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.
Queer Mobilization Fund Coordinator
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.
HR Coordinator & Executive Associate
Bridgette grew up in Memphis, Tennessee in a white, blue-collar family with a lineage of southern farmers on her father’s side and with Appalachian and Louisianan folks on her mother’s side. Her ancestors immigrated from England, Ireland, and Scotland. After graduate school in anthropology, she moved to Raleigh, NC to work with NC Peace Action and the NC Peace and Justice Coalition organizing for an end to war and imperialism. Bridgette 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.
As co-director of the racial justice program and later director of community advocacy at the YWCA of the Greater Triangle, she played a role in founding the Education Justice Alliance and the Youth Organizing Institute and served on the leadership team for several years. Bridgette worked at the NC Center for Nonprofits for seven years, and established the multi-year “Walking the Talk” program to build nonprofits’ capacity for race equity work.
She lives with her partner, two children, and an ever-changing posse of foster animals in Raleigh, NC. Bridgette is deeply grateful to all who came before to pave the way and she is committed to staying at it for the long haul, organizing together for the world we all deserve. In this chapter of her life, Bridgette is honored to serve in a supportive role to the brilliant staff at SVA as Executive Associate.
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.
Coordinator of Digital Engagement
Beau was born in Greensboro, NC and grew up in Detroit, MI before migrating back South in 2012. In 2015, they started organizing with the Queer People of Color Collective (QPOCC) in Greensboro, calling for an end to police brutality and trans hate crimes. They served as the Managing Editor of I Don’t Do Boxes, a queer youth-led zine program of Elsewhere Museum in 2016. Beau is a former member of the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s Youth Board and a former intern at the Youth Organizing Institute’s Summer Freedom School.
Beau is currently an Aerial Teacher for Queer Youth Circus, a political performance group for LGBTQIA folks, and serves on the Youth Advisory Board at the American Youth Circus Organization. They want to explore healing justice & bodywork for the movement at large. Beau is called to this work by their belief in self-determination for young people, queer & trans liberation, and racial justice.
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.
Director of Finance
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.
Alejandro is a storyteller by training and campaign strategist by practice. Born in Hidalgo, Mexico, but raised in Charlotte, NC; Alejandro is excited to support grassroots organizing in the South. He developed his passion for community engagement and advocacy by serving as student body president of Pomona College, where he obtained his B.A. in Anthropology. Following his undergraduate studies, he was a mentor and community organizer to working-class young people with Think Together and Gente Organizada, respectively. He has also supported local and national organizing campaigns for social, racial, and economic justice with the Center for Popular Democracy and Forward Justice. When not working, Alejandro enjoys spending time with his cat, Bella, and dog, Kasey.
Hannah Johnson grew up in Michigan and has since lived in New York, Georgia, Turkey, and North Carolina. Hannah studied policy at Syracuse University and has an MPA from Arkansas State University. Motivated and empowered by exposure to diverse cultures and communities, Hannah has always strived to center her work on helping others. In order to have a more just society, she believes we all must work together to help lift the voices of people who have been repeatedly muted throughout history. Her previous work includes grant writing for a variety of nonprofit organizations, serving under-resourced communities and helping them gain access to affordable healthcare, finding housing solutions for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing a housing crisis, and creating an animal rescue for cats in Turkey.
Co-Coordinator of Solidarity and Resistance Hubs
Jess is a southern black queer femme, avid movement supporter, and organizer with 8 years of professional and on the ground experience in supporting the ongoing work of social justice and liberation movements. They 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. Jess has a fierce passion for reproductive justice, believing that it provides a framework for us to direct our work towards autonomy, agency, and freedom. Jess previously served as the co-chair of the Southern Vision Alliance Board of Directors, bringing a depth of experience in intersectional LGBTQ organizing, popular education, and youth work, which they are carrying forward in their role now, as the Solidarity Hubs Co-Coordinator.
Joe A. Lewis II
Co-Director of Movement Infrastructure and Supportive Services
Joe Adonis Lewis II grew up as the youngest child in a military family. This gave him the opportunity to travel the world and exposed him to various peoples and cultures. Which, coupled with a struggle to find peace and identity as a mixed heritage queer MSM from a conservative Christian family, inspired his passion for studying and understanding the unique human experience.
As a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Joe has a special place in his heart for North Carolina and the surrounding communities and has consistently drawn inspiration from the energy and heartbeat of the area. Beginning as a social worker, he assisted with navigating and providing a pathway to comprehensive care/service for young people living with HIV, many of whom struggled with poverty, homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse issues. From this experience, he implemented a community initiative in Charlotte to provide comprehensive support services focused on HIV/STI prevention, and Healthy Lifestyles for young MSM and transgender people of color.
Joe enjoys traveling, and is an avid fan of reading, adventure, food, music, and comedy. He feels that his mission and purpose on this earth is to be a light and to offer love to everyone he encounters.
Stop Evictions Network Coordinator
Kaz McWilliam moved to North Carolina when he was ten and was drawn to activism at a young age, volunteering with the Internationalist Bookstore Collective in Chapel Hill when turned 13. He went on to become involved in their books-to-prisoners and political prisoner letter writing programs, alongside other mutual aid projects in the triangle. Over the last six years he has collaborated with various social work projects including volunteer-operated needle exchanges, eviction diversion programs and working with homeless families and seniors.
While living on the West Coast, Kaz Co-Founded the Pacific Northwest Harm Reduction Project, a grassroots street outreach organization based out of Portland, Oregon. Created in 2019, the PNWHRP distributes clean injecting supplies, medication and other necessities to the houseless residents of Southeast Portland.
He graduated from the Evergreen State College with a BA in Film & Public Policy, and directed “Who You Are Today” – a short documentary piece exploring the unique challenges posed by stigma in the lives of several IV opiate users.
Outside of social work, Kaz loves camping, his weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaign and watching a good movie with friends.
Director of Frontline Fund Programs and Strategies
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!
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.
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.”
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.
Queer Mobilization Fund Associate
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.
Co-Coordinator of Solidarity and Resistance Hubs
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.
Hannah is a queer, Southern, Chinese-American child of immigrants. They are committed to recreating the US South in the image of our marginalized communities. In their work towards this goal, they believe firmly in the power of infrastructure, resource equity, and elegantly designed spreadsheets.
Hannah is currently working on their Master’s degree in accounting at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before choosing accounting, they experimented with farming, marketing, program management, and a poorly thought-out stint in venture capital. In their last role, Hannah was one half of the programs team at a philanthropy serving organization.
While not working or studying, Hannah enjoys reading sci-fi, taking pictures of their cat, and planning their dream homestead.
Director of Incubation and Ideation Labs
AJ Williams is a Black and indigenous person, based in Durham with over 7 years of experience with nonprofits and community organizing.
He holds his Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional designation with Fiscal Management Associates. He is also an appointed member of Durham’s Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee and serves as a member on the movement board of The Cypress Fund a Black, femme-led, philanthropic entity, funding projects through a lens of reparations.
His local organizing experience includes police abolition work with Durham Beyond Policing, Southerners on New Ground’s (SONG) Black Mama’s Bail Out campaign, We Are the Ones Fund, an intervention to gun violence in Durham, aimed to fund community-authored solutions and the Durham chapter of BYP100.