ABOUT OUR TEAM

Shawon Jackson, Founder | shawon@vocaljustice.org

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Shawon launched Vocal Justice because he believes that every student, especially those who have been proximate to the pain of injustice, should feel inspired and prepared to advocate for positive change. Before launching Vocal Justice, Shawon worked with an education nonprofit in the Dominican Republic and did federal consulting with Deloitte. Between those jobs and volunteer efforts, Shawon has helped hundreds of young people tap into the power of their voice and share their stories and ideas with others. He graduated from Princeton, where he studied public policy and served two terms as student body president. He earned his MPP/MBA from Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford Business School. Listen to his talk below about why critical consciousness matters for public speakers.

Founder's Talk: Why Critical Consciousness Matters for Public Speakers

Bess Cohen, Special Projects Manager | bess@vocaljustice.org

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Bess is passionate about building intentional spaces where youth of color and their adult collaborators feel safe, nurtured, and powerful. Prior to joining the Vocal Justice team, Bess led therapeutic arts and mentoring programs for youth in foster care. Previously, as a college student, she co-founded and directed StoryArts Summer Camp, a free arts and storytelling program for middle school students on the South Side of Chicago. She also worked as a reporter and editor for the South Side Weekly, covering schools and organizing on the South Side, before serving as the organization's Board Chair. She is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and School Social Worker, and earned her BA in Public Policy and AM in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago.

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Naomi S. Daugherty, Program Manager | naomi@vocaljustice.org

Originally from Chicago, Naomi is a writer, educator, and alchemist cultivating liberation for Black folks in the holy city of New Orleans and beyond. Naomi has spent her time in education teaching high school students how to read, write, hustle, and heal themselves. While in the classroom, Naomi developed the 11th Grade American Literature curriculum for KIPP New Orleans schools while also writing mock ACT exams for KIPP Regional. Naomi has witnessed the transformative power of storytelling firsthand through an afterschool poetry club she curated to center student voice and self-exploration while also connecting youth to performance opportunities around the city of New Orleans. Since her time in the classroom, Naomi has worked with a variety of education non-profits to build non-traditional curricula and train and support valuable educators on curriculum implementation. Naomi sincerely believes Black women are due comfort, ease, and joy. Thus, she spends much of her free time making massage-oil candles, dancing in her garden, and writing poetry under a mighty magnolia tree.

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Greg Groves, Program Manager | greg@vocaljustice.org

Greg is passionate about working at the intersection of education and social justice. Prior to joining Vocal Justice, he worked at Christina Seix Academy as the Dean of Equity & Social Justice. In this role, he facilitated professional development workshops and built support systems for faculty members to enhance their practice as anti-biased educators. He also worked with students and taught a 7th-grade Sociology course on race, gender, and society. Bringing his experience outside of the classroom, Greg has also served as an Educational Advisor at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, as the Director of Multicultural Recruitment at The Peddie School, and worked in venture philanthropy at New Profit. He is a proud native of Cleveland, OH, and can often be overheard arguing that LeBron James is the GOAT. He graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in African American Studies. He also holds a Master’s of  Science in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Raja'Nee Redmond, Communications & Special Projects Associate |
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Raja’Nee strongly believes that social science education is the path toward consciousness and liberation. She is passionate about developing young people as change agents through curriculum that connects historical issues to the present, and leverages oral history and art-making. Prior to joining the Vocal Justice team, Raja’Nee was a social science educator in Chicago Public Schools, teaching and advocating on both the South and West sides of the city. Raja’Nee’s love of history turned into a love of genealogy and capturing the life stories of her own family. She has undertaken the tall task of building an archive of oral history videos of all members of her family that she can reach. She hails from the South Suburbs of Chicago but has lived in Chicago for the past 10 years. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and African and Black Diaspora studies with a minor in Educational Policy Studies from DePaul University and a Master’s in Teaching from The University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program, both with the highest honors. 

SUMMER 2022 INTERNS
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Samantha Anderson, Program Evaluation Intern | samantha@vocaljustice.org

Samantha Anderson is a rising senior at Northwestern University studying social policy, statistics, and African American studies. She is interested in using data analytics as a tool for social justice, especially regarding the policing of Black folks. She considers herself a student of abolition and roots her work in love and care for her community. At her university, she does this by serving on the Black Student Union’s executive board for the past two years and is currently the Vice Coordinator of Programming. She also works as the Impact Measurement Assistant at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, where she performs data organization, collection, and analysis. Although she is originally from Mississippi, Samantha now lives on the Northside of Chicago with her cat Merci and her many plants. In her free time, she enjoys painting, singing, and cooking for friends.

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Venus Ayalani, Curriculum Design Intern | venus@vocaljustice.org

Venus Ayalani is an Aquarius rising from 79th. A Chicago shorty whose uncle with dementia calls them by their mother’s name- which is to say that memory for them is short term & sacred. Their art is a conjuring of what they cannot mentally recollect. An embodied memory. Ayalani’s work is a growing language for their origin story; the story of their Ancestors, their Earth, and their God. Ayalani is a faithful student & teacher of the concept of Sankofa, the art of looking back in order to move forward, as a tool for survival & liberation. With the knowledge that this work cannot be done alone, they are sharing the burden of survival by transforming the education system alongside Vocal Justice. They are centering communal liberation through tarot, reiki, dance, song, poetry, and pleasure. Expressing themselves & their communities freely.

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Karem Katary, Growth Strategy Intern | karem@vocaljustice.org

Karem is very passionate about intersectionality and its deep connection with how people understand and credit their identity and self-worth. He is a persistent and dedicated both in his personal and academic life. He values person-to-person connection in both his personal and professional life and loves to meet and laugh with people from all walks of life. Currently a Sophmore at Georgetown University, Karem focuses on Public Health with a high interest in international development and social justice. Having grown in up in New York City, Karem spent four years in dedicated community service for the Leadership Program at his high school and served as the National Honor Society’s Tutoring Chair in an effort to help bridge the scholastic gap that existed in his high school. He likes to play basketball, read, and loves calligraphy.

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Mickey Mickle, Communications & Special Projects Intern | mickey@vocaljustice.org

A first-generation college student from Birmingham, Alabama, Mickey Mickle is a rising junior at Tulane University, studying political science with minors in French and Africana studies on a pre-law track. Her primary areas of interest are policy and organizing geared towards social justice advocacy, southern political organizing, and labor equity. She serves as a research assistant under Dr. Anna Mahoney, on a congressional research team in conjunction with Tulane, Rutgers, and UNC Chapel Hill studying black women in legislative caucuses. She has brand development experience with Tulane College Democrats and College Democrats of Louisiana, as well as organizing partnerships and events with community activists, campus organizations, and politicians. As Vice President of Community Engagement in the Residential Housing Association, Mickey fostered partnerships with campus health for free period products and a New Orleans Black Business Directory. This summer is a busy one for Mickey. She will be a summer intern with Tulane's Title IX Office, as well as a student researcher working on a fellowship with a focus on issues of gender and sexuality diversity in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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Elijah Thomas, Special Projects Intern | elijah@vocaljustice.org

Elijah Thomas is a young black male from the city of Louisville just trying to keep his head above water. Early exposure to both racially motivated & community violence has led Elijah down a path of attempting to change the things he cannot accept rather than accept the things he cannot change. Through his work with University of Louisville's School of Public Health as well as the Youth Violence Prevention Center, he has learned the ins & outs of the various social determinants of health that shape the communities in which Black people dwell, alongside the type of advocacy needed to change our conditions through both policy & community level intervention. Elijah has engaged in a plethora of organizing efforts ranging from a successful liquor license protest to pushing back against censorship bills being aimed to outlaw CRT. He is currently working with the UofL’s Culture & Liberation team alongside Dr. Trinidad Jackson.

Youth Advisory Council
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Angel Amankwaah, Founding Youth Advisory Council Member

Angel is a 17 year old incoming senior at DMLK Early College in Denver, Colorado. Angel was born in Ghana, Africa and moved to the US when she was 5. Angel joined Vocal Justice to learn new leadership skills and work collaboratively on a team. Angel is passionate about community oriented work, hospital administration, and public health. Angel hopes to attend a 4 year HBCU after high school to pursue higher education.

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Alitzel Barocio, Founding Youth Advisory Council Member

Alitzel is a hispanic teenage girl. Although she was born and raised in the U.S, she grew up learning her Mexican roots. She loves cosmetology, math, and chemistry. Through Vocal Justice, she’s learned that she also enjoys advocating to improve the world's situation. She has found out many new things about herself just from being part of Vocal Justice for the past two years.

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Gerardo Aguirre, Founding Youth Advisory Council Member

Born and raised in Oregon, Gerardo is a rising senior at Woodburn High School and has been a member of Vocal Justice since the 2021-22 school year. He proves himself to be a goal-oriented student who works diligently to attain high academic achievements. This year, he was nominated and awarded student of the year in two different categories: Academy of International Studies Student of the Year and Oregon Title 1-C Student of
the Year. Outside of academics, Gerardo is an active young adult who aims to be a role model for others, especially for his younger sister. He currently works at Dairy Queen as a supervisor and is a member of Upward Bound, the National Honor Society, and the Migrant Program. Gerardo is a young social justice activist who hopes to learn, grow, and stay involved alongside the Vocal Justice team.

2021-2022 INTERNS

Liana Fu, Communications Intern

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Liana recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies as well as Creative Writing. As a writer and former student organizer, they recognize the power of art and youth voices in movement-building spaces to transform our lived conditions. While managing a literary magazine for artists of color, she organized with her peers to demand an Ethnic Studies department and Community Center for people of color. She has published her poetry and creative nonfiction work in Hyphen Magazine and The Margins, and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize. At Vocal Justice, they hope to apply their editorial and organizing skills to uplift youth of color voices and transform the public education system. While she isn’t working, Liana enjoys posting on their food Instagram (@mushroomhatersonly), making lopsided bowls in pottery class, and collecting strawberry-themed kitchen items.

Haylee Huynh, Communications Intern

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Haylee is currently a student at Sequoia High School, a public school located in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a self-driven and devoted scholar with a deep interest in critical race theory and understanding of intersectionality on marginalized youth. She spent 3 years as a leader for the WE club, an organization that gives students the resources to make a positive impact on their local community and worldwide. Currently, Haylee is a staff member on her high school newspaper, the Raven Report, and contributes to their monthly publication. Through her commitment to majoring in marketing with a dual minor in gender studies and finance as an undergraduate degree, she aspires to pursue a future career in abolishing the gender divide on how products are marketed towards consumers. In her time off, Haylee enjoys crocheting and coming up with new patterns, leisure reading, and spending time with her family.

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LaHannah Giles, Communications Intern

South Side Chicago native, LaHannah is a junior at Georgetown University with a major of American Studies. She’s passionate about social justice, in which she created a youth organization for Black activists in Chicago, called March for the Hood. In her free time she mentors first generation first year students at Georgetown.

Nour Abdelwahab, Program Intern

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Nour is a senior at NYU studying the intersections of media, culture, communications, and sociology. She is passionate about how these disciplines come together, namely in education, digital media production, and social justice. Her energy revolves around working in anti-racism, racial justice, and diversity both informally and formally through the help of non-profit affiliates. She runs an anti-racist starter kit that was created in 2019 to serve as a centralized platform archiving books, movies, songs, mutual aid/fundraisers, and other resources to help educate on white supremacist systems and support the liberation of Black and Brown folks. At Vocal Justice, she hopes to bring her community building experience and learning of critical pedagogy to practice as she engages with educators to transform the education system. In her free time, you can find her watching tiktoks or picking up a new hobby to get her adrenaline going. 

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Inara Jain, Program Intern

Inara is from Princeton, New Jersey and is currently a senior at Princeton High School. They have a strong passion for racial and social justice and participate in various peer-led activism clubs and discussions at school, such as the Cultural and Racial Equality Club. They are interested in studying Political Science and International Affairs. She currently works at a small bakery in her town. In her free time, Inara enjoys running, skateboarding, and listening to music.

Kassie Colón, Special Projects Intern

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Kassie Colón is passionate about bridging the gap between youth’s lived experiences and how they are represented in our classrooms and communities. Originally from Sunrise, Florida, Kassie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Geography from West Virginia University. While studying at WVU, they competed on the university’s policy debate team and led Project La Resolana, a youth-led grassroots organization that directly matched 400 young people living in Appalachia and the south with representative literature as a lens for challenging dominant white narratives in education. This work led to their selection as a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a West Virginia Humanities Fellow in 2020. Kassie currently resides in Savannah, Georgia with their two cats Mofongo and Sofrito, and they are excited to learn and grow with Vocal Justice throughout the strategic planning process. In their free time, they enjoy caring for their 60 house plants and writing love letters to the universe.

Eduarda Machado de Souza, Special Projects Intern

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Eduarda graduated as a Technician in Agriculture at the Federal Institute of Rondônia. She grew up in the Amazon region of Brazil and has been interested in education since she can remember. She founded English For Kids, which democratizes access to language learning for socially and economically disadvantaged children. One of her great passions is the ICEANE project, which helps  young people with cognitive disabilities succeed in the job market. Eduarda is a Young Federal Congresswoman and author of the Anti-Racist Education program bill, which became a law in the state of Rondônia, Brazil in 2021. She believes that offering opportunities to everyone will create a more equitable world, and she uses education as a tool to contribute to this. During her free time, she loves playing instruments, playing with her puppy, and taking care of her plants.

SUMMER 2020 INTERNS

Aisha Balogun, Research Specialist

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Aisha is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a B.A. in Sociology and a B.S. in Architectural Design. Her interdisciplinary studies allowed her to explore her passion for equity and the built environment, culminating in a university-funded research project that examined Charlottesville, VA’s Confederate-associated public space from the perspective of individuals who are homeless. Through this experience with ethnographic research, Aisha began to fully appreciate the power that comes with the expression of ideas through person-centered narratives. Through her work with Vocal Justice, she was able to apply her skills in social research to help teens shape and share their own narratives. Outside of work, Aisha loves embroidery, trying new teas, and compiling images of art, architecture, and celebrities on increasingly specific Pinterest boards.

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Aura Barrera, Research Specialist

Aura is a design researcher from the Bay Area. Since being introduced to technology in high school she has been passionate about tech education and taught through nonprofits such as Girls Who Code, Technolochicas, NCWIT, and Black Girls Code. She studied design, computer science, and social science at UC Berkeley writing her thesis on design and technology for urban equity. Through her experience working in the tech industry, she found a calling in design research where she works to uncover meaningful, impactful, and empowering solutions and thoughtfully bring in the voices of the people who will use it. In her free time she likes to try new recipes, take photos, and add to her Spotify playlists.

Irene Gómez, Education Specialist

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A daughter of Venezuelan immigrants, Irene joined the Vocal Justice team with six years of experience in education and a commitment to culturally sustaining content for students. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Irene led volunteers in a refugee coalition, tutored Title I and first-generation students, and conducted research for equitable education policies. After graduation, Irene’s time as a congressional fellow and youth civic engagement intern deepened her understanding of educational systems. Now a Master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Irene researches policies that support quality Ethnic Studies classes and anti-racist civics. She looks forward to a post-pandemic dance party with the Vocal Justice team.

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Kahlil Greene, Education Specialist

Kahlil is an undergraduate student at Yale, studying History with a focus on social change and social movements. He was Yale's first Black student body president in the school’s 319-year history. His academic accolades consist of membership in the prestigious Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, the Institute of Social and Policy Studies Director’s Fellowship, and the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society. As a child, he attended Boys and Girls Clubs for seven years and was inducted into the inaugural class of their Greater Washington Hall of Fame. Kahlil is passionate about advocacy, management, and charity. After graduating, he hopes to go to business school and study nonprofit management. 

SPRING 2020 VOLUNTEERS
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Lauren Hogan, Education Specialist

Lauren joined the Vocal Justice team with over 4 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. While she was a teacher, she designed and implemented social justice curriculum in multiple subjects that aligned with California standards. She also facilitated a professional development course on social justice education for a group of 30 professionals. Her background in social justice education helped inform Vocal Justice activities. Lauren earned her MA in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford, and her BA in Liberal Studies from the University of San Diego. 

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Joshua Jordan, Education Specialist

Before joining the Vocal Justice team, Josh was the Executive Director of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, which engaged 160+ high school students in a 5-day leadership conference. He leveraged his background in youth leadership development to help shape the Vocal Justice curriculum. Josh also served as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Cornell University Sustainable Design, where he led workshops on positionality and privilege. Josh earned his MA in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford, and his BA in Government from Cornell University.

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Alex Kuehn, Research Specialist

Alex joined the Vocal Justice team after being a social studies teacher for middle and high school students. In his four years as a teacher, Alex developed project-based learning and social studies curriculum to engage students in inquiry and deepen historical thinking skills. He also used research-based pedagogical techniques to create a trauma-sensitive classroom environment. Alex earned his MA in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford, and his BS in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

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Clare McLaughlin, Research Specialist

Clare completed a Fulbright in Indonesia, where she taught 10th and 11th grade English at a rural, Islamic public school. She also directed  province-wide teacher professional development workshops focused on place-based pedagogies. Afterwards, Clare worked in Kenya for two years, supporting a leadership education organization. While supporting the Vocal Justice team, Clare also did research with the Social Ecology Lab at Stanford. Clare earned her MA in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford, and her BA in Environmental Studies from Bowdoin College.