Rashanda (she/her) was born and raised in New Haven, CT. A first generation college graduate, Rashanda has devoted her life’s work to educational advocacy on behalf of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) students and those in other historically marginalized communities. To that end, Rashanda has worked for over a decade developing innovative programs that promote equity in educational opportunity and advance fundamental human rights protections.
Inspired by a deeper commitment to advocacy and aspiration to challenge laws and policies that have historically disenfranchised too many communities of color, Rashanda attended the University of Miami School of Law. While there she was selected as a Public Service Fellows through the Miami Scholars Program and a Fellowship through Center for Ethics & Public Service. She was also the Managing Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review.
While interning at the University’s Human Rights Law Clinic, Rashanda represented a client in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington, DC and participated in a National “Working Group” with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, Office of Violence Against Women, and other federal agencies to ensure that the U.S. enacted stonger laws and policies to protect the rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence. She also co-authored the first county-wide (Miami-Dade County) Resolution in the country, declaring freedom from domestic violence as a basic human right.
Returning to Connecticut, Rashanda has continued her educational advocacy efforts on both state and national levels where she worked to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education, regardless of their race, ethnicity, household income or zip code. She currently serves on the Hamden Racial and Ethnic Disparity Workgroup, the JJPOC Education Subgroup, the CT PTA and is Co-Chair of the NAACP Legal Redress Committee.
Communications and Operations Manager
Kierra (she/her) is a first generation Afro-Caribbean, born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She moved to CT as a child and attended New Haven public schools. While attaining her B.B.A. from Temple University, she became dedicated to the movement surrounding teaching an accurate, all-encompassing version of Black Studies in classrooms. She was a co-organizer with the Black and Brown Coalition at Temple and an active member of The Saturday Free School in North Philadelphia – where she began studying the Black radical tradition.
Kierra began substitute teaching after graduation, in order to continue her life-long role of working with young people. She became involved with SEJ due to her passion for social justice and educational equity, especially pertaining to Black youth of the diaspora.
Kaatje is a current senior at New Haven Academy, and is the current Youth Organizer with SEJ. She loves to bake and has an affinity for plants, calligraphy, and good music. She’s been helping run member meetings and our Students Over SRO’s campaign team meetings.
Naja Grasty(she/her) is the SEJ lead organizer. Before coming to SEJ, Naja worked as a literary tutor at Wexler Grant Elementary School. Naja is a C’2020 graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Naja credits her education at Spelman to her understanding of Black feminism and the African Diaspora. She is excited to bring that knowledge to SEJ campaigns and political education programming. She got her first introduction to organizing work while interning for the Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign from 2017 to 2018.
Going to Hamden Public Schools Schools, Naja noticed how Black voices are excluded from the curriculum, and microaggression run rampant in the school culture. She credits being a member of Hamden with Hamden High’s Black/Hispanic Student Union as pivotal to the work that she does now. Naja has always been committed to community care and encouraged to volunteer by her mother throughout her life.
Outside of SEJ, Naja enjoys roller skating, reading, watching cartoons, and playing the Sims 4 for obscene amounts of time.
Ryan (he/him) is a Philly native and a product of Philadelphia’s public schools. Growing up, Ryan felt like
his education never truly respected or reflected the history of Black peoples. It was a feeling of
something vital missing from his education and the eruption of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in
2014 that drove Ryan to major in ethnic studies at Yale, where he studied the histories of political
organizing and resistance of Black and Brown peoples across the U.S. After graduating in 2017, Ryan
spent two years teaching English and American History in China before returning stateside to New
Haven. There, Ryan worked as a policy researcher at CT Voices for Children where he focused on issues
of race, education, child welfare, and juvenile justice.
Ryan joins SEJ because he wants to work with students to create school environments and curriculums
that treat students, their histories, and their communities with the respect they have often been denied.
He believes students should be taught to be critical of education that diminishes and dismisses the value
of Black and Brown people and their contributions. Education should always be a tool for liberation.
In his spare time, Ryan like to play video games, read, exercise, and go camping.
Hillary Bridges – Board Chair
Sebastian Ward – Board Co-Chair
Philip Kalikman – Board Treasurer
David G Carter – Board Secretary