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Let's tap into the transformative power of creativity and media to ignite meaningful change in our lives and communities.

Essence McDowell is a writer, communications strategist and creative director. She is the coauthor of the second book of, "Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping A History of Trailblazing Black Women in Chicago. 


Essence utilizes community engagement, digital design, and communication technologies to strengthen community institutions, and advance justice-based organizations. She has worked with national and local entities: Illinois Humanities Council, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Latino Policy Form, Black Feminist Future, and Chicago Public Schools. 


Essence is the former director of arts and communications at the Social Justice Initiative, where she co-founded the Chicago Justice gallery and created over 50 public programs, community events, and symposia.


Essence is also an arts leader who has developed numerous exhibitions including 2019 Black Chicago Resists, 2020 Belonging: Place, Power and Impossibilities, and the 2023 Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice which is currently open to the public in Chicago.


Holding a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and news editorial from Bethune Cookman University, as well as a Master's in Communications from DePaul University, Essence has over 15 years of experience creating educational resources, organizing tools and media platforms to facilitate social change. 

With a vision of centering the power and expertise of Black women and girls, Essence has ventured into filmmaking. Today, as she celebrates the publication of the new "Lifting As They Climbed" guidebook, she is also poised to unveil her debut documentary project, "Invisible Giants.

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