The Marvel Cooke Fellowship funds independent journalism from writers of color on abolitionist organizing around the world.
We are specifically looking for journalists who have a history of engagement and experience with abolitionist organizing, and who bring abolitionist principles to their reporting process.
Shadowproof has reported on abolitionist movements since our founding in 2015. Following the George Floyd uprisings of 2020, Shadowproof launched the Marvel Cooke Fellowship, named for the legendary Black radical communist from Mankato, Minnesota, who was an activist and a journalist.
Thanks to ongoing support from Mariame Kaba and our subscribers, each fellow will receive $2,000.
Apply For The Marvel Cooke Fellowship
Before you apply: We encourage prospective applicants to read more about Marvel Cooke’s life and influence on this project as we urge fellows to produce journalism that follows in her footsteps. You are also encouraged to read some of the work of past Marvel Cooke Fellows (see below), as well as our other reporting on abolition, to get an idea of the kind of work we’re after.
How to apply:
Incarcerated applicants may apply directly or contact us via an outside collaborator. Those applying directly can mail their pitches to:
C/O FDL Media Group
PO Box 117
Cumberland Center, ME 04021-0117
Outside applicants must email pitches to email@example.com. Please begin the subject line of your email with “MARVEL COOKE:”
Applicants may apply individually or, if they wish to share bylines, in collaboration with other writers.
Deadlines: Fellowship applications are considered on a rolling basis. While there is no deadline to apply, we will review applications in the order they are received so we encourage you to apply as soon as possible.
Pitching instructions: Shadowproof will only consider detailed pitches. We will not consider pre-written stories or drafts. Please do not pitch personal essays, editorials, or first-person narratives.
Journalists are encouraged to pitch original news stories and analyses related to abolitionist organizing around the world. We seek fact-based reporting that involves primary source materials and interviews with organizers and people directly impacted by the issues being covered.
Potential areas of investigation include but are not limited to:
- Abolitionist organizing that intersects with issues such as labor, health care, the environment, housing, transportation, etc.
- Abolitionist organizing aimed specifically at confinement, law enforcement, and other aspects of the prison industrial complex.
- Abolitionist models and experiments, such as those related to transformative justice practices, community accountability, and other non-carceral harm intervention and disruption.
- Critical analysis of reformist-reforms and exploration of non-reformist proposals
Your pitch must include:
- 1-2 paragraph summary of the story you want to tell.
- A brief, high-level bulleted outline with examples of research and sources or types of sources you plan to consult for each aspect of the story. It’s OK if this information or structure changes later, and you don’t need to divulge sensitive or identifying source information.* The purpose is to give us a sense of the story you have in mind.
- How much time you think you will need to produce your first draft. We will use this to negotiate your first deadline.
- A few sentences introducing yourself, as well as any relevant details about your experience as a journalist and why you are applying for the fellowship. You may include any websites, portfolios, or other materials relevant to this work.
- OPTIONAL (but encouraged): A writing sample if you haven’t been previously published by Shadowproof.
- OPTIONAL: Whether you plan to incorporate any original media (photos, infographics, video, etc.)
*Shadowproof is committed to the safety and privacy of our sources. We are open to discussing measures to protect people featured in our reporting, as we acknowledge the sensitive and often dangerous nature of this work.
Black people, people of color, people from poor and working-class backgrounds, immigrants, indigenous people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, trans and gender non-conforming people, women, young people, criminalized people, and disabled people are strongly encouraged to apply.
The fellowship is especially interested in working with incarcerated journalists. We are willing to cover incidental costs related to producing reporting behind prison walls, such as purchasing stamps and phone credits.
Shadowproof is an equal-opportunity employer and we do not discriminate based upon gender, race, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Ideally, applicants will demonstrate an understanding of and experience with reporting on the abolition movement, including the delicate nature of working with criminalized and policed sources.
What To Expect After You Apply
We’re eager to read your application. We will review applications as we receive them and respond if we have any additional questions.
If your application is approved, we’ll share information on our editorial process, our style guidelines, and establish a deadline. We can also set up phone calls to discuss your piece in further detail.
If your application is rejected, we will email you our decision.
Please feel free to check-in on your application if you do not hear from us within two weeks of your submission. We are a very small team and will do our best to reply to all submissions in a timely manner.
Shadowproof has a collaborative editorial process in which we encourage your active participation. We’re here to help you at every stage along the way, and you will have ample opportunity to review, discuss, and approve our edits and your final draft before publication.
We support all paid contributions by featuring them prominently on our homepage and sharing them widely on social media. Occasionally, we’ll also invite authors to participate in community activities with us, like Q&A’s.
Unless all parties involved have made a written agreement stating otherwise, we pay writers in-full no later than the day of publication.
Image Credit: Marvel Cooke by Mariame Kaba
Marvel Cooke Fellowship Reporting Archive
When the Washington State DOC announced it would close the Washington State Reformatory, it caused a rift between incarcerated abolitionists.
Practicing journalism in prison is necessary, but incarcerated reporters face enormous risks and aggressive retaliation.
Inside Georgia's prisons, Georgia Prisoners Speak fights barriers to the outside and engages in abolitionist political education.
Prison health care is designed to avoid or withhold care for as long as possible, often to the point of causing serious harm.
James Jones and Caren Holmes surveyed incarcerated people in the US and UK to collectivize our knowledge of mutual aid practices in prisons.
At Washington's Stafford Creek Corrections Center, a group of incarcerated organizers have built community with local youths to fight for sentencing reforms, grappling with what it means to organize through an abolitionist lens from inside.
With right-wing mass shootings on the rise, increased surveillance represents a double-edged sword for communities of color most often targeted by such programs.
Since COVID-19 wreaked havoc inside California’s prisons, conditions that helped the virus spread have been left unaddressed.
Adamu Chan remembers how it felt to be trapped in San Quentin as COVID-19 spread and how #StopSanQuentinOutbreak helped him get free.
New York City implemented a police surveillance transparency law, but activists are divided on if it helps or hurts their cause.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, jailhouse lawyers have struggled for safety measures, and against restrictions on privileges and mobility.
Bronx residents welcome the closure of Rikers but are worried plans for new jails will compromise dreams for truly community-created spaces.
Abolitionist organizers are building global solidarity, navigating a wide range of challenges from language to selective anti-imperialism.
In California, survivors of forced sterilizations in women's prisons fight for reparations after a century of reproductive violence.
Chicago's refusal to significantly reduce incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic left a wake of preventable death and trauma.