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About Us 2018-04-13T22:43:53+00:00

ABOUT #BREAKINGOURCHAINS

EDUCATE. ORGANIZE. AGITATE.

OUR VISION

#BreakingOurChains vision is to democratize the economy, government, and society through liberatory pedagogical policies and practices that ensure: equitable education, fair and just representation in school materials, fundamental education rights; anti-bias education, and meaningful, accurate representation within the classroom. #BreakingOurChains has been achieved when the educational system and cultural environment results in connected communities, fair economy, racial justice and human rights for all people, and lifts up the voices of communities of color, low-income families, low-wage workers, LGBT communities, women, and all those whose voices are raised, but remain unheard.

OUR SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH

#BreakingOurChains is a grassroots coalition and youth-voice driven social justice organization that is directly aimed at disrupting and dismantling the pre-school-to-prison pipeline by infusing and empowering communities of color with a culturally responsive liberation pedagogy and the tools and resources to apply it.

THE #BREAKINGOURCHAINS TEAM

EDUCATE. ORGANIZE. AGITATE.

H-SOUL ASHEMU

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Hasira “Soul” Ashemu is a prolific writer, speaker, facilitator and communications professional who has been using his talents, experience and skills to create and support stimulating, engaging and innovative community initiatives that usher in social change. In addition, he has worked in the non-profit and governmental sectors in the United States and five African nations. He has earned an impressive record of achievement by conceiving, designing and executing bold, distinctive, high-impact programs and events that have outstanding returns.

AMY OKIMOTO

BOARD MEMBER

Amy Okimoto is a proud, public school classroom teacher. Her 21 year career has included work at Title I schools in Arizona and Colorado, as well as experience teaching in Nepal. Culturally responsive instruction is at the cornerstone of her practice, and she continues to strive for excellence in opportunity and instruction for all students. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and a minor in Asian Studies from Northern Arizona University, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, and a Master’s degree in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity from Adams State University.

JICE JOHNSON

BOARD MEMBER

Born and raised in Oakland, CA, Jice is heavily involved in community and education. She has spent time as an adjunct instructor for EcoTech Institute before expanding her family and making the decision to homeschool her children.  She is the lead facilitator for Women’s Shop Talk Live (wSTL), a local community organization for women. She is the founder and director of the Black Business Initiative, an economic revitalization program for Black-owned businesses. Jice loves to travel both in the US and internationally.  She has been to 28 states so far, and is making it her goal to see all 50!  She also loves the beautiful outdoors and hikes every Summer with her dogs and kids.  Jice currently resides in Colorado where the outdoor fun is all year long.

CASSANDRA JOHNSON

BOARD CHAIR

Cassandra Johnson is the Chief Operating Officer for Hope Center, a nonprofit community based agency dedicated to serving individuals in need of specialized educational and vocational services. Johnson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU), an MBA in Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Graduate Certificate in Early Care and Education Leadership from the University of Denver (DU). Johnson is Director qualified holding a level V Early Childhood Professional Credential from the Colorado Department of Human Services and Colorado Department of Education. Johnson is a 5th cohort fellow of the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program. She enjoys studying the latest research centered on child and brain development and shares those findings with families and caregivers of early learners. Upon chartering she was elected as President of the Black Child Development Institute of Denver (BCDI-Denver). BCDI-Denver’s initiatives focus on Early Care & Education and Public Policy; while launching on-the-ground, evidence-based and culturally-relevant programs designed for African American children in designated communities throughout Denver.

SARAH CASTLEBERRY

BOARD MEMBER

Sarah Castleberry is a Denver native and mother to three children. She has over a decade of experience in the non profit health sector.

Sarah values family, health and education above all else and has been proud to participate on many Boards and volunteer programs to make an impact in her community. For the past two years she has served as a parent representative and committee chair for Mile High Montessori Head Start as well as the policy council for Denver Great Kids Head Start. She had the honor of being named the Head Start Parent of the Year in 2017.

TALIB B. ASHAMEE

BOARD MEMBER

Talib B Ashamee – Migrated to Colorado from California in 1989 following work in Communications and Information Technology. Discovering the new and growing Denver/Aurora Communities Saturday School and Alternative Education Providers, Talib connected and has been an advocate and supporter for over 20 years.

A Justice Advocate, Colorado Business Owner and Entrepreneur, Service Provider and Information Technology Consultant.

RUTH BELTRAN

BOARD MEMBER

Ruth Beltran is a community organizer and activist living in Sarasota, Florida.  Ruth is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who began organizing in Syracuse, NY where she resided for over 10 years.  In Syracuse, Ruth was involved in a successful, 5-year long campaign to obtain independent oversight of both the City of Syracuse Police Department and the County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the county jail.  The campaign was started as a reaction to the deaths of two inmates inside the county jail, one of which was due to an ectopic pregnancy after a nurse denied a female inmate medical care because she thought she was faking her pain. The campaign sought to restructure the City Police department’s dysfunctional Citizens Review Board, and to create an independent agency that would oversee the county jail and sheriff’s office.  After many years of endless strategic work, community organizing and protesting – the Citizens Review Board was successfully restructured. The county reinstated what once was the Human Rights Division, which now oversees all complaints regarding the Sheriff’s office and the county jail, and hired one of the campaign’s lead organizers to oversee the division.

Ruth has served on the Board of the NYCLU – Central New York Chapter, the League for United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and many other local organizations.  She has received several awards including the 2012 40 Under 40 Rising Star Award for the Central New York area.  Ruth has an established career as an Investigator for the US Department of Labor. She spends most of her free time organizing around the many social issues that affect our communities today including worker’s rights, immigration reform, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA rights, environmental Justice, Jail oversight, and police accountability.    She is an organizer with ANSWER Suncoast Coalition and with Black Lives Matter Tampa.

RACHAEL LEHMAN

STAFF DIRECTOR

Rachael Lehman is a mother, activist and yogi. Currently, Rachael us an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Denver, co-chair of Colorado’s Women’s Studies discipline, CCD’s Diversity and Inclusion Council member and coordinates service learning projects for students. Rachael applies her sociology and intersectional feminism every chance she gets. Her applied sociology has led to activism around education, housing and the environment. She recently served as Policy Director for a local school board race.

MAAJA ASHEMU

VOLUNTEER STAFF

Maaja Ashemu is a producer for the Facebook Live online program Truth to Power, working with H-Soul Ashemu and the rest of the team to generate each episode. Maaja is attending university full-time as a straight A+ student, a member of three honors societies while holding two part-time jobs. Maaja has made it a priority to be an active member within her community, tackling social justice issues, including Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights, LGBTQIA+, homelessness, gentrification, etc. Understanding that youth are the most powerful, yet most underrepresented and underestimated constituent in society led Maaja to her ultimate goal, which is to receive her PhD in Sociology. This will equip her with the tools necessary to create her own classes centered around these issues while while empowering the next generation.

BETH GIPSON

VOLUNTEER STAFF

Beth Gipson, a professed author in hiding…is known for an impeccable understanding and effective crisis intervention success, both within the California Title | Public School System and Community Care Facilities for 19+ years. She has built a consistent platform that reaches the most vulnerable at-risk youth, providing educational, pro-active life skills, and a therapeutic approach to community engagement. Her favorite activities include spending time with her family, water coloring, and home design. Her leadership and unrelenting voice for social change continues to actively challenge status-quo solutions.