About WCRJ 


WCRJ was founded in 2012 by a group of unemployed and formerly incarcerated Black workers. We aim to eliminate barriers to sustainable, living-wage employment for Black workers; to strengthen economic security for Black families and communities; and to advance a progressive, pro-worker agenda that will lead to inclusion and prosperity for all marginalized workers.

WCRJ seeks to improve the economic conditions and stability of Illinois’ Black communities by addressing issues of labor market discrimination and over-criminalization. Our work rests at the intersection of these two issues, which are inextricably linked and constitute root causes of many related problems including systemic poverty, mass incarceration, violence and poor health outcomes in Black communities.


What we do 


  • - Build an active and engaged base of unemployed, low-wage and formerly incarcerated Black workers with critical consciousness and deep analysis of structural racialization
  • - Develop and advance a set of policies at the metropolitan and state levels that help to eliminate persistent racial inequality in the areas of employment and criminal justice
  • - Improve working conditions and earnings in low-wage job sectors
  • - Directly challenge implicit bias associated with Black workers, in order to change the narrative about them
  • - Shift the public discourse on race to advance a grassroots racial justice agenda


Who We Are


WCRJ Staff

Deangelo Bester, Executive Director



DeAngelo is the Executive Director of the Workers Center For Racial Justice and Center for Racial and Gender Equity. He has worked as both a community and labor organizer for over 15 years. He has organized and helped developed a diverse set of leaders, from nurses in rural Wisconsin to public housing residents in New York. DeAngelo has led local, state, and national organizing campaigns that advanced racial justice around issues such as educational equity, preservation and expansion of affordable housing, re-entry, and increasing access to living wage jobs for Black workers. In 2012 DeAngelo founded Workers Center For Racial Justice (WCRJ), which is a Black workers center focused on organizing unemployed, low wage and formerly incarcerated Black workers around racial and economic justice, and in 2015 he started WCRJ’s sister 501 c4 organization, the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE). In 2014 after just two and half years in existence, under DeAngelo's leadership, WCRJ achieved a major victory by getting statewide Ban the Box legislation passed and signed into law that covers both public and private sectors employers. In 2016 DeAngelo led the field effort for WCRJ and CRGE, which helped get former police Superintendent McCarthy fired and State's Attorney Alvarez voted out of office. Also, in December of 2015, DeAngelo helped co-found the BlackRoots Alliance.


Yolanda Godwin, Operations Director



Yolanda is responsible for CRGE operations and provides support to the Executive Director and Staff. She brings her knowledge, skills and great work ethic after being a loyal public servant for the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). During her 35 years tenure with IDHR she was the Legal Division Manager, where she was responsible for the daily operations, supervised staff, and assisted constituents that filed charges against employers for discriminatory practices. Yolanda holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Bishop College (now, Paul Quinn) a historically black college in Dallas, Texas. She is also a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.


Kandice Harris, Field Director


Kandice is a native of Mobile, AL and a graduate of The University of Alabama. She moved to the Windy City to study at Loyola University Chicago School of Law where where she earned her JD degree and a Certificate in Public Interest Law. Kandice has experience in legislation and policy development on the national, state and local level and has worked on several campaigns in field organizing and policy development.  Kandice found her calling in political organizing when she took a position on Daniel Biss’ gubernatorial campaign, where she organized field operations and coordinated political outreach events for over 1 million residents in Chicago’ south and west side and the south suburbs.


Antonio Lightfoot, Lead Organizer



Since 2014, Antonio has been organizing in disinvested Black neighborhoods in his hometown of Chicago. As Lead Organizer at the Workers Center for Racial Justice and Center for Racial and Gender Equity since 2017, Antonio mobilizes community members around issues he is most passionate about, including Black equality, police accountability, and reinvestment for the formerly incarcerated community in Chicago and across Illinois.


Joi Wells, Organizer and Team Lead



Joi is an alumna of Western Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Political Science. As an activist, she has dedicated her research to labeling Black oppression as genocide in order to completely liberate Black communities and dismantle systems of racism and white supremacy. A lifelong Chicagoan, Joi is passionate about organizing and advocating around issues that plague Black communities, including police brutality and accountability, mass incarceration, and negative public opinion. She brings experience in policy and legislation research on Capitol Hill and has supervised multiple student organizations in field organizing and program development.


Louisa Manske, Policy and Communications Coordinator


Louisa joined CRGE in 2017, with over 10 years of experience working in community based organizations across Chicago. Louisa supported programs and advocacy initiatives at homeless resource centers across Chicago, including the Broadway Youth Center and Inspiration Corporation. She also served as the Associate Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Louisa is passionate about supporting movements that dismantle systems of  white supremacy and patriarchy and advance structural equity.


Sarah Wilson, Development Associate



Sarah Wilson has been fundraising for Black-led, social justice-focused organizations since 2011. She presently divides her time between CRGE and the Workers Center for Racial Justice in Chicago, and MOSES in Detroit. She has assisted in raising money for work around issues including public transit access, water equity, safety net program protection, criminal justice reform, and equitable community development. She helps to run an urban garden in her neighborhood of Rogers Park, Chicago, and is also involved in fundraising for several local performing arts organizations.


Street Outreach Team

The WCRJ employs a group of canvassers known as the Street Action Team (SAT). This team supports WCRJ by conducting strategic canvassing campaigns to engage Black workers and family members in WCRJ advocacy work, campaigns and Get Out the Vote efforts. The SAT is largely comprised of low-wage and formerly incarcerated Black workers.




Follow Us






Twitter Feed