Black History in the making: Child advocacy leaders

Meet eleven Black advocates who are shaping our children's futures right now

By: La-Mine Perkins | February 2022

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North Carolina is fortunate to have an abundance of riches when it comes to powerful Black leaders who speak up for our kids. These amazing advocates for children are making history every day. During Black History Month, we’re celebrating some of the Black advocates in North Carolina who are shaping our children’s futures right now.

Letha Muhammad

Letha Muhammad is the Executive Director of the Education Justice Alliance, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her commitment to fighting for equitable access to a quality education for Black, brown, and other historically marginalized children is inspiring. Her ability to speak truth to power, organize and mobilize to fight for the rights of children, are some of the things that I admire most about her.

Watch Letha Muhammad take on the “School to Prison Pipeline” in this ABC11 news story.

Deborah Dicks Maxwell

Deborah Dicks Maxwell made history in 2021 as the first woman elected President of the North Carolina NAACP. She has touched thousands of lives in New Hanover and surrounding counties, through her career as a Public Health Social Worker, and as an advocate for voting rights, environmental justice, and education equity.

Watch Deborah Dicks Maxwell share why she advocates for children.

Dr. William Jackson

Dr. William Jackson serves as Chief Dreamer at Village of Wisdom, a Durham nonprofit creating new ways Black parents can make American schools equitable learning spaces. “If there’s a race-based problem, you need to bring a race-based solution.”

Listen to Dr. Jackson’s 2019 MLK Day speech to the United Way of the Greater Triangle

Cassandra Brooks

Cassandra Brooks is the owner of Little Believers Academies, five-star child care centers in Clayton and Garner, North Carolina. She’s also a powerful advocate for early childhood education, and for expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. “Can you imagine if more children had access to early childhood education in North Carolina, where we would be?”

Watch Cassandra Brooks’ story as she accepts the 2021 Tom V. Child Advocacy Award.

Cindy McMillan

Cindy McMillan has helped hundreds of babies get a great start in life as the Executive Director of Sistas Caring 4 Sistas Doulas for Social Justice in Asheville. She is also an advocate for health equity who has opened doors, saved lives, and changed policies locally and statewide. “As a doula, I get the chance to advocate for Black moms so that they can be heard and treated with respect during and after pregnancy and childbirth.”
Read Cindy McMillan’s blog on why she advocates for Medicaid for the families she serves.

Patricia Beier

Patricia Beier attended the WAGES HeadStart program growing up as a young child in Goldsboro. Today, she’s the CEO. WAGES is a community action agency in Wayne County that provides support services for children, families, and seniors. “There’s nothing more important to a parent than their child. Given the opportunity, they are advocates.”
Read this 2018 interview with Patricia Beier.

Ebony Burnett

Ebony Burnett grew up in Greensboro, and now touches lives every day as the Senior Youth Development Director at the YMCA of Greensboro. She also leads the Guilford Child Advocacy Network hub, inspiring and organizing other advocates for children to make an impact in Guilford county.

Watch Ebony Burnett share her story and secure funding for Guilford schools at a recent Guilford county commissioners meeting.

Danya Perry

Danya Perry advocated for thousands of children and youth during his career as an education & community advocate. Today, he serves as Wake County’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – bringing a child and youth perspective to economic development and human services.
Meet Danya Perry in this article in Walter Magazine.

Chester Williams

Chester Williams was inspired to start ABC2 when he was an eighth-grader growing up in Enfield, North Carolina. For ABC2, “activating youth power” means supporting youth entrepreneurship, and constantly finding ways to advocate for healthier lifestyles in this rural, majority-Black community in northeastern NC.

Meet Chester Williams and ABC2 in this great video.

Lenora Smith

Lenora Smith has helped hundreds of Durham families get toxic lead out of their homes, in her role as the executive director of PEACH Durham. She centers the voices of impacted families in her advocacy for safe, affordable housing and economic opportunity. “The negative effects that children suffer from lead exposure stay with them throughout their lives.”

Watch Lenora Smith accept the 2021 Community Voices Award on behalf of PEACH Durham.

Kim Ceasar

Kim Ceasar is the founder of Soaring as Eagles Outreach Ministry in Wilmington, NC. In its holistic approach, Soaring As Eagles addresses the generational nature of trauma and poverty. Their mission is to empower families of Title 1 schools in New Hanover county through personal, emotional, educational and professional development. “It makes a difference when you have someone to believe in you no matter what your circumstances are.”

Watch Kim Ceasar accept the 2021 Community Voices Award on behalf of Soaring as Eagles.

Who are the Black leaders and advocates that inspire you?