First Friday Forum: Building Community Remotely - Tips for Working and Convening Online

Recorded On: 03/06/2020

With COVID-19 causing interruptions, cancellations, and quarantines, we wanted to take some time to share with you some practical ways to advance pretrial justice from wherever you may find yourself. Join PJI for an informal conversation about strategies we have found beneficial when working remotely, facilitating online events, and how we might be able to help you!

Wendy Blackwell Fortune

Senior Associate, Pretrial Justice Institute

Wendy Blackwell Fortune has joined PJI as a Senior Associate, where she will lead PJI’s portfolio of interactive learning events. Prior to joining PJI, Wendy was the Director of the Practitioner’s Leadership Institute at the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), where she developed capacity-building relationships and collaborations with individuals and community. Previously, Wendy served as the Executive Director of the National Children’s Museum, where she began as the Director of Education. During her decade of service, she grew the education and programs departments, developed education initiatives, and shaped the Center for Learning and Innovation. Wendy championed community collaborations that produced replication-model child and caregiver learning together programs.

Wendy enjoys the intersection of family, literacy, and art and shared her passion at CFUF with the Family Reading Circle and other two-generation efforts. Wendy’s museum-school collaboration won a Promising Practice recognition from the Association of Children’s Museum for her work at Port Discovery Children’s Museum. She and her staff were honored with the Judith P. Hoyer Award for Outstanding Service to Children by the Prince Georges County Early Childhood Interagency. She is also an award-winning teacher. Wendy and her eighth grade students received the Daily Point of Light of the Nation from President George H. Bush at the U.S. White House.

Wendy is a mother of two who enjoys being a textile artist and leading programs with children in her spare time. She is a 2016 BaltimoreCorp Elevation Award winner for her ART POWER project where she offers art activities to children ages 5-12 in West Baltimore.

Jess Bizik

Director of Engagement, PJI

Jessica Bizik is the former editor-in-chief of Baltimore STYLE magazine and numerous other local and national publications and websites. She is a seasoned storyteller and marketing strategist with a 20-year track record for engaging and activating audiences, harnessing the latest technology to create seamless user experiences, and launching/re-launching brands. From 2016 to 2019, Jess served as a communications consultant for nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and a select group of Baltimore-ara businesses dedicated to uplifting the community. This work included consulting for the Pretrial Justice Institute, whose staff she joined full-time on November 1, 2019, as the Director of Engagement. Her specialty is helping organizations unearth and tell the stories that bring their brand to life — and pairing those stories with best practices across multiple industries to help strengthen their relationships with current customers/stakeholders and attract new ones.

Toni Shoola


In her role as a community manager with PJI, Toni Shoola focuses on community engagement and provides technical assistance and training to entities around the country on implementing evidence-based pretrial justice practices. Toni began her nonprofit career by providing direct service to low- income individuals in her community. Most recently, she assisted hundreds of nonprofit organizations in capacity building, professional development, and program evaluation through technical assistance, workshops and additional resources.

A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Toni holds a bachelor of arts in international studies and a master of public administration. During her studies, she focused primarily on social justice issues in sub-Saharan Africa and is a published author on the topic. Additionally, she earned her green belt in Lean Six Sigma in 2017 from Owens-Illinois.

Her special interests include, social justice, racial and gender equity, investing in others, and making the world a better place. When she is not working or volunteering, Toni enjoys playing board games, spending time with her friends, family and pets, and exploring her artistic side.


Building Community Remotely - Tips for Working and Convening Online
Recorded 03/06/2020
Recorded 03/06/2020