Meleika Gardner, The Peace Studio Fellow 2023-2024

Meleika Gardner

Producer, Activist

In an interview, the Evanston Public Library described Meleika as being “on an inspiring path with twists and turns including years spent in Atlanta and Los Angeles, oftentimes rubbing shoulders and working with well known artists and producers.” As a young woman, Meleika toured with La Face Records, a joint venture with artist/producers Babyface and L.A. Reid (Arista Records). Touring with La Face were Damian Dame, TLC, Outkast, Usher, and many others. Meleika also worked with Concord Music Group, learning from then co-owner Norman Lear. She did casting for independent films.

Returning to Evanston in 2013, Meleika noticed Evanston did not have a video platform that allowed residents a voice on local issues. With her background in entertainment and production, she grabbed her phone and hit the streets to hear from the people guerilla style. These exchanges became the podcast that later birthed Evanston Live TV. During the local elections, Meleika put candidates in her car to interview them, bringing the Evanston candidates into homes via social media. Residents and city officials acknowledged that Evanston Live TV was partially responsible for the highest voter turn-out since the 1970s.

Meleika’s Evanston Live TV has led to hosting events for nonprofit organizations such as the Evanston Community Foundation, organizing press conferences for political figures, and moderating panel discussions for such organizations as the NAACP. One of her latest ventures was her work with the We Will Women organization that helped women get involved in drafting legislation. Drawing on her passion for her community, Meleika co-authored an Amendment to State Representative La Shawn K. Ford’s education Bill HB4954 and co-authored a new Bill HB5851. Meleika felt it was crucial that pre-enslavement be taught throughout the schools in the state of Illinois K-12 and that the accurate history of all those who helped to build this country be told. Both Bills were added to the Illinois Black Caucus Agenda and in March of 2021, the Bills were passed by Governor J.B. Pritzker. Recently, Representative Ford and Meleika launched a radio program on WVON and WCPT Progressive Talk titled Chicago Heal that addressed Chicago violence, trauma, and mental health.

Meleika’s next venture is launching a tv network WtPM TV (Where the People Meet TV). WtPM TV is a video platform that informs the public and encourages community engagement. With three commentators of diverse backgrounds and views, WtPM viewers will watch, listen, and interact in robust discussions that impact communities.

Meleika Gardner is a proud activist who was awarded Community Leadership Person of the Year in 2021 by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

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