A Dynamic Network of Leaders
An entrepreneur, business leader and community activist, Muhammad is also passionate about mentoring young people. He volunteers at the juvenile detention center and teaches peer mediation and conflict resolution to decrease violence in the community. Muhammad currently serves at deputy director of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, which aims to educate the public about Islamic history and culture and the contributions of Muslims to world civilization. A graduate of Colorado Technical University, he brings 20 years of experience in the Islamic and interfaith communities to his work.
For 10 years, Sunny has worked to lead school food reform and create a new culture of regionally-based eating. She is the co-director of the Mississippi Farm-to-School Network, which enriches the connections communities have with fresh, local food. Her work is inspiring students to learn about and eat good, clean and fair food. Her innovative farm-to-school approach is transforming cafeterias and classrooms across her state. Sunny also directs EduFood Consulting, offering resources and pragmatism to help communities and schools strategize good-food solutions. A graduate of Hendrix College, Sunny presents on food systems change and, in 2014, her work was featured at TedXManhattan.
Angela brings 20 years of management and training experience to her work building nonprofit, corporate and government organizational capacity. She founded her own business, Carson Consulting Services LLC, to help clients develop their leadership skills and achieve their changemaking goals. Angela is also the host of “Be in the Know” on WMGO radio, connecting residents with information and resources. A dedicated member of numerous boards, youth programs and community development initiatives, Angela is driving transformation in her community and beyond.
An educator, mentor and community leader, Stephanie is passionate about helping youth become successful learners, discover their potential and take action. She started as a teacher and later became a school administrator. Realizing students were not receiving the necessary support, she co-founded projects, such as Girl Power, Teens Taking the Lead and the Fellowship of Southern Christian Families. Her work challenges community leaders to be innovative and creative in developing equitable opportunities for the social and economic achievement of all children. A graduate of Delta State University, Stephanie is pursuing her doctorate in public policy and administration at Jackson State University.
The daughter of civil rights activists Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Reena is a tireless champion for global equity and racial justice. Bringing more than 40 years of executive leadership experience, she is working to make her parents’ vision of cultivating positive social change, intergenerational civic engagement, and social and economic justice a reality. She is the executive director of The Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute, which offers programs to promote education, leadership and opportunity. She is a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
Thea Thomas Faulkner
Thea’s work is driven by a quote from James Baldwin which states, “These are our children and we will profit by, or pay for, what they become.” This principle guides Thea’s commitment to enhancing the educational experience for all children, while changing the narrative surrounding public education. An established educator and leader, Thea currently serves as the director of Partners in Education for Jackson Public Schools. She also is an ambassador to the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, a community advisory council member to the Junior League of Jackson and a board member for the Greater Jackson Arts Council. Thea is a graduate of Dillard University and earned a professional certificate from the Millsaps College Business Advantage Program.
Vondaris “Von” Gordon
Von is passionate about equipping youth to build stronger communities through education, empowerment and dialogue. Von currently is the youth engagement coordinator for The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which aims to create a safe space for interracial, multicultural dialogue and promote equity and inclusion for all communities. He has also worked in restaurant operations and business development. Von serves on the boards of the Mississippi Statewide Afterschool Network, Refill Café, Cure Sickle Cell Foundation and Operation Shoestring. He attended the University of Mississippi.
Dr. Alice Graham
Dr. Graham’s passion is supporting the self-empowerment of communities that have been marginalized. She is currently the executive director of Back Bay Mission, which aims to move clients from emergency services to self-sufficiency. Her work helping those experiencing injustices to help themselves is backed by more than 40 years as a pastoral counselor and community advocate. She earned her doctor of philosophy from Northwestern University, a master’s of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s in history and sociology from Spelman College.
Jacqueline Kaye Hammack
Jacqueline is an innovator working at the intersection of maternity care and the legal system to advance reproductive justice. By bridging her work as an attorney with her passion as a doula, Jacqueline is driving community-focused solutions to the challenges that women of color face in the Deep South with maternity care, breastfeeding and the daily caregiving of very young children. She founded the nonprofit Justice Advocates for Maternal Support to promote the civil and human rights of mothers and babies in pregnancy, birth and beyond. In addition, she works as a part-time associate attorney at the civil rights law firm Bizer & DeReus, and is a trained birth and postpartum doula. Jacqueline is a graduate of Tulane University Law School, Jackson State University and Holmes Community College.
Dr. Robert E. Luckett, Jr.
Author, scholar, educator and advocate, Robby is a leading authority on the civil rights movement of Mississippi. His work has appeared in academic journals, historical texts, podcasts and documentary series. At Jackson State University, he is an associate professor of history and the director of the Margaret Walker Center, an archive and museum. Robby’s dedication to uncovering and sharing the history of the Mississippi civil rights movement is preserving a critical piece of African American history and culture. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Georgia, Robby is a civil rights champion.
William David Murphy
A dedicated educator, administrator and mentor, William passionately serves his community in the classroom and beyond. He started with Teach for America and went on to become an elementary school teacher, earning Greenville School District Teacher of the Year. He was also successful coaching athletics. He served as an elementary school principal for six years, and then as the district discipline coordinator. Currently, he is the director of personnel and student affairs at Sunflower Consolidated School District. William has dedicated his life’s work to ministry and addressing racial equity in education. He is a graduate of Delta State University and Wake Forest University.
Dr. Byron D’Andra Orey
A scholar, researcher and mentor, Dr. Orey is transforming the political science field and our understanding of race and politics. His work explores the traumatic impacts of racism and discrimination on communities and people of color, authoring more than 30 articles and book chapters on the subject. He has taught at the University of Mississippi and University of Nebraska, and currently is a professor of political science at Jackson State University. Dr. Orey is also active in the community, mentoring youth and tutoring children at his local church. He earned his doctorate from the University of New Orleans, master’s degrees from the University of Mississippi and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi Valley State University.
From within the heart of downtown Jackson, Jamie is transforming the lives of hundreds of vulnerable children and at-risk youth. She brings 20 years of health and wellness experience to her work with the youth in her community, and to the global community she serves in her corporate role. She is senior partner of corporate social responsibility at Tivity Health, leading global efforts to boost physical activity, connectivity and productivity among aging populations. Her dedication to uplifting people on both local and global scales is driving positive change. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Belhaven College.
Sarah is dedicated to ending the cycle of generational poverty and improving the quality of life for low-income families and youth in her community. An experienced strategist, program coordinator and direct service provider, Sarah has built local and national partnerships aimed at advancing economic security for all. She is the senior community specialist at Springboard to Opportunities, where she guides programming for wrap-around support services for families and children. A graduate of Calvin College, Sarah is currently a postulant for the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, and owns the first tiny house in Jackson.
Zakiya has spent many years in service to the City of Jackson and the state of Mississippi, leading transformational change across sectors and communities. In November 2019, Zakiya was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives for District 68, where she aims to fight for equitable policy change that will help move Mississippi in the right direction and sustain her community. Zakiya also owns her own event planning and public relations consulting company, Lady Godiva Productions. Previously, she served as Hinds County Election Commissioner for District 3. Zakiya also has worked for the ACLU of Mississippi, One Voice and the Jackson Medical Mall. In 2017, Zakiya’s community activism earned her a spot among Mississippi Business Journal’s top 50 Business Leading Women of the Year, and in 2018, she was recognized with a Human Rights Award from Church United Women-Jackson Unit and a Social Justice Award from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She earned a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Albert believes in the power of young people to lead change. He is the executive director of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), where he works to engage, inform and energize people and communities around creating a more equitable education system. He formerly was the policy and advocacy director of the Young People’s Project, which trains, employs and supports high school students in becoming math literacy workers to elementary students. Albert is also an organizer at heart. He has advocated with the NAACP for a quality education as a constitutional right and served as a national trainer for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Youth Advocate Leadership Training.
A community organizer, social entrepreneur and philanthropy leader, Patrick is setting a path toward restorative justice and racial healing. With more than 10 years of experience in racial reconciliation and youth-focused work, Patrick is leading transformational change that will last through the generations. He co-founded and serves as director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, which uses art and storytelling to share the Emmett Till tragedy, facilitate racial healing and point us toward a new future. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, he holds a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.