MEET OUR STAFF

Letha Muhammad - Director of Education Justice Alliance

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Letha Muhammad is the Director of the Education Justice Alliance (EJA), based in Raleigh, North Carolina. As Director, Letha is working to advance the organizations 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 that are directly impacted by this issue which will help ensure that Black and other students of color have access to a quality education . As such, 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 co-chair of their fundraising/finance committee. Letha is also a member of Muslim’s for Social Justice (MSJ) and on the steering committee of the Movement to End Islamophobia and Racism (MERI). She is a wife and the mother of two school age children and one college student.

 

 

Bekah Brown - Digital Organizer

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Before joining EJA, Bekah worked inside the public school system as both a classroom teacher and special education case manager. Inspired by her child's learning differences and frustrated by the lack of support, Bekah decided to become their greatest advocate by learning the system from the inside. She attended William Peace University, where she received her bachelor's degree in education with a minor in psychology—becoming the first person in her family ever to receive a college degree. Bekah went on to become dual certified to teach general and special education. Bekah now volunteers as a mentor to other first-generation college students and families through Strive for College. Having the unique perspective of experiencing the imbalance of the education system from both sides, Bekah has become a fierce advocate for learning systems that value social justice and educational equity. Bekah has been a champion for developing and implementing a culturally responsive curriculum that honors stories of indigenous people and communities of color. Through community outreach and partnerships, Bekah has prepared and hosted many successful grant proposals that directly provided students from marginalized populations with access to equitable learning experiences. Through personal and professional experience, she has seen the value of safe spaces and creating a culture of belonging through restorative justice practices. Bekah is committed to using her talents 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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