Washington University in St. Louis

University Advancement

VIRTUAL: Transforming St. Louis: A Conversation with Kayla Reed and Blake Strode​​

Monday, February 1, 2021 | 5:30–6:30 p.m. CST

The movement for racial justice has a long history in St. Louis. Local individuals and organizations continue to carry the work forward through coalitions and campaigns that target policies and structures.

This webinar will feature Kayla Reed, AB ’20, co-founder and director of Action St. Louis and lead strategist in the Movement for Black Lives, and Blake Strode, executive director at ArchCity Defenders, in a discussion about how they and their organizations are sparking action and changing structures in the St. Louis area and beyond. They’ll also discuss their partnership and how members of the WashU community can support and join their work. The conversation and Q&A will be moderated by John Robinson III, assistant professor of sociology.

This event is sponsored by the WashU Alumni Association and the WashU Black Alumni Council.

About Kayla Reed:
Kayla Reed (she/her) is a Black, queer organizer and strategist from St. Louis, Missouri. After the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014, Kayla was catapulted into organizing around issues of racial justice, policing, and democracy expansion. She is co-founder and director of Action St. Louis, a grassroots racial justice organization working to build Black political power in St. Louis. Action St. Louis has led campaigns to elect progressive candidates to local offices and hold them accountable and to pass local and state policies. They are currently leading the campaign to close a local jail and end cash bail. Kayla is also a lead strategist in the Movement for Black Lives, where she co-founded the Electoral Justice Project (EJP), a national campaign of the Movement for Black Lives that seeks to expand and mobilize the Black electorate and strengthen the capacity of Black-led organizations building power across the U.S.

About Blake Strode:
Blake Strode is the executive director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit holistic legal advocacy organization in St. Louis, Missouri that combats the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color. Blake is a native of the St. Louis region and joined ArchCity as a Skadden Fellow and staff attorney following his graduation from Harvard Law School in 2015.

Blake previously helped to establish the Civil Rights Litigation unit at ArchCity, which has brought challenges to a variety of unlawful and predatory practices including debtors' prisons, police misconduct, and inhumane jail conditions, among others. In the past few years, Blake and his colleagues have filed more than 50 civil rights cases in state and federal court, affecting upwards of 40,000 people in the St. Louis region. Blake also played a significant role in the class-action debtors' prison case against the City of Jennings, Missouri that reached a $4.75 million final settlement in December 2016. The landmark case provided a blueprint for permanent legal reform in the region's courts and afforded monetary relief to hundreds of individuals who were jailed because of their inability to pay court debts.

As executive director, Blake manages ArchCity’s growing and talented staff, explores new opportunities for advocacy and systemic litigation, communicates the work and mission of ACD, and works with the board and leadership to set the strategic direction for the organization. Blake has spoken on panels throughout the country and has written columns and essays for publication on issues of race, policing, and criminal justice. He and Kayla Reed co-host a podcast called “Under the Arch,” which explores issues affecting communities in St. Louis and the people fighting to transform them. Blake’s leadership has garnered several accolades including the 2020 Missouri Lawyers Media Legal Champion, 2019 Bellow-Charn Champions of Justice Emerging Leader Award from the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and the 2019 FOCUS St. Louis Emerging Alumni Award.

About John Robinson III:
Professor Robinson hails from the Washington, D.C. area and is a proud graduate of Hampton University. He earned his PhD in sociology in 2016 from Northwestern University. His work examines the politics of racial and economic inequality with a focus on housing and credit and has earned recognition from the Ford Foundation, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the Institute for Advanced Study (at Princeton), among other major institutions. Currently, he sits on the Board of Directors at the Arch City Defenders and on the Social Science Advisory Board for the Poverty & Race Action Council, and he serves as a national affiliate for the Race & Capitalism Project (at University of Chicago).

Cost: Complimentary, registration required

NOTE: You will receive a confirmation email after completing registration. If you do not receive one, please email alumniclubs@wustl.edu.