With over five years of experience in racial justice and people-centered community development work, I am thrilled to join the Alabama Appleseed family as Director of Advocacy. My work integrates project management, direct service, public education, and administrative management, in order to build people power, providing organizational support for communities to mobilize around progressive agendas that tackle America’s legacy of racial and economic injustice head-on. Like Alabama Appleseed, I work from a sense of urgency around the need to reimagine solutions for how we sustain a cross-cultural system of connection among Alabamians, forging an honest Southern reckoning.
It’s been said that the heart of America can be found in Alabama. Everywhere we look, the roots of history run South. And we the protectors of land built from death, filled with red dirt in our veins, nurture life in the cradle of Alabama.
I am a son and (oldest) brother. My parents grew up in the South beneath the shadow of Jim Crow segregation. They then joined the Air Force, and for over two decades served this country. Raised in Orrville, Alabama, my mom grounded our family in the power of language and spiritual discernment. My dad, a native of Biloxi Mississippi, is the first man I ever loved. Principled and deeply soulful, he filled our home with the sound of music. Together, my parents creatively built our home with shapeless walls that could not easily be destroyed.
A military brat, I was a child of discipline and order, schooled by the unyielding regimen of travel, parental deployment, and family separation. On the one hand, the military offered a semblance of belonging, an embrace of uniformity. In contrast, it also taught me how the politics of race could shade interactions, dictate opportunities, and weave silent narratives of exclusion. Each deployment, each move, brought a new chapter in my exploration of the human soul, as I witnessed the interplay of power, privilege, and prejudice. As my parents answered the call to serve, I answered the call to understand, to question, and to illuminate. After they retired in 2006, we settled in Pelham, Alabama.
Between 2006 to 2012, I grew up in the Birmingham area before attending college at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. There had only been two minorities of color elected as SGA President in the history of the institution; Mr. Cleophus Thomas Jr. was elected in 1976, and on March 10th, 2015 I became the second.
By 2016, following my time at UA, I felt disillusioned. A part of me rejected the thought of staying in Alabama but inwardly believed that the answers could be found at home. I needed to be still. So, I moved back to the Birmingham area and started my role as a YWCA Central Alabama Social Justice AmeriCorps Member. Through community engagement and education, I coordinated social justice programs for middle and high school students, investigating the role of heritage, culture, and racial identity in adolescent development. It was a path toward self-introspection that led me to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery.
From 2017 and 2022, during my time at EJI, I managed several dozen community coalitions across the country – including Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Nebraska, Maryland, and Louisiana – in their work to publicly memorialize the history of racial terror lynching in America. At EJI, I conducted research and writing for institutional development, projects, and program initiatives, such as EJI’s Segregation in America Report, and its national Soil Collection Exhibit, and worked closely with EJI’s Deputy Director of Museum and Memorial Operations and Senior staff to launch EJI’s inaugural narrative-historical sites, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018 (as well as the museum expansion in 2021).
Drawing from my experience at EJI, and as Manager for The Toforest Johnson Banner Tour (2022-2023), I seek to empower community efforts at Alabama Appleseed to reimagine local systems and structures that equitably serve (and center) communities living on the margins.
For over two decades, Toforest Johnson, a 50-year-old Black man, has suffered on death row in Alabama for a crime he did not commit. In collaboration with Greater Birmingham Ministries, The Toforest Johnson Banner Tour Project banner tour is a state-wide advocacy campaign with faith-based institutions seeking to support his call for a new trial and bring him home to his family.
Fostering a supportive environment from which our team is empowered, I will utilize my proven leadership, communication, collaboration, and advocacy skills to amplify Alabama Appleseed’s vision through commitment and love. By investing in the creative and organizational power within our partner network, we will contribute to shepherding Alabamians to assume the principles of true justice, and repair. Something terribly beautiful.