Johnaé Strong, Executive Director
Johnaé Strong is an educator, organizer, and creative who has been working at the intersection of social movements, healing, and education for over a decade. Her work in Chicago has included fighting for liberation for all Black people as a founding member and leader with BYP100, a political organization for 18-35 year old Black folks in Chicago and across the nation. During this time Johnaé has taken part in actions to decriminalize marijuana, counter police brutality and surveillance, and imagine a self-determined Black Chicago. She has also shown a commitment to education justice as a CPS teacher and Restorative Justice practitioner and coordinator with the Grassroots Education Movement Alliance, a coalition of member-organizations including community and labor focusing on campaigns against state violence and school privatization and amplifying community-led strategies. Johnaé holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Master of Arts in Education from the University of Chicago.
When she isn't writing, Johnaé is on a personal discovery of healing and is a commitment to healing Black girls everywhere starting with herself and raising two beautiful children, Akeim and Jari, and traveling throughout the continent of Africa. Publishing this book represents a testament to the widely-overlooked yet deeply critical labor of mothers who love and fight; protect and mourn; and struggle yet persist to triumph. Their story is mine and it deserves to be told with care and shared to empower others.
Nadine Naber, Program Director
Nadine Naber is an award winning author, public speaker, and activist on the topics of women of color and Arab and Muslim feminisms. While mothering her children Kinan and Nile, she has authored/co-edited five books: Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism (NYU Press, 2012); Race and Arab Americans (Syracuse University Press, 2008); Arab and Arab American Feminisms, winner of the Arab American Book Award 2012 (Syracuse University Press, 2010); The Color of Violence (Duke University Press, 2016); and Towards the Sun (Tadween Publishing-George Mason University, 2018). Nadine started putting love and social justice into practice when she co-founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, North America in the 1990s.
She has served on the boards of many orgs. such as the Women of Color Resource Center, INCITE!; UIC’s Social Justice Initiative; the Rasmea Odeh Defense Committee and the Arab American Action Network. As a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Global Asian Studies at UIC, she is the faculty founder of the first center on a college campus serving the needs of Arab American students in the US, The Arab American Cultural Center.
Souzan Naser, Program Director
Souzan Naser was born in Palestine and raised on the southwest side of Chicago, in the heart of one of the largest Arab American communities in the U.S. A product of Chicago's Arab Community Center (Al Markaz, "the Center" in Arabic), Souzan is a second generation community activist, and dedicates her time to the board of the Arab American Action Network where she has played a key role co-directing the strategy and vision of the organization, and supporting the mental health needs of Arab and Muslim youth. Souzan also works as a Counselor and Associate Professor at Moraine Valley Community College where she has won awards for her work increasing diversity on campus—from serving as a member of the Celebrating Diversity Task Force to leading events for Arab Heritage Month, participating in events for Black History Month, facilitating sexual assault prevention workshops, and organizing Women’s History Month on her campus.
Naser is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who has a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Stewardship, Leadership & Learning from the University of St. Francis. Her doctoral dissertation addresses the paucity of Arab American cultural competency training available for counseling professionals. To keep her grounded and centered, Souzan, takes comfort in spending time with her two children: Yarah and Lana, encouraging them to discover ways to live their story and always dream radically.
Research Team & Interns
Fernanda Castellanos, Organized Communities Against Deportation
Cindy Soto, Indigenous Network
Leah Ferguson, Research Intern
Sarah Angonmedge, Research Intern
Alondra Flores, Research Intern
Atika Hemani, Research Intern
Adriana Castrillon, Research Intern
We are collective of mama-survivors of state violence. Mamas active in our collective work with Chicago-based social movements such as Organized Communities Against Deportation, the Black Youth Project, the Chicago Alliance against Racist and Police Repression, and the United States Palestine Community Network. Please see our bios for Mothers of The Kidnapped here.
Joey Mogul, People's Law Office and Co-founder, Chicago Torture Justice Memorial
Charity Toliver, Founder and Director, Black on Both Sides.
Camille Odeh, Founder and former ED, Southwest Youth Collaborative
A. Naomi Paik, Author, Rightlessness and Walls, Bans, and Raids
Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, Director, Women's Center (NU) and Board member Chicago Abortion Fund