by  Citlali Perez  |  Women are being imprisoned at higher rates than ever.  As they return home they face a unique set of challenges, because they are often their families primary caretakers they face harsher parole oversight, making it all the more difficult to reckon unresolved trauma. G.O.D. helps these women meet their immediate needs (such as clothing or housing), and then works with them to find a path back to a pro...

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January 9, 2024 25 mins

Produced by Jane Carlson  |  Marlon Chamberlain couldn’t chaperone his son’s field trip or be the executor of his father’s estate because of a decades-old drug conviction. He’s now leading a group of all formerly incarcerated members working to overturn or amend nearly 1,200 Illinois laws that restrict people with records from being full citizens, from being fully free.

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January 9, 2024 26 mins

Produced by Daphne Watson | They gather a few times a month in prisons, inmates, educators, lawyers, activists, and legislators for the Behind the Walls Law and Policy Think Tank. Dr. Christina Rivers moderates a peer-led civics program helping members craft laws combating long-standing felony disenfranchisement and clearing a path to full citizenship for returning citizens. 

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January 9, 2024 33 mins

Produced by Justin Agrelo | In 2010, a group of men incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center had a thought: how could they help stem community violence plaguing Chicago from the inside of a prison roughly three hours away?  The men formed an academic study group they later named Community Anti-Violence Education (CAVE). They began examining the multiple layers of trauma and violence, both internally and externally hoping they c...

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January 9, 2024 25 mins

Produced by Dilpreet Raju | Criminal records can sometimes create seemingly insurmountable hurdles to employment, a key factor toward reducing recidivism rates.  Defy Ventures teaches the incarcerated, and returning citizens how to build their own business.  Their program is a game-changer, not just for the system impacted, but for business leaders who are given a chance to shed biases, and discover an invaluable stream of worker t...

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January 5, 2024 3 mins
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June 16, 2023 1 min
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January 15, 2023 28 mins

How to Tackle Antiblackness

"Together we are powerful." "Black and Brown solidarity." "Yellow peril supports Black power." Interracial solidarity is foundational in the fight for racial justice for all, but often interracial conflict steals headlines instead. Just how can people of color transcend deep differences and internalized anti-Blackness? Listen to how Chicago-based organization People...

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January 7, 2023 17 mins

Justice That Heals

Chicago can be cruel to its youth, especially to youth of color living in marginalized communities. Restorative justice practices have begun to emerge in the city aiming to remedy the root causes of harm that is plaguing the streets with crime and violence. BUILD has become a fierce proponent of the restorative justice framework and has added it to its tool kit as it expands its reach in the Austin commu...

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January 6, 2023 25 mins

On the Way Home

Youth who are experiencing homelessness in Chicago are undercounted and frequently clumsily represented. This story’s intent is to counteract public bias around what someone experiencing homelessness looks like. The story of Shawne Hinkle winds us through a personal account of housing difficulties. Her story is one that is incredibly specific to her situation, but also speaks to broader experiences of homel...

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January 6, 2023 28 mins

Building Equality in Construction

History shows that Chicago’s building trades have excluded construction workers of color. But the attention on George Floyd’s death three years ago inspired a movement toward racial justice everywhere, from schools to jobs. While some construction companies have made commitments to stopping racism and discrimination in the workplace, industry experts say more work needs to be done to buil...

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December 23, 2022 33 mins

Restaurando La Maceta

Hay un refrán que dice que la aflicción es como una maceta rota. La maceta nunca se va ver igual o funcionar igual a lo que era antes que se rompió— igual a que una familia no se va ver igual o funcionar igual antes de la muerte de una persona querida.

El Centro Sanar pelea contra la cultura tradicional y medicinal para el cuidado de salud y trauma. 

Los clínicos de la organización acompañan a los miembros de la ...

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December 20, 2022 28 mins

Restoring La Maceta

There’s a metaphor for grief that describes the healing process as gluing a broken flower pot or in Spanish – una maceta – back together after it breaks. The pot will never look or function the same as it did before it was broken – just as a family will never look or function the same as it did before the death of a loved one. 

Centro Sanar seeks to challenge the traditional medicalized culture of mental health an...

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May 23, 2022 16 mins

ChiFresh is a thriving food service contractor run by worker-owners who are all formally incarcerated.  On busy days ChiFresh can prepare and deliver upwards of 500 meals for clients ranging from nursing homes to schools.  Soon though, they will be able produce TEN TIMES that number, as they ready themselves for a move to a much larger space in the city's westside.  Join Change Agents producers Charles Tharpe and Justin Myers ...

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May 16, 2022 19 mins

Where do you get food when the grocery stores aren't open, or when their shelves have gone bare?  Many Chicagoans asked themselves this question for the first time during the 2020 Covid pandemic, but for those living in the food deserts of the city's West and Southside's, the question wasn't a new one.  Join Change Agents producers Liz Murice Alexander, and Dylan Cohen as they take a look at the urban farming co...

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As communities across the nation grapple with the racist symbols of their past in the form of statues and monuments, in University City, Missouri citizens have embarked on their own journey of racial reckoning, centering the debate on a less discussed, but more common form of  memorial.  As part of the Renaming Streets Task Force, seven citizens had 120 days to research over 200 street names and determine which ones should be targe...

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