Who we are

Salamishah Tillet


Salamishah Tillet is a writer, feminist activist, and rape survivor. She was an early consultant for Lifetime’s documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” an associate producer of Aishah Shahidah Simmons’s NO! The Rape Documentary and alongside Gloria Steinem, a contributing author to the 30th annniversary edition of I Never Called It Rape. She is a regular Culture critic and Opinion writer for the New York Times and author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in Post-Civil Rights America and In Search of The Color Purple and All The Rage: Mississippi Goddam and the World Nina Simone Made


She is currently the Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies and Creative Writing at Rutgers University - Newark and the founding director of New Arts Justice at Express Newark. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies and A.M. in American and British Literature from Harvard University, a M.A.T from Brown University, and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.    


Scheherazade Tillet

(Co-Founder and Executive Director)

Scheherazade Tillet is a photographer, youth organizer, and an art therapist. She was a consultant for Lifetime’s documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” lead organizer of #MuteRKelly campaign in Chicago, and curator of the #SayHerName Rekia Boyd memorial project. Her art and activism have been featured in Gagosian Journal, New York Times, Teen Vogue, The Chicago Tribune, and on MSNBC and NPR.  In Spring 2016, she was awarded the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s first artist-in-residence in Homan Square in North Lawndale, Chicago. Currently, Scheherazade is 3Arts artist working on photography project a Prom Send Off: The Rites of Passage for Chicago’s African American Girls. In 2018 - 2020, Tillet is the inaugural artist in residence for the joint initiative between Shine Portrait Studio and New Arts Justice and is developing her first solo show Let Her Be Born & Handled Warmly: A Retrospective on Black Girl/Hood to be exhibited in Newark in Spring 2021.  She received her Masters of Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.A. from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She studied at Rutgers University’s Mason School of Fine Arts under the tutelage of veteran photojournalist Steve Hart. 



Rachel Kelsey

is a seamstress, writer, and the Senior Administrator and Communications Manager for A Long Walk Home. Rachel began as an Executive Assistant intern during which she spearheaded A Long Walk Home’s communication campaigns in The Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Teen Vogue for “The Visibility Project: Black Girls Takeover Douglas Park” in summer 2018. She graduated with a Bachelors in Political Science and a minor in Art History from DePaul University.

Zemaye Okedij

is a photographer and art therapy graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was an assistant curator of the Girl/Friends exhibition, “WE ARE THE FUTURE: Reimagining Black Girlhood” in 2019 and is an Art Therapy Intern at A Long Walk Home. Rooted in the prominence of her Nigerian background, her approach to care is global and feminist.  She received her B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Keila Pope

is a creative writer, jewelry maker, and the Girl/Friends Leadership Institute alumni coordinator. She has been part of A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute and She initially joined Girl/Friends nine years ago to be an advocate for youth, an upstander to her peers, and an educator to adults. She is enrolled in the Masters of Psychology program with a concentration on Trauma and Prevention at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Kalena Peterson

is the Clinical Supervisor for the Girl/Friends Leadership Institute. Prior to entering private practice and academia, she held a position as the Director of Client Services at the Cook County Jail Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Program working with incarcerated women with complex trauma and substance abuse issues. In fulfillment of her doctoral requirements, she conducted an original study entitled Gifted African Americans: The Relationship between Familial Support, Self-Efficacy, Educational Attainment, Life Satisfaction, and Income. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

Aja D. Reynolds

is writer, youth organizer, academic and the program coordinator for the Girl/Friends Leadership Institute. Her research, “Ain’t Nobody Checkin’ For Us’: Race, Fugitivity and the Urban Geographies of Black Girlhood” focuses on Black girlhood identities and geographies in the neoliberal-carceral state to explore liberatory praxis and Aja is also a member of the national education organization, the Education for Liberation Network. She received her Ph.D. in Policy Studies in Urban Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Robert Martin Narciso

is the programming consultant for the Girl/Friends Leadership Institute.  He  is a visual artist and an art therapist.  He currently works at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital.  In the past, he worked for the peace corps in the beautiful African country Namibia and gain his knowledge and passion  in community organizing. He has worked for ALWH as an art therapist intern and volunteer. He received his B.F. A. at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of Arts and a Masters in Art Therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Candance Averyhart

is a writer and painter. She is a Disaster Program Manager at The American Red Cross.

Paul Farber

is curator, writer, and educator. He is Artistic Director of Monument Lab, a public art and history studio based in Philadelphia, co-editor of Monument Lab: Creative Speculations of Philadelphia, and author of A Wall of Our Own: An American History of the Berlin Wall.

Leah Gipson

is a visual and sound artist and art therapist. She is an Assistant Professor of Art Therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Trina Greene Brown

is a dancer, storyteller, and activist.  She is the founding Executive Director of Parenting for Liberation, an organization for parents of black children that envisions a world where their children are free to be their most liberated selves.

Maureen Jackson

is an interior designer and photographer. She is the Director of Finance and Operations at Carl Stahl GmbH Worldwide Group.

Connie Harvey

is a graphic designer, instructor, painter, and yogi. He is an art director for Salesforce in San Francisco.

Chloe Wayne Sultan

is a writer and researcher. She is the co-founder of Object, a research & design office.

Elizabeth Méndez Berry

Is a writer and editor. She is Vice President and Executive Editor of One World, an imprint of Random House. Before joining One World, she worked in social justice philanthropy, where she invested in the arts, journalism and freedom of speech in roles at the Ford Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. In addition to her work in philanthropy, she is an award-winning writer and editor who focuses on culture, gender, criminal justice and politics.