About H.E.A.L. Together
Honest Education Action & Leadership

Protesters holding signs behind person speaking into microphone.
Photo courtesy of Rights and Democracy NH. Credit: Isaac Grimm

H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together is an initiative at Race Forward that is building a movement of students, educators, and parents in school districts across the United States who believe that an honest, accurate and fully funded public education is the foundation for a just, multiracial democracy.

We provide tools and resources for people to advocate for strong, equitable and fully funded public schools, where our students receive an honest education about our history, read books that accurately represent their experiences, and receive the resources and support they need so they can work across their differences to tackle our country’s greatest challenges.

Initially borne from the politically motivated attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT), H.E.A.L. Together is our response to the ways in which certain politicians are bringing the culture wars to our schools by banning books, censoring educators that honestly teach about race, gender, sexual orientation, dehumanizing people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people, and slandering the work of equity and justice.

Core Partners

  • NYU Metro Center
  • Schott Foundation

H.E.A.L. Together Team

H.E.A.L Together is led by Senior Fellow and longtime organizer James Haslam (he/his). 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.

Anastasia Ordonez (she/her) is the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) Director for H.E.A.L. Together. Anastasia has 20 years of experience working on high-profile progressive media and issue-based campaigns for the labor movement, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. Anastasia has also directed employee and member communications, strategized on community engagement, trained spokespeople, and worked with coalitions to mobilize support for legislative change. She is fluent in Spanish and English and is a product of a public-school education. Anastasia served on her local school boards, the Amherst School Committee and Amherst Regional School Committee, for almost four years, chairing the Amherst School Committee for two of those years.

Dennis Chin (he/his), 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 (she/her) 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)