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Imagining the Future with Program Officer Lincoln Mondy

By Andrus Family Fund on September 25, 2023

AFF is excited to introduce Lincoln Mondy (he/him), our new Program Officer! We sat down with him to chat about his past work, what excites him about AFF, and his vision for an abolitionist future. 

What piqued your interest in social justice and abolition?

Growing up in Texas, I was conditioned to have a strong sense of patriotism, individuality, and adherence to authority. Even as I saw a separate criminal legal system based on race and class or systemic failures of the state, I still bought into the myth of the American dream.  

When I was younger, I believed that becoming a lawyer or politician was the only way to create positive change. I thought it was all about making compromises and incremental reforms. Then, I had the opportunity to study democracy in Athens, Greece. My time there was transformational—Greece had just elected one of Europe’s farthest-left political parties. Still, at the same time, the national media was legitimizing a neo-nazi party.

This experience taught me how art, culture, and media play a (positive or negative) role in forming perceptions, whether it was conservative leaders using economic uncertainty to stoke xenophobia or graffiti artists using their craft to mobilize neighbors to join general strikes. 

I began reckoning and unraveling the myriad of myths I had bought into. That justice came from the state. That humanity had to be earned. And most of all—that the communities I hold sacred just needed to wait their turn, be polite in their asks, and accept that existing systems were the only options we have. To sum it up, I was surprised that my unwavering and unquestioning belief in systems was not universal. 

How do you see art and creativity as a bridge between social justice efforts and other sectors? How do you integrate arts and activism in your work?

The intersection of art, social justice, and youth power can produce limitless possibilities, but I’ve also found that these areas are often siloed and underinvested in. 

While in college, I interned at a national public health organization, Truth Initiative. At first, I really wasn’t invested in the role as something I could see myself doing long-term. I’d always seen public health as a very white, traditional, clinical space. I thought you had to be a doctor or have a masters in public health. I didn’t see my interests, or even myself, aligning. However, my curiosity piqued when I began learning about the 50+ year campaign to transform menthol into a “black cigarette” through predatory marketing, philanthropic giving, and political strategy. I was floored and began seeing connections in my own life. 

I went on to produce, direct, and host two short films over 7 years funded by Truth Initiative. The series, Black Lives / Black Lungs, explores the origins and impact of America’s First Great Enterprise, the Tobacco Industry, and how it shaped the Black experience in America. 

This experience gave me the permission to color outside the lines, and the understanding that movements need all types of people to amass true, lasting power. 

This is what formed my fierce belief that abolition is inherently creative. Oppressors don’t want us to imagine a future where we all belong, void of harmful systems and filled with grace, care, and thriving futures. But that visualization is a crucial element in our movement. We need artists, organizers, and cross-issue collaboration to make the case of abolition irresistible and urgent. We all need to be able to see the world we’re building, not just the one we’re leaving behind.

This isn’t your first time working with some of the Andrus staff, right?

Right! After college, my first job was as an account coordinator on the Issue Advocacy team at BerlinRosen. I worked with clients on a range of issues, and one of my first clients was Youth First Justice Collaborative, an AFF grantee partner! It was my favorite client, alongside Advocates for Youth, and I started working with Mishi and some other amazing folks. 

The work was personal for me. As a child who grew up with a parent who was incarcerated, I intimately understood that these harmful systems don’t just impact the individual—they impact entire generations, families, and communities. Working with Youth First really modeled trust-based relationships for me, the team saw that I had a personal investment in this work, and they nurtured that. 

It was an invaluable learning experience—I was not only able to learn from the experts at Youth First, but I began working closely with state-based campaigns and system-impacted young people, who generously educated me on the harmful and ineffective archaic institutions that are youth prisons.

What are you most excited about in your upcoming work with AFF?

So much! I look forward to learning and being in community with our grantee partners. I’m deeply invested in forming a strong, imaginative, powerful cohort of current, former and future grantee partners who all work together and understand that one individual organization will not get us free—we will only rise together if we’re hard on the issues, but soft on the people. If we treat each other with respect and grace, I think we’re going to be the groups, the generation, the mechanisms that will unlock the futures we’re imagining. 

I’m also thankful to continue what has been the north star of my career—youth power. Young people have been at the front of every modern movement, whether it’s the civil rights movement, the LGBTQ health and rights movement, reproductive justice, abolition, everything. We need to resource, nurture, and give them the respect and responsibility they’re asking for. I’m eager to build a practice and politic around funding youth power that will hopefully influence the broader philanthropy space. 

What’s your grand vision for liberation?

My grand vision for liberation is a future where every young person, no matter their zip code or citizenship status or race or class or disability, has every single resource and opportunity to lead safe and healthy lives, to lead full lives.  I envision a world where no person is seen as disposable. A world where we don’t have to struggle to survive and can focus on thriving, abundance, and rest.