Joshua previously served as the State Coordinator for Civic Engagement and GOTV for the NC NAACP in 2012 and was Lead Organizer/ Deputy State Coordinator with Obama for America during the 2008 campaign. As a musician, Joshua has worked with Grammy award winning poets, vocalists and producers such as J. Ivy, Tarrey Torrae, and Buckwild. Joshua and his twin brother worked on the score for the second season of Aaron McGruder’s the Boondocks, alongside 9th Wonder. A trained Jazz Trombonist who also plays salsa, Joshua has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, The International Association of Jazz Educators conference in Toronto, Long Beach, and New York, and the International Jazz Festival in Detroit. Joshua is also one half of the musical production/hip hop duo Beatnam Vets. They have opened for artists such as Erykah Badu an d Lupe Fiasco and have two full length albums on iTunes. He was among the 6 student protesters arrested in NC House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office opposing the voter suppression bill. Joshua has a Master’s degree in History with a concentration in Jazz studies on Jazz and American Diplomacy during the Cold War Era from NCCU and has his second Master’s degree at Cal State East Bay in music. Josh currently resides in Raleigh where he continues to be an active organizer and play music.
Akelo is a child of Kenyan immigrants, born in South Carolina and raised in North Carolina. She has lived in Durham since 2015, attending high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina Central University. Akelo began organizing as an IgniteNC fellow in college and has continued to live and work in the East Durham community since completing her bachelor’s degree, aside from a year-long stay in Kenya in 2022. She is excited to be working with SVA once again as development associate.
Queer Mobilization Fund Director
Ricky Bratz is a plant nerd, queer dog mom, and survivor of Sicilian/SWANA/Eastern European roots. Born in New Jersey, growing up in Florida + New Hampshire, Ricky has been a community organizer, farmer, and food & health justice educator in North Carolina since 2003. Her time as a member of Greensboro-based radical marching band Cakalak Thunder (2003-2008), serving as a board member of Fund for Democratic Communities (2007-2009) and as an intern with Student Action with Farmworkers (2006) are part of her formative politicization.
Ricky holds a BA in Health Arts & Science from Goddard College and did her thesis work on the intersections of racial identity, trauma, & herbal medicine. Most recently, Ricky was a coordinator with Resourceful Communities and provided capacity building and technical assistance to rural grassroots organizations under their Healthy Eating Active Living Initiative. Ricky also maintains a private healing arts practice, Cazimi Healing, that focuses on supporting people working for social change in healing through plant medicine, energy work and functional medicine.
When she’s not seeing clients, she spends her spare time in the garden or the woods, being overly excited about all the things she wants to learn and buying too many plants.
Bridgette is the HR coordinator at SVA. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and moved to Raleigh in 1999 to work with NC Peace Action. That work connected her with many social justice organizations and communities across the state. Those relationships and starting a family here helped Bridgette put down roots in North Carolina. She launched “Heirs to a Fighting Tradition,” a grassroots oral history project that recorded the life histories of North Carolina-based activists and organizers. The Heirs Project collection resides at UNC’s Southern Oral History Project. She also served as co-director of the racial justice program and later director of community advocacy at the YWCA of the Greater Triangle. In the early days of SVA’s evolution, she helped establish the Education Justice Alliance and the Youth Organizing Institute. Bridgette worked at the NC Center for Nonprofits and played a role in furthering efforts to strengthen nonprofits’ capacity for race equity work. Bridgette is deeply grateful to all of our movement ancestors who paved the way, and she is committed to staying at it for the long haul.
Manzoor Cheema (he/him/his) has been an active member of social justice movements since 2001. In 2004, he launched a grassroots social justice TV show, Independent Voices, which ran for five years and broadcast from 70 public access TV stations. He co-found Muslims for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to pursuing Muslim liberation theology in 2013. In 2015, he launched the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI), a network of organizations to fight racism and Islamophobia with an intersectional lens that views all anti-oppression struggles as interlinking and reinforcing each other. Manzoor lives in Raleigh, NC, and travels throughout the U.S. South to support the grassroots movement for social justice. He is the recipient of the 2014 International Human Rights Award, awarded by the Human Rights Coalition of North Carolina, and the 2016 Self-Determination Award by Black Workers for Justice. Manzoor’s work on social justice has been covered in the local, national, and international media.
Director of Digital Infrastruture
Beau Cromartie was born in Greensboro, NC and raised in Detroit, MI. Beau has 6 years of experience in digital strategy, community organizing, and non-profit work. They wholeheartedly believe in organizing communities of resistance to eliminate inequality and demand change.
Previously, Beau was the Co-Director of the Youth Organizing Institute, a program dedicated to building youth leadership and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Beau also worked at Elsewhere Museum as the Managing Editor of I Don’t Do Boxes, a zine for queer youth.
Currently, Beau serves on the boards of Durham Beyond Policing and Mayfirst Technology Project. In their free time, Beau volunteers as a Certified Circus Teacher, trained by École nationale de cirque in Montreal, CA. Beau’s favorite things are blueberries, bodywork, and the beach.
As Program Coordinator of the CUNY Pipeline Program, LeiLani helped to organize resources and provide support to undergraduates from underrepresented communities throughout New York City. She is excited to be contributing her skills and knowledge to assist the good and vital work done at SVA.
Raised in Los Angeles, LeiLani has lived in San Francisco and New York. She moved to Durham after meeting the love of her life while doing jail solidarity for the folks who brought down a Confederate statue on Aug. 14, 2017.
Special Liaison to the Executive Director
Elena began organizing at NC State University, where she was active in anti-war and labor solidarity campaigns. She was elected state Chair of the NC Green Party from 2003-2007, which at the age of 23, made her the youngest state Party chair in the country.
In May 2010, she founded the Youth Organizing Institute, a leadership development and base-building project created in response to threats by a newly elected school board majority. Seeing a need for more entry points to organizing for young people, Elena helped to found Ignite NC in fall 2013 and served as the operations director for its NC Vote Defenders program for three years. She became the Executive Director of the newly established Southern Vision Alliance in August 2014. Elena currently serves as the Board Treasurer of Blueprint NC. She loves working with young people and helping them realize and actualize their potential as revolutionary game-changers.
Frontline Funds Associate
Anuradha Gandhi is a graduate of Wellesley College and the Ayurvedic Institute. In college, she studied biology, yet she began reading books on Eastern philosophy and spiritual wellness at a very young age. She is an avid meditator and seeks to live a mindful existence. In her previous life out west, she had a private practice where she provided health-conscious coaching for clients using yoga, breathwork, and herbs. In the course of her personal evolution, she has pursued all things related to conscious community and how to build right relationships with ourselves and each other. Anuradha believes identity is fluid, yet she resonates with describing herself as an educator, community co-creator, and poet.
She organized educational community programs with the Simon Scholars Foundation in New Mexico and the Namchak Foundation in Montana. She was also the Creative Writing Department Head at Miami Arts Charter School. As part of her local volunteer work, she organizes poetry open mic events for humans of all ages. Anuradha continues to teach creative writing in her spare time, she seeks to empower young people to discover and embody their authentic voice and with this voice stand up for themselves and others. When asked what inspires her each day, she says, “I am propelled by enormous amounts of grace and energy when my goal is supporting individuals and communities through the alchemy of transformation.” Anuradha is delighted and honored to be part of the SVA team.
Jess Jude (she/her) is an Associate Director at SVA, previously co-directing the People’s Solidarity Hub program during its build-out and launch phase starting in 2020. Before that, as an avid movement supporter and organizer, Jess worked with various social justice organizations both on the ground and professionally, filling every role you can think of from programming, to teaching workshops, to designing databases, office spaces, direct actions and more.
Jess came to Durham by way of Richmond, VA, where they grew up and therein immersed into organizing among the turmoil and fertile ground for movement that is the former capital of the confederacy. Jess credits their early years of organizing and learning within Southerners on New Ground, Girls Rock RVA and the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project for teaching them the ropes and cementing their commitment to the work of building up and resourcing people’s movements and ending capitalism.
Nowadays, Jess thoroughly enjoys diving into her passion for systems and people while leading SVA’s general operations. She strives to always grow and improve by learning from all movements for liberation, from the black radical tradition, from her queer elders and teachers, from nature and from the wisdom of children, as she recently became a mom.
Sponsored Projects Associate
Blue is a queer non-binary organizer, dirt person, and trouble-maker weaving and living in networks of care and queer found family in Durham, North Carolina. They are a devoted and resourceful friend and community organizer operating under the belief that in dismantling oppressive systems, we must creatively build and embody liberatory ways of being that center joy, abundance, pleasure, and relationships.
Born and raised in the Chicago-area, they moved to Durham to attend Duke University. Since graduating in 2020, they have been working for local youth- oriented non-profits and organizing with Feed Durham NC, a mutual aid collective that addresses food insecurity in Durham and North Durham Mutual Aid, a small group dedicated to redistributing wealth and resources in North Durham. Blue is also the Garden Coordinator for local non-profit Student U, in which they manage a community garden and do outdoor education with young people.
Outside of organizing and gardening, Blue loves spending time with their beloved friends, basking in the sun, swimming, hiking with their dog Atlas, camping, making big breakfasts, and dancing.
Wesley Morris is a dedicated coach, facilitator, community organizer, minister and internationally recognized thought leader who uses his dynamic speaking talents to inspire all who have the opportunity to hear his voice. His work for more than a decade with the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, home of the nation’s first “Community Truth and Reconciliation Process” uniquely positions him to guide those interested in intergenerational learning, historical archiving and community organizing.
His work with international travel projects in countries such as Cuba, Barbados and Brazil, have opened cultural and spiritual pathways for communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity or access to such rich experiences. Over the course of his career, he has continuously proven himself to be a catalyst for positive change in the community by helping people from diverse backgrounds embrace forgiveness and peace.
Wesley is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and Union Theological Seminary (NYC). In high-pressure situations he pulls from his formal training and practical experience to unlock clarity for those who are seeking to change the world we live in. Mr. Morris is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church. When asked about his call to ministry, Wesley emphatically says, “I am here to drive strategic community building and influence transformative justice movements for all people.” Also, as a member of the DreamCatchers network, he uses his experiences to build those who are seeking to adjust or reinvent their self-identity.
In his free time he enjoys traveling, reading, writing, playing basketball, watching live sporting events. He is excited about this new opportunity to join the SVA team!
Digital Infrastructure Coordinator
Nada Merghani is a movement journalist, digital communications expert, unapologetic Scorpio, and a Type 1 Diabetic tired of waiting on a cure living in Durham, North Carolina. As a Nubian person born in Sudan, they are deeply committed to the values of Pan-Africanism and think all people of African descent deserve the right to find connection and solidarity amongst each other as we all fight for our collective liberation. They are also a proud HBCU student currently navigating their last semester at N.C. Central University 🦅.
The phrase “it’s not that deep” is one Nada deeply resonates with and uses often.
Nada believes in a world where journalism is accessible and used to help explain the murky and complex parts of the world in a way that’s simple enough for all to understand. Storytelling is their passion, and they believe in journalism as one of the most important and effective forms of storytelling we have at our disposal. They have been published in a variety of local and statewide outlets, interned at WUNC and PBS NC, and are currently employed as the Digital Infrastructure Coordinator for SVA.
When they are not working or studying Nada can be found cooking for their friends, swimming, rewatching old Real Housewives of Atlanta clips with their cat, loudly (and badly) singing along to Beyonce songs, or reading lengthy critiques of obscure animes they will never watch.
Adriana is a queer femme Colombian-American that was born in Lumberton, NC and raised in Raleigh, NC. Right out of high school they joined the Youth Organizing Institute as a student, and the very next year joined on as a Logistics Coordinator. In 2015 Adriana’s love for the arts pulled them to UNC Greensboro to study Art Education and Women and Gender Studies. For the last few years, Adriana has been living in Maryland with their partner and working in various administrative roles. Their passion for organization, innovation, and design draws them to the work they do.
When Adriana isn’t working they can be found hidden amongst their art, wandering the forest, or cuddling with their cat and many plants.
No Cap Programs Associate
Nea is a Black Woman born and raised in the small town of Cross Hill, South Carolina. She has been organizing in her communities since 2015 and is passionate about empowering and pouring into the generations to follow. She is a 2020 graduate of Claflin University where she recognized the importance of mobilizing HBCU students and the communities they reside in. As a No Cap program associate she thrives in learning from students as well as providing them with tools to assist them in creating change in their communities.
Nea is an advocate of storytelling and uses spoken word, painting, and song to center experiences, speak on issues, and showcase the healing that comes through art. She is also passionate about community based research and figuring out ways to show others how they can center community in work.
Frontlines Funds/Sponsored Project Associate
Nijeeah is a Black queer non-binary social worker born and raised in Charleston, SC. Their Gullah Geechee roots in the South Carolina Lowcountry fuel their commitment to Southern grassroots organizing. Nijeeah joins the SVA team after most recently serving as the Executive Director of We Are Family (2019-2021), a LGBTQI+ youth serving nonprofit organization based in Charleston.
Nijeeah completed their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in 2015 and Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2017 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. As an undergraduate student, Nijeeah interned at Time Out Youth, a LGBTQ youth center in Charlotte, NC. They then interned at the Freedom Center for Social Justice for their graduate field experience, also located in Charlotte, NC. Post graduate school, Nijeeah returned to Charleston to work with youth as a behavioral interventionist at Justice Works Behavioral Care and to continue their work as a co-founder and workshop facilitator with the Transformative Teaching Collective, a cooperative that provides social justice education to schools, community groups, nonprofits and government organizations. In 2018, Nijeeah received the Community Pride award from Charleston Pride and was named South Carolina’s “Champion of Pride” by the Advocate. When asked what it means to be a champion, Nijeeah stated that being a champion “isn’t just about winning — when we know the race is rigged. Rather, it’s the spirit that compels us to keep fighting for the liberation of all people.”
Carolina Youth Partnership Program Coordinator
Cotie San is a proud Cambodian-American (#Khmerican) from Chattanooga, TN. She graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2018 with a BA in International Studies. Following college, they moved to New Orleans to work with a residential construction nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding homes for pre-Katrina residents of the Lower Ninth Ward. Working in a community that was affected by the intersection of climate change and racism inspired them to pursue a Masters in Public Health and a certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management at UNC, which brought her to the triangle in 2020.
Cotie has always been dedicated to progressing fairness and justice, but it wasn’t until she attended University and was connected to local organizing spaces that her class consciousness was fully awakened and she was able to make connections to her own life. Since then, they have worked in sexual assault awareness, food access, housing, WASH, and civic engagement; in these spaces, she uses a health and racial equity lens to critically analyze the larger systems in play. They’re inspired by the radical approach that SVA takes, how they reject the norms of the nonprofit industrial complex, and the intentionality and kindness of each staff member in their respectives fields and roles.
In their free time, they enjoy going on hikes with their dog, tending to their 50+ houseplants, watching tv shows, cooking and baking, thrift shopping, doing stick and poke tattoos, experimenting with new makeup looks, and playing board games.
Coordinator of Assets & Operations
Jeff See was born and raised in sunny St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida. He moved to Raleigh, NC in early 2019 to further his education and escape the blistering Florida heat. This is Jeff’s first experience in the non-profit sector. He felt drawn to SVA because it’s mission and values inspire him and align with his own.
Jeff has a background in warehouse management, worked to put himself through school, and recently graduated from St. Petersburg College with honors. He hopes that his work as Operations Associate will contribute to the causes of social justice and liberation.
When Jeff isn’t working he enjoys wandering around the wilderness of NC, reading trashy horror fiction, and fawning over his household’s two cats.
April is a southern Black woman who has dedicated over a decade of her life to fighting on the front lines and working tirelessly behind the scenes for social justice, environmental justice, and liberation movements. Born and raised in a rural community deeply affected by systemic inequalities, April’s passion for change was ignited early in life. She became a formidable advocate, using her strategic thinking, organizational skills, and leadership abilities to drive impactful change.
April has previously worked with NC DRRN, a sponsored project through Southern Vision Alliance, but is excited to be a part of the SVA staff.
When April isn’t working she enjoys going to concerts, traveling the world, and spending time with her family.
Queer Mobilization Fund Coordinator
Asher was born and raised in Durham, and after graduating high school and deciding not to go to college, delved into organizing as a way to continue to do the work he started in his high school’s Queer-Straight Alliance. As an out and loud trans person, Asher moved from a fellowship to Operations Associate with SVA while also working as the Youth Coordinator for Bull City Schools United to bring more knowledge of inclusive spaces into the classroom.
People's Solidarity Hub Program Director
Jen was born into a family of farmers and teachers spanning central and rural Kentucky. She is a social worker, artist, politicized healer, doula, organizer, river wader and risk taker. Jen believes in a world where transformation and collective liberation are possible. She is committed to a radical love ethic in which human dignity is honored and in which we can all thrive.
Since 2010, Jen has served as a popular education facilitator on issues such as structural power and oppression, arts-based community organizing, and politicized healing. With an MSW in International Social Work and Human Rights, Jen has worked primarily advocating alongside people who have been forcibly displaced and have survived trafficking and war. She has fought for the right to freedom of movement, asylum, health and education with the International Federation of Social Workers at the United Nations, as well as within multiple immigration rights organizations in NYC and NC. Jen currently serves on the board of Refugee Community Partnership.
After working within the non-profit industrial complex for over a decade, Jen saw how quickly people become disembodied and ill within the movement. She now builds authentic ways to confront this problem and collectively heal. She continues to facilitate workshops on the intersections of justice and healing, and is also practicing somatic therapy. Jen believes that collective liberation is inseparable from the work of reclaiming our full aliveness and decolonizing all bodies. You’ll often find her sharing stories with dear ones, reading off an overly high stack of books, or basking along the Eno River.
People's Solidarity Hub Associate
Jae is the People’s Solidarity Hub Associate. When asked, she tells people she is from outside of Charlotte, NC. She is energized by the connections that come from shared experiences, shared spaces, shared visions, and organized action. These passions have led her to work in participatory research, story based facilitation, and electoral mobilization and logistical support. When she isn’t coordinating and communicating for the People’s Solidarity Hub, she can be found watching Tik Toks, studying musician sets, journaling frenetically, or reading dusty astrology books.
Not pictured: Kylah Guion (NoCap Program Associate).