Meet the Initiates
For the past six years, Smith has been a strategist and leader in issue advocacy, community organizing, and ballot initiative campaigns focused on reproductive justice, violence prevention, and community wellness. Smith has been recognized for building strategic partnerships and coalitions to mobilize communities to inform laws and vote for change.
A mental health and violence intervention professional, Shaheer meets with gunshot survivors nearly immediately at the hospital hoping to quell fear, anxiety, despair – and retaliation – as part of Next Step, a program he co-founded. For more than 20 years, he’s been guiding young Black men toward a healthy, violence-free lifestyle.
A Healing Artist, DejaJoelle founded Body Prayers to use Dance, Arts, Culture, Spirituality, and Revolutionary Love Practices to guide Black people to social, economic, and emotional liberation. For the past 12 years, she has been sharing her journey and healing techniques, exploring traditional and innovative ways to promote collective care.
Over the last 28 years, Titus has been an educator, organizer, and co-founder of Appetite for Change and Standard Edition Women. At AFC, Titus promotes healthy eating, gardening, youth development, and community engagement to build health, wealth, and social change. At SEW she guides families through trauma-induced transitions, creating an accountable, compassionate, and healing space.
An experienced educator who promotes African cultural heritage across his work, Si-Asar is the co-founder of Imhotep Science Academy, a K-12 STEM program for students of African heritage, and Papyrus Publishing, a grassroots publishing company that produces inspiring narratives of African people. He has been a community leader for 37 years.
Incarcerated for 14 years, Williams found meaning in mentoring other Black men and organizing them to stand up for their rights, including leading a prison strike that got results. Now he offers personal and leadership development, healing opportunities, and political education to fight for legislation like restoring voting rights.
A veteran peace and diversity educator and activist, Giles co-leads Urban Farm and Garden Alliance, a St. Paul network of community gardens and backyard gardeners that promotes reconciliation, healing, and social justice. For 36 years, Giles has cultivated community while creating greater access to nutritious foods and greenspace for residents in neighborhoods affected by institutional racism.