Sandra Kay Barnhill – Activist & National Advocate for Prisoners


Founder and CEO, Foreverfamily, Inc.
Atlanta, GA

“The voices of the families, especially the quiet ‘sheroes’ who hold the family together during and after incarceration, are not at the table. Unless we address the criminal injustice system that took the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many more, the just society we talk about will never be more than a pipe dream.”


For over 30 years, Sandra Kay Barnhill, an attorney, has been an activist and national advocate for prisoners, their children and family members, and a champion for reentry services that provide comprehensive support to prisoners so that they can successfully reunite with their families and reintegrate back into the community.

Sandra is the founder and CEO of Foreverfamily, Inc., formerly Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers, Inc. (AIM), a national nonprofit headquartered in Atlanta that provides direct service programming for children and families affected by parental incarceration. In its three decades, Foreverfamily has provided services to over 35,000 children with a parent in prison.

Sandra’s policy level work in this area has included serving as a speaker and national expert for the 2009 White House Roundtable and Community Forum on Responsible Fatherhood and Strong Communities. She addressed the challenges of reentry for incarcerated fathers and their families and made policy recommendations to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Office of Justice Programs in the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Sandra also served on the Advisory Board of the Council of State Governments Justice Center giving input to their “Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers” report. She has also served as a consultant for the National Institute of Corrections and the Bureau of Prisons, concentrating in the area of gender responsive programming.

Sandra’s pioneering work was recognized by the Ford Foundation when she was selected as one of 18 recipients of their Leadership for a Changing World Award for tackling one of the nation’s most entrenched social problems, getting results and changing lives. She received her J.D. degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law and her B.A. from Georgia State University.

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Zellie Imani – empowering and equipping Black students

Zellie Imani is empowering and equipping Black students to become leaders within their communities.

What are you currently working on in the field of social justice and what are you trying to accomplish with your work?

With the Black Liberation Collective, we are boldly attempting to radicalize the Black Student movement in ways that haven’t been attempted on a mass scale in decades. The Movement for Black lives is one that seeks to affirm the humanity of Black folk, by challenging all institutions, not just the police, that systemically harm and exploit Black bodies.

The Black Liberation Collective, which consists of Black college students, finds itself in a unique position to challenge & transform higher education and how it collaborates and perpetuates structural violence by investing in private prisons & marginalizing Black folk by creating a pool of unskilled Black workers through admissions.

As someone who believes that youth are the most radical segment of the population, the Black Liberation Collective and I intend to organize and empower Black students so they can be the leaders they’ve been waiting for.

Who or what has influenced your work and who has inspired your activism?

After reading a number of memoirs, autobiographies, and other historical texts by black thought leaders, I often found myself asking the same questions, “Would I have been in SNCC?” or “Would I have been a Black Panther?” In August of 2014, I found myself in Ferguson, MO with hundreds of other people protesting the death of Mike Brown, who was killed by a white police officer.

Like the events that happened in the black history books I read, I found myself face to face with armed cops. I found myself being tear gassed or in the scope of a sniper. And like the history books, I alongside other protestors confronted the danger head on, not with violence, but non-violence. I’m still not sure if I would have been in SNCC or if I would have been apart of the Black Panther movement, but I’m a little more sure of what role I would take as a result of the things I encountered in August of 2014.

As an activist, my role is to empower others. I don’t think of myself as special, or particularly smart. I have certain skills, experiences, and access to resources that allow me to do the work I do and do it well. But many of those skills, knowledge, and resources aren’t exclusive to me. And it is of no benefit to the community, and ultimately myself as a member of the black community, for it to remain exclusive.

So for me empowering others means sharing my skills, experiences, and resources with others. You don’t empower yourself by disempowering others. You empower yourself by empowering others.

“Strong people do not need strong leaders.” – Ella Baker

Field of Work

I am not fighting for the freedom of Black people alone, but for the end of domination & coercion. The end of the domination of humans by humans.

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Hülya Miclisse-Polat – working with the Greenfield Intercultural Center

Hülya Miclisse-Polat is helping to provide support services to First Generation and Low-Income Students with the Greenfield Intercultural Center.

What are you currently working on in the field of social justice and what are you trying to accomplish with your work?

With the Greenfield Intercultural Center, I help to support First Generation Low-Income students by strengthening food security on campus, organizing social justice events/workshops, and I facilitate various discussions around social justice issues on Penn’s campus. I am also currently working on a short film in collaboration with one of my graduate courses on the toxic water supply in West Philadelphia.

From a very young age, I became involved in grassroots organizing in Miami, where I joined WeCount! an immigrant right’s organization. I became a youth leader there at 15 and was involved with different campaigns such as immigration reform, restorative justice in response to the zero tolerance policies in schools, literacy programs, and youth leadership development.

During my undergraduate career at the University of Miami, I began to organize events on campus in response to the incidents of police brutality in our country. I helped to organize some of the very first #blacklivesmatter demonstrations on campus. I also worked with the cultural organizations to make the campus a more inclusive environment. With the help of my peers, we pressured the administration to respond to the inflammatory comments made by students after our demonstrations. In response, we were instrumental in creating the first “Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns” in order to address the lack of inclusivity on campus.

Who or what has influenced your work and who has inspired your activism? 

I was born in Montreal, Canada to a Haitian mother and a Turkish father. At the age of 5, I moved to Miami, Florida. My first memory of being in the United States was coming home from ESOL class crying because I did not understand anything in school, I only spoke French and everything was foreign to me. I was ashamed of my initial minimal English, then I became ashamed of my accent and I was somewhat ashamed of my identity-I was a black immigrant girl who came from a culture that historically was stigmatized and discriminated against.

It was not until I went to a regular public high school, however, that I witnessed so many issues and disparities within our educational system. It was a high school that was predominately Haitian, African-American and Mexican. Most of the students came from immigrant, low-income families. For me, this is when a shift within myself occurred. I was always questioned about my race, and about my culture. To be told “you’re too light to be Haitian” or “aren’t Haitians boat people?” was very hurtful. However, I no longer hid from my identity. Instead, I began to embrace everything my culture had to offer, our music, food, spirituality, and especially our blackness. I think this shift happened because I felt a sense of resilience, a sense of duty to protect my community. Although I was discovering my identity at that time, the same support system was not granted to most students in the public high school that I attended. Some students faced challenges at home such as lack of parental support for homework since a lot of them had immigrant parents who were not fluent in English. With many of these students facing emotional and social instability, most teachers were not equipped with resources to help these students. Instead, they blamed the disruptive behavior solely on the individual. I slowly began to connect the pieces of poverty, violence, and self-hatred that I witnessed to the bigger institutional issues within our society.

My sophomore year of high school my mother took me to a Town Hall meeting that a local organization was hosting. The organization was called WeCount, and it was a nonprofit organization that advocated for immigrant rights. My mother was on the board of directors and she facilitated one of the discussions regarding transportation access for migrant farmworkers. In that meeting, I learned so much about my community that I did not know before. Parents were working long hours, barely made anything and were constantly harassed and racially profiled by the police. I connected the experiences of the parents to the experiences of their children who went to my school. Before that meeting, I was aware of these problems but I did not know how I could be involved in challenging these issues and working to better my community. The Town Hall meeting sparked something in me; it radicalized my view of the institutional issues facing our communities. I became much more prideful of who I was, and appreciated the political conversations that my mother introduced me to early on as a child. She always told me: “you are Black and come from Haitian roots and you should never be ashamed of that. We are descendants of revolutionary women and men, we are powerful.” She is my inspiration for the work that I do.

“We are the descendants of revolutionary women and men, we are powerful.” – Hülya Miclisse-Polat’s Mother

Any important bits of wisdom you would like to share?

I think for me, being an activist means that you are never static, you are always growing and always evolving, and it is important to remember that throughout your journey. What we know now is not what we knew then. I realize that my experiences really ground me and help me make sense of the world and how I conceptualize it, so I am proud of my lived experiences because I did not get here alone, and I will not get to where I am going alone either. Therefore, it is so imperative to bring each other up in this movement, because it is not about us as individuals but it is about us as a collective.

Field of Work

Anti-racism, Environmental Justice, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Immigrant Rights, Rights for Students of Color and Low-Income Students

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Lynnee Denise Bonner – increasing the awareness of the cultural contributions


Atlanta, August 6, 2014 -“You can’t help it.  An artist’s duty, as far as I am concerned, is to reflect the times”– Nina Simone. The words of Nina Simone best represents the work of  Lynnee Denise Bonner, a dedicated activist being featured on our emerging social justice website, A Tough Mind & Tender Heart. Her work focuses on creating a more just world through creative expression. Today we highlight Lynnee as she continues to promote facets of social justice through the intersection of music and culture.

Lynnee Denise Bonner is presently focusing on increasing the awareness of the cultural contributions of various unpopular identity groups. With Nina Simone as one of her inspirations, Lynnee thinks about social justice in a global context and as such is documenting the artistic contributions of continental Africans, women and those living with HIV/AIDS.

To learn more about our dynamic activist, Lynnee Denise Bonner, visit our website at

Nathaniel Borrell Dyer – to Exhibit in Urban Art Boutique

ATLANTA, GA.   August 20, 2014. Nathaniel Borrell Dyer, artist and renowned community activist, will have a solo exhibition entitled “Renaissance Man in the Surreal”. He will be a featured artist of the Urban Art Boutique Exhibit presented by Fulton County Arts & Culture and the West End Performing Arts Center located on 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, SW in Atlanta, GA. The exhibition will run August 21 through September 2, 2014.  The opening reception for the exhibit is Friday, August 22, 2014 from 6-8 p.m. Most recently, his work was on display as part of the Eyedrum exhibit called “Neighbors” which featured artists in the West End community.

Being in the business of graphic design for more than 20 years, Nathaniel’s art exhibit will showcase his use of pencil and acrylics to stimulate the eye and provoke thought. Regarding this art show, Nathaniel stated “I am very excited to be a part of  Urban Art Boutique for this solo show. It is nice to be recognized in Southwest Atlanta because it is where I live and do a great deal of my community work.” He is also an instructor of art and creative writing at the West End Performing Arts Center.

The West End Performing Arts Center is dedicated to bringing quality performing and visual arts programming to the historic West End community, enhancing the quality of life of all Fulton County citizens through the delivery of quality arts education, performing arts programs and providing access to underserved communities.