2022 Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program
Through AAPD’s REV UP Campaign, we are proud to announce our new initiative, the Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program. This program is designed for young (ages 18 – 30) Black disabled advocates who are committed to boosting voter registration and civic engagement across Black communities leading up to the 2024 elections. Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend and have the opportunity to create a national nonpartisan campaign that promotes voter registration and participation.
Fannie Lou Hamer is a well-recognized civil rights activist and organizer for voting rights. Her work centered on elevating the rights of Black voters and women, particularly across the state of Mississippi. Hamer had polio as a child and later became physically disabled due to a severe beating in a Mississippi jail. The program is in honor of her legacy and sacrifice.
Meet the 2022 Cohort
Michkeal L. Cross
I look forward to my new position as a Paraprofessional in Special School District of St. Louis County. I am delighted to participate in the learning as a new Fannie Lou Hamer Fellow.
Sean Gold is a young, black, gay man with a disability, his desire is to enlighten, inform and support others in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and beyond. He is an advocate for people with disabilities, an author, a public speaker, and has one Microsoft certification for web design. In 2020, Sean was elected as president of the disability-owned nonprofit organization, Coalition in Truth and Independence. In 2021, he published his debut book, “Pure Love, Or Is It?” He considers his faith, family, and friends the most important things in his life. His physical disability is Cerebral Palsy, and he has had a Tracheostomy Breathing Tube since he was only one and a half years old. Even though he’s nonverbal, it doesn’t get in the way of his love of creative writing, and storytelling.
Derek Heard Jr. is a 21 year old entrepreneur and disability self-advocate from Albany, Georgia. He has never allowed his diagnosis of Autism to limit what he has wanted to do. He has been involved in multiple organizations to change the landscape of voter rights and human rights for people with disabilities. As a person who uses graphics to help understand and communicate with the world. He has used this to showcase how the human condition cannot be defined by a word written on his medical history.
Derek is currently a board member for Rev Up Georgia. This organization educates and advocates for people with disabilities and their ability to vote. He has been providing several graphics towards their campaign for the past 2 years. With the success of Rev Up Georgia, the Save my Vote Georgia campaign was launched in 2022. This endeavor’s purpose is to provide voter education to the disability community. It also provides a living documentary on the challenges and successes of voting in Georgia for people with disabilities. He will be starting his internship with this organization in June 2022. He is also a founding member for a self-advocacy group called Uniting for Change. Uniting for Change is led by disability self-advocates to champion the causes that are important and instrumental for them to have the quality of a life they want to determine. In 2021, the Center on Youth Voice, Youth Choice elected 5 young adults in Georgia to represent the state. The Center on Youth Voice, Youth Choice is a national youth resource center on alternatives to guardianship. It promotes the use of alternatives to guardianship nationally through research, self-advocacy, outreach, coalition building and education. He was selected as one of the participants in Georgia. He is also a public speaker for this organization that uses graphics to educate people about supported decision making. In June 2022, he will be starting to do newsletter graphics for Georgians for a Healthy Future. Georgians for a Healthy Future partners with advocates, community organizations, and consumers to build and mobilize a unified voice, vision, and leadership to achieve a healthy future for all Georgians. In 2021, he became a part of Synergies Works. Derek has always had a passion towards art. As a career, this would give him the platform to have gainful employment and also be the vehicle to drive his advocacy efforts. This was critical for him since he found that he was locked out of the traditional model of post-secondary education because of his diagnosis. So he decided that he would make his own passage to success. Derek lives by the motto of “if there is no way,then you create a way”. Synergies Works is an organization that helps entrepreneurs with disabilities to connect to the larger business community and tap into the resources they need to create a sustainable business. From there, Derek’s Doodles was created in Jan, 2022. Through Derek’s graphic design company, he was able to continue his efforts to move the compass and illuminate his belief that disability rights is a human right.
Janiah J. Miller
A strong advocate for people first advocacy, Janiah Miller is an experienced community organizer and political strategist who began her social action career by accepting Cincinnati City Hall’s position as a director of community relations for Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. At 21, she became one of the youngest Directors at Cincinnati City Hall, driving community outreach and day-to-day operations during a global pandemic and civil unrest that was unraveling across the country. During this time, she was able to work with long-term community activists in the Cincinnati Black United Front who created a program to train and educate the next generation of “Leaders of the Free World” where we led community conversations focusing on the collaborative agreement refresh leading us to present our findings at City Hall — resulting in three of them being implemented in the Fraternal Order of Police Contract. While doing this she worked with students at the University of Cincinnati and other organizations to plan, organize and lead rallies that had over 500+ participants — while ensuring they could connect with elected officials at City Hall.
As a Community Organizer with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition she founded and led the people power committee which engaged 20+ organizations where they hosted a two-night candidate forum with 25/35 candidates running for Cincinnati City Council. Following that she coordinated the release of Cincinnati’s first Housing Justice Voter Empowerment Guide where 1400+ hard copies were distributed all while organizing tenants across the city on a variety of issues impacting them. Currently, she is the first Racial Justice and Policy Associate at Innovation Ohio working to co-create “”A Justice Agenda for Black Women and Girls”” in partnership with the Ohio Bar Association.
As a people-first community driven leader with a passion for using a Black feminist framework to enact transformative change within communities, her areas of interest include: economic justice as a housing, public well-being and education issues. Her political advocacy did not stop at City Hall, she serves as the first female President of Southwest Ohio Young Black Democrats where she works to build political imagination and power to shift power dynamics within our communities throughout the SW Ohio region. Her service continues as she is a Central Democratic Committee member, representing her voting district and is a volunteer for Rising Stars of America which focuses on literacy and education achievement for Black students in Madisonville. She holds a Master in Public Administration: Social Justice with a concentration in Social Policy, Urban Policy and Politics with a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Working class, disabled, and asexual student from and currently residing on Tongva Land also known as South Central Los Angeles. Studying for a masters degree in public health with a focus in community health sciences.