Kendra R. Johnson
Kendra R. Johnson is a native Arkansan. She prides herself on being a lifelong volunteer and general do-gooder. Her activism began in the 90s when she co-founded the first lesbian/bi-sexual support group at Spelman College and hasn’t stopped since. She currently serves as the Board Chair for Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and as the State Director for HRC Arkansas. Kendra is thrilled to be working to build a better, more equitable South that is strengthened by racial and economic justice and a thriving LGBT community. As a mom of two, her passion is building better world where dignity and respect are part of the societal fabric for generations to come.
Ada Smith is a queer Appalachian from and currently living in Whitesburg, KY. She is the Program Coordinator at Appalshop‘s Appalachian Media Institute, which trains young people from eastern Kentucky on how to use media to address the critical issues in their communities. She is also a founding member of the only youth-led, Appalachian regional network-the STAY Project.
Jardyn Lake, aka Sweetboi, is a black/queer cultural activist, youth worker, and artist from Jacksonville, Florida. Jardyn became a SONG member after being affirmed, baptized and radicalized in the holy waters of radical Southern youth organizing and leadership at the Highlander Center in 2005. A firm believer in youth power and voice, Jardyn brings over seven years of queer youth organizing and HIV/AIDS advocacy to the Board. A graduate of Temple University [B.A. African-American Studies] and University of London’s SOAS [M.A. African Studies], Jardyn is interested in creating a queer Black and African transnational dialogue and cultural-historical exchange between artists, activists, scholars, visionaries, and the like. Jardyn is an avid sweet tea drinker, lover of all things dapper and dandy, and a world traveler.
Aesha Rasheed is a healer, masseuse and public education advocate who lives in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina she has worked for the self-determination of residents in New Orleans’ recovery. She created the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools to help families navigate rapidly changing public schools in New Orleans and founded the New Orleans Parents’ Organizing Network to support parent organizing. She was project manager for the New Orleans Network, an information sharing and collaboration hub for grassroots organizations in post-Katrina New Orleans, and covered education for The New Orleans Times Picayune for five years. She is originally from Guthrie, Oklahoma and has lived in New Orleans since 2000.
Malachi Garza is the Director of the Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) a national network of over 200 organizations working to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal and juvenile justice systems and build localized community alternatives to these systems. Malachi is the current co-chair the youth and community organizing table of Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Malachi also serves on the Board of Directors of the School of Unity and Liberation (S.O.U.L.), the Transgender and Intersexed Justice Project (TGIJP) and the Brown Boi Project. Malachi serves Southerners On New Ground, through a board appointment as a National Strategist. Malachi co-founded the Brown Boi Project in 2009 and received the 2015 VotoLatino Innovators Award. Malachi has been working 24/7 to build a liberation focused movement for the past 17 years and believes that we will win.
Hieu Tran (they/them, he/him) is a Viet, chronically ill, tender queer, born and raised in Virginia out of the Viet diaspora.
Hieu comes to the Board from SONG’s on-the-ground organizing in Virginia with listening sessions, the 2011 SONG Organizing Schools, Project South’s Summer Organizing drive, the Wayside Center for Popular Education’s intern program, SONG’s campaign formations, and healthy relationship skills classes in partnership with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and five other grantees.
Hieu’s projects and interests include farming, finance and economics in late capitalism, artmaking/crafts, southern movement building, and using science fiction to explore the future.
Their work with SONG has been grounded in introverted leadership, unpaid leadership, the underemployed, the 2nd and 3rd shift workers, and the ones no longer with us. Hieu is rooted in our struggle to survive, thrive, and connect to a living movement.
Catalina (she/her/ella) is a queer Colombiana, migrant, artista, popular educator, Salsa/Bachata/Cumbia dancer, interpreter, rebelde! Catalina has been organizing for over 15 years. Much of her rebeldia was sparked by having to migrate to the US from Colombia 17 years ago and being undocumented for most of that time.
Catalina has worked with several organizations both in the south and nationally, organizing alongside immigrant communities and working on education/action focused on the detrimental effects of US military and economic policy in Latin America, the prison industrial complex in connection to the immigrant detention system, among others. She has been part of SONG family for approximately 5 years, and has been transformed by SONG’s work and kinship.
She has a double B.A. on Sociology and Communication, Media and Theater as well as an M.A. in Social Justice and Intercultural Relations. Catalina currently lives in D.C. She is a freelance Spanish/English interpreter, she facilitates interpreting for social justice workshops and consults with organizations on how to strengthen their multilingual movement building capacity.
Salem Acuña (he/him/his/el) is a queer Latinx immigrant originally from Santiago, Chile who grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He also spent nearly 8 years growing roots in Richmond, VA, where he worked as a local and regional organizer with SONG. Currently based in Washington, DC, Salem is an organizer with Mijente — a national political home for radical Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement-building. Over the last few years, he has been a leader within movements for immigrant rights, language justice, anti-violence work, LGBTQ struggles and racial justice. In his spare time, Salem likes to spend time with his boo, family, friends and sweet dog named Lola. He is an avid lover of music, dancing, musical instruments (he has a lot of them) and books.