In high school, Jonathan launched his career by helping to create a statewide action group that promotes student political activism. Jonathan is also a talented spoken word artist, whose many poems celebrate civil liberties, inspiring his peers to take a more critical look at their own rights. He won the 2008 ACLU student activist of the year award for his work with youth voices. In 2009 he was the performance arts director for a Chicago organization called P.A.E.C.E. (Performing Arts for Effective Civic Engagement) a non-profit group that encourages students to use artistic expressions to tackle social issues in under-privileged communities. In 2010 Lykes started working on a project with his political science professor, Dr. Cathy Cohen. The project is a first–of–its kind online resource that explores the attitudes, actions and decision–making of black youth by including their lives, ideas and voices (Blackyouthproject.com). He believes that if we began to address the lives, ideas, and voices of all people, we can begin to chip away at marginalization and disparity gaps. In 2011 Lykes spent six months in South Africa, working in Khayelitsha (a township in Cape Town) with a grassroots movement called Equal Education, where he joined to organize students, parents, principals, NGO’s and the government to progress towards a better more equal education system. In 2012 Lykes spent a summer in Mumbai, India taking classes at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and working with several NGOs on education rights, access to housing and policy initiatives. Jonathan Lykes is a Black queer artist, activist and academic. His interdisciplinary approach to art, activism and anti-oppression work, merges policy change, artistic expression and activism. Combining these forms of social transformation—and harnessing their synergy—Jonathan works to create awareness, promote personal healing, surmount institutional barriers and generate systemic change. Jonathan’s current position as Founder/Executive Director of Liberation House situates him to merge his multidisciplinary artistic background with public policy reform, community engagement and systems change work to teach liberation praxis by pushing the revolutionary edge of radical transformative movement work. Lykes is also a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), a movement of young adults using a Black Queer Feminist lens to advocate for community and institutional change. Jonathan is also the curator of BYP100’s freedom song and chant album, The Black Joy Experience, helping to teach holistic energy through the Black radical tradition. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received his master’s degree from the School for Social Service Administration.
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