Photo courtesy of Rights and Democracy NH. Credit: Isaac Grimm
A vision of a just, multiracial democracy is under attack on multiple fronts. These threats are the manifestation of our country’s long history of systemic racism compounded by the backlash against the growing movement for racial justice. One of the most insidious threats over the past year has been the assault on our public school systems’ ability to honestly and accurately teach the history and current context of race in America. This assault has been cast as resistance to “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) — a school of thought that asserts America’s racial past is still very much in its present in the form of preferential treatment and differential access to societal benefits based on race. These anti-CRT efforts have set the stage for a multiyear struggle within most, if not all, of the roughly 15,000 school districts in this country, many of which are the center of civic life, particularly in rural communities.
Race Forward’s new initiative H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together not only aims to reverse this trend but also deepen a commitment for honest, accurate and fully-funded public education. We will partner with on-the-ground organizers to build power to counter the anti-CRT movement in our schools, better connect our communities, and advance a vision of a just, multiracial democracy that works for everyone.
Who We Are
H.E.A.L. Together Team
H.E.A.L Together is led by Senior Fellow and longtime organizer James Haslam. James has extensive experience organizing in rural communities, having built two movement organizations (the Vermont Workers’ Center and Rights and Democracy) in the northern New England area over the last 21 years.
Asma Elhuni (she/her) is H.E.A.L. Together’s National Lead Organizer. Asma Elhuni is a proud Muslim African Arab immigrant who was born in Libya and came to the US as a child. She has spent her career organizing around issues of immigrant rights, racial justice, economic justice, educational justice and fighting xenophobia, Islamophobia and state sanctioned violence. Before joining Race Forward, Asma served as the Movement Politics Director for Rights & Democracy (RAD) New Hampshire. She also helped launch H.E.A.L. Together (Honest Education, Action & Leadership initiative in New Hampshire.
Ana Mercado (she/they) leads all aspects of student organizing for H.E.A.L. Together. Ana brings over 15 years of experience working with young people for racial justice. Her organizing is deeply influenced by her formative experiences as a popular educator connecting with immigrant movement-builders in the Southeast United States through the Highlander Center.
Maria Dautruche is the project manager for H.E.A.L. Together. She has significant experience building movements for racial justice and civil society. Maria is the inaugural director of the Westchester Center for Racial Equity and most recently served in leadership at the National Urban League.
Dennis Chin, Vice President of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward, and Cathy Albisa, Vice President of Institutional and Sectoral Change at Race Forward, round out the team. Dennis Chin has provided narrative strategy support for hundreds of organizations across the country. He now leads Race Forward’s Narrative, Arts, and Culture department, which works in partnership with organizers, activists, and artists to advance a just, multiracial democracy via narrative and cultural strategies.
Cathy Albisa has worked with people-led movements for change, ranging from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to social housing organizers across the country. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of Partners for Dignity & Rights; today, she leads Race Forward’s Institutional and Sectoral Change department, which is organizing a network of local, state, and federal government agencies to advance racial equity.
H.E.A.L. Together Advisory Board
As of May 1, 2022. List in formation.
- Bree Carlson and Adam Kruggel, People’s Action
- Heather McGhee, Author of The Sum of Us
- Rinku Sen, Narrative Initiative
- Sarah Johnson, Local Progress
- Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance For Quality Education
- Megan Hester and Barbara Gross, NYU Metro Center
- Dalila Madison Almquist, Public Health Institute
- Katie Paris, Red Wine & Blue Education Fund
- Jennifer Berkshire, Author of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door
- Kyle Serrette and Harry Lawson Jr., National Education Association (NEA)
- Andrew Friedman and Dmitri Holzman, The Action Lab
- Marianna Islam and Jaime T. Koppel, Communities For Just Schools Fund
- Michael Wotorson, The Schott Foundation For Public Education
- Tamika Middleton and Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Women's March
- Justin Ruben and Adam Ukman, Parents Together
- Ayana Smith and Ninah Jackson, Student Voice
- Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and Beatriz Beckford, Mom’s Rising
- George Goehl, former director of People’s Action
- Adiel Pollydore, former director of Student Action
- Vonne Martin, Center For Popular Democracy
- Liz Sullivan-Yuknis, Dignity In Schools
- Sarah EagleHeart, Emmy award winning social justice storyteller
- Lori Bezahler, Hazen Foundation
- Adrienne Evans, United Vision for Idaho
- Scot Nakagawa, 22nd Century Initiative
- Daryl Hannah, Atlantic Fellows For Racial Equity
- Elisa Hoffman, School Board School
- Michael McAfee, PolicyLink
- Eric Zachary, Midwest Academy
- Julia Daniel, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
- Elana Needle, NYU Silver School of Social Work
- Jonathan Rodrigues, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)