MEET OUR STAFF

Letha Muhammad - Co-Executive Director

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Letha Muhammad is the Co-Executive Director of the Education Justice Alliance (EJA), based in Raleigh, North Carolina. As Co-Director, Letha is working to advance the organization's impact on dismantling the School to Prison and School to Deportation Pipeline in their local school district, Wake County Public Schools, and in other districts across the state.  She believes that one of the most effective ways to dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline is to work with parents and families directly impacted by this issue which will help ensure that Black and other students of color have access to quality education. Her work includes engagement and leadership training with parents, families, and community members to ensure they know their rights and how to advocate for themselves and their students. Working with other community stakeholders and organizations to bring awareness to the issue of school pushout is another one of her key roles as director. Letha represents EJA on the Coordinating Committee of the National Dignity in Schools Campaign and serves as their fundraising/finance committee co-chair. Letha is also a member of Muslims for Social Justice (MSJ) and on the Movement to End Islamophobia and Racism (MERI) steering committee. She is a wife and the mother of one school-age child and two young adults.

 

Jenice Ramírez- Co-Executive Director

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Jenice Ramirez is a proud Latina, roots in Puerto Rico, who began as the Executive Director of ISLA NC in 2013. She has focused on bilingualism, multiculturalism, and leadership within the Latinx community.  Jenice has been in the education arena for over ten years and has made it her mission to be a part of changing the status quo for the Latino community in NC and pushes for language access and opportunities for the community. Her professional and personal work is guided by the desire to see more women and people of color lead in the field of education. In the last 5 years she has focused on pushing for educational equity in North Carolina and is passionate about seeing a true transformation in the quality of education our students receive across our state. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2010 with a degree in Special Education and a minor in Spanish. Jenice enjoys trips to the beach, spending time outside, relaxing with friends and family, and having dance parties with her little girl, Iva.

 

Bekah Brown - Policy & Curriculum Curator

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Bekah Brown has a deep passion for education justice, which has been shaped by her personal experience as a parent of a child with learning differences. She worked for many years in the public school system as a classroom teacher and special education case manager. Bekah's frustration with the lack of support for her child motivated her to become their advocate and learn the system from the inside. She earned her bachelor's degree in Education with a minor in Psychology from William Peace University, becoming the first in her family to receive a college degree. She obtained dual licensure to teach both general and special education and is now a mentor for first-generation college students and families through Strive for College.

Bekah has a unique perspective on the education system, having experienced it from different angles. This has transformed her into a fierce advocate for social justice and educational equity. She is particularly passionate about developing equitable policies and curriculums. She champions the implementation of culturally responsive curriculums that honor the stories of indigenous people and communities of color. Through community outreach and partnerships, Bekah has prepared and hosted many successful funding applications that have provided students from historically oppressed communities with access to equitable learning experiences. She believes in creating safe spaces and a culture of belonging through restorative justice practices and is committed to using her skills to cultivate diverse and inclusive environments for all students and generations.

 

Surena Johnson- Parent Organizer

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Surena Johnson has been a community advocate since 2003 and is a mother of four. She has children who are adopted, disabled, LGBTQ, and born prematurely. As a result, her life has encompassed the gamut of struggle; she understands the changes needed in the systems in which we live. Surena has a history of advocating for change regarding challenges facing people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and navigating the medical and child protective services system. She works hard to ensure her children and others won't have to live within these broken systems. She's worked as a gang outreach worker, detention officer, and case manager for first-time youth offenders. She currently runs Orchid Bloom, a nonprofit organization she started that serves people with low resources by creating more avenues to help them maneuver through these broken systems while dismantling and restoring them. Surena is also a Reiki Master and Herbalist who believes that healing from within can bring healing throughout the world.

 

Debbie Long- Youth Organizer

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Debbie The Artist (they/themme) is a non-binary black-queer-feminist-artist who embodies the power of creative expression as a vehicle for social change. Unapologetic in the pursuit of social justice and racial equity, Debbie pictures a revolutionary society where people can exercise their fundamental human rights free from fear; where those who have been most directly impacted by intersecting systems of oppression can truly thrive.  This abolitionist politic shows up in all that they do. When they say, “Art is who and what I am”, what they mean is art is their tool, their medicine, their voice and vision. Debbie is a first-generation college student turned community organizer. They graduated with honors from the School of Social Work at the illustrious NC A&T.   In 2016 they started organizing with IgniteNC, NextGen Rising, and Queer People of Color Collective calling for the abolition of all oppressive regimes, ice + police brutality, and student debt. As an organizing tactic, Debbie strives to center youth voices and power as often as possible with the understanding that intergenerational movements are inherently valuable, liberating and more sustainable. Their belief in the power of strong communities led them to grassroots organizing and years engaged on the ground—base building, strategizing, and learning from other organizers about how to effectively deliver on the values they hold in their heart about social justice. Debbie has worked with Southerners on New Ground as the Durham Chapter Fellow and Lead organizer on winning voting rights for incarcerated people, ending cash bail and pretrial detention, and melting ICE.  The songbird hails from Durham, North Carolina where they shake, make, bake, and create.

 

Fernando Martinez - Strategic Advisor

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Prior to joining EJA, Fernando served as the first National Field Organizer for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, where he supported coalition members throughout the country to build a movement led by the students and parents most impacted by pushout and criminalization in schools. Most recently, Fernando served as an adult ally and supported the formation process of the National Youth Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. Born in El Salvador, Fernando started his organizing career in the late 80's organizing youth groups in churches during that country's civil war. After moving to the United States, he continued his fight for social justice with community-based organizations. He served as the first organizer for the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), which fought back against anti-immigrant laws. In New Jersey, he started the Paterson Chapter of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee (SEOC), where he organized parents to win the construction of two new schools for the city of Paterson and for the return of Music and Arts programs to the classrooms.

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