Mandy Carter is a North Carolina African-American social justice activist with a 51-year movement history of social, racial and LGBTQ justice organizing since 1967. Raised in two orphanages and a foster home in upstate New York, Ms. Carter attributes the influences of the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee, the former Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, and the pacifist-based War Resisters League for her sustained multi-racial and multi-issue organizing. It was specifically her participation in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired 1968 Poor People’s Campaign organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that solidified her sustained commitment to nonviolence. The Poor People’s Campaign was the last project Dr. King worked on before his assassination in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968. In 2018, she participated in its 50th anniversary during the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
Ms. Carter helped co-found two ground breaking organizations: Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). SONG, founded in 1993, is about building progressive movement across the South by creating transformative models of organizing that connects race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, SONG integrates work against homophobia into freedom struggles in the South. She served as its Executive Director from 2003-2005. NBJC, founded in 2003, is a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. NBJC provides leadership at the intersection of national civil rights organizations and LGBT organizations.
In 2013, Ms. Carter was national coordinator of the Bayard Rustin Commemoration Project of the National Black Justice Coalition. A national organizing effort to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate black gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. The BRCP joined in the many activities marking the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. King gave his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. Bayard Rustin, key organizer of the 1963 March, received the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously) from President Obama that was presented to his surviving partner Walter Naegle at the White House. Bayard Rustin dared to live as an openly gay man during his 60 years of activism. In 2015 representing NBJC, Ms. Carter helped organize diverse broad-based participation in the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Selma-To-Montgomery Voting Rights Activities that moved Congress to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act that enfranchised hundreds of thousands of blacks across the South. President Obama and the First Family were in attendance.
Underscoring the importance of electoral politics in social change movements, Ms. Carter was one of the five national co-chairs of Obama LGBT Pride, the national LGBT infrastructure for Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign and win. She had done the hard work of organizing grassroots networks, especially people of color throughout the South. She is a former member of the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus and LGBT Caucus.
Ms. Carter is a life-time member of the National Organization for Women and served on the North Carolina NOW PAC. She was named one of the “Ms Magazine Uppity Women.” She received the North Carolina Women United Anne Mackie Award. And, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 in order to recognize, make visible and celebrate the impressive and valuable, yet often invisible peace work of thousands of women around the world. The 1000 women from 150 countries were guided in their work by nonviolence, integrity, and selflessness.
Ann Van Brock grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, attended UNC-Greensboro, and graduated from LSU in 1974. She lived in Raleigh, NC from 1974 to 1978, where she worked for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Association. She and her husband moved to Asheville in 1979, where she helped start grassroots nonprofits that serve the Western North Carolina community. Ann was the second executive director of the local domestic violence agency, Helpmate, volunteer director for Rape Crisis Center (later to become Our Voice), and served on task forces that created WNC Aids Project, MANNA Foodbank, Trinity Shelter, and the Mediation Center. She created a women’s resource center at the YWCA in 1986 and became a community resource coordinator for United Way in 1987. Ann retired from her position as Vice President of Planning and Community Initiatives at United Way in December, 2015, and in 2016 she completed a project with Pack Library, facilitating an oral history of social activism and social agencies in Asheville in the 1980’s. Ann has served on numerous boards including the Asheville City School Board, Community Action Opportunities, NC 2-1-1, and the NC Center for Nonprofits. She is currently on the board of the ERA-NC Alliance and a liaison for the ERA with Indivisible Asheville/WNC.
Ivanna Gonzalez is a first generation immigrant from Caracas, Venezuela raised in Miami. She began organizing alongside campus housekeepers as a student at UNC‐Chapel Hill where she got her degree in political science and public policy. Currently she is the Deputy Director of Policy & Alignment at Blueprint NC where she supports partners in testing Blueprint’s racial equity and collective impact organizing principles through issue‐based campaigns and pilot projects, including police accountability and redistricting reform. Ivanna was previously a college outreach coordinator for the Common Cause NC HBCU Student Action Alliance. She sits on the boards of Democracy NC and the Ignite NC Action Fund.
Kat Houghton, PhD, is a psychologist committed to cultural change through facilitating personal transformation. Kat’s doctoral work offered an alternative framework for autism intervention research grounded in dynamic systems theory and produced a group training program for parents of children with autism in underserved communities. In 2009 she founded a software company that provides wearable, mobile and web systems to psychologists and behavioral health researchers. These systems are part of the technological disruption of psychology that is allowing, for the first time, the systematic study of people in their natural environments (rather than the lab), acknowledging the interconnectedness of humans with the rest of the world and the complexity of factors influencing individual behavior. After spending time at the Standing Rock and Sabal Trail Water Protection camps Kat began working on environmental protection and environmental justice and co-founded the nonprofit Community Roots dedicated to asserting our rights to local self-governance and the rights of nature; a crucial step in dismantling the structure of corporate rule at the heart of the current environmental crisis.
Jen Jones became part of the social justice movement in the South when she joined the staff of Equality NC in 2011 as the organization’s first-ever Communications Director. A native of rural Eastern North Carolina, Jen received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree from North Carolina Central University. Jen played a key role in the campaign against Amendment One as the Communications lead for the Coalition to Protect All NC Families and the award-winning RACE TO THE BALLOT campaign, a voter education effort that led her to run across North Carolina to build momentum against the state’s constitutional ban on the freedom to marry. Her digital activism would go on to propel Equality NC to the second-most followed state equality group in the nation, engaging tens of thousands of supporters online daily. Honors include the ACLU of NC’s Sharon Thompson Award for extraordinary efforts toward advancing equal rights for LGBT persons, the Blueprint NC Trailblazer Award, Qnotes Carolinas Statewide LGBT Leader of the Year (Female) Award, Equality Federation Awards for fundraising and media coverage, and the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s Community Impact Award. Prior to joining Democracy NC, Jen worked with a variety of state organizations, including League of Women Voters of NC, NARAL Pro Choice NC, and NC AIDS Action Network. Find Jen on Twitter at @thatjenjones.
Roberta Madden has worked for the Equal Rights Amendment for 46 years—ever since it was passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification. She lobbied for the ERA in Louisiana before moving to North Carolina in 2009. Robbie is co-director of RATIFY ERA-NC, an organization dedicated to putting the amendment into the U.S. Constitution. She played an active role in having the ERA introduced in both houses of the General Assembly in 2015 and 2017. She also serves as co-president of the ERA-NC Alliance. Robbie serves on the boards of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Corporation of the Swannanoa Valley and the Southern Mutual Help Association. She in an active member of the American Association of University Women, Business and Professional Women, the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, the NAACP, and the Women’s Forum of NC. Formerly Robbie was employed at the YWCA of Baton Rouge as Director of Racial and Social Justice, where she served for 18 years before moving to Black Mountain, NC in 2009. NC Women United honored her with the Anne Mackie Award in 2015 for her lifetime advocacy for equality and commitment to improving women’s lives.
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