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Foot Soldiers

As an activist, I believe people come together to do something none of them can do alone-make change. I could not have launched this site or worked on the book without the support of other people. Below is information on the people I have worked with closely to bring my dream of a book and an activist website to fruition.


Foot soldier was a term used widely during the Civil Rights movement to describe the women and men who unceremoniously fought, and sometimes died, for freedom.  They were people who just “did the right thing”. They stood with the well-known leaders and kept standing when the leaders were gone, even when the reprisals and repression were great. You don’t read about them in the history books or hear their names called during the media “roll call” of movement sheroes and heroes but their contributions were significant nonetheless. Without them, there would NOT have been a movement.

In the community, being called a foot soldier of the civil rights movement is an honor.

It is with that same sense of honor that I call the women and men who have helped me work on this website and the book, foot soldiers. They brought their incredible skill and talent to bear on this public offering.  Each is impressive in their own right. I publicly and proudly state their names in the “roll call” for social justice.

They are: researchers, interviewers, writers, and thought leaders:  Allison Kennedy, Sashae MitchellDarwin RodriquezRenee M. Shelby, Poetry Thomas AkinseteHussain Turk; photographer and social documentarian: Carlton Mackey and web designer and videographer: Paul “Presise” Halley and  Please read more about them belowTogether, they are AWESOME and have helped me create a website, and soon a book, with which I am proud to be associated.

“Presise” Halley

They say you can’t talk to a hungry man about politics. “In most cases politics is the direct reason why that man is hungry in the first place. You must stop watching the hand they show you to look at the other hand that’s behind their back. If you pay attention, you will find that their other hand is right in your pocket.”

Paul “Presise” Halley has been one of the innovators of marketing on every level, from grassroots to corporate. For 19 years he has been bringing the professional tools used by the largest corporations to the small business owners, allowing them to keep pace with their ever-changing, competitive marketplace. Brand design, web development, photography, and success strategies have been just a few highly effective tools his company has supplied to entrepreneurs allowing them to prosper and giving them the competitive edge they so desperately need.

There is no project or problem too large or too small for his company to tackle. For 2014 and beyond will continue to be at the forefront of marketing for highly motivated small business owners in our community.

Allison Kennedy

“To me, social justice is about living and understanding with a critical and honest lens.

It’s about truly valuing people through relationships, and not just rhetoric. 

It isn’t about knowing the right answer at a diversity workshop, but resisting apathy,

greed, and systems of power through tedious personal choices every day and through

larger, lifelong, collaborative actions.”

During her tenure with TMTH, Allison Kennedy was a Student Fellow at the Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and Images Editor for the Praxis Center, a resource hub for scholars and/or activists living the intersection of theory and practice in all fiends of social justice work. She connected with artists engaged with social justice and curated their work on the website to provide them more exposure, and viewers to the very necessary work of artists. She has worked for ACSJL during r, while studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at the college. She is a poet, published in Uncommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning and Living by Red Beard Press. She was the Civic Engagement Scholar for the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Creative Writing program at a Kalamazoo probation facility and participated in the poetry scene in Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She believes voice is at the center of social change, and that spoken word is an accessible and riveting avenue for identity formation, radical self-love and community building. Before graduating, Allison tested out anti-racist social media interventions on the Kalamazoo College campus, while researching and reflecting. Allison graduated and is currently the Executive Director at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, a Kalamazoo youth space in the Edison neighborhood for creating art and promoting social justice.

Sashae Mitchell

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Martin Luther King Jr.  

Sashae Mitchell was working as a Camp Mentor and Data Analyst at the Northside Association for Community Development (NACD) in Kalamazoo Michigan when she was active on the TMTH team. She is a graduate of Kalamazoo College where she developed her passion for education and empowering young people of color. During her time at Kalamazoo College, she was involved with the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement where she worked with Community Advocates for Parents and Students (CAPS), and an after-school tutoring program in a low-income neighborhood. As an international student from Jamaica, she expressed that she was unaware of the extent to which systemic racial inequities were still present in the United States. However, through her involvement in CAPS and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, she found ways to engage in anti-racism work as well as challenge mindsets about racial injustices in the education system. Sashae holds a MsED in International Educational Development from the University of Penn and is the Managing Director at Mitchell’s Math Centre and a high school Math teacher in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Darwin Rodriquez

“When we strive for justice we must always keep 

in mind what we were fighting for: community. 

It is what justice seeks to maintain and restore. 

This is both the means and the end.”

I always keep in mind that I must try my best ‘to speak truth to power or to help resonate those voices speaking up for themselves. Darwin Rodriguez works at the intersection of issues affecting people of color and queer folks. His end goal is to empower those most affected by issues of social inequity to activate their agency in meaningful ways. By doing so, he believes we can get closer to crafting creative and sustainable solutions to some of the most complex issues of today.  Darwin is a graduate student at UC Irvine and is in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology and Teaching Assistant in the School of Social Sciences. He was a Community Organizer at The Wall Las Memorias.

Renee M. Shelby

“To be an activist is to have the courage to use one’s critical intelligence 

to question and challenge the prevailing authorities, powers, and hierarchies of the world.”

Renee M. Shelby was a graduate research assistant working on her Ph.D. in sociology and a graduate certificate from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University while she worked with TMTH. At the time, she was researching the social construction of sex offenders and victims in popular media discourses and federal legislation. By taking a critical feminist perspective, she hopes her work will illuminate the relationship between cultural values and sexual assault, and provide mechanisms to support sex crime victims. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology of Science & Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Sexualities Project at Northwestern University.

Poetry Thomas

“Social Justice is the root of activism. It is the foundation to all things essential to living, breathing, doing, and existing. It is the cornerstone and firepower to the human life experience. Where would we be without social justice? And if every leader, activist, citizen, worker cannot pause for a second and see the benefits of social justice, then what on earth are we truly here for?” 

Shameka Poetry Thomas Akinsete was a graduate student at Georgia State University, concentrating on Family, Health, and Life Course while working TMTH.  investigated Black women’s health, Birth/Mothering Culture, and Medical Sociology.  She obtained a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College.  a Research Conference in Washington DC.

Shameka received her Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from the University of Miami and is a  Race Scholar who conducts research in the areas of racial identity, perceptions of race, implicit bias, and narrative-medicine at the clinical encounter (e.g. hospitals and local medical facilities). Her specializations focus on the social determinants of adverse pregnancy and birthing outcomes as it relates to provider-patient interactions during the prenatal trimesters, labor and delivery, and postpartum health. 

She is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Health and an Early-Career Scientific Investigator, specializing in Health Equity.

Hussain Turk

“O you who believe, be persistent standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or your parents or your relatives. Or whether it be against one who is rich or poor, for Allah can best protect them. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just.” Surat An Nisa (Women) 4: 135, The Holy Qur’an

As a teenager, Hussain began organizing around and writing on issues of post-9/11 racism and Islamophobia in his midwestern hometown of Kalamazoo, MI. In college, he was confronted with the challenge of reconciling his Muslim identity with his sexuality. Hussain connected with an international collective of queer Muslims committed to creating a visible community for LGBT-identified Muslims and their families. He helped organize annual retreats and in January of 2013, the collective officially launched the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD). During the time he was involved with TMTH, He was also involved with a broader movement for racial justice within the queer community. Hussain has written and spoken on the topics of HIV, wellness, spirituality, and addiction. He moved to Los Angeles, CA to study at the University of California, Los Angeles, and graduated from the School of Law. After practicing corporate law for five years, Hussain opened his own firm where he engages in the general practice of law.

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