Skip to main content


The Ground Game

This leadership initiative includes activists from targeted states across the country who are making change where they live, work and thrive. The monthly convening allows civic leaders to compare notes, problem solve and support collective organizing and political participation as they wage and win battleground wars.

Learn More

Meet Our Sisters Circle

The Sisters Civic Circle includes seasoned leaders from Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia who share lessons learned, tools created and successes replicated in the service of amplifying Black women’s voices.

Helen Butler

Executive Director, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda

Helen Butler is executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, a non-partisan organization founded by the late Dr. Joseph E. Lowery that advocates for voting rights and justice issues. She joined the Peoples’ Agenda in 2003 and was able to increase the membership to over 60 statewide and local organizations. Butler also serves as the Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable of Georgia as an affiliate of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

A longtime civic activist, Helen served on the Morgan County Board of Elections (2010-2021) and was a former member of the State of Georgia Help America Vote Act Advisory Committee (HAVA). In June 2021, she testified before the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Voting Rights and in July 2021, the Senate Rules Hearing on Voting Rights. She was also invited to provide testimony to Vice President Kamala Harris about voter suppression in Georgia.

Trained as an accountant, Helen has previously worked for General Motors Corporation and Athens-Clarke County Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) where she implemented a functional budgeting system.


Aprill Turner

Constituency Engagement Curator and Sister Civic Circle Convener (Maryland)

Aprill O. Turner is a public relations professional with over twenty years of experience working with non-profit and corporate clients and elected officials in political and communication strategy, message development, media training, crisis communications, and public affairs.

Aprill started Turner Communications, LLC, where she could practice “public relations with a purpose” by advancing worthy causes. She works/has worked with Higher Heights for America, Megaphone Strategies, The NAACP, Hip Hop Caucus, She the People, NDN Collective, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Education Post, The National Association of Black Journalists, The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, The Children’s Dental Health Project, Resilience Force, and Medgar Evers College’s Center for Law and Social Justice.

Aprill teaches public relations courses at Trinity Washington University and Montgomery College in the Washington, DC, metro- area. She is on the Board of Directors for the Maynard Institute of Journalism Education and the Awards & Recognition Chairwoman for the Public Relations Society of America, Washington, D.C. Chapter. Additionally, Aprill serves as the current Audio/Visual Ministry President at her church, the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, MD. Aprill’s other memberships include The National Public Relations Society of America, the National Press Club, the National Black Public Relations Society, The National Communications Association, and ColorComm. She is a former board member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Aprill holds a bachelor’s degree in legal communications from Howard University and a master’s in political communication and fundraising from George Washington University. She is currently in the dissertation phase of her doctorate program in Strategic Communications at Regent University. Aprill has obtained her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).

Krysta Nicole Jones

Founder, Vote Lead Impact (Virginia)

Krysta Jones has committed herself to measurable community impact through leadership development and empowerment of women in civic action. She is the founder of Vote Lead Impact, dedicated to civic engagement and political empowerment. She is a co-convener for Black Women’s Roundtable Virginia, immediate past president of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Virginia, and a founding member of Virginia’s List, a political action committee for progressive women in Virginia.

Krysta has served as the Director of Outreach for two members of Congress, communicating their legislative agendas through constituency engagement.

While serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay from 2000-2002, Ms. Jones helped create student governments, and procured funding and training for a community radio station. Krysta has served in leadership roles for several local, state and national organizations.

Krysta is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership and the Women’s Campaign School at Yale. In 2021, she was named a “Virginia Changemaker” by the Library of Virginia, and she has previously been featured in Ebony magazine as a “Hero Next Door.”


Salandra Benton

Executive Director, Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Salandra Benton, executive director of Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation, is the convener of Florida National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and a member of NCBCP national board. Her advocacy for women’s empowerment includes international solidarity, partnering with women in Colombia, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, and other East African countries.

Enjoying four decades of community organizing, Salandra has been honored with numerous awards and accolades including the NAACP’s Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award, NCBCP Spirit of Democracy Award, Davis Productivity Award, the Asa Philip Randolph Institute (APRI State of Florida), the Ford Foundation, Metropolitan Life Foundation, and United States Department of Agriculture.

Salandra served as State Community Organizer and State Field Director for Florida AFL-CIO. Prior to that, she served as the Organizing Director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Florida and various other positions throughout the labor movement.

Salandra has a degree in business administration and was elected by her peers to be the class speaker for the Harvard Trade Union Program in 2008. Her passions include mentoring the next generation of leaders and shining light and love on her family.


Vanessa L. Fields

President, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women

Vanessa L. Fields, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Philly NOW), enjoys a long tenure as a labor leader and civic activist. She heads AFSCME District Council (DC) 47 Retirees Chapter and is chairperson of the Philadelphia Commission for Women. In addition to being involved in local constituency engagement, she is an Executive Board Member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW); chairperson of the Community Committee with the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI); and member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (CBTU),Open Wards and the LincolnUniversity Alumni association.

Vanessa, a retired social worker, is the recipient of the Karen Silkwood Award from PHILAPOSH for her work in preventing tuberculosis in the workplace, the Women of Moxie Award, Minds of Men Community Outreach Award and MLK Labor Leader Award.

Vanessa earned a Master of Human Services from Lincoln University. She is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia where she currently resides with her two grandsons who she has supported as a legal guardian after the passing of her daughter, Aiesha, who died from complications of multiple Sclerosis in August 2019.


Shanay Watson-Whittaker

Director of Michigan Campaigns Reproductive Freedom For All Special Projects and Director of Michigan Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Shanay Watson-Whittaker is the manager of the Michigan Voices Strategic Partnerships. A passionate Detroiter, by way of the Bronx, NY, she has led political campaigns, worked at the Detroit Health Department, Detroit City Council and the New York City Council.

Early on, Shanay served in multiple roles advocating for Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) in politics. She served as the chair of the Young Democrats of America Minority Caucus, Young Democrats of Michigan Minority Caucus and chair of the New York State Young Democrats Caucus of Color. In Detroit, she helped run the NAACP Voters Registration project and ran the 14th District Democratic Party GOTV operations for four election cycles.

Shanay is raising six young adults and a grandson with her husband Ken. Five of their children are in college, with the youngest currently serving in the U.S. Navy. Shanay is a Jesuit-educated genealogy enthusiast, a die-hard New York Yankees fan and a brokenhearted New York Knicks and Jets fan. She often quotes her political shero, Shirley Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”


Tameka Ramsey

Convener Michigan Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Owner of T. Ramsey & Associates

Tameka Ramsey, a native of Pontiac, MI, is convener of Black Women’s Roundtable-Metro Detroit and the Michigan Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Both entities provide state-wide intergenerational leadership development, mentoring, empowerment for Black women, men and youth.

The founder of T. Ramsey & Associates, Tameka served as Co-Director of Michigan Voices, building and leading a non-partisan social justice table by engaging coalition partners and creating a plan to engage communities of color in advocacy and social change. She successfully raised $2 million dollars around that plan while creating a space of inclusion and equity focused on the most marginalized communities.

T. Ramsey & Associates, a strategic, social impact consulting firm, is dedicated to leading nonprofits, micro-enterprises, and small businesses in sustainability. Married and the mother of three children, Ramsey’s motto is lead with a lens on economic, racial and social justice.

Ramsey has a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Social Work and a master’s degree from Oakland University in Public Administration with a double concentration in Nonprofit Management and Municipal Government Management.


Michelle Wooten McFarland

Programs Director for The Green Network (Virginia)

Michelle Wooten McFarland is a reproductive justice advocate who has worked on the ground in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia for eight years. Working within the framework of intersectionality, in her role as an Organizing Manager for a reproductive rights organization, Michelle has developed programs statewide, like the Happy Period Campaign, Paint &Tea, and Practi-Cab, with the goal of destigmatizing abortion care access and reproductive healthcare. Michelle also serves as the Organizer/Events Coordinator for the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance to help grassroots efforts. In her time in the coalition space, she has helped organize grassroots efforts for the passage of the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which overturned TRAP Laws in Virginia, making Virginia the first southern state to break down policy barriers to abortion care.

Michelle is also the Co-Founder and serves as the Programs Director for the Green Cab Organization, managing organization and program operations. The Green Cab is a practical support organization that helps patients with transportation needs and train volunteers as abortion doulas with their partner organization, the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project. In her spare time she serves as a member of the Hampton Democratic Committee, Newport News Democratic Committee and is a former 2020 3rd Congressional National Delegate for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Jovida J. Hill

Executive Director, Philadelphia Commission for Women

Jovida Hill joined the administration of Mayor James F. Kenney in February 2016 as the Administrator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (the office has since been renamed the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). In June 2016, she was elected to serve as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission for Women, a post created by a ballot initiative put to Philadelphia voters in the May 2015 Primary Election. The following year, she was appointed to serve as Executive Director of the city’s first Office of Engagement for Women.

The Office of Engagement for Women promotes civic, educational, and economic policies that enhance the lives of women and girls from all walks of life. Through public engagement, the office and the Commission for Women make recommendations to the Mayor, City Council and other policy makers that advance social justice, equal rights, and economic opportunities. The office also manages the Philadelphia Commission for Women.

Jovida is an award-winning writer and producer of more than 200 films and videos for education, broadcast, marketing, and training for Kinocraft Media, Inc. Her work has included the civil rights series In the Land of Jim Crow which documents poignant first person accounts of the African American experience in the pursuit of justice and equality; the series Reinventing Democracy, which celebrates the role of civic engagement in expanding civil rights and social justice, hosted by historian Douglas Brinkley; the K-5 civic engagement series Community Helpers; and the series Celebrate that introduces children in grades K-5 to multicultural celebrations that herald our differences to amplify our similarities. Her clients included Simon and Schuster, Coronet Films, Better Business Productions, Lou Reda Productions, The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, the School District of Camden New Jersey, and NFL Films among others.

She has been awarded five CINE Golden Eagle Awards from the Council on Nontheatrical Events including her award-winning “Driving While Black or Brown” Public Service Announcement for the American Civil Liberties Union, her video for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and for the video “Talking About Your Cancer: A Parent’s Guide” for Fox Chase Cancer Center. She has received honors from the Chicago Children’s Film Festival, and a 2007 Art and Change Award from the Leeway Foundation for “Grandma’s Kids” that sheds light on kinship care.

The Office of Engagement for Women along with the Commission has established pay equity, dignity for incarcerated women, enforcement of the domestic workers Bill of Rights, maternal mortality disparities, human trafficking awareness, sexual assault awareness, and access to menstrual hygiene supplies for students and for women impacted by the criminal justice system as core advocacy priorities.

Prior to joining the Kenney administration, Jovida served on the Democratic Executive Committee of the 8th Ward for 17 years and serves on the board of directors of the Black Women’s Health Alliance and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.


Cassandra Brown

Co-Founder, Executive Director of All About the Ballots (Florida)

Cassandra Brown is a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) College of Law graduate, aspiring to become a civil rights attorney while continuing to be involved in election and public health law. Cassandra has a Master of Public Health degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Services Administration. Her goal is to combine her life experiences, public health knowledge, and her law degree to help combat minority health disparities and advocate for civil rights in communities that lack access and means to effective legal representation.

Her other interest areas include reducing mass incarceration, environmental racism, and fighting police brutality. She also takes advantage of every opportunity to help reform the Jim Crow-era criminal justice system under which we are still bound. She currently serves on several organizational boards, including Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, National Lawyers Guild Central Florida Chapter, Lake County Voices of Reason, and Healing Through the Sound of Music, which further her focus on improving her community. Cassandra served as the President of the ACLU Central Florida chapter, covering Orange, Osceola, Lake, and Seminole counties.

Cassandra co-founded a grassroots civic engagement initiative, “All About the Ballots” geared toward increasing voter participation and overall civic engagement in the Black Communities. The goal is to educate, empower and engage the Black community on the power of the vote and the importance of local civic engagement.

On November 6, 2018, Cassandra ran unopposed and was elected to a four-year term on the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board as Supervisor seat 3, a non-partisan office making her the only Black elected official at the county level. Cassandra plans to utilize this opportunity to once again affect change in Communities of Color by raising awareness around local food deserts, and community gardens, and engaging youth in environmental sustainability. She also served on the Affordable Housing Committee of Lake County for two years.

While employed for six-years with Lake County Schools as a substitute teacher, she served Title One public school populations where most students come from underserved poor communities of color. She has four exceptional children of her own who you will usually find right by her side as she gives back to her community; two of which are Bennett Bells, currently attending Bennett College, an HBCU in North Carolina.

As an advocate of social justice and civic engagement, Cassandra strongly believes in creating a space for community activism with a deliberate focus on increasing awareness around the power of Black communities and churches, the Black dollar, and sounding their collective voices through voting.


Mary-Pat Hector

CEO, Rise (Georgia)

Mary-Pat Hector was born in Atlanta and graduated from Spelman College and Georgia State University. She began community organizing at the age of 12. At the age of 18, she was one of the youngest community leaders to advise President Barack Obama on criminal justice reform in the Oval Office. By the age of 19, she became the youngest woman and person of color to run for public office in the state of Georgia, losing by only 22 votes, which prompted her to found Equity for All, an ecosystem to train young leaders to run for office and seek equal representation opportunities.

Hector serves as CEO of Rise, an organization that trains and hires students to organize campaigns focused on eliminating tuition and fees, expanding financial aid, ending student hunger and homelessness, and getting out the vote. More than 250,000 students and supporters from colleges and universities nationwide lead the organizations to work.

Mary-Pat Hector also serves as an active member of Black Youth Vote Georgia, an organization mobilizing college students to participate in civic engagement. Through her work, she assisted in getting over 500,000 Georgians registered to vote!  Her efforts as a member of the organization can be seen on Hulu’s “1619 Project”.

Mary-Pat has also led and organized hunger strikes that have gained over 75,000 meals for students at HBCUs, developing an initiative to end student hunger on college campuses. She has also organized rallies to end police violence in communities of color and developed youth entrepreneurship programming to assist hundreds of young people in kickstarting licensed businesses.

Not content to rest on her accomplishments, Mary-Pat Serves as the advisor to the King Center on Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships; she is the youngest board member of Headcount.Org, a non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy. With music partners such as Beyoncé, Cardi B, and more, as well as a founding board member of Facebook’s State of Youth board and a board member of EAT, a global, non-profit startup dedicated to transforming our global food system through sound science, impatient disruption, and novel partnerships

Mary-Pat has been featured on: MSNBC, CNN, Glamour Magazine, HULU, MTV, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, ABC News, and more.

Janice Robinson

Program Director, Red Wine and Blue (North Carolina)

Janice is the NC Program Director for Red Wine and Blue, a women-led, nonpartisan, 501 c3/c4 organization focused on amplifying the voices of the diversity of suburban women in the political arena. In under two years, she and her NC staff have grown a network of women across the political spectrum and across racial lines to over 20K North Carolina Troublemakers.  She and her team are training these women how to use their political power to impact the issues that are important to them in their communities; then use that power to help elect commonsense candidates up/down the ballot who stand for reproductive rights, public schools, gun safety, anti-discrimination of the LBGTQ+ & Black communities, voting rights and more pillar issues that keep our democracy alive.

A native of South Carolina & now resident of Charlotte, NC for 14 years, Janice received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC and her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Rush University in Chicago, IL. She has worked as an Occupational Therapist for almost 30 years including as an adjunct faculty member for a masters occupational therapy program for 4 years.

Kadida Kenner

CEO, New Pennsylvania Project

Kadida Kenner is the founding chief executive officer of the New Pennsylvania Project, and the New PA Project Education Fund. Kadida is a tireless advocate for social and economic justice issues, and is motivated to empower and excite the electorate to enthusiastically vote in every election — all the way down the entire ballot. Kadida has led efforts to stop the passage of a judicial gerrymandering constitutional amendment, raise the minimum wage, fairly fund public education, protect federal courts from problematic judicial nominees, and protect the state courts from extremist attempts to undermine their independence.

Kadida also serves as co-chair of Why Courts Matter – Pennsylvania, an advocacy campaign seeking to protect the independence of our state and federal courts, and educate the electorate about their importance.

Prior to working in issue advocacy, Kadida was a director, producer and writer for HBCU sports television programming – both live and scripted television in Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. The Temple University graduate resides in the Philly suburbs and counts civil rights organizing icon, and West Chester, Pennsylvania native Bayard Rustin as one of her civil rights heroes.

Check out recent work from the New Pennsylvania Project:

Juneteenth 2023:

2023 GOTV:

Petee Talley

Convener, Ohio Coalition on Black Civic Participation

In May 2002 Pierrette “Petee” Talley was elected as Ohio AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer becoming the first woman ever elected as one of two principal officers in the history of the labor federation. Talley was re-elected to a fifth 4-year term in 2018 but stepped down from her leadership role at the Ohio AFL-CIO retiring as Secretary-Treasurer in 2019.

Prior to her elected position at the Ohio Federation of Labor, she worked for the National AFL-CIO as the Ohio Director of Field Mobilization and prior to that she worked for her union, the American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees as the Legislative and Political Director in Michigan. She began her career in labor as the Office Administrator the AFSCME Ohio Council 8 in the Toledo Region in 1980.

She spearheaded many local and statewide initiatives and campaigns throughout her career in organized labor and community social justice and civic engagement work in the AFL-CIO and with the Ohio Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Now, as the President and Convener of the Ohio Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Ohio Unity Coalition headquartered in Toledo, she convenes a coalition of labor, faith, civil and human rights organizations with a focus on civic engagement in African American communities across the state.

She continues service on several boards including Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) Ohio; Progress Ohio; A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) National Board; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) National Executive Council; Ohio Voice; and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation and most recently she serves on the board of the Student Resource Center.

She and her life partner Cornell, have a blended family of 4 children, 10 grandchildren 4 great grandchildren and Smokey their FURBABY.

Krystal Suggs

Kristal Suggs

Community & Civic Engagement Director, North Carolina Climate Justice Collective

Kristal Suggs is a former teacher, turned elected official, turned community organizer based in Eastern North Carolina. Kristal’s professional background has been in elementary and early childhood education, before fully devoting her time and energy to building power with her family, neighbors, and community to address issues around climate resilience, public safety, food insecurity, and youth development.

Suggs holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and led a career as an educator in the public schools systems of Lenoir and Greene counties. In 2016, she came out of the classroom to help build Kinston Teens—a nonprofit youth-led organization operating at the intersection of community development and youth empowerment. Suggs and her team have grown Kinston Teens into a global model for how young people lead efforts to revitalize neighborhoods, engage in government, and cultivate resilience in response to gun violence, natural disasters, and economic hardship.

Kristal now serves as Director of Civic & Community Engagement for the North Carolina Climate Justice Collective, a multi-racial, intergenerational grassroots movement ecosystem working to address the root causes of climate change. In this role, she works to build the capacity of their movement partners and regional hubs to utilize base-building, electoral engagement, and issue campaigns to enact systemic change.

Outside of Krystal’s civic and community work, she is the proud mom of two young adults and a grand-puppy.

Connie Leeper headshot

Connie Leeper

Founding Co-Executive Director, North Carolina Climate Justice Collective

Connie Leeper is a native North Carolinian who grew up in the former textile mill village of Kannapolis. Her early experiences in a paternalistic, anti-union company town helped to shape her life commitment to addressing community issues of injustice, dominance, and control. As an activist, cultural worker, community organizer and justice champion for the past 50 years, Connie has first-hand experience and knowledge of how certain people and places have been discounted in value and relevance to make change happen.

Connie joined the environmental and climate justice movements because it will take an intergenerational, multi-racial effort led by Black and Brown people  to change the narrative and lead the cultural shifts to build a broader justice movement for communities most impacted by devastating climate impacts.

Connie is a founding member and co-director of the NC Climate Justice Collective which works with frontline communities to explore climate solutions impacting food, water, health, housing.