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

Rutgers University-Newark Joins Initiative With Various Schools to Combat Racial Oppression in Communities

February 11, 2021

TapInto's Tom Wiedmann reports

NEWARK, NJ -- Rutgers University–Newark announced today that it joined a collaborative grant project with other universities to raise awareness of racial issues and injustice. 

Invited by the University of Michigan Center on Social Solutions, Rutgers partnered with the grant-funded project sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As part of the foundation’s initiative, the center is creating “Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-Based Reparations Solutions,” a partnership with nine colleges and universities located in cities spanning various regions of the US. 

Through this project, officials said that participating colleges and universities in each city will collaborate with community partners in a public history reckoning designed to yield tangible, community-based racial reparations solutions that reflect the specific histories and contemporary circumstances of each community.

For its part of the three-year project, officials said Rutgers-Newark will work with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) and Newark Community Development Network (NCDN) to engage the city in raising awareness. 

Progressives File Suit to Eliminate the Party ‘line’ on Ballots

February 11, 2021

Insider NJ reports

In a move they say is designed to return democratic power to the voters of New Jersey and away from politically connected party bosses, a coalition of progressive organizations and candidates has joined a landmark lawsuit to force reforms in New Jersey elections by limiting the influence county party leaders exert in drawing ballots that favor particular candidates.

For decades, New Jersey’s county parties have exercised an iron grip on New Jersey elected officials — from congressperson to state legislator to township councilperson — by wielding control over who gets the coveted “party line” to give these chosen candidates an unfair advantage at the polls.

That practice violates the United States Constitution and must be reformed, according to a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

“This antiquated practice is truly indefensible.” said Sue Altman, State Director of New Jersey Working Families, one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. “If we learned anything over the last four years, it’s that our democracy is fragile and requires a vigorous effort maintain. This expansive coalition is fighting to make democracy stronger in New Jersey. Up and down the state advocates agree: It is long past time for real, competitive primary elections. Our democracy is at stake, this is a matter of equity and whose voice counts.”

If we want real racial justice, we need to cut through red tape, Lt. Gov says

February 11, 2021's Tennyson Donyéa reports

After months of protests across the state and country demanding racial equality, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said Thursday it’s time for state officials to “abandon bureaucratic red tape” and pass more far-reaching racial justice policies.

Oliver, a Democrat, made the remarks at an annual meeting for the New Jersey Institute For Social Justice (NJISJ) Thursday evening, where leaders discussed the institution’s goals for the new legislative session, which began on January 14, and is scheduled to run through late January 2022.

“As a state governmental leader, we’ve got to abandon the old ways of going through bureaucratic kinds of experiences. We’ve got to cut out the red tape, cut out the bureaucracy,” Oliver said. “If you want to get something done, I believe, like Nike says, you just do it.”

At the meeting, which was held on Zoom and attended by some state legislators and members of the public, NJISJ leaders put forth the organization’s 2021 “action agenda” for social justice. The group is one of the most vocal advocacy groups for racial justice causes in the state.

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.


Learn more about NJISJ