The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice uses cutting-edge racial and social justice advocacy to empower people of color by building reparative systems that create wealth, transform justice and harness democratic power—from the ground up—in New Jersey.



“Black people have and will continue to be
the perfecters of this democracy.”

-Nikole Hannah-Jones



The Institute was thrilled to award our largest honor, the Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein Social Justice Award, to Nikole Hannah-Jones at our 15th Annual Gala on Nov. 10, 2020.

Click to watch our 2020 Gala

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of the NYT 1619 Project, Nikole urges us to see America as it really is, and to look with clear vision at the lasting legacy of slavery on every aspect of modern-day life.

At our Gala, Nikole joined Institute President/CEO Ryan Haygood for an in-depth discussion on the role of race in the extraordinary moment we are living through – and the necessary work ahead.

We also honored four other powerful Black women at our event, hosted other special guests including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and enjoyed some powerful musical entertainment.

Please watch




In December 2019 – as a result of the collective advocacy of the 1844 No More Campaign led by the Institute – Governor Murphy signed into law voting rights restoration for 83,000 people on probation and parole in New Jersey.

One of those 83,000 was Ron Pierce, the institute’s Democracy & Justice Fellow, whose political voice was silenced for 34 years.

Watch this screening of Voter, a 15-minute documentary about Ron’s journey from a family where voting was everything, to being incarcerated and losing the vote, to becoming a lead voting rights advocate in NJ.

The screening, held with our partners at NJPAC, is complemented by a discussion including remarks from Governor Murphy, Asw. Shavonda Sumter and other people who have had their votes restored.

Hear from NJ Youth about What They Need to Stay Out of the Criminal Justice System


Marking Juneteenth: The Ongoing Quest for Freedom in New Jersey

Watch our Juneteenth panel of Institute experts discussing how to #DoRacialJustice in this critical moment.


In the News

Institute Launches Reparations Campaign with Juneteenth Rally and Engagement Tools

June 17, 2021



Institute Launches Reparations Campaign with Juneteenth Rally and Engagement Tools

With Wide and Diverse Support, Say the Word Campaign Calls for Passage of Legislation for a New Jersey Reparations Task Force


NEWARK -- The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today launched a Say the Word: Reparations campaign calling for passage of S322/A711 to establish a Reparations Task Force in New Jersey.

Over 100 organizations have endorsed the campaign or signed on to a letter to elected officials urging passage of the pending legislation.

“Surprising to many, New Jersey has a substantial and dark history of slavery,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “A direct line can be drawn from that history to today, when we have some of the worst racial disparities in America. It is time to repair the harm in a deep and lasting way, and reparations must be a part of that. Reparations can look like different kinds of investments in New Jersey’s Black communities, but we must embrace the word and not run from it.”

Despite being a northern state, New Jersey – which has been referred to as the “slave state of the North” – incentivized slavery at our state’s founding, when white settlers received 150 acres of land and were eligible to receive an additional 150 acres for every enslaved person they brought with them. New Jersey had a “slave code” in 1704 prohibiting African Americans from owning property. By 1830, over two-thirds of all enslaved people in the North were held in our state. 

Juneteenth Rally to Say the Word: REPARATIONS

June 14, 2021



Juneteenth Rally to Say the Word: REPARATIONS

With Support of Over 30 Groups, June 19 Rally in Newark Will Call for Passage of S322/A711 to Establish Reparations Task Force in New Jersey

NEWARK – On June 19 at 12 PM, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, racial justice advocates and elected officials from across the state will gather in Newark to celebrate Juneteenth and to call for passage of pending legislation to establish a Reparations Task Force in New Jersey. This will be the first Juneteenth recognized by New Jersey as a state holiday.

A copy of the event flyer including logos of more than 30 widely diverse organizations can be found here.

“While we rightly celebrate the liberation of enslaved people on Juneteenth, we must also double down on our commitment to create an equitable and just America – and New Jersey – where Black people are truly free and not restricted by the shackles of structural racism,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Say ‘the Word’ This Juneteenth | Opinion

June 14, 2021

Institute President & CEO Ryan Haygood writes

When New Jersey celebrates Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time on Saturday, people from across the state will rally in Newark with one clear message: It’s time to say “the word.”

That word is “reparations.”

Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day — has been a tradition in the United States for more than 150 years.

It marks the day, June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas finally learned about their freedom — more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Given the significant challenges we face, we have only two options: to embrace chaos or embrace community. We choose community. Join us as we work to bend our neighborhoods toward the beloved community.


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