2020 Honoree Profile: Tanya D. Woods

“Tanya Woods has brought a high level of creativity, energy and wisdom that has helped to inspire and enhance the advocacy for Justice in the Westside and surrounding areas. She has availed herself selflessly to the public. We applaud her commitment to the underserved, those who maybe the most vulnerable, and that may have become hopeless with the Justice system. We think of her as a Beacon of Justice.

-Danny K Davis , US Congressman 7th District

“She was a beautiful child to raise. She is truly a person that is gifted in so many different ways. When she meets someone in need, she will do everything in her power to assist them. She has a strong will to help the people and the communities. She truly is just a rich person to be with and to get to know. She is a leader in her church as well as in her occupation. On top of that is a wonderful mother. There is nothing too small or too large for her to accomplish. There is no one above nor below her. She is just a wonderful and just person.”

-Ms. Carolyn her mother

Tanya runs the WJC, an organization concerned with addressing “justice desserts” on the west side of Chicago and beyond. As a grant seeker, she found a dearth of funding opportunities for work lead-by and serving people impacted by incarceration. Her advocacy lead to the establishment of a state grant program that the WJC now administers, where they model, facilitate, and empower grassroots solutions to injustices faced by communities impacted by incarceration.

“Tanya has been an energetic and consistent force for finding resources for the underserved on the Westside. Her efforts in ensuring that Westsiders get holistic legal services and have access to other services have been unmatched in recent years.”

-Alderman Jason Ervin, Chairman of the Aldermanic Black Caucus.

“Tanya is an advocate not only for justice, but equally an advocate for equity in the how justice work is funded in philanthropy and government. Her work at the Westside Justice Center that has resulted in the funding and launch of Access 2 Justice has put base groups at the forefront of re-entry.”

– Rev Dr. Otis Monroe of the Monroe foundation

Ms. Woods has organized over $5 million to this end in 2020, all while supporting an equal match of $5 million for communities facing injustices due to immigration policy. This collaborative spirit and consciousness is celebrated by many.

 “Working with Tanya these last 2 years has been pretty cool! Note that I am saying “work with” not “work for” as this is an important distinction. We learn from each other, crack each other up, and have each other’s back. We decide together, as a team, in which direction WJC goes. Tanya offered me a job because of my background (time I spent locked up) rather than despite my background. That too is an important distinction, one that matters very much to me. My time in prison gave me a particular insight and skill that is appreciated and respected by Tanya and the WJC. We are lucky to have each other to work with, plan with, laugh with, and on many occasions be furious at the court system with. Tanya is my girl!”

-Monica Cosby, New Leaders for Chicago Fellow 2019, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration

Her 2 adult children celebrate her too:

“It has been humbling to witness our mother’s career and personal journey unfold. Like many of us, there has been a great sacrifice, tragedy and monumental wins. She draws strength from her faith, integrity, and commitment to self transformation. It’s an honor to recognize her work and contribution to our community. What a rich legacy to inherit!” 


“With great power, comes great responsibility” is a quote that many may associate with Stan Lee and his character, Spider-Man, but I learned it first it through my mother, a superhero in her own right. “To whom much is given, much is required” were the words that she would impart on me, words that come with me wherever I go. In today’s complex world, it can be hard to see how much we truly have and it might seem easier to speak in language of lack or wanting. My mother, who has had her fair share of struggles, speaks in languages of love and abundance. A woman of enormous faith, she has always been willing to take the next step, whether the entire staircase was visible to her or not. She refuses to be daunted by the details, knowing that her love for her community and the joy with which she works will take her exactly where she needs to go. She has achieved so much in the realm of community advocacy helping hundreds of people across the city, creating ways for citizens to hold our leaders accountable. People like her are ones that you don’t have to worry about giving too much to or awarding too often. Because she will smile softly, graciously thank you, then turn and give it all away to her people. Congratulations mom, thank you for being a beacon of resilience and hope in our home, in our communities, and in our city.” 


Thank you Tanya for doing the impossible in service to our constituents, and insisting that justice and peace will come hand in hand.