meet our 2018-19 ELLA Fellows!
Stormé-Murray Project is dedicated to decreasing the homeless, unemployment, and dropout rates of LGBTQ+ youth of color by sending them to college. The college experience provides a network of support that can alleviate the dire conditions LGBTQ+ youth of color are often pipelined into for survival and has proven to increase income along with life expectancy over time. This project is an initiative to provide support to LGBTQ+ individuals of color with desire to achieve a higher education in three tiers: information delivery, mentorship, and application support.
Dorcas Adedoja is a non-binary individual who proudly hails from Philadelphia, PA and uses they/them/theirs pronouns. They are currently working towards their Master of Public Health degree at Columbia University and aspire to become a physician that helps make medicine more inclusive for all. They plan to start this journey by aiding LGBTQ+ youth of color in the college process so they can access sustainable resources (i.e. housing, food) often denied to them, and enact meaningful change in their respective careers.
Justice Seekers is a mini documentary series that showcases a diverse group of Muslim Americans who are activists, academics, and politicians to portray the diversity and contributions of different professionals in the United States. Through the power of digital storytelling, this mini documentary series aims to build community and dive deeper into the work of activists who are working on pressing issues in the country. The documentary series hopes to encourage viewers to become more informed and engaged citizens, and inspire them to be more politically and civically engaged.
Sahar Akbarzai is a graduate of Rutgers University- New Brunswick. She earned her B.A. in Political Science and her minor in International and Global Studies. Sahar was also an Undergraduate Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. Sahar aspires to be a journalist focused on covering politics, global affairs, and humanitarian issues around the world. Sahar believes in the power of storytelling, and hopes her work sheds light on issues and people who are underreported.
Newarkers Unite is a platform that addresses housing inequalities within the lens of gentrification, with hope that a more diverse and harmonious community of Newark will prosper. Newark has so much history and if we are to learn from our history, good and bad, starting with affordable housing will ease the tension we feel as residents. Deeply rooted in the history of living civil rights icons, as students and Newarkers, we know how much the past can inform the present. Although it is obvious that change won’t happen overnight, we hope to see gradual change in order for Newark citizens to be protected.
Diamond Andrews was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She is a junior at North Star Academy High School. Her unique voice and outgoing personality has aided her as the Speech Arts captain at her high school. When she isn’t singing at church she’s probably playing in makeup and lip syncing to trap music on Instagram.
Rituals for Wallflowers is a mental health collective that aims to empower, support, and amplify the voices of women, femmes, and gender nonconforming people of color. As a collective we will work towards destigmatizing mental illness, encouraging others to talk about mental health, and developing wellness plans for self-care. Our main goal is to create workshops that focus on healing and transformation.
Kiani Nayo Brown is an aspiring therapist & healer, born & raised in Detroit, Michigan. She is a recent graduate of The New School with a BA in Psychology. She is interested in creating spaces for people to heal, learn, and evolve. She hopes to provide more mental health resources in her community, and encourage others to use compassion as a tool for shifting the way we connect with each other.
JuvHealth is a by-youth, for-youth collective that strives to create a network of peer health educators targeting middle and high schoolers. We create health curricula on topics relevant to youth, such as bullying and birth control, that are approved by health professionals and educators. These are then distributed to our chapter leaders at nonprofits and schools, who choose and elaborate on the lessons based on the needs of their communities. They are also given policy guides which they can use to rally for health reform on a legislative scale. We aim to provide youth with accurate, unbiased information that they can use to make decisions about their health. Showing youth how to take charge of their health education will position them as leaders of the next generation, ready to empower their peers with knowledge.
Vishu is a senior at Hunter College High School and is from Queens, New York. She organizes her school’s annual leadership forum for Asian-American youth, and has served on the executive board of NYC’s largest Asian-American student conference. Vishu is also passionate about diversity in the coding space, and has helped organize hackathons and computer science workshops throughout the country. Her research deals with the intersection of computer science and medicine to improve healthcare outcomes, and has been recognized by national conferences and science fairs. Vishu’s interest in JuvHealth stems from her work as a peer health educator at a community nonprofit in Forest Hills. In her free time, Vishu enjoys reading comic books, playing the clarinet, and wandering her city looking for dogs to befriend.
W.O.K.E. [Where Our Kids Empower] is a holistic approach to fostering civic engagement among youth. The goal is to recognize “woke” as a meaningful mindset of political awareness, rather than aimless language. We deconstruct conventional methods of learning and encourage honest dialogue among our community. Middle to high school aged youth in Essex County, New Jersey gain the exposure to create and understand new political ideas and solutions. We talk about topics from the Illusion of Race and Racial Micro-aggressions to Criminal Justice Reform and Immigration. We use seminar discussions to educate and create safe spaces to encourage youth to be mindful of their beliefs and others. Our success is measured by the empowered youth who become politically active by influencing others, forming relationships with local officials, and voting!
Darlene Folas is a junior at West Orange High School. She is a well-rounded student who is an enthusiastic learner and an active volunteer in her community. In her personal life, she enjoys spending time with family, traveling abroad and meeting new people. Loved ones call her intellectually curious, compassionate, and optimistic. Darlene is passionate about inspiring her generation to vocalize their truths, challenge preconceived assumptions, and create safe spaces for honest discussions. She identifies as an advocate for social change and is following her dream of using individuals and experiences to spread awareness and tolerance.
It’s About Time is dedicated to the creation of a safe space for youth of color who have had contact with the juvenile justice system, either through arrest or incarceration. We do this by partnering with local organizations to cultivate action plans centered on Criminal Justice reform, and prioritizing a collaborative process where youth make their own decisions. It’s About Time will also create a website to allow youth access to the same tools that we provide in an in-person setting.
Megan Jean Louis is a native of New York City, New York and is currently enrolled at Brooklyn College, where she is studying Biomedical Ethics and Multicultural Psychology through the CUNY Baccalaureate Program. She is a part of the Young Women's Advisory Council for New York City Council's Young Women's Initiative where she informs policy, data and funding recommendations for New York City. YWAC members are youth representatives that engage in participatory governance, budgeting, and organizing strategies to push for transformative change. Megan is also on the Executive Board of TEDxCUNY, the largest TEDx University event in the country representationally. She recently conducted Health Equity research at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research as a Research Fellow for the Palliative Care Unit. In February 2018, she attended Harvard Kennedy School's Public Policy Leadership Intensive and has future plans to work in Government; particularly in the fields of HealthCare, Immigration and International Affairs. This past summer, Megan received a Congressional Internship through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and was a Legislative Intern in the office of New York Representative Yvette D. Clarke; the Member at Large for the Congressional Black Caucus. Megan Jean Louis is currently a Legislative AIde for State Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson.
I AM NO VICTIM is a network curated for and by youth survivors of sexual violence. We operate as an online community space and host NYC-based events where members can commune, connect to resources and create with one common goal in mind: to heal. This project works to destigmatize, counteract and reconstruct the narratives surrounding marginalized youth survivors. This includes affirming the experiences of black women, femmes, queer, trans and gender non-conforming youth survivors of color, who are more often than not excluded from societal discourse on sexual violence. As a direct response to the inability of our environments, legislative systems and respective cultures to enable healing among us, we have come together to heal ourselves. I AM NO VICTIM seeks to promote collective healing, truth sharing and encouragement among survivors as we grow to reclaim personal power by taking healing into our own hands.
Nicole Lawrence is a radical learner and educator who uses art, multimedia and prose to convey internal realities to the outside world. As a first generation Bronx native by way of Jamaica, they believe that the intersections of identity and tradition are paramount to combating daily injustices. They are a current senior and Writing Consultant at St. John's University. Within their program, Nicole conducts research that seeks to affirm the experiences of inner city students of color. Through their endeavors both within and outside the classroom, they intend to use education as a means of access, reformation and freedom.
Black Girl Be _____ is an accessible digital network of Black women and girls from all walks of life connecting, healing, advocating, and existing together in a safe space. Personal perspectives about topics of the week, such as goal setting or gaining advice on specific topics will be chosen through continuous participant feedback so that members can be active agents in creating their own space and amplifying each other’s voices. All participants will collaborate and practice agency in how the space takes place through surveys, live discussions and webinars. The collective will support all the possible intersections that black women experience in both an empowering and encouraging manner. Members will have the opportunity to digitally facilitate community outreach on several social media platforms created as spaces for communication, camaraderie, and compassion. After a significant digital community is established, in person meet ups, workshops, and healing circles will be held in inner city communities throughout the U.S.
Diamond is a language activist, radical educator, and organizer from Philadelphia. She has facilitated several workshops on language, race, identity, resistance, and black women liberation both domestically and abroad. Diamond graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Spanish, Cum Laude, from Bryn Mawr College last May. Currently she works as an Office Coordinator at a large performing arts non-profit organization in Philadelphia. She is a proud supporter of manifestation and rest as a spiritual practice. She will continue to work on constructing safe spaces for Black femmes to exist and thrive in healthy ways throughout her ELLA project and beyond.
Project Light uses media as a tool to amplify the voices of youth that have been part of the juvenile justice system. We use blogs and video blogs, poetry, and songwriting to support these youth in developing their voice and recognizing the importance of their story. This project spreads awareness to a group of people that are continually left in the darkness. “I am real. I exist.”
Nichimyo Rich is a senior at The City College of New York. She is currently studying Advertising and Public Relations. She believes creativity, art and the expansion of minds creates the changes we seek. As a person who believes that creativity is the main tool of change, she takes every opportunity to use any form of art to cultivate the voices of the unheard. She is a true believer that everyone deserves to have their story heard and their voices amplified. Nichimyo Rich is a creative that vows to make a difference anyway she knows how; which is with the use of imaginative mind.
Sangam is a workshop series that centers healing for queer youth of color; whether the need for this healing derives from a history of oppression, structural violence, or from pain within our own communities. The workshops use art as a tool of community building and collective healing. By experimenting with different forms of art as well as projects curated by youth within a social justice framework, we reimagine queerness in ways that is healing for young people.
Samrah is an activist, healer, and lover of plants from Brooklyn NY, by way of Pakistan. She holds a dual degree from Brooklyn College in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. Samrah seeks to conceptualize the ways in which queer girls and gender expansive youth can use art as a means of resistance. She aspires to create spaces where young women are loved, heard, and given the resources that they deserve. In her free time, you will find her cooking her mother’s recipes, making ritual baths, and reimagining queer girlhood.
A Seat at the Easel is a safe space centered around pro black* youth from the hood. We use Black Art History as a tool of self-discovery and connection to community. We use art to curate discussions around Black and POC issues, and to allow emotional decompression through artistic expression. We believe that art is a necessity to community and self, and we seek to support black youth in exploring their artistry.
Reign Star is. She exists as she pleases and does her best. Reign believes in community and its power to shake up systems of white supremacy. She is an artist and strongly believes all people of color have art in them. Reign grew up in East New York, Brooklyn and her favorite past time was sitting on the stoop with her grandparents and listening to them talk about life. She hopes to spread lessons just like her elders did; not through academia, but oral tellings and stories.
The Sweetness Circle is a workshop series that engages WOC/GNC folks in the uptown NYC area. It is a safe space for those who wish to connect to spirituality as a method of re-engaging joy and decolonizing themselves and how they show up in community. It aims to provide workshops for WOC/GNC folks by those who identify with these terms; we’ll open up the space to non-womyn to heal and develop their divine feminine, while supporting the business endeavors of the intended audience. Sweetness will ensue in the form of parties and art events that promote, develop, and empower WOC & GNC folk.
Flo is a multidimensional creator from the Bronx who utilizes the visual and healing arts as methods of self-discovery and universal transformation. She writes, speaks, loves and questions herself, the collective, and creates methods of sifting through interconnected madness. In 2012 she was a participant in the Expanding the Walls program in the Studio Museum in Harlem, utilizing photography as a method of expressing vulnerability. In 2016 she created Crystals and Candy, a healing workshop series focused on internal transformation through astrology. Her main focuses are the eradication of shame, the reclamation of internal power, and the re-engagement of joy.
Iman, which means “faith” in Arabic centers the healing of queer Muslims and fosters a space for them to convene in the areas focusing on art, spirituality, healing, community gathering/interconnectedness, and joy. This space focuses on equipping LGBTQ Muslims with the tools to affirm themselves while working alongside one another to heal collectively. It is for queer Muslims to reclaim their identities, lives, and themselves to live unapologetically and take up space in a society that refuses to acknowledge them. Through radical love and healing, we can extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth, like bell hooks has proudly taught us.
Nyuma Waggeh is a Gambian American immigrant. She is an undergraduate student majoring in Africana studies/ English. She is a recovering alcoholic who enjoys poetry, James Baldwin, children, & committing her life to activism. She identifies as a queer Muslim and intersectional black feminist. She believes in radical liberation through education and creative expression. They are an aspiring educator/writer and love flowers. Pronouns are she/they.