In 2019, the Carolina Federation will operate under the guidance of a Sponsoring Committee. The role of the Sponsoring Committee is to lay the organizational, cultural, political, and methodological foundations of the Carolina Federation. The committee is made up of allied organizations and individuals who represent key constituencies that we believe are critical to building statewide independent political power in North Carolina.
Cesar Leyva was born in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico and moved to San Diego, CA when he was 10 years old. His mother was a single parent working as a fast food worker, working long hours for very little pay while raising two boys. Cesar relocated to North Carolina in 2000 and began working at a telecom company. He joined the union on his first day of work and was able to witness first hand, unprecedented employee equality and the power of workers when they stick together. He quickly became a shop steward and later an officer in his local. He is proud to currently serve as North Carolina Senior Campaign Lead for the Communications Workers of America, where he works to raise the voice of organized labor in the broader social justice movement. His work includes mobilizing CWA members to be activists in North Carolina. Working together through community coalitions and other unions, his focus is on human rights, environmental issues, fair wages and organizing the south, among many others.
Brigid Flaherty is the co-director of Down Home North Carolina. She was mostly recently the Organizing Director of ALIGN, where she led winning policy campaigns at the city level that strengthened standards for 4,000 commercial sanitation workers as well as improving public health for three overburdened low-income and people of color districts; drove labor-community coalition mobilizations around Fight for 15 and various Wall Street actions. Prior to ALIGN, she worked for seven years at the Pushback Network (PBN) where she eventually served as Executive Director. At Pushback, she worked with the Board to drive strategic planning and fundraising for a national network of eight states that were building power with people of color and low income community organizations through state-based integrated civic engagement programs.
Hashim Benford is a father, spouse, and revolutionary with over a decade of experience in organizing and activism. He currently works as a Program Officer with the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing where he is heading an initiative to help youth organizations make breakthroughs in their approaches to power building. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director of Power U Center for Social Change, a grassroots organization that develops the leadership of Black and Latino youth and Black women as part of the struggle to liberate all oppressed people. Hashim got his initiation into organizing in 2008 at the Miami Workers Center, where he started as a tenant organizer fighting back against slumlords. Hashim is a graduate of Florida International University, having earned his BA in Sociology & Anthropology and an undergraduate certificate in Women’s Studies. He is on the board of Durham for All.
Khalilah Karim is a queer Black woman who grew up in a working class Muslim family in Decatur, GA. She is a wife, organizer, and long-time advocate of social justice. As a young person, Khalilah started organizing through the fight for queer rights and reproductive access for all, learning what it takes to build real community power. For the past decade, Khalilah has organized with AFSCME, SEIU, and numerous community groups. For much of that time, she built unions from the ground up, across the U.S., with private and public sector workers, implementing public policy and strategies for community transformation. Khalilah currently works as Raleigh Director of PowerUp, an affiliate of NC League of Conservation Voters pushing for environmental justice with the communities most impacted. In her free time, she serves on the board for Durham for All.
Magan Gonzales-Smith is the founding Executive Director of the Durham Public Schools Foundation, a non-profit that builds community support and investment for strengthening and transforming our public schools. Magan has dedicated her career to working in public education to dismantle barriers to success for students of color and other historically marginalized students. Most recently she led an initiative at The Learning Hill Center implementing literacy strategies in East Durham public schools. Her past work includes recruiting public school teachers in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education, designing teacher and principal professional growth systems in Detroit with TNTP, creating policy strategy for the NC Large District Superintendent Consortium, and managing teacher grants for the Asheville City Schools Foundation.
John Davis is a teacher in the Durham Public Schools, the treasurer of the Durham Association of Educators, and the President of the Durham People's Alliance. He moved to Durham in 2013 after growing up and spending most of his life in Cambridge, MA. He has served on the board of People's Alliance for several years and is looking forward to the opportunity to engage further with the work of the Carolina Federation in his new role as PA President. His political work in Durham is rooted in his engagement with DAE's work to defend and transform public education by articulating and acting on a critique of how perceived notions of a crisis in American public education are rooted in ideologies associated with white supremacy and corporate capitalism. John is also a musician and recording artist most known for having been half of the indie rock band Folk Implosion in the '90's. His political development was shaped in part by experiences in the record industry during that time having to do with how race, class, gender and sexuality define the contentious territory of popular musical culture. He continues to enjoy writing, recording, performing and releasing music in his spare time, and blogs at johnhdavis.com.
Gerald Taylor is a nationally and internationally known organizer, strategic campaign planner, trainer and organizational development expert. For nearly 35 years, he was a national senior organizer of the IAF and (for 26 of those years) the IAF’s Southeast Regional Director, retiring from the IAF in 2014. His organizing began in the Civil Rights Movement as a youth leader, eventually being elected as New York State President of the NAACP Youth and College Division at 17 years old. He organized with the National Democratic Party of Alabama, an interracial third political party, in their historic election victories of 1970 and served on the National Trustee Board of the National Urban League during the last years of Whitney Young’s leadership and in the transition to Vernon Jordan. He has developed organizations with leaders in numerous communities in the United States including New York City, Baltimore, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, and Jackson, Mississippi. Along the way, he has trained thousands of clergy, lay leaders, unions’ staff and leaders, government and private sector institutional leaders over the past forty years. He has lectured and taught at colleges, universities and seminaries, including Duke University, Vanderbilt University and UNC Chapel-Hill on theories of social change and community organizing.
Aiden Graham grew up in the rural Sandhills of North Carolina, among the pine forests, peach orchards, and tobacco fields. He settled in the Triangle after completing his undergraduate degree at UNC-CH and has lived in Durham for the past two decades. A brief stint in Boston introduced him to the climate, environmental justice, and labor movements -- the intersections of which continue to provide some of his most challenging and fulfilling work. As the Campaign Manager at the NC State AFL-CIO, Aiden spends his days fighting alongside some of the most committed labor leaders in NC, building the political power necessary to construct a state that works for all who live here.