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Board of Directors


List of Current Board Members

Henry Allen

Henry Allen has a long record as a community activist in Boston in the areas of school desegregation, school reform, civil rights, and community development, and has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations over the past twenty-five years.

Mr. Allen has recently retired as Executive Director of the Discount Foundation. The Foundation focuses on Organizing for Worker Justice through supporting community organizing and community and union partnerships. Mr. Allen was previously the senior program officer at the Hyams Foundation in Boston for sixteen years. There he provided leadership for the Foundation’s grantmaking in the area of Civic Participation, which included community organizing, leadership development and public policy advocacy. He has taught at both the high school and college levels, and served as a dean at a community college. Mr. Allen has written on issues of public education reform, community/labor partnerships and philanthropic support of minimum wage campaigns. He currently serves on the board of directors of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.

Leslie Etienne

A native of the Midwest (Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan), Dr. Les Etienne has worked in areas of education, social justice and community power throughout the US South. For over twenty years Les has had specialized experience working with youth leadership and development, therapeutic community direct care, education ranging from K-12 through higher education, nonprofit leadership, and organizational development. Les has extensive academic training as a social justice/social movement historian whose research is focused on Pan African frameworks for liberation, grassroots leadership, and community based alternative multi-generational education. He is particularly versed on the narrative story of the SNCC Freedom Schools and is published on the subject. In addition, he is Campus Coordinator for University Sin Fronteras Atlanta Campus and has worked as a trainer for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools. Currently, he is the Director of Education and Research for Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide in Atlanta, GA.


Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson attended East Tennessee State University, majoring in English and minoring in African and African American Studies. She has served in positions of leadership for many organization including being the former Organizational Liaison for the Initiative for Clean Energy at ETSU, former vice-president of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, past president of the Black Affairs Association and the Rho Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

She is a past student representative on the ETSU Race Relations Dialogue Taskforce and the President’s Council on Cultural Diversity, the ETSU Sustainability Committee and served on the Planning Committee as a student site leader for ETSU’s Alternative Spring Break Program. Ash-Lee has also been an active member of LGBTieS, the Alpha Theta Chapter of Iota Iota Iota (Tri-Iota), and is a co-founder of the Progressive Student Alliance at ETSU.

She has extensive knowledge of the use of community organizing and is a former staff member of the Chicago SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) History Project. She is a past member of the United Students Against Sweatshops National Coordinating, Political Education and Collective Liberation Committees, and served on the Board of Directors for and organized with Chattanooga Organized for Action. Additionally she is a long-time activist working around issues of community empowerment, environmental destruction, mountaintop removal mining, and environmental racism in central and southern Appalachia, and has served on the National Council of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. Ash-Lee is currently a staff organizer for United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s only union for higher education employees, is a proud member and organizer with Concerned Citizens for Justice and is a board member of the Highlander Education and Research Center.

She is a 30 year old, Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), working class womyn, born and raised in Southeast Tennessee.

Kara Keeling

Kara Keeling is Assistant Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts and of African American Studies in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is author of The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007), and co-editor (with Colin MacCabe and Cornel West) of a selection of writings by the late James A. Snead entitled European Pedigrees/ African Contagions: Racist Traces and Other Writing (Palgrave-McMillan, 2003). She also has written articles that have appeared in the journals Gay and Lesbian Quarterly(GLQ), The Black Scholar, Women and Performance, and elsewhere. She regularly teaches and gives public lectures on political and social theory, black, queer, and feminist cultural politics, and media and cultural studies.

She is a Managing Editor of American Quarterly, the scholarly journal of the American Studies Association and serves on the Editorial Board of the journal Cultural Studies. In addition to producing scholarship, giving public lectures, and teaching, Keeling has served on the Board of Directors of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), where she served a term as Board Chair. She currently is a member of the board of The Highlander Center in New Market, TN.

Diana Marie Lee, Board Chair

Founder and Principal, Sweet Livity LLC

From childhood, Diana has worked for over 40 years toward social justice, with diverse vulnerable communities including immigrants, youth, elders, labor activists, farmers, poor and low income, people of color and children and adults with special health care needs. Making an impact has always been her aim. After decades of working for social change in unhealthy environments, she began a healing journey to Mexico, Ghana, Southern California, Europe and Central America. She learned holistic tools to heal her mind, body, and spirit. Adding these tools to her leadership and organizational development toolkit, she began creating a different way of working and living that is holistic, nourishing and balanced. That desire to use healing for positive social change fuels her passion and courage to share with others the mind, body, and spirit tools that helped her.

Diana founded Sweet Livity because she believes that a world of possibilities opens up when one is inspired, happy, and healthy in work and daily life. Sweet Livity helps people and organizations serve the most vulnerable in their communities with better results and improved health and happiness. She is passionate about transforming the way we work and live so that we are in harmonious relationship with ourselves, our communities and with nature. This includes how we leverage and connect all of our capital – our health, our money, our social relationships, our resilience and our passion to create the lives we want.

Leslie Lowe

Leslie is an attorney who specializes in environmental law, and corporate environmental disclosure and governance. She is the founder and Managing Director of UCI Environmental Accountability. Her current work focuses on incorporating concepts from ecological and biophysical economics in financial and public policy analysis. For seven years she directed the Energy & Environment Program at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Prior to working at ICCR, Leslie was the Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Leslie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bennington College, a Masters of Science from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and did post-graduate research in economic and social history at the University of Paris. Leslie is a Senior Advisor to As You Sow, a Senior Fellow of The Future 500 and is a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Environmental Disclosure. She also serves on the board of River Network, a non-profit intermediary that supports water activists and river keepers nationwide. Leslie is a past Chair of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation’s Board of Directors.

She is a second generation New Yorker who now makes her home in New Orleans.

Yeshimabeit Milner


Margo Okazawa-Rey

Margo’s work focuses on militarism, armed conflict, and violence against women.  In her research, she examines the connections between militarism, economic globalization, and impacts on local and migrant women in South Korea who live and work around US military bases. She also has begun working with women in militarized and post-conflict areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria, where they are exploring the role of feminist research in activism, policy change, and women’s empowerment.  A related interest is making the connections between the military industrial complex and prison industrial complex, both that affect working-lass and poor youth and communities of color in the US. That is, making connections—theoretical and practical—between foreign policy and domestic policy.
She is currently is a professor in the School of Human and Organizational Development at the Fielding Graduate University and a professor emerita at San Francisco State University. She is the author of “Amerasian Children of GI Town: A Legacy of US Militarism in South Korea,” with Gwyn Kirk, co-editor of Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives (6th ed., 2013), and with Julia Sudbury, Activist Scholarship: Anti Racism, Feminism, and Social Change (2008). Her latest publication, with Amina Mama, is “Militarism, Conflict and Women’s Activism in the Global Era: Challenges and Prospects for Women in Three West African Contexts,” published in the Feminist Review.  Margo also is on the international board of PeaceWomen across the Globe, based in Bern Switzerland, and Du Re Bang (My Sister’s Place) in Uijongbu, South Korea.  She also lived for three years in Palestine and worked with Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling in Ramallah, from where she is currently doing an oral history project of Palestinians of African descent living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Having been a founding member of the Combahee River Collective in the mid-1970s, who introduced the concept of “intersectionality,” profoundly shapes Margo’s scholarship and activism. This framework has informed her work on military violence against women, inter/intra-ethnic conflicts, and critical multicultural education in Boston, Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Bay Area.


Roy Silver

Roy Silver is Professor of Sociology at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College. He has been an active member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth since 1989, worked with the Kentucky Resources Council to protect the view and water sheds of Benham and Lynch, Kentucky, and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers union. In these and other organizations, Roy has worked to support local organizing around a number of critical issues. He has played leadership roles in the successful efforts to save Black Mountain and the Pine Mountain Settlement School from strip mining. Roy has a long relationship with Highlander and has participated in numerous Highlander programs on economics and environmental issues. Currently, Roy serves as Special Project Coordinator, City of Benham, and he has also served as Chair of the Board of both the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Corporation and the Benham Electric Power Board.


Erica Smiley

Erica Smiley is the Director of Campaigns for Jobs with Justice.  She sits on the board of the Highlander Research and Education Center and the editorial board of the online publication Organizing Upgrade.  In the past, she has organized with community groups such as Progressive Maryland, the Tenants and Workers Support Committee (now Tenants and Workers United) in Virginia and SEIU Local 500.  She was National Field Director of Choice USA, a pro-choice organization focusing primarily on youth access to reproductive healthcare.  And she previously held the position of Senior Field Organizer for the Southern Region at Jobs with Justice.  She is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina.


Allyn Steele

Raised in Texas, Germany and North Carolina, Allyn’s activism work started in Northeast Thailand, where he and his fellow students learned from and worked alongside the communities and radical educator-organizers of Thai people’s movements. He decided to return to the South to work as an educator-organizer in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he spent six years connecting his students and fellow community members to the various movements in the South/Appalachia and the Global South.

As a member of the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE), he was a participant in Highlander’s 2010 Threads cohort and served as an adult ally for the 2010 Seeds of Fire youth camp. Allyn holds a B.A. in History from Wofford College (SC) and is currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at Vanderbilt Divinity School (TN), although he has spent much of 2012-2013 supporting three congregations in Juneau, Alaska, which is almost as beautiful as New Market, Tennessee.

 Maggie West, Board Treasurer

Maggie West is the Program Coordinator and Co-Founder of the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in Chapel Hill, NC. CEF is a non-profit organization that provides matched savings accounts, financial and workforce education, and relationship-based support to individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness in Orange and Durham Counties. Maggie received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Latin American Studies from UNC Chapel Hill in 2010. Maggie co-founded CEF while still a student at UNC, and now leads the organization, which has grown to serve over 300 members.


Ed Whitfield



Hollis Watkins, Sr.

Hollis is an activist who was a participant in Mississippi’s civil rights movement during the 1960s. He was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was a county organizer for 1964’s “Freedom Summer”, and assisted the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to unseat the regular Mississippi delegation from their chairs at the 1964 Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City. He founded Southern Echo, a group that gives support to other grass-roots organizations in Mississippi, and is a founder of the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.


Pam McMichael, Director, Highlander Center for Research and Education

Pam first became associated with Highlander as a long-time activist and organizer in Louisville, Kentucky. For decades now, Pam’s organizing and cultural work have focused on connecting people and issues across difficult divides, with particular focus on helping build a strong racially just movement. She has co-founded local, state and regional organizations with this core strategy, including Southerners on New Ground, where she served as co-director for 8 years. She was a national fellow with a Rockefeller Foundation leadership project to address the growing crisis in U.S. democracy, and her extensive nonprofit management experience includes social change and social service organizations.

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