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Cheryl Carter

Co-Executive Director (she/her/hers)

Cheryl is the Co-Executive Director at Democracy NC, with responsibility and oversight for the advocacy, communications, and organizing teams. Prior to this role, she was the Organizing Director leading the statewide Organizing Team in implementing base building and voter engagement work in the fight for voting rights across NC.

Through this work, Cheryl advocates for racial justice and the dismantling of oppressive systems that impede our collective liberation. Prior to joining Democracy NC, Cheryl taught in the public school system and worked in human services, where she saw the plight of those who were disenfranchised and committed her career to advocating for and working alongside marginalized people. In 2008, Cheryl channeled her energy into the healthcare reform movement, catalyzed by seeing her son denied critical health coverage. She ascended through the ranks at Organizing for America/Action, starting as a volunteer and moving up to State Coordinator (director), where she led staff and volunteers across North Carolina. Cheryl’s contributions furthered OFA’s efforts in health care, gun violence prevention, immigration reform, climate change, women’s rights, minimum wage, and Medicaid expansion. Cheryl has worked with The Women’s Center in Raleigh, Southern Wake Concerned Citizens, and the NC Association of Educators, and is currently on the NCVCE and Our Voices of Change boards. Cheryl is a proud alumna of the University of Virginia and holds a BA in Sociology. She loves cooking for her family – she is mother to Charles, Eric, and Kayla as well as husky pup Miley – gardening, fishing, and is an avid college sports fan! She’s affectionately called Mama Cheryl or Auntie by many and believes in leading with love.

Desmera Gatewood

Organizing Program Manager

Desmera Gatewood has spent the majority of her adult life organizing and advocating for equitable policies and practices. A Durham native and a graduate of North Carolina Central University, Desmera’s Southern roots inform her passion for engaging both rural and urban communities in political advocacy. Desmera graduated from American University in 2019 with a Master of Science in Organization Development.  As Organizing Program Manager, she seeks to merge her experience as a political organizer and her knowledge of change theory to further Democracy NC’s mission to help North Carolina achieve meaningful pro-democracy reform.

Jean-Patrick “JP” Grillet

Election Protection Manager (he/him/his)

Jean-Patrick was born and raised in Charlotte, NC and attended UNC Asheville. There, he majored in Literature and French while participating in local organizing efforts focused on racial equity, government accountability and environmental justice. Through these experiences Jean-Patrick became committed to helping improve the lives of all North Carolinians, which motivated him to pursue a Master of Public Policy from Duke University. Jean-Patrick combines quantitative analysis with historical research to support Democracy NC’s campaigns and help plan strategies for ensuring voter protections in the future. Jean-Patrick also serves on the board of Crayons2Calculators, which provides material support to Durham Public School students and teachers at no cost.

Julia Hawes

Communications Director (she, her, hers)

Julia joined Democracy NC in September 2021 after more than a decade of focusing on the intersection of communications, advocacy, and social justice work in North Carolina. She was previously on the NC Justice Center’s communications team for 10 years. Originally from Watertown, Mass., Julia worked in journalism and communications in Chicago, Boston, and The Hague before relocating to the wonderful city of Durham. She is a graduate of Vassar College and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Shannon Heck

Development Director

Shannon was born and raised in South Carolina and moved to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest University where she studied political science and history. She joined several local advocacy campaigns aimed at removing obstacles to political participation while still a teenager.  After graduation, she worked in constituent services on Capitol Hill. Shannon completed graduate studies in secondary education at Washington University in St. Louis and taught high-school civics for five years before beginning a career in development. Prior to joining Democracy NC in September 2022, she served as director of development at Imprints Cares and The Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina. Shannon is passionate about education issues and volunteered in numerous roles with the Winston Salem Forsyth County Schools. She is a graduate of Leadership Winston Salem and a board member for the Triad Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Hannah James

Human Resources Manager (she/her/hers)

Hannah is a North Carolina native and the product of a generous community of mentors. She attended UNC Asheville, where she studied sociology and economics, and researched local food systems. She served on the board of directors for Girls Rock Asheville, and spent a year coordinating programs at the UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education as a Tzedek Social Justice Fellow. Before coming to Democracy NC, Hannah worked as Program Manager of Public Allies North Carolina, supporting the growth and development of emerging change agents. She lives in Durham with her partner and two clingy cats.

Adrienne Kelly

Co-Executive Director (she/her/hers)

Adrienne is the Co-Executive Director at Democracy NC, with responsibility and oversight for the operations and development teams. Prior to this role, she was the Operations Director charged with streamlining operations and leading the effective administration of the organization in support of its mission.

Adrienne entered the non-profit sector after working for IBM and Hewlett-Packard companies, and then owning a telecommunications business for two decades. Prior to joining the organization, she was Chief Operations Officer for a non-profit organization in the education industry. She has volunteered in numerous capacities for Wake County public schools and is a strong advocate for public education. Active in grassroots organizations, Adrienne has been a defender of voter education and advocacy, women’s rights and other issues that impact disenfranchised populations. She has been recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater Raleigh Chamber, YWCA Academy of Women, Wesleyan University and others for her leadership, advocacy and community service. Adrienne has a BA from Wesleyan University (CT) and an MBA from Harvard University (MA).

Kamaria Lawrence

Regional Managing Organizer, Western Piedmont (she/her/hers)

Kamaria Lawrence grew up in the Charlotte Metro area and lived there the majority of her life only leaving for Undergraduate School at The University of NC at Greensboro and doing her Graduate studies at Clark Atlanta University. Registering her first voter at the age of six, voter rights have long been a major part of her life. She came to Democracy NC after a seven year career in electoral politics beginning with Organizing for America. Kamaria has organized for political and issue campaigns in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. She is a member of her church’s Social Justice Ministry introducing noteworthy community programming on the electoral process and voter rights. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. where she has always advocated with fellow members for the purpose of Voter Rights and Education. In her free time she loves to travel and spend time with family.

Amanda Matson

Engagement Evaluation Specialist (she/her/hers)

Amanda began her time at Democracy NC as a fellow in the fall of 2014, joining staff in 2016. Her background is in using community-based research to advocate around social justice issues. Her work previous to joining the Democracy NC team was using digital storytelling to advocate with women experiencing homelessness for greater access to transportation resources. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Mount Union (in Ohio) and her graduate work in Community Psychology at NC State University. Amanda currently uses her background in research and digital advocacy to work at the intersection of the communications and research teams at Democracy NC.

Carol Moreno Cifuentes

Policy and Programs Manager (she/her/hers)

Carol was born in Colombia and raised in Oregon, where she graduated with a B.S. in Political Science with a focus in law at Oregon State University. Carol has interned for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Tribal Affairs and Policy Office, CASA-Voices for Children, and her local county Sheriff’s transition center as a Case Monitor. More recently, Carol helped develop policies holding law enforcement accountable for the use of surveillance technology through the Urban Leaders Fellowship and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Carol is a new resident of North Carolina and enjoys exploring the Durham area with her two recently adopted kittens.

Wanda Parker

Senior Administrative Assistant

Wanda is Democracy NC’s Senior Administrative Assistant, providing high-level administrative support to the Executive Directors. She previously worked at St. Augustine’s University, Alcohol and Drug Council of NC, and MDC. Wanda has spent the majority of her personal and professional life advocating for social justice and equality across many different movements. She’s a self-described “old soul hippie” who experienced coming of age in the 1970s during the onset of integration of public schools (busing) when she quickly realized that “separate but equal” did not exist. Wanda quickly embraced the power of grassroots advocacy in bringing about awareness and change for equality and justice for all citizens regardless of race, gender, and spiritual identity; which for each of us she believes to be a deeply personal albeit transformative journey. She lives in Durham, NC, with her forever fur buddy, Sebastian.

Caleb Ponton

Development Manager

Caleb joined Democracy NC in November 2021. He grew up in Wilmington and attended Appalachian State University. He has previously worked with the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, the New Hanover County Board of Elections, and Appalachian State’s Outdoor Programs. As Development Manager, Caleb works to affect system-level change for voting rights and racial justice across North Carolina. He believes in the power of community, the value of kindness, and finding strength in our collective differences.

Lucas Seijo

Eastern Regional Managing Organizer (he/him/his)

Lucas Seijo is a two time alumni of Democracy Summer, who was born and raised in New Bern, NC. Having been brought up in the more rural area of Craven county, agriculture became a central focus of his early advocacy work, and ultimately led him to attending North Carolina State University where he graduated with degrees in Political Science and Agricultural Science. While at NC State, Lucas became involved with scholar programs that focused on the importance of community based advocacy and activism, and was able to learn the essential components of community organizing while focusing on issues in the agriculture industry, as well as on voting rights. He is happy to be in a position where he not only gets to use all he has learned in a meaningful way, but is also able to do so in the communities he grew up in.

Siesa Shuman

Volunteer Program Associate (she/her/hers)

Siesa was born and raised in North Carolina by two U.S. Army veterans and attended school at Appalachian State University, obtaining a B.A. in Global Studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. After living abroad, she moved to Montana to begin her career in community work as an Americorps VISTA. After a few years away from home, having been all over the world, it became obvious that The South was truly the best place on Earth and she returned home to continue her passion for empowering communities, advocating for the rights of marginalized folks, and helping people become civically engaged. When not in the office, Siesa is somewhere talking about her cat Marquis Mango Jones.

Carolyn Smith

Policy Director

Carolyn Smith has 30 years of work experience as a Seasoned political, campaign, and grassroots operative with extensive statewide and national experience in leadership positions that has  capitalized on skills in organizational management, strategic planning, legislative advocacy, training, coalition-building, fundraising, large-scale organizing, and community outreach. Before coming to work with Democracy North Carolina, she worked with the National League of Conservation where she served as the Vice President of Building Grassroots Power,  Organizing Together 2020 NC, where she serves as Political Director,  Chief of Staff with the National Black Worker Centers Project, Strategic Campaigns Director with Working America Community Affiliate AFL-CIO, Deputy Treasurer with the North Carolina Office State Treasurer, Deputy District Director for Congressman Etheridge and Director of Community Affairs with Passage Home. Serves on Progress NC Board and the Governor’s Complete Count Commission. She has a Bachelors of Arts and a Masters Public Administration from North Carolina Central University.

Linda Sutton

Lead Regional Managing Organizer, Central Piedmont

Linda has been active in the Winston-Salem community since the early ’70s, working as a union organizer and Special Voter Registration Commissioner. She co-founded the Winston-Salem Voting Rights Coalition, a grassroots organization of non-profit, nonpartisan community groups, that has registered thousands of voters and engaged them in electoral reforms such as early voting, same-day registration, and campaign finance reform. She has served on numerous boards and commissions including AFL-CIO, NC Election Laws Review Commission, NC Employment Security Commission, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Convenor of the Black Leadership Roundtable, Chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, and the Political Action Chairperson for the NAACP. She currently serves as President for District AME Zion Church Voter Registration and Education and State Chairperson for the National Council of Negro Women Civic Engagement and Public Policy Program. She has received numerous local, state, and national awards for her civic engagement work. Linda is based in Forsyth County and also works in Guilford, Alamance, Rowan, Rockingham, and surrounding counties.

Marques Thompson

Organizing Director

Marques was raised in Eastern North Carolina and has been volunteering to serve the community from his youth onward. Volunteering, advocating, organizing, and serving on issues as diverse as religion, education, workers rights, social justice and civil rights, Marques has ties with organizations and leaders throughout the region.

Joselle Torres

Communications Manager (she/her/hers)

Originally from Florida, Joselle moved to North Carolina in the early 2000’s and immediately fell in love with the community and people that shape it. For over a decade, she has fully immersed herself in a strong network of local advocacy and activism, intentionally building and nurturing relationships that cultivate equity and justice for all people.

Zakyree Wallace

Digital Communications Associate (she/her/hers)

Zakyree Wallace studies behavioral change science and works with social movement builders and mission-oriented organizations to create impact using data-informed storytelling, research, and advocacy efforts. Zakyree earned her Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Stefan Weathers Sr.

Organizing Program Associate

Stefan Weathers Sr. is a writer, preacher, organizer, and activist who has been committed to equity and justice racially, economically, and in a number of other sociocultural and political ways since he was a teenager. He loved Democracy North Carolina so much as a “friendtern” that he had to run it back, so to speak, as a full time staff person. He was born and raised in Charlotte and went on to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English-writing. While there he served as Student Body President and led advocacy efforts around racial justice, voting rights, and higher education access and affordability. He also holds a Master of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership from Duke University Divinity School. As an ordained Baptist minister, his faith informs his advocacy and work with Democracy North Carolina to ensure democracy is realized for all North Carolina residents.