Staff

Paulina Helm-Hernandez

Paulina Helm-Hernandez

Co-Director


Paulina Helm-Hernandez is a queer femme artist, trainer, political organizer, strategist & trouble-maker-at-large from Veracrúz, Mexico. This Chicana grew up in rural North Carolina, and is currently growing roots in Atlanta, GA. She has been the Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) for 10 years, having joined the staff after coordinating the Southern regional youth activism program at the Highlander Research & Education Center for over 4 years. Paulina has a background in farm worker and immigrant / refugee rights organizing, cultural work, youth organizing, anti-violence work, and liberation work that centers people most affected by violence, poverty, war and racism. Paulina currently sits on the Board of Directors of the GA Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Political Research Associates,  the Vision and Strategies Council of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, and is always exploring ways to deepen political unity with people willing to fight and organize for collective liberation. paulina@southernersonnewground.org



Caitlin Breedlove

Mary Hooks

Co-Director


Mary Hooks joined the SONG team as a field organizer for the state of Alabama in March 2011. Her passion for helping people is reflected in her years of community service and mentoring. Mary’s background is in Human Resources and holds a Master of Business Administration with a focus in Human Resources Management and recently obtained her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. Though Mary is new to organizing, her personal story has prepared her for such a time as this. The chapters of her life begin with a life of poverty, being parentless, and shy. Eventually the story unfolds of a rebellious teenager who converts to a devoted Christian in Pentecostal church, who comes out as a lesbian and left without the support of her foster or church family and stricken with tons of Christian guilt. The climax of this story occurs when, in undergrad at a private Lutheran college, Mary begins to redefine her self and discovered a radical desire to be a catalyst for change in the world. Since then Mary has relocated to the hot shades of Atlanta, GA, and has found her niche in organizing with SONG, throwing dope parties and singing with the Juicebox Jubilees, a queer choir, created to provide a safe space for folks to gather their voices together, sip a little wine, and sing songs that uplift, inspire, and liberate. As she continues to navigate through movement work, she hopes that the folks she connects with are inspired to write their stories of self-determination, liberation, and love. mary@southernersonnewground.org


Kate Shapiro

Kate Shapiro

Membership Director


Kate Shapiro is originally from North Carolina with roots in West Virginia, Georgia and New York City. Kate is a long time member of SONG and thrilled to be back home in GA.Since 2008 she has worked with Spark Reproductive Justice Now, The Center for Participatory Change and The Beehive Design Collective doing youth organizing, capacity building, and popular political education with rural, queer, and immigrant communities. She came to SONG after an amazing stint in rural Wisconsin working in the historic recall elections where she had the opportunity to fuse electoral and community organizing strategies. She is a founding and continued member of the Vision and Strategies Council of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective. Shapz loves ‘making what we need’, swimming holes and all things savory. kate@southernersonnewground.org



Roberto Tijerina

Deputy Director


Roberto Tijerina is a queer, Latino, first-generation child of immigrants, keeper of the heart-space, and closet diva. In his early adolescence he realized two things: that language – and language barriers – impact access to power and that his dream of a charro wedding would only work if he was marrying Vicente Fernandez or Lee Majors. Since then he has worked as an activist – in Chicago and in the South – with his three mainstays being queer, immigrant, and language justice.

His never-boring political path includes working for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund supporting diverse LGBT communities around civil rights issues, coordinating the Highlander Center’s Multilingual Capacity Building Program, serving as the Director of Finance and Administration for the Audre Lorde Project, and spent the last decade building language access infrastructure in movement spaces. He served on the SONG board of directors for seven years.

When he’s not doing work, he can be found doing freelance interpreting, bartending, and converting folks to the miracles of mole and mezcal. Mostly though, he listens – at the experience of elders, at the inspired vision of young folks, at the magic of queers – to keep his work grounded and true.


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Hermelinda Cortés

Communications Coordinator


Hermelinda Cortés is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father and a white factory-workinʼ mama. Raised on a small farm amidst the Southern delicacies of potato salad and mole, she is a working class Xicana Queer Feminist mama from the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A luddite techie at heart, she schemes and daydreams about liberation and movement driven communications to build lasting connections between communities and strategically dismantle systems of domination. She came to organizing with lots of other young people through Students for a Democratic Society in the height of protests against the Iraq War and has been organizing ever since. She’s worked with the People United, 97.3 LPFM WRIR Independent Radio, the Flying Brick Library and is a founding member of the Shenandoah Valley YES! Alliance and Better Together. She’s been with SONG since 2010 and returned to the rolling blue hills of Virginia in 2012 after a somewhat failed attempt at city life. She believes in the revolutionary possibilities of small towns and lives in one where she continues to pursue her dream of building a multi-racial, multi-generational queer farming familia. hermelinda@southernersonnewground.org



Serena Sebring

Serena Sebring

North Carolina Organizer


Dr. Serena Sebring, PhD is a queer black feminist organizer, educator, and mother. Originally born in Boston, MA, Serena came to the South by way of Boulder, CO in 2005, where she found home in Durham, NC and SONG family. Serena lives and loves in Bull City (aka Durham, aka Queer Capital of the Universe) with her partner and teenage children. Her academic background includes research examining the history of reproductive justice and women of color in North Carolina. She is a Taurus, who loves working in the garden, house parties, porch-sitting, and kitchen table talks. serena@southernersonnewground.org

 

Salem Acuña

Salem Acuña

Regional Organizer


Salem Acuña is a latino, queer immigrant originally from Santiago, Chile. Since 2011, Salem has been part of community organizing efforts on a local, regional and national level and has experience supporting issues of anti-violence, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, language justice and racial justice. He is a lover of music, dancing, biking and traveling throughout South meeting fierce and powerful LGBTQ southernerssalem@southernersonnewground.org



Elias Lyles

Elias Lyles

Fundraising Coordinator


Elias H. Lyles works on fundraising and regional membership for SONG, and has been on staff since 2011. They grew up in Greenville, SC, in a big loud Lebanese family. They are passionate about leveraging resources for LGBTQ movement work in the South and growing the SONG family. They are also a co-founder of Girls Rock Charleston. elias@southernersonnewground.org


Asa King

Asa King

Staff Attorney, TLC@SONG


Asa King is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and joins TLC@SONG after working as a criminal defense attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina, for nearly three years. Asa began their legal career at the Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina. They also worked in state court as an assistant public defender with the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent youth and adults charged with criminal offenses, as well as served on the North Carolina Public Defender Association Committee on Racial Equity. They earned their law degree at American University Washington College of Law where they served as Managing Editor of the American University Criminal Law Brief and worked as a Dean Fellow with The Project On Addressing Prison Rape. Prior to law school Asa organized in the prison abolitionist and anti-police brutality movements with Critical Resistance.



Roberto Tijerina

R. Eujenia Osoria

Regional Queering Immigration Fellow


R. Eujenia Osoriais a mixed race, queer, latinx from a working class, immigrant Mexican family. Born in Goshen, Indiana, but raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Eujenia came into organizing through Girls Rock Camp Jacksonville and the #Not1More Campaign during the summer of 2013. They are deeply dedicated to liberation work in the South, and are excited about stretching into their role as the Queering Immigration Fellow with SONG.

eujenia@southernersonnewground.org


Roberto Tijerina

Mickyel “Micky” Bradford

TLC@SONG Regional Organizer


Mickyel “Micky” Bradford Micky is a magical Black transfemme and army brat, born in Germany yet raised in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia. She joins the TLC@SONG collaboration after working for four years in Atlanta on HIV/AIDS prevention and consulting, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and organizing Queer and Trans artists of color. Politicized while student organizing at Georgia State University in 2012, she was recruited as a youth leader to Spark Reproductive Justice NOW. In 2013, she became one of the founding members and workshop trainers of the Atlanta Coalition for LGBTQ Youth. In 2014, her training was tested as the world was immersed in direct action for Black Lives, repeatedly. In 2015, She co-founded the “Southern Fried Queer Pride” festival, organized action at Atlanta Pride and TransLiberation Tuesday and was named one of 17 Black Trans Activists Fighting for Liberation .” Her (s)hero-ancestors are Marsha P. Johnson and Grace Jones. She is more determined than ever to get her people their “10s” across the board on the runway to liberation.

micky@transgenderlawcenter.org



Jade Brooks

Jade Brooks

North Carolina Organizer


Jade Brooks grew up poor in a small forest city in the Northwest. Her people are white immigrants (Eastern European Jews and bohemian French Catholics) and the Quakers who were among the first to colonize stolen indigenous land in Pennsylvania. She found her way South 7 years ago. She fell into great luck to attend SONG’s North Carolina Organizing School in 2009 and then fell in love with the work. Jade helped to organize against Amendment One with All of Us North Carolina in 2012 and then with SONG’s Free From Fear campaign in Durham for the last 2 years.  She’s all the way fired up for campaign work that builds movement and people’s power. An anti-Zionist Jew and member of the organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jade helped to lead a boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Durham County in North Carolina to drop a contract with Israeli-apartheid profiteer and private security company, G4S. She loves girls, camping, books, bookstores, poetry, radical publishing, hot summer thunderstorms, and making shameful pop mix CDs.

jade@southernersonnewground.org