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Meet The Team

Executive board 

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Founder/Executive Director

Jerjuan Howard

Jerjuan Howard is the founder and executive director of Umoja Debate League. Born and raised on the Westside of Detroit, by a close knit community and family. Jerjuan has a deep passion for community engagement and youth development. Prior to founding Umoja Debate Team, Jerjuan has served as an Information Technology Specialist for the U.S. Army, President of the Black Student Union at Western Michigan University, author of "A Message to Black College Students", and as an Academic Interventionist for Detroit Public Schools Community District. He graduated from Western Michigan University in December 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. Jerjuan believes in the power that we all possess as a community to collectively change our conditions from within. He emphasizes the importance of reaching back to connect/invest in the community once you have reached a certain level of success.

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Creative Content Director

Arieana Hemphill

 Arieana is Co-Communications & Public Relations Chair of Umoja Debate Team. Originally from Saginaw, MI she has always taken pride in community and family. This has helped her find joy in helping others any way she can. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Public Relations minoring in Management. Along with that she also enjoys doing graphic design work. Being in charge of Umoja digital & website art. She has a creative mind along with multiple years in the customer service and marketing industry that has helped her communication skills and has showed the importance of teamwork. Teamwork is something that she feels is important for kids to understand and be able to work together while communicating effectively. She plans on using her passion to empower the movement behind Umoja Debate League.  She is excited to join the executive board to help the youth on their journey to success teaching them to always lead with heart and forever motivating them to never give up on their dreams. 

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Grants Manager

Taylor James

This Maryland raised, Detroit made leader is a former Miss Wayne County, pushing climate justice as her community service initiative. Her journey in the nonprofit sector began in 2013 at the age of 10 when she founded Heart of Charity, Inc., a 501(c)(3) that collected and donated over 12,000 items to vulnerable communities.

 

In high school, Taylor was selected to attend the National Student Leadership Conference on Medicine and Healthcare at Harvard Medical School. While there, her team worked to conceptualize a network of rooftop and blight-to-beauty gardens to eradicate urban food insecurity — a project she hopes to drive to completion in Detroit, starting with her work at Umoja Village. She completed a Global Leadership Adventure in Haiti, where she helped to run rural medical clinics and build a school foundation entirely out of recycled materials. These opportunities ignited her passion for equitable access to youth development and educational enrichment, and she seeks to replicate and multiply these experiences for Detroit youth. 

 

A senior at Wayne State University studying public health and economics, she plans to devote her life to eradicating socioeconomic, educational, and environmental disparities by any means necessary. Her areas of expertise include strategic fundraising, sponsorship acquisition, and grant procurement.

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Chief Operating Manager

Jaida Morgan

Jaida is a passionate advocate for the advancement of youth, and social justice and she is a firm believer that "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"-Frederick Douglas. Born and raised on the Westside of Detroit, Michigan, Jaida has had first hand experience in reaping the benefits of participating in youth development programs and understands the importance of exposing and educating children. She plans to use her knowledge, personal experience, and passion to pour back into the youth.

 

In addition to being a part of Umoja Debate League's Executive Board, Jaida worked with Central Michigan University's TRIO Upward Bound Program in Detroit, as a Mentor and Program Assistant. Jaida obtained her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Central Michigan University and her Master's of Social Work from Wayne State University. Jaida is now an ESE School Social Worker at Detroit Public Schools Community District. 

 

Jaida's primary devotion is to empower, uplift, and develop the youth into future leaders, as well as advocate for social justice. Jaida is excited to be a part of the team and assist with the development of the organization and youth.

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Head of Human Resources

Brandon Harrison

Brandon is the Consultant for the Umoja Debate League. Originally from Ypsilanti, MI Brandon knows the importance of collaborating with a team and building together. Having experience in creating the company “Young Dreamer Clothing” while also working within the HR industry it has provided Brandon with experience and resources to not only build strong interpersonal relationships but also the leadership skills to successfully assist in growing an organization. Brandon understands that education is the cornerstone to empowerment within any community. When students are able to learn with others and grow together the sky's the limit where success is concerned.

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Program Manager

Brooke Kimbrough

Brooke Kimbrough was born and raised on Detroit’s westside. Attending University Preparatory Academy, she was introduced to debate through the Detroit Urban Debate League. As a former theatre kid, she took strongly to the activity and found it liberating to use her voice to advocate on topics ranging from federal policies to opposing perspectives in Black Studies. She continued her involvement in the activity in college, joining the A. Craig Baird Debate Forum at the University of Iowa. During her career as a competitor, Brooke became a high school and collegiate national champion. Winning awards and tournaments such as the Cooley Law School Speech Competition (2013), National Association of Urban Debate League Championship (2014), and the Cross Examination Debate Association Championship (2018). She and her partner received a “Spirit of Detroit” award their senior year in high school after breaking a number of records as a Black team in policy debate. Brooke took interest in teaching debate in college, and began working as a private coach. She has also worked as a summer lecturer for the Detroit Urban Debate League’s Summer Camp, the Dartmouth Debate Institute, and the University of Michigan National Debate Institute.

 

In addition, Brooke holds a passion for public service, gender equity, and juvenile justice. To explore her interest in public service, she was as an intern for former Congressman Sander Levin, serving the constituents of District 9 for 2 years. She also had the pleasure of serving as an intern to the Honorable Judge Denise Paige-Hood of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for 1 year. Regarding gender equity, Brooke joined the Women’s Debate Institute’s Board of Directors where she served for a 5-year term. The Women’s Debate Institute is the premier organization for recruiting and retaining girls, women, femmes, and individuals who identify or are socialized as girls/women into high school and college debate. Lastly, Brooke has had a strong passion for abolitionist-based juvenile justice. She has worked in with the Iowa Disproportionate Minority Contact committee, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, and was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as a member of the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice.

 

Brooke believes firmly in the need for African-centric education for Black students and is zealous to join a Detroit-based organization that is committed to this kind of liberatory pedagogy.

Board of Trustees

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Director

Sharea ayers

Community advocate, educator, counselor, entrepreneur, and student are just a few titles associated with Sharea Ayers. She is a product and former employee of Detroit Public Schools Community District. She attended Renaissance High School and went on to acquire a Bachelor of Science degree from Bowling Green State University and a Master of Arts degree from Michigan State University. Furthermore, she comes from a strong family of educators and community influencers that encouraged her spiritually, academically, and professionally.  Given their support she has been blessed to do a plethora of things throughout the years. She has received 3 Spirit of Detroit Awards for community efforts, a Real McCoy Award for teaching in STEM, the IIMD African American Achievement Award, and more. She was editor and chief of F.L.Y magazine; a magazine that celebrates female entrepreneurship and empowerment. Sharea produced and co-wrote a play entitled Parenting on the Edge. She was also a recurring panelist for Councilman Roy McCallister’s District 2 Mental Health Task Force. Ayers is the creator of  Blackout Trivia, the proprietor of Aster Consulting and Event Planning LLC, and the founder and director of Juneteenth Jubilee Detroit. Additionally, she's been honored to work with several community partners including the Charles H. Wright Museum, Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, Downtown Detroit Partnerships, The Livernois Business Association, and the well-versed members of the Juneteenth Jubilee Detroit Committee.  Presently, Ayers is the Director of Events and Membership for Black Leaders Detroit; a funding vehicle for Black-led businesses and nonprofits that operate in the city. She’s an alumnus of New Leaders Council and a current member of Leadership Detroit Class 44. Lastly, she sits on the board for Umoja Debate Team, Isaiah 58, and Grace Learning Village.

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Community Leader

Von ElLis

Meet Von, a true city kid with big dreams. Hailing from the vibrant streets of Detroit, he was a force to be reckoned with as a multi-sport athlete. Growing up in the Motor City was an adventure in itself, but Von's story was just getting started. After an unforgettable childhood and graduating from Mumford High School, Von set his sights on a new horizon. He embarked on a journey to the soulful state of Mississippi, where he would find his calling at Jackson State University. With unwavering determination, he earned himself a Bachelor of Science in Biology, equipping him with the knowledge to make a difference in the world. Returning to his beloved Detroit, Von dove headfirst into the world of education. He became a beacon of inspiration for young minds, teaching middle school science at Brenda Scott Academy in the DPSCD district. Little did he know that this would be just the beginning of his extraordinary impact. But Von's passion didn't stop at the classroom door. He discovered his love for coaching on the basketball court at BSA, igniting a fire within him. With each victory, he gained momentum and carved out a name for himself as an exceptional head basketball coach. In 2023, Von made a bold decision to take a leap of faith. It was time to pursue his dreams of becoming a community leader in the very city that shaped him. His dedication and commitment to making a difference caught the attention of Challenge Detroit, and he was selected as a Fellow in their prestigious 12th cohort. Now, Von spends his days serving the youth in his community as an unwavering advocate for afterschool and summer programs. His infectious enthusiasm and unwavering belief in the potential of every young person have made him an invaluable asset at the Youth Development Resource Center - YDRC. But Von's journey doesn't end there. Moving forward from his time at Brenda Scott, he has taken on a new role as the head basketball coach at GESU Catholic. With his unparalleled passion and dedication, he continues to shape young minds both on and off the court, leaving an indelible mark on their lives. Von's story is a testament to the power of following your dreams, embracing your roots, and making a lasting impact on the world around you. He is a true inspiration and a shining example of what it means to be a community leader.

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Founder & CEO Black Male Educators Alliance (BMEA)

Curtis L. Lewis, Ph.D.

Dr. Curtis L. Lewis is the esteemed Founder and CEO of the Black Male Educators Alliance (BMEA).

Additionally, he holds the positions of Assistant Professor of Teacher Education and Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum (MATC) at Michigan State University. Dr. Lewis’ expertise lies in the philosophy and implementation of restorative practices and culturally sustaining pedagogy within K-12 school communities. He is dedicated to addressing the inequities in schools that hinder the academic success of students of color. With a specific focus on K-8 mathematics teaching and learning, school leadership development, and the dismantling of oppressive educational structures, Dr. Lewis is committed to amplifying students’ voices and fostering liberatory educational practices.

Dr. Curtis L. Lewis’ distinguished achievements have garnered numerous accolades and recognition for his outstanding contributions in the realms of expertise, instructional leadership, and transformative influence on school communities nationwide. In 2018, he received the prestigious Men of Excellence award from the Michigan Chronicle, recognizing his exceptional dedication to the field of education. Dr. Lewis is also a committed board member for Communities In Schools of Michigan and the American Montessori Academy in Metropolitan Detroit. Alongside his professional endeavors, he takes great pride in being a devoted father to his four remarkable children.

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School Social Worker

Robin Morgan

Robin Morgan is a dedicated and seasoned social worker with a rich history of service. Her journey began in 1991 at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, where she made it her mission to support and uplift communities. In 1995, Robin transitioned to Boysville, focusing her expertise on court-appointed youth, leaving an indelible mark on their lives.
 
In 2001, she extended her impact to the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center, furthering her skills in youth advocacy. Recognizing the crucial role of education in shaping young minds, Robin joined Detroit Public Schools Community District in 2004 as a school social worker, where she currently works and has devoted the last 20 years to shaping young minds.
 
In 2010, driven by passion, Robin founded Olive Branch Consulting Services, her private practice as a therapist and advocate.
With diverse experience and a commitment to youth, Robin is a strong believer that “It takes a village to raise a child.”

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Professional Basketball Player & Philanthropist 

logan newman

Logan Newman, a professional basketball player born and raised in the illustrious city of Detroit. Attending Detroit Institute of Technology at Frank Cody High School. He finished his degree in business administration and minor of communications in 2019 at Ferris State University. Logan’s passion for basketball and youth philanthropy has led him down many roads. Starting with his media network and luxury athleisure brand 94Feet Inc. that works in tandem with multiple high schools on the Metro Detroit area to provide a platform to showcase Detroit’s best talent. Logan also served on the first youth council in the 62 year history of the Skillman Foundation giving out over $300,000 in grants to 100+ organizations in the City of Detroit. He is also a member of the National Association of Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) as well as a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Recently Newman was appointed Trustee of the board of the Umoja Debate Team which is the first youth-led debate team in Michigan. 
 
Logan’s devotion for youth advocacy and Black-equity comes from his ancestral roots that are tied to notable organizations such as the Black Panther Party and the Bessemer,Alabama Negro Voting Club where he has two ancestors that were administators in those groups. Which led led Newman to create the Logan Newman Merit Fund powerd by the Steen Foundation. In the first year his merit fund has awarded over $5,000 in scholarships to the youth of Detroit. 

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Code Next Detroit, Community Manager

Nando Felten

Nando Felten, currently pursuing a Master's in Educational Design and Tech (SOE) at the University of Michigan (UMICH), has a remarkable journey of academic and community engagement. His dedication to fostering inclusivity began during his undergraduate years at UMICH, where he co-founded Building Successful Bridges (BSB). Through BSB, Nando provided invaluable career and professional development resources to minority students through workshops and networking opportunities. For the past four years, Nando has continued his impact by assisting in the creation of a pioneering 4-year degree program at the School of Education, emphasizing problem-based learning and community engagement, known as LEAPS.

Today, Nando Felten represents Code Next in Detroit, where he plays a pivotal role in establishing the organization's presence in the community. He forges partnerships with local tech companies, nonprofit organizations, and schools, acting as a liaison between Code Next and influential regional partners like Michigan Central and the Ford Foundation.

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Bridge Detroit Director of Engagement 

Orlando Bailey

Passionate about shifting the narrative of Black cities & neighborhoods, Bailey is an Emmy Award winning journalist, Director of Engagement for BridgeDetroit, co-host of the podcast Authentically Detroit, and host of Urban Consulate. Previously, he served as Chief Development Officer for the Eastside Community Network.

A sought-after voice for public dialogues & media, Bailey has appeared on stages & screens for The Aspen Institute, SXSW, Canadian Urban Institute, Wellbeing Cities Forum, American Black Journal on Detroit Public TV & more.

In 2019, Bailey traveled across Europe with The German Marshall Fund of the United States. In 2020, he was named a BMe Vanguard Fellow. In 2015, he was selected as an Emerging City Champion by Knight Foundation and 880 Cities in Toronto.

In 2010, Bailey was the recipient of the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from Eastern Michigan University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.

Since then, Bailey has had the privilege to interview hundreds of visionaries & changemakers, including Dr. Cornel West, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, Dr. Andre M. Perry & more.

Rooted in his faith and radical love for his community, Bailey is a passionate advocate for city residents as experts in their lived experience. He continues to reside on Detroit’s Eastside.

Join the Team!

Interested in being a Debate Coach or Speech Coach, please email us your resume along with cover letter to info@umojadebateteam.org

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