Field and MacArthur Foundations name Emily Blum a 2022 Leader for a New Chicago

Emily Blum
June 7, 2022

In partnership with The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Field Foundation announced Emily Blum, Disability Lead’s Executive Director, among the 2022 Leaders for a New Chicago cohort. Emily is one of 10 leaders announced whose work aligns with Field’s grantmaking areas of Art, Justice, Media, and Storytelling.

Now in its 4th year, Emily is the first Leader for a New Chicago to be selected who has a disability and strong disability identity. “This moment is incredibly meaningful for me personally, and I hope it is for the entire disability community,” said Emily. “Representation matters. It’s not nearly enough if we want equitable outcomes, but it absolutely matters, and I’m incredibly humbled to serve in this way. Increasingly, disability is better represented in the media, in our culture, in our conversations, but there is still a long way to go. A big part of my leadership is showing up proudly as a disabled person because I know that’s a powerful statement on its own.” 

Emily was featured in the Tribune with this photo taken by Terrance Antonio James. Like many disabled people since the pandemic, Emily and the Disability Lead team have been working from home. This photo captures Emily in a white blouse and jeans, standing on the sidewalk in her West Town neighborhood with her dog, Alfie.

The Leaders for a New Chicago Awards are part of Field’s ongoing investment in racial justice visionaries and organizations addressing systemic issues in underserved communities. Each Leader will receive a no-strings-attached award of $25,000, and their affiliated organizations each will receive an additional $25,000 general operating grant. The awards will recognize past accomplishments while shining a light on the leaders who will influence decision-making across Chicago. 

As an organization committed to disability leadership and disability justice, Disability Lead’s work of connecting and supporting the leadership of its members on boards, task forces, councils, commissions, and in their organizations, is inextricably connected to racial justice. “It is imperative if we envision a world in which people with disabilities lead with power and influence, that we work to ensure all of us are able to show up and lead with our whole selves,” said Emily.

“Including leaders with disabilities is critical to achieving an equitable Chicago,” said Ann Manikas, Disability Lead Board Chair and Member. “This award not only recognizes Emily’s leadership, but the work of the organization. Disability Lead believes in the power of intersectional disabled leadership and the change that can be catalyzed when our perspectives are at decision making tables.”

Visit to learn about the award and the 2022 Leaders for a New Chicago cohort. Or check out the Chicago Tribune story featuring Emily and the 2022 cohort.