Janaé E. Bonsu is a Brooklyn-born, Carolina-raised activist-scholar and organizer based in Chicago.
The seeds of Janaé's resistance were sown witnessing the marginalization of loved ones and three generations of formerly and currently incarcerated family members cycle in and out of the criminal legal system. Understanding that her ecosystem is just a microcosm of society agitated her into action for social change. Her journey to figuring out what her role is in creating the world in which she'd like to live led her to work in research, policy work, organizing and activism.
After obtaining her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina, Janaé relocated to New York City to spend her formative years in social policy research at MDRC. She spent most of her time working on a Rikers Island-based project for 16-18 funded by a social impact bond. After deciding to further her education in the field of social work, Janaé headed to the University of Chicago for graduate school. In Chicago, Janaé found a political home in the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100). BYP 100 is a member-based organization of 18 to 35 year old Black activists whose mission is to achieve economic, social, political, and educational freedom and justice for all Black people through nonviolent direct action organizing, education, and advocacy. BYP 100 provided Janaé with an introduction to activism, organizing, and civic engagement around racial, social, and economic justice issues. During her time with BYP100, she served as the Chicago chapter's Organizing Co-Chair and Chapter Co-Chair, as well as National Public Policy Chair for the organization. Janaé has also played key roles in BYP100’s public policy agendas – the Agenda to Keep Us Safe and the Agenda to Build Black Futures, as well as the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice.
Janaé currently serves as secretary of the board of directors at mRelief, a nonprofit whose mission is to restore dignity by transforming access to social services, and chairperson of the board of directors at Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE), a campaign hub for organizations working at the intersection of racial justice and Wall Street accountability.
Janaé is currently a doctoral student at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Jane Addams College of Social Work where her research focuses on Black women's agency in their safety beyond policing and punitive state systems. Firmly believing in Assata Shakur's words that “Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without theory. The two have to go together,” Janaé is dedicated to an abolitionist praxis in service of a world that does not rely on policing, imprisonment, and surveillance for safety and security.
In her downtime, Janaé is likely cooking or watching some original series on Netflix.