Jitu Brown is the national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance, a network of 30 grassroots community based organizations in 23 cities organizing for community driven school improvement. He was formerly the education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). Jitu organized in the Kenwood Oakland neighborhood for over 17 years bringing community voices to the table on school issues. He helped develop the Mid-South Education Association, a grassroots advocacy group made up of administrators, parents, teachers, young people and local school council (LSC) members to meet the needs of schools in the area.
Jitu also teaches African-American history at St. Leonard’s Adult High School, the only accredited high school in that nation that exclusively serves people who have been formerly incarcerated. A believer in working locally and thinking globally. He has been published in the national education magazine Rethinking Schools, appeared in Ebony magazine and on several talk shows, including MSNBC’s The Ed Show, Al Jazeera America, WBEZ’s Community Voices, Democracy Now and CLTV’s Gerard McClendon Live.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba
In 2017, Attorney Lumumba defeated nine other viable candidates in the Democratic primary for mayor with a total of 55% of the vote. He went on to win the city’s general election by 93% on June 6, 2017. Mayor Lumumba's lifelong objective is to continue to struggle on behalf of oppressed peoples worldwide, so that they may eventually obtain the self-determined lives they so justly deserve. He firmly supports the concepts of community and family and the belief of the community as a family and pledges to do all that he can to make that concept live.
As a founding member of the Mississippi Human Rights Collective, he co-organized the “Stand Up to Take It Down” rally at the State capitol to support the removal of the confederate insignia from the Mississippi State flag. He currently serves as the media representative of the Coalition for Economic Justice and is an active member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Ronsha A. Dickerson
Ronsha A. Dickerson is National Organizer for Journey for Justice Alliance, a national alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent organizations in about 25 cities, including IDEA in Jackson, MS. She understands that education is a human right, and she organizes for community driven alternatives to the privatization and dismantling of public school systems. She is the co-founder of the Camden Parents Union, an organization of Camden, NJ, parents, alumni, and business and community leaders who advocate for proper funding and equal resources. She is also the lead organizing parent of the Camden Students Union, also working to save public schools. Her goal for any city is to empower its residents and to strengthen its community.
Dickerson is also a labor and birthing Doula, who serves women and families in having great experiences from prenatal health through breastfeeding. She has been married for 20 years to Jamal P. Dickerson with whom she has six amazing children.
Dr. Moses, a well-known Civil Rights’ leader was born in Harlem, Harvard-educated and became MacArthur Fellow. Dr. Robert Moses founded the Algebra Project (AP) in 1982. Over time AP grew from teaching math in one school in Cambridge, MA, to more than 200 middle schools across the country by the late 1990s. AP is best known for developing successful models of whole-school and community change.
AP’s unique approach to school reform intentionally develops sustainable, student-centered models by building coalitions of stakeholders within the local communities, particularly the historically underserved population. AP's current work seeks a national response to establish a fundamental right: the right of every child to a quality public school education.
Derrick Johnson is the driving force behind One Voice, working tirelessly with local elected officials, philanthropic community and local stakeholders to make sure voices often neglected in Mississippi get heard. Derrick has served as State President for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP since 2004. He earned his Jurist Doctorate Degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. He serves on the boards of the Mississippi ACLU, the Advisory Council of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. The Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Derrick as a Commissioner to the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. He also served as a Fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, DC, working in the office of Congressman Bennie G. Thompson and as a Fellow with The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management Minority Fellowship Program. Currently, he is a Mel King Fellow in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Former Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement Chairperson Frankye "Malika" Adams-Johnson, served with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in New York City, helping to educate and feed young people, and make a difference in the areas of human and civil rights.
Her first involvement in the Civil Rights Movement came during a student walkout that students of the three African American high schools in Jackson conducted, including Brinkley High School, which Adams-Johnson attended. She soon became involved with the NAACP's Jackson Youth Movement and became the youth secretary for the NAACP.
She enrolled at Tougaloo College in 1964 working on voter registration and with members SNCC. In 1967 her mother, concerned for her safety, sent her to live with her sister in White Plains, N.Y.
In 1999, Adams-Johnson moved back to Jackson and began teaching as an adjunct professor at Jackson State University about three years later. She also donated papers from her time in the Black Panther Party to JSU, which are on display in the Margaret Walker Center.
Hollis Watkins is an activist born in Lincoln County, MS, ,who became part of the Civil Rights Movement activities in the state during the 1960s. He was a member and organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1961, was a county organizer for 1964's "Freedom Summer", and assisted the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to unseat the regular Mississippi delegation from their chairs at the 1964 Democratic Party national convention in Atlantic City. He founded Southern Echo, a group that gives support to other grass-roots organizations in Mississippi. He also is a founder of the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.
Hollis is a powerful force in the efforts to carry on the unfinished business of the civil rights movement. He is currently president of Southern Echo, a leadership development and education organization. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Highlander Research and Education Center, and the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG). Mr. Watkins is a co-founder and member of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi, and currently serves as its chairperson.
Flonzie Brown Wright
During the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Wright helped register thousands of voters in Mississippi. She was the first African American female elected official in Mississippi post-Reconstruction. She is a best-selling author of Looking Back to Move Ahead, which chronicles her journey growing up in a small Mississippi town through her work in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other humanitarian activists, both locally and nationally. Her experiences are documented in a 1997 film entitled Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders.
Jody Owens leads the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi office and its efforts to reform the state’s juvenile justice, adult criminal justice, educational, and mental health systems. Previously, he was an attorney at a nationally recognized law firm in Jackson, Miss., where he successfully litigated a variety of cases, including civil rights and constitutional law cases. He also served as a special prosecutor for the District Attorney’s office of Hinds County, Miss., where he prosecuted felony murder cases. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Jackson State University and received his law degree from Howard University School of Law, where he was a member of the Social Justice Law Review and the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Moot Court Team. Jody is also an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Jody serves on several non-profit boards and most recently was the 2012 Public Service Award recipient for the Magnolia Bar Association, 2012 fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network Leadership Institute, and a 2014 recipient of the Citizenship Award by the Mississippi Bar.
David Miller is Director of Community Engagement at Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Originally from Canyon Country. CA. In 2009 He graduated from California State University Northridge with a B.A. in elementary education. In 2010 David moved to Clarksdale, MS to teach 5th-grade math/science. In 2013 he graduated from the University of Mississippi with a master’s degree in educational leadership and immediately took a position as an Assistant Principal at Coleman Middle School in Greenville, MS. He moved to Jackson in 2015 and became the Director of Community Engagement at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life where he oversees three major initiatives. First is a multi-state peer mediation/conflict resolution program named TAP (Talk About the Problems). Second, three literacy programs that address interventions, parental engagement, and meaningful engagement. Third, a series of Jewish social justice programs that operate throughout the Southern part of the US.
Dmitri is leads the education justice strategy for the Center for Popular Democracy. He works with our partner organizations and coalitions to organize for a high quality, equitable and accessible public education system in the United States.
Before joining CPD, he was the founding executive director of the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) in South Africa. The EELC is the sister organization to and primary litigation partner of the youth-led social movement, Equal Education (EE). Both organizations build nation-wide campaigns to improve South Africa’s public education system, harness youth leadership and advance the constitutional right to basic education. Prior to his position at the EELC he was Equal Education’s parliamentary liaison officer, researcher and media spokesperson. He was also a founding member of the Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) and a PILnet (Public Interest Law Network) International Human Rights Law Fellow.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of the Western Cape.
Tyrone Hendrix is the executive director of the Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE). MAE advocates for great public schools for every child by empowering members, providing services and promoting parental and community involvement. MAE is a state affiliate of the National Education Association, which represents 3.1 million educators, including teachers, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Hendrix has a steadfast vision that parallels the vision of MAE: a strong visible organization which enhances quality public education through membership, leadership and communication. As MAE advocates for great public schools for every child by empowering members, providing services and promoting parental and community involvement,
Formerly Hendrix was the Jackson City Council President. He served on the council three years. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jackson State University.
Okolo Rashid is the co-founder/ Board Chair of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC) and also, the Director of the IMMC’s new formed Islamic Thought Institute in Jackson, Mississippi. Okolo Rashid has committed her life to seeking knowledge, encouraging others to seek knowledge and contributing to the modes, means and content in which knowledge reaches others. This courageous educational pioneer is paving the way for future generations.
She has a Master's degree in public policy and administration, participated in the black nationalist movement, engaged in inner-city community development, and served the greater Islamic community at her local masjid. These roles and her roles as wife, mother and convert to Islam inspired one of her biggest life projects, the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC).
Mr. Frank Figgers
A veteran of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Frank Figgers is Strategy Consultant for One Voice, a non-partisan policy advocacy and leadership development non-profit organization. He has worked with The Algebra Project at Lanier High School in Jackson, MS, as Parent and Community Development Specialist. He is a graduate of Tougaloo College, where he worked with the Jackson Civil Rights Project and is retired from Sherwin-Williams Company.
Figgers served as Hinds County Election District 3 Election Commissioner for two consecutive terms. He was the first person of African descent to be elected in that district to that position. He also taught at Mississippi Baptist Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
Figgers currently serves as Vice Chairman on the VMCRM Board of Directors, board member for the Young People Project (YYP) of Jackson since 1998, and Chaplain of the China Grove Lodge #110 PHA. He is a member of Shady Grove M. B. Church in Jackson, and a "subscribing" Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Congessman Bennie G. Thompson
Bennie G. Thompson, United States Representative from Mississippi's Second Congressional District, is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and as such is one of the most influential African American members of Congress.
Congressman Thompson was born in Bolton, Mississippi on January 28, 1948. He earned a BA in political science from Tougaloo College in 1968, and then earned MS and MA degrees from Jackson State University in 1972. He worked for one year as a school teacher in Madison, Mississippi after graduating from Tougaloo. Congressman Thompson became interested in politics while a student at Tougaloo College where he spent time as a grassroots campaigner and voter registrar. In 1968, he successfully ran for alderman of his hometown of Bolton and now is the longest-serving African American elected official in Mississippi. In 1973, he was elected mayor of Bolton. As a liberal Democrat, Congressman Thompson strives to be a voice for the poor and disadvantaged and is a leading voice on issues relating to civil rights, education, and healthcare reform.
Dave Dennis participated in the first Freedom Bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1961 and in voter registration efforts during the 1964 Freedom Summer. He was raised in Louisiana by sharecropper grandparents. He received his Bachelors of Arts and Science from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School.
He worked closely with Bob Moses and Medgar Evers in Mississippi, and was active in many Civil Rights organizations during the 1960’s as co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Mississippi and Mississippi director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), working with SNCC members and other civil rights activists in Mississippi under the COFO umbrella.
In 1972, Dennis organized a successful challenge to the Louisiana Democratic Party structure. This represented the first time since Reconstruction that there was a majority of African American delegates from the Louisiana Democratic Party to the Democratic National Convention and an African American chairman of the delegation. After leaving the practice of law in Louisiana in 1992, Dennis joined Moses to further develop an education program known as the Algebra Project. Today, he works as the director and CEO of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project, a nonprofit that aims to improve minority children’s mathematics education.
Founder and executive director of the People’s Advocacy Institute and campaign manager for the successful Committee to Elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba for Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Rukia Lumumba is a transformative justice strategist and community organizer. She is
the daughter of community justice icon the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba,
Rukia was named a "New Activist" by Essence magazine and an "Emerging Leader" by the Congressional Black Caucus.
For more than 18 years, she has worked within and outside the system to foster justice for all. She hserved as director of two of New York state’s largest criminal justice nonprofits, CASES (the Center for Alternatives Sentencing and Employment Services) and the Center for Community Alternatives,
Rukia currently serves as the board president for Cooperation Jackson. She was selected as one of the brightest and most promising women of color by New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service and she is a 2011 Youth for Justice Leadership Fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network.
Nsombi Lambright is the Director of Development and Programs at One Voice. She is responsible for grassroots fundraising and program coordination at One Voice. Working very closely with the MS State Conference NAACP, Nsombi coordinates work to dismantle the school to prison pipeline, to reduce the mass incarceration of people of color and coordinates the organization’s election protection work. Nsombi sits on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Mississippi Veteran’s of the Civil Rights Movement and the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative. She is also a member of the Jackson Branch NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Jackson Alignment.Nsombi also served on the late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s transition team after his election in July of 2013. Nsombi is the proud mother of one son who is a 2016 graduate of Lanier High School in Jackson, MS.
Evie Frankl supports the Center for Popular Democracy partners by working on education justice campaigns, helping to move them into coalitions with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), and helping lift up the combined work of multiple coalitions to a national level. She also holds many organizational relationships, works to move Community School policy work with and through these allies in collaboration with CPD and AROS partners, and conducts research and writing at the cutting edge of community schools work.
Dr. Earl Watkins is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Leading2Leap, LLC, which is a Jackson-based school improvement/leadership development company. He has served as the Senior Education Consultant for the Foundation of the Mid South and for One Voice, which are both based in Jackson. As a school leadership consultant, Dr. Watkins has worked with school districts, in addition to regional and state organizations such as the Delta Area Association for Improvement of Schools at Delta State University, the Center for Education Innovation, and the Mississippi Department of Education. Dr. Watkins has served the Mississippi State Conference NAACP as its state education chairman for 2 years. Dr. Watkins' career has included roles as adjunct professor of educational leadership at Jackson State University, math curriculum coordinator, principal of a middle and high school, and formerly Superintendent of Jackson Public Schools. Under Dr. Watkins¹ leadership as the superintendent in Jackson, JPS passed a $150 million bond referendum with an approval exceeding 80% of the voters. In addition to leading the district to full accreditation by the Mississippi Department of Education, the district was awarded the highest level of accreditation that can be given to a school district by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools. JPS, as a district, came out of school improvement as noted by NCLB with 96% of all schools meeting adequate yearly progress.
D’Andra Orey’s research is in the area of race and politics, focusing heavily on racial attitudes and legislative behavior. Prior to coming to Jackson State, he taught at the University of Mississippi (1999-2001) and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (2001-2008). In 2011, Dr. Orey was recognized by President Myers as Jackson State University’s Teacher of the Year and was nominated for the state-wide honor of Teacher of the Year. He also is the recipient of the 2011 Jewel Limar Prestage Mentorship Award and the 2008 Julia Cooper Teaching Award, both presented by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. He has conducted lectures at St. Anne’s College at Oxford University (Oxford, England), Emory University, Winneba University in Ghana, Africa, Yale University and Spelman College, to name a few. In 2008 he received a National Science Foundation grant to create a Political Psychology laboratory at Jackson State University. In 2009, Dr. Orey won a nation-wide competition with TESS: Time Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences to examine the impact of such trusted sources as President Obama and former President Clinton on racial attitudes. He has published over twenty scholarly articles and book chapters and is currently working on two Book-Length Manuscripts: 1) Contemporary Racial Attitudes in Black and White; and 2) Strange Legislative Bedfellows: The Intersectionality of Race, Gender and Party in State Legislatures.
Rev. C. J. Rhodes
Rev. Rhodes is the pastor of Mt Helm Baptist Church, Jackson’s oldest historically African-American congregation. Under his transformative leadership, Mt Helm regained its local and statewide status as a flagship church, became more engaged in evangelism and advocacy, and modeled adaptive paradigms that made the nearly two century old church more relevant and visible for 21st century ministry.
Rev. Rhodes graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. After serving as religious affairs coordinator with Free the Slaves, a Washington, DC-based human rights nonprofit, Rev. Rhodes continued his education at the Duke University Divinity School as both a Dean's Scholar and a Fund for Theological Education Ministry Fellow. In 2013 Rev. Rhodes was selected to participate in the Inaugural Institute of Black Theology and Leadership at Princeton Theological Seminary. Rev. Rhodes is presently a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Leadership for Transformational Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Rev. Rhodes is also a instructor in the General Missionary Baptist State Convention Congress of Christian Education and serves as the Convention’s Liaison for Ecumenical and Civic Affairs. In 2014, Rev. Rhodes was appointed President of the Mississippi Baptist Seminary and Bible College. On the national level, Rev. Rhodes presently serves the President and Convention as the Chair of the Ecumenical Relationships Commission.