2022 J. Gordon Cooney Fellowship in Criminal Justice recipient announced, honoring senior partner of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and former UWGPSNJ Regional Board Chair
PHILADELPHIA, P.A. — United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is proud to announce The J. Gordon Cooney Fellow for 2022, Danea Langston-Banks. Danea is an advocate and small business owner who has dedicated herself to not only the residential development of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods but also to the development of equity and prosperity in her community. Danea will be embedded in Why Not Prosper, Inc., a grassroots UWGPSNJ agency that primarily serves the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
In 2019, UWGPSNJ was one of the first funders in the country to identify erasing criminal records as a key strategy for ending inter-generational poverty. The Cooney Fellowship was created in September 2020 by UWGPSNJ in honor of Gordon Cooney, senior partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and in recognition of his decade of passionate service to UWGPSNJ.
The J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice is a six-month fellowship presented to people who have lived experience with the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing, and who have shown a commitment to social equity. The Cooney Fellowship is coordinated with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), a UWGPSNJ supported non-profit agency that, since its founding in 2011, helps low-income Philadelphians clean up their criminal records.
Danea experienced first-hand the life-altering implications of involvement with the criminal justice system when, in 1992, she was charged and later convicted for using investor funds to expand her non-profit. She completed her sentence and fully repaid her investors. This was her first and only encounter with the criminal justice system. Yet, 30 years later, she remains unable to secure construction funding or loans for her business and cannot serve as the attorney-in-fact for her brother, who requires care following a traumatic brain injury, or for her elderly mother. Helped by volunteer Pardon Coaches, she submitted her pardon application in March 2021. She wrote,
“I am respectfully and humbly seeking a pardon so that others may judge me on the merits of who I am today rather than a singular event of my past.”
Since then, she has been an active member of the Pardon Project Steering Committee.
Danea will be hosted by Why Not Prosper, Inc., an organization that provides resources and support for formerly incarcerated women in Germantown and surrounding communities. Their services range from housing programs, workforce development, healthcare advocacy, and medical care. Why Not Prosper also offers their clients mentoring services through their Women’s Advocacy Program and SWAG – Sisters with a Goal – to help them realize their power and become economically self-sufficient. During her fellowship, Ms. Langston-Banks will support these efforts.
“Danea’s accomplishments are truly impressive. Her energy, vision, and passion to help others are what we all should strive towards. This Fellowship’s mission is to drive forward social justice, give voice to the voiceless, and foster opportunity. We know she’ll be successful in this role, and we’re thrilled to welcome Danea Langston-Banks as the program’s fellow for 2022.” Cheryl Mackey, Lead for Financial Empowerment at UWGPSNJ.
Philadelphia is the nation’s poorest big city, with almost 400,000 people living in poverty. As a leading poverty-fighting organization, UWGPSNJ continues to invest in programs like the Cooney Fellowship that will address the root causes of poverty and work towards creating a more just and equitable community for all.
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is on a mission to reduce poverty and expand opportunity for all. Serving Pennsylvania’s Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, and New Jersey’s Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, and Cumberland counties. United Way creates solutions that break the cycle of poverty. As part of a network of independent local nonprofit organizations, United Way provides countless ways to give, advocate and volunteer. To learn more, visit www.unitedforimpact.org.