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Shondra Brewer

Accounting and Payroll Manager (she/her/hers)

Shondra received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from North Carolina Central University. Before joining Democracy NC, she worked at the Durham Literacy Center for 16 years as the Finance Administrative Associate. She also has administrative experience at GlaxoSmithKline and in the health care industry. She firmly believes that the work being done at non-profit organizations is vital to achieving equity for the most vulnerable among us. Shondra was born and raised in Southern California and is a lifetime Lakers fan. She resides in Durham and has three children.

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.

Keith Chappelle

Policy Program Associate (he/him/his)

Keith Chappelle is an experienced community organizer, coach, facilitator, public policy advocate, and a 2015 Democracy Summer Alum. He brings a breadth of experience which includes planning and coordinating issue-based campaigns, leading and supporting program implementation, and grassroots and grasstops organizing. In previous roles, Keith developed and executed successful advocacy campaigns that included increasing the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit, securing $800,000 in state funding to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites in MA, and securing $1.5 million in state funding to MA’s Civics Project Trust Fund in FY21 and FY22. Most importantly, Keith is most proud of his strong relationship-building skills which he uses to help others become and grow into stronger advocates.

Keith earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In his free time, he enjoys cooking meals with his partner, taking his dog on scent walks, reading, and tending to his garden.

 

Ucha David

Administrative Associate (they/them/theirs)

Ucha, born and raised in Winston Salem North Carolina has taken part in many community-building efforts. From their stint as a community garden mentor to their work providing technical assistance in grantmaking with grassroots organizations and continuous commitment to capacity-building in the nonprofit realm, Ucha is passionate about embodying a growth-minded/people-centered approach in their leadership. As Administrative Associate, they hope to lend their skills to best support the Democracy NC team as a whole.

 

Desmera Gatewood

Program Manager - Nonprofit and Direct Service Engagement

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 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.

Aleisha Harding

Digital Campaigns Associate (she/her/hers)

Aleisha received a B.S. in Political Science with a concentration in Southern Politics from East Carolina University. She has a background in Elections and Organizing.  Her passion for voter outreach and political engagement grew while she was employed with the County Board of Elections. Working with non profit grassroots organizations motivated her to become a leader in her community and advocate for herself and others. She enjoys interacting with people, whether it is when operating the food  truck that her family owns or canvassing a neighborhood. Aleisha joined Democracy NC in July 2023.

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.

Sugelema Lynch

Regional Managing Organizer, Greater Triangle (she/her/hers)

Democracy NC. She is a seasoned relationship manager and community organizer with over a decade of experience cultivating long-lasting ties in rural and urban communities in North Carolina. Her background is heavily grounded in grassroots issue-based organizing and deep canvassing, emphasizing year-round civic education and voter engagement.

Sugelema’s first experience in community organizing was participating in a case study developed by the New Conversation Institute, Yale University, and Stanford University that focussed on countering the impact of divide and conquer, anti-immigrant messaging through deep canvassing. This experience led her to focus on bringing people together from all backgrounds by building deep human connections through meaningful conversations. Prior to working as a community organizer, she was a public school teacher in Alamance County, NC. She holds a B.A. in Education and a Masters in Business Administration. Sugelema is dedicated to serving historically marginalized communities by cultivating trust with community members and building relationships that will lead to more civic engagement and voter participation in North Carolina.

Kristen Marion

Development Associate (she/her/hers)

Kristen is a fundraising professional with a proven track record in nonprofit development. With expertise in individual giving, corporate sponsorship, and grants, Kristen brings a wealth of experience to her role at Democracy North Carolina. Kristen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy & Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the Longy School of Music at Bard College. She is a 2017 and 2018 Democracy Summer Alumna and she believes in the power of the people on the margins to enact change in our society.

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.

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.

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.

LeJer Waller

Finance and Operations Director

Originally from New Haven, CT, LeJer has worked in the nonprofit industry for 11 years. He has over 20 years of work experience in multiple Accounting roles and as a Finance Director. LeJer advocates for voters’ rights, which led him to Democracy NC. From personal experience, he has seen firsthand how voter suppression is still a big problem in this country. When he is not handling finance matters at Democracy NC, he serves as a mentor to young adults. He has coached and trained youth sports in Southeast Raleigh for the last eight years and enjoys watching sports, including Pickleball tournaments, in person or on TV. LeJer graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Accounting. He lives in Wake County with his wife and two kids.

Stefan Weathers Sr.

Program Manager - Young Adult Engagement

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.