Fellowship for Leaders

Healing the Healers

Through in-person retreats and community building calls, our program offers Fellows significant opportunities to develop supportive networks, refine the vision for their work, and engage with our proprietary curriculum that teaches them to apply the dehumanization framework to buffer the effects of historical, systemic, and racially motivated trauma for the young people they serve.

Cohorts of Forward Promise Fellows come from all walks of life. They are both emerging leaders and established. They are intergenerational and interdisciplinary. And they share a call to make communities of color safe places for young people to heal, grow, and thrive. Forward Promise recognizes that our fellows are driving social change while navigating the same inequities and injustices as the individuals and communities they serve. They, too, need space to heal. Our humanity-affirming approach to leadership development features fellowship retreats that allow participants room to focus on their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Fellowship for Leaders

Forward Promise Fellows are actively engaged in disrupting the cycle of dehumanization in communities of color, in youth-serving systems, and within community-based direct-service organizations or initiatives. We seek individuals who are representative of, and deeply rooted within, the communities they serve. These individuals use a variety of culturally responsive healing modalities—such as storytelling, art, and Indigenous healing practices—that promote healing, growing, and thriving for young people of color. Forward Promise Fellows draw from their lived experience to demonstrate that they intimately value the safety, well-being, and full expression of humanity of young people of color and their communities. They employ an asset-based approach to their work with and for them.

Coming Soon: Forward Promise Fellows (Cohort 3: 2024)


Coming Soon

Current Forward Promise Fellows (Cohort 2: 2023)

Lashon Amado


Lashon is the Interim Project Director for Opportunity Youth United, a national grassroots movement of opportunity youth and their adult allies who are seeking to alleviate poverty in their community through civic engagement. After being “pushed out” of high school, Lashon received a second chance to get back on track by attending a local YouthBuild program in Brockton, Massachusetts. After completing the program, Lashon received a master’s degree from Northeastern University. Lashon is now an emerging social entrepreneur, with a vision to empower young people across the globe to be change agents in their community.

Kiara Aranda


Kiara is the Director of Programs for LatinxEd, a nonprofit educational initiative in North Carolina. The initiative provides targeted, multiyear support to Latinx students and immigrant families who are striving for higher education and greater opportunity. LatinxEd’s vision for Latinx student success begins with a culturally sustaining education system that values and honors the humanity of communities of color. To achieve this mission, LatinxEd hosts various programs where youth are provided a healing space and community to reflect on their unique experiences as southern Latinx leaders and learners.

Bettina Byrd-Giles


Bettina’s work includes narrative shifting for stigmatized communities. She helps her community reclaim and write their own narratives to shift the society’s fears. Her work addresses internalized oppression and microaggressions infiltrating the minds and bodies of people of color by slowly and steadily attacking and rebutting the intention of the majority culture to continue to deny communities of color desperately needed resources and attention. Bettina also highlights the accomplishments of Birmingham City Schools, its students, and its faculty.

Kevin Carter


Reclaiming the humanity of young people of color sits at the foundation and core of Kevin’s work in the grief, loss, and trauma arena across the country. He is a co-healer and co-space holder in his work who leads, trains, and consults directly with youth of color—along with their birth and chosen families and those who serve them in a variety of circles. A central theme and goal of Kevin’s work is sharing stories that reconnect individuals to their bodies, souls, minds, spirits, and emotions in ways that are courageous, safe, and restorative at the same time. Working with young people,  helps them build cultural meaning and define collective action for freedom of expression, thought, and action that is affirming for their lives.

Keola Chan


Born and raised in Papakolea, Hawaii, Keola is the founder and Kumu Lapaʻau of Ka Pā o Lonopūhā of the Academy of Native Hawaiian Healing Traditions. He has practiced Mauli Ola for over 20 years to contribute to his vision of having “a healer in every home,” and has graduated 56 Hawaiian healers. In March 2022, Keola re-established the ʻūniki (ceremonial graduation) process—formally presenting 11 students to a panel of Hawaiian experts for approval. He was also given the title of “Kahuna Lapaʻau” by these community experts, marking the first time that this Hawaiian healing process has been conducted in recent history. Kahuna Chan has expanded his academy statewide and is currently training 42 adults and 18 children across the islands. His commitment to his profession has also led him to reclaim and re-establish the kuahu (altar of our elemental natural energies) and ritual prayers that are the foundation of his culture’s healing traditions.

Nicole Crooks


Nicole is a powerful advocate, educator, and community organizer. She serves as the  Community Engagement Manager for Catalyst Miami, a parent leader for P.S. 305, and the Chief Protectress of Legacy, Joy & Well-Being for the Indigo Butterfly Effect. Disrupting dehumanization and reclaiming humanity are elements of a deeply personal journey that was passed down in Nicole’s family and reside in her DNA. Her lineage includes powerful Black women, Spiritual Warriors, midwives, village keepers, and jegnas (protectors of culture, land, and people). Nicole grasped the baton of Black motherhood nearly 30 years ago when she gave birth to her beautiful Black son. Today, she deals with the realities of being a Black mother who is navigating a harsh world alongside her children who are growing up in South Florida. As she has pushed to support her three children and many young leaders in her community, Nicole has utilized organizing, education, and advocacy to demonstrate Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), a value inheritedfrom her Elders. She continually supports Black women and youth in owning their power, elevating their voices, and thriving.

Janay Eustace


As the Executive Director of California Youth Connection (CYC), Janay is committed to its youth-led vision and ensuring its integrity. Of her many accomplishments, Janay is proud of executing the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12) and implementing the act. Janay became involved with CYC during her time in the foster care system and has served in various roles. She previously worked for the California Welfare Directors Association and as the Quality Parenting Initiative Champion and Youth Engagement Lead at the Youth Law Center. When Janay was a social worker for Sacramento County Child Protective Services, she advocated to establish the Sacramento State University’s Guardian Scholars Program. Janay—who graduated from Sacramento State University with a Master of Social Work— is a proud wife, mother to three amazing boys, sister/chosen sister, Godmom, and “Aunty.”

Melanie Funchess


Melanie’s work through Healers’ Village disrupts dehumanization and reclaims humanity by providing young people the language, tools, and resources to learn who they are and understand the intergenerational harm committed against them. This work provides young people with the tools to heal themselves and each other and provides professional support to young people in their healing process.. They are taught to defy the lie of white superiority and Black inferiority. Healers’ Village also coaches and trains adults working with young people of color in culturally responsive practices as well as other education and training opportunities.

Bernard “Bernie” Gomez


Bernie, who identifies as a Chicano Indigenous Hermano, is a Program and Leadership Assistant at MILPA. As a formerly incarcerated man, he now embraces a life of PALABRA and GANAS. During his time behind the walls enduring institutional oppression, Bernie became aware of the systematic application of racism and the multilayers of structural inequities that affect communities of color like his own. He now dedicates his time and energy to help cultivate change makers by using a healing-informed, relationship-centered approach that cultivates next-generation leadership, while rethinking accountability and striving for racial justice to end mass incarceration.

Joy Harrell


BUMP: The Triangle provides and protects safe, culturally affirming, creative spaces for BIPOC youth to unpack how systems of oppression have caused harm to Black and Brown people. Joy utilizes the arts as a liberatory practice and a tool to help youth control their own narratives. Her organization centers the joy and humanity found in the histories and cultural practices of the African diaspora. This allows BIPOC youth to connect to their heritage and use it as a tool for healing and wellness.

Christian Jaimes


Christian comes to us from her father, a humble immigrant from Piedras Negras, Gro, Mexico, and her mother, who was born and raised in Woodstock, Illinois. Through her experiences and resiliency–and living between two worlds–Christian became a strong and passionate advocate for girls and women of color. She continues to serve the community both locally and nationwide. Her work with the National Compadres Network disrupts the dehumanization of young people by creating safe spaces so that they may use their voices. This helps them tell their own stories, begin to heal, and reclaim their sacredness and humanity in an intergenerational, multicultural approach. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Christian received a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and Chicana(o) Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has been working in the community with youth and families for the past 17 years. ¡Adelante!

Phougna “Oboi” Kongmanichanh


As a member of ManForward, Phougna mobilizes a national network of Southeast Asian men and masculine people to transform patriarchal power systems through direct-action organizing, education, and collective healing. The nonprofit organization aims to heal men; transform masculinity; and uplift the voices of women, queer, and nonconforming people. Their restorative practices include healing sessions, accountability circles, PE sessions, and youth/adults retreats. Phougna is also a lead organizer at Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN), a national network of Southeast Asian organizations dedicated to the development and mobilization of Southeast Asian communities. SEAFN advocates for immigration reform to keep refugee families together that were impacted by the Cambodian genocide and the Southeast Asian War. They are also working to unite Southeast Asian communities to organize for power so that families can protect their human rights and live with dignity.

Jermaine McCorey


In his role as a Community Health Worker working with Healing Hurt People (HHP) program in the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, and as a person who has lived experience with surviving gun violence, Jermaine disrupts dehumanization by providing a trauma informed, physically, and emotionally safe space for boys and young men of color. This emotional safety means that boys and young men of color can share their narrative in a space with empathy and without judgment of past experiences. These young people have already experienced too much dehumanization through their traumatic experiences being ignored, minimized, or even being criminalized. Jermaine writes: “I know what it is like to be labeled ‘dangerous’ from my involvement with the criminal justice system, and I know how healing can get disrupted by this dehumanization. This is why I do my part to lead by example.”

Ruby Mendenhall, Ph.D


Ruby’s work disrupts dehumanization and reclaims the humanity of young people of color by creating a culture of innovation that centers the health and wellness of high school students and young adults of color. This culture of innovation includes working with 50 youth to co-create a community health workers’ training that assists young people to address and heal from racial trauma. This trauma includes police killings, gun violence, and higher rates of COVID-19 deaths due to health disparities. Ruby’s team is creating a Wellness Store with high- and low-tech tools identified by the youth and supported by science. And they are training the youth as citizen (community) scientists who work with social, behavioral, and life scientists to produce new knowledge about health, disease, and resiliency that is human-centered, community-based, and interdisciplinary. The goals are to inspire a new Reconstruction era focused on social justice policies and a Chicago Renaissance focused on intense artistic and intellectual activities.

Michael Milton


Michael is Founder and Executive Director of Freedom Community Center, where they practice transformative justice and peacemaking strategies to intervene in serious violence. The Freedom Community Center model dreams and organizes from a place of healing and power to advance legislation that ends mass criminalization and the caging of poor and Black communities.

Bruce Purnell, Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce is the Founder and Executive Director of a community-based, nonprofit organization called “The Love More Movement.” He is a direct descendant of Underground Railroad Conductors, Station Masters, Freedom Fighters, and educators. Like his ancestors, he has dedicated his life to creating a world where Love, Joy, Peace, Hope, Purpose, Equity, Transformation, and Liberation are lifestyles. Dr. Bruce believes that there will never be physical freedom without mental Liberation, and this Liberation begins with universal Healing. He has built a training platform to develop Life Coaches and Healing Leaders, as well as a Trauma Recovery platform and movement called “Love More Healing Stations.” Dr. Bruce is a lifetime member of the Association of Black Psychologists and Mensa International. He is also a member of Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliate and the Sports Hall of Fame at Bowie State University.

Fran Rodriguez


As the Founder and Executive Director of the Latino Empowerment Project (LEP), Fran mentors and opens pathways for young people of color to gain their seat at decision-making tables. After 13 years, LEP alumni are growing the next generation of activists. For Fran, it is gratifying to work behind the scenes and not be center stage all the time! She is also the Senior Program Officer leading theBaldwin Leadership Program Class of 2023, which is making history as a mostly Black and Latinx cohort. Being a woman of color in philanthropy comes with challenges and a responsibility to create change. Fran sees her role as building a legacy for children of color. Through her work in philanthropy, she creates funding opportunities for people of color to have access and participate in community-driven activities. Fran also works with The Equity Council,a group of BIPOC millennials, to manage and award micro grants in underserved neighborhoods. They are decolonizing philanthropy in meaningful ways.

Bao Vue

she/her, they/them

Bao is the founder of their new healing business, Rooted Healing, Voices Centered. She facilitates peacemaking circles to empower Asian American Pacific Islander-identifying womxn and youth to harness their voices and strengths to heal from intergenerational trauma and suffering. They are a trained practitioner from the Center for Mind Body Medicine and approaches healing from a Nonviolent Communication lens. Bao believes that with love, compassion, empathy, care, safety, and community support, we can all heal to live presently for ourselves and others. Bao focuses on rest and care with inspirations from her family, friends, and the Hmong community. They are spiritually connected to nature.

Taylor Mary Webber-Fields

she/her, they/them

Taylor Mary is a Black Southern femme, community organizer, circle keeper and an integrative wellness practitioner. They currently serve as the Director of Parent Leadership and Evolution (affectionately known as the Village Conjuress) at Village of Wisdom(VOW), where they curate immersive experiences for Black learners that are racially affirming, culturally relevant, and undo the harm caused by anti-Black racism. As an organizer, Taylor Mary has a special gift for getting traditionally “difficult-to-reach populations” to show up for engagement events. Born from Their deep community organizing experience, Taylor Mary brings an unwavering commitment to ensuring that parent strengths and needs drive VOW’s programmatic decisions. As a circle keeper, Their practice works to reclaim the cultural vibrancy and internal wisdom of Black women through the expressions of the Divine Feminine throughout the diaspora. Their favorite color is pink and they’re a proud “Lefty.” 

Jamari Michael White


Jamari is a seer, soul surgeon, and spiritual teacher birthing the field of #ChildSpiritualHealth and elevating this approach to child and family well-being. Child spiritual health is the mystical art and ancient practice of connecting to the wisdom and medicine of Spirit, the Earth, the ancestors, and the soul in preventing and healing spiritual wounds and disease among children and families. As the Founder of Soul Stewards, Jamari empowers and supports parents, families, communities, and organizations in centering and caring for the souls of children through direct spiritual health and healing services, education, training, and consulting. He lives the blessing and honor of aiding anyone who loves a child in cultivating a sacred communal lap. Jamari works toward the day when all people feel freedom and possibility in their creation and are in complete harmony with their soul from the beginning of life.

Past Forward Promise Fellows (Cohort 1: 2018–2021)

Azza Altiraifi

Alexandria, VA

Azza Altiraifi serves as an organizer with the Justice for Muslims Collective (JMC), which works to combat institutional and structural Islamophobia in the DC metro area through political education, grassroots organizing and mobilizations, cross-movement building and community wellness programs. The JMC has a number of robust programs geared specifically towards Muslims who identify as women or femmes. Through the course of her advocacy work, Ms. Altiraifi has identified the need for carving out spaces for BYMOC who are multiply marginalized (Muslim, LGBTQIA, Disabled, d/Deaf, etc) to heal and transform. In this vein, Ms. Altiraifi is currently developing a workshop series designed to push participants to envision who they are outside of the structures of oppression by which we are all impacted. Incorporating a number of mediums (therapeutic tools) for healthy expression of pain, this series seeks to galvanize participants to envision what collective liberation means so that we can effectively build towards that future. The series also aims to facilitate the decolonization of healing to allow BYMOC to find their place in a transformative and accountable liberation movement. Ms. Altiraifi is a public speaker, activist and organizer who speaks and conducts workshops on issues related to disability justice, racial justice, immigration, and more.

Rabiatu Barrie, Ph.D.

Chicago, IL

Rabiatu Barrie is an Assistant Professor at Adler University who uses her research and community engagement to help Black boys feel and believe they are powerful human beings. Dr. Barrie developed a curriculum called PRIDE (Promoting Resilience and Identity Development through Empowerment) to help AA boys ages 12-18 think critically about themselves as emerging men. The curriculum has been implemented in schools throughout Chicago serving over 300 young men. It includes restorative practices as a means to promote healing. She trains schools in Hyde Park and South Shore communities to provide services to the youth and to effectively engage in community building and restorative practice, as well as conflict resolution.

Tashel Bordere, Ph.D.

Columbia, MO

Tashel Bordere serves as an Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Science and State Extension Specialist – Youth Development at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She conducts research and specializes in youth development, dying, loss & bereavement and African-American children, youth and families. Dr. Bordere’s participatory action research and programming areas are focused on Black male youth and family grief, survival and resilience due to historical and contemporary race-based trauma and sudden violent losses. She developed the concept of “suffocated grief” to describe the experiences of being penalized for normal grief responses based on stigma (stereotypes of black males as aggressive) and discrimination (punishment for normal emotional expression) in lieu of support and safe spaces for coping and connection. She also created the MU Extension Program – S.H.E.D. Loss and Grief Tools for Schools as a training in awareness, knowledge, and skill development for administrators, staff, counselors, and other professionals interfacing with marginalized youth and families in schools and communities.

Ariel Jimenez Bustos

San Jose, CA

Ariel Jimenez Bustos is the Coordinator for the National Compadres Network’s Joven Noble Youth Academy – A Forward Promise grantee. He is currently responsible for the hiring of youth who have completed probation and are affected by mental health and drug addiction to become peer mentors. The peer mentors then host/facilitate weekly circles for youth currently on probation. Mr. Jimenez also oversees the Joven Noble Youth Academy that involves three circles in three different communities; a four-stage rites of passage model and curriculum. Additionally, he is a coach for the Police Academy League and was responsible for negotiating youth participation in NCN’s Circle Keeper Process which involves culturally based activities to facilitate emotional, mental and spiritual health. Joven Noble Academy curriculum is used in programs nationally.

Marc Chavez

San Diego CA

Marc Chavez is the Director and Founder of InterTribal Youth, one of many youth programs he founded to work with and to heal severely marginalized communities in the U.S., specifically Indigenous youths. He donates over 70% of his professional time as Director of InterTribal Youth. Marc was born and raised in Los Angeles County, CA and is of Mexican-American Indian descent with degrees from UC San Diego in Communications, “Third World” Studies, and post-graduate research in Community Educational Linkages. Marc has over 20 years of experience in higher education, community linkages, and tourism. “Native Like Water” is his most recently developed initiative which focuses on youth/adult cultural exchange between ocean and freshwater land environments. It explores their sacred relationship to water and educates Indigenous youth and adult volunteers in science, outdoor education, conservation, wellness and cultural self-exploration. Young male participants address identity and their future as leaders of the Human Family, and youth are provided the opportunity to think, perform and interact on local, national and international grounds.

Daniel Chhum

Providence, RI

Daniel Chhum is the Community Defense Project (CDP) Coordinator for Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) in Providence, RI. The program aims to abolish police brutality and promote healing from violence inflicted by police with a focus on mental health. PrYSM is a Southeast Asian youth organization committed to fighting against all forms of state, community, and interpersonal violence. PrYSM practices healing by holding healing sessions and conducting individual check-ins with one another. The organization has also implemented measures to identify and address any toxic dynamics within the organization and provide spaces for self-care and healing for its workers. Mr. Chhum’s work includes coordinating community events geared toward building relationships and trust amongst community members. Additionally, the CDP program provides legal services to those directly affected by police violence. He is a second generation American born from first generation refugees that escaped from Cambodia during the uprising of the Khmer Rouge. His life experiences greatly inform and impact his work as a community leader.

Bryan Echols

Chicago, IL

Bryan Echols serves as Principal and Founder of BE. the Change Consulting. Bryan is a trained Restorative Justice (RJ) circle keeper who, in his role, creates space for youth leaders to emerge from the neighborhoods who are hardest hit with community violence, poverty, marginalization and divestment. The RJ circle practices are not only used to heal, but also to celebrate and at times, to interrupt violence. Healing and repairing harm is the ultimate goal of the healing circles. In cases of deeply rooted trauma, mental health professionals who are members of their Leadership Circle are engaged. Bryan is a trusted and well-respected leader in the BYMOC space. He is a native of the community he serves and is known for his willingness to be vulnerable and transparent.

Ricky Hurtado

Chapel Hill, NC

Ricky Hurtado is the Co-Executive Director of LatinxEd (formerly NC Scholars’ Latinx Initiative), a program designed for access to opportunity and healing for Latinx and immigrant youth in North Carolina. The program supports youth, including young men of color, to reclaim their cultural identity in traditional education spaces and to create a pathway to becoming college students and civic leaders. Ricky serves in a geographic region struggling with extreme demographic transformation and experiencing severe racial animosity towards immigrant enclaves that now call North Carolina home. Their program provides bi-weekly supports for immigrant families to have a safe space to embrace their culture, language and receive educational and emotional support to cope with the challenges that come with toxic stress of anti-immigrant attitudes and implicit bias in schools.

Robert Jackson

Oakland, CA

Robert Jackson is the founder and Executive Director of Beats Rhymes and Life (BRL), a community organization that provides culturally responsive therapeutic services for youth and BYMOC who are not receptive to traditional therapy. BRL’s programs provide culturally-congruent, strength-based, youth-centered approaches to healing, reducing the stigma around seeking therapeutic services in the communities we serve. Rob is a passionate community leader, educator, and multi-faceted artist who is intent on creating a community-based organization that identifies strategies to address socioeconomic injustices and mental health disparities. As a talented hip-hop artist, he brings a unique perspective in integrating the worlds of mental health and urban culture to effectively serve marginalized youth throughout the Bay Area.

William Jackson, Ph.D.

Durham, NC

William Jackson is the founder and “Chief Dreamer” of Village of Wisdom that engages parents, school leaders, non-profit leaders and community members to recognize the negative cognitive implication of racial bias on black students. William works with these same stakeholders to build strategies that help Black youth navigate and heal from the racial bias they are exposed to, especially those that occur in educational environments. Through this work, he has led his team at Village of Wisdom to create tools designed to help youth heal from racial bias experiences, develop racial bias resilience capacities (e.g., racial comeback lines) and identify how their interests align with social justice activities: two such tools are the Racial Genius Profile and the Racial Stress Coping Plan.

Raymond A. Jetson

Baton Rouge, LA

Raymond A. Jetson is the Chief Executive Catalyst for MetroMorphosis, the driving force behind the signature initiative, the Urban Congress. In his role, Mr. Jetson uses his extensive network and reservoir of social capital – as a former legislator, pastor and other executive roles in state agencies, to deploy resources to support the goals of the organization. One aspect of his work is creating “safe spaces” for African-American males to give voice to the work in the community such as barbershop talks where they are intentional about incorporating “youth voice.” Mr. Jetson is an experienced leader and an important “connector” for intersectional collaboration between community members, stakeholders and systems.

Karla McCullough, Ph.D.

Jackson, MS

Karla McCullough is the Co-Founder and Co-Project Director of the Ambassadors of the Evers Academy for African-American Males (A-TEAAM). She is also the Executive Director for the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation. Her work for the healing of BYMOC is focused on enabling them to create a parallel with historical references and their own lived experiences for the development of positive health, behavior, and outcomes. Karla has used her training in research and development to create a culturally responsive curriculum that uses the “Possible Selves (PS)” theory as the lens to encourage future-oriented thought. The curriculum is used to train a database of 200-300 active volunteers and mentors to successfully and effectively serve BYMOC across the country. She has also supported numerous programs across the state of Mississippi with program design for sports and academics, mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring to assist BYMOC to heal and thrive.

Depelsha McGruder

Brooklyn, NY

Depelsha McGruder is the founder of Moms of Black Boys (MOBB) United, Inc., a grassroots organization and movement that emerged from a Facebook support group for moms of black boys in response to the daily trauma caused by black males being perpetually targeted, profiled, harassed and brutalized and to a number of incidents in recent years that garnered national attention. The group started with about 30 friends and has grown to now have 185,000 members. MOBB United has also been incorporated as a 501c3 and is focused on influencing narratives about BYMOC in order to impact how they are treated and perceived by law enforcement and society. Through seminars, webinars and other community initiatives and events, they provide resources to moms and their sons to help them feel empowered and to help them safely navigate the educational, criminal justice and mental health systems. Additionally, she has formed a 501c4, MOBB United for Social Change (MUSC), an advocacy organization focused on influencing policies impacting Black males and to employ a “rapid response” approach to speaking out on cases involving mistreatment and brutality by police.

Keith Miller

Savannah, GA

Keith Miller is the Program Director of Deep Center’s Block by Block program, a Forward Promise grantee. Keith is a researcher, teaching artist, village maker and storyteller who works to create “ecosystems of healing” for youths and adults, including BYMOC. In addition to Block by Block, a creative writing and youth leadership program that empowers youth to discover their own voices and uplift the stories of others to affect social change, Keith also created and manages The Pillow Talk Project, a website that features over 250 stories of young men of color that pushes people to rethink how they see men and to address toxic masculinity. The project uses storytelling, digital and social activism as its levers.

Andres Pacificar

Seattle, WA

Andres Pacificar serves as the Outreach Worker for Seattle YMCA, Accelerator. Andres was previously incarcerated for 18 years and uses his past traumatic experiences to facilitate the Alive & Free program for the YMCA that focuses on the healing of young men of color who are involved in the juvenile justice system and to give them guidance on how to navigate the system. Andres is considered a seasoned organizer and an elder in his community. He was previously a facilitator and leader of Leadership Advocacy Training for the immigration track for Southeast Asian Resource Center (SEARAC). Additionally, he returned to the prison where he was formerly incarcerated and founded the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group, which provides a healing and positive space within the institution.

Tavae Samuelu

Los Angeles, CA

Tavae Samuelu is the daughter of a pastor from Leulumoega and a nurse from Saleimoa in Sāmoa. As the Executive Director of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), she’s a passionate advocate for Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders and is committed to liberation for all. Tavae was born and raised in Long Beach and moved to the Bay to attend UC Berkeley where she majored in Ethnic Studies. Before joining EPIC, she served as the Development Director for the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond and has since become a member of RYSE’s Board of Directors.

Teli Shabu

Durham, NC

Teli Shabu is the Executive Director of The Magic of African Rhythm (TMOAR) whose mission is to provide cultural programs to underserved and marginalized populations in order to revitalize community and self-image. For the past 20 years, TMOAR has conducted multi-disciplinary arts workshops through local and regional arts councils: drumming, drum making and repair clinics, dance, song, drama, literature, storytelling, textile design, and costume design during school residencies, in after-school programs, and in evening and weekend classes at community centers. TMOAR’s work is primarily with people of African descent and youth communities who lack these cultural arts opportunities. Teli teaches youth drumming classes with a focus on its connection to Hip Hop music, exposing them to the culture that birthed the popular music they now listen to in order to foster internalized pride. In addition to his work with youth, he is a storyteller with Whistle Stop Tours in Durham and a trained bedside musician and engages in a number of cultural programs in the community. Mr. Shabu is a respected, experienced elder, or Baba, in his community who brings an important aspect of cultural healing to the cohort.

Richard Smith

Brooklyn, NY

Richard Smith is an academic activist and wounded healer with nearly two decades of experience developing and implementing community-based programs to support the healing process of historically oppressed groups. Richard has worked with youth and adults impacted by the criminal justice system, violence, and trauma as both a case manager and program director in New York’s Capital District and the City of Boston. Richard has taught criminal justice, history, and social work courses as an Adjunct Professor at SUNY Empire State College, Sage College and LIU Brooklyn. He has guest lectured at numerous colleges and universities on issues such as systemic racism, mass incarceration, and trauma and healing. Richard is currently the National Director of HealingWorks, a learning collaborative created to build a field and a national movement committed to addressing the trauma and violence experienced by young men of color. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University at Albany in Africana Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree from Boston University in Sociology. He is presently a doctoral candidate at SUNY Albany’s School of Social Welfare. His research focus is male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He is the proud father of two sons, Kaden (5 years.) and Kaleb (7 years).

Clifton Uckerman

Salt Lake City, UT

Clifton Uckerman, LCSW, is a therapist with Valley Behavioral Health, a community specialty clinic in Highland Springs that provides both in-office and telemental health services. Mr. Uckerman provides trauma-informed prevention and treatment of substance abuse/addiction and mental health disorders for individuals from late adolescence throughout their adult lifespan. He redeveloped and led two pods of 55-65 incarcerated men in a trauma/addiction treatment program using a leadership-oriented therapeutic community model and approach. His program philosophy incorporated a trauma-informed, historical, and cultural approach which involved the need for the construction of healthy masculinity, emotional intelligence, and relational self-empowerment. He now works with inmates upon their release with re-entry into the community. His own life experiences help him to authentically connect with these young men. His mission is to provide “essential behavioral health solutions to improve the quality of life and relationships of men and their families in his community.

Ron Walker

Lynn, MA

Ron Walker is the Founder/Executive Director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC). In his role, Ron has used COSEBOC’s national and regional platforms to design and implement programs and professional development activities to advance affirmative social, emotional, cultural and academic development of BYMOC. COSEBOC has pioneered regional gatherings in a number of states under the trademarked name, Trauma and Healing in the Village. Ron’s career spans 50 years as a teacher, leader, assistant principal, principal, and director of national school improvement. COSEBOC also hosts a signature national gathering open to educators, community leaders, policy makers and other advocates.