Safe & Just Michigan
Zack Whaley, Communications Specialist
Zack Whaley joined the Safe & Just Michigan team in 2023. As a communications specialist, he maintains the organization’s social media presence while also using his content creation expertise to share the stories of those impacted by Safe & Just Michigan’s work.
From a young age, Whaley has enjoyed honing his skills in videography, photography and sound design, entering his first photography competition at age 12, launching a video podcast series at 13, and turning the basement of his parents’ home into a recording studio by 15.
Whaley first began using these talents as a tool for advocacy in 2018 when he started volunteering with The Firecracker Foundation, a nonprofit providing healing services to survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the Greater Lansing area. A survivor of CSA himself, the Firecracker Foundation provided him with a sense of belonging and educational opportunities that were transformational. It was through his work there that he was introduced to MacArthur fellow and prison abolitionist sujatha baliga and the concepts of Restorative Justice. Her teachings shone fresh light for Whaley on the possibilities for re-envisioning justice and community safety.
“This work has taught me that transformational accountability doesn’t come from a place of punitive vengeance, but from a place of empathy and love. We’ve all been harmed, we’ve all caused harm, and we all deserve dignity when working to restore connection after a rupture occurs.”
As his network expanded, so too did his portfolio as he collaborated with organizations including One Love Global, the city of Lansing’s Office of Financial Empowerment, Black Lives Matter Michigan and the Vera Institute. Most recently he was employed by Allen Neighborhood Center, a local organization focusing on neighborhood revitalization on Lansing’s Eastside, where he managed communications and volunteer coordination.
Whaley is a resident of Lansing.