Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara,
Executive Director • She/Her/Hers
Raised in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Brown University and received a MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. She has worked on LGBTQ rights campaigns since 2004 and founded the Campaign for Southern Equality in 2011. Jasmine served on the Biden Foundation’s Advisory Council for Advancing LGBTQ Equality and has been interviewed by MSNBC, The New York Times, and the BBC about LGBTQ rights in the South. Jasmine and her wife, Meghann, live in Asheville, NC, with their three children. She also serves on Buncombe County Commission, where her policy work focuses on early childhood education, responding to the opioid crisis, and criminal justice reform.
Jasmine has written widely about LGBTQ issues in the South:
- “How to Win LGBTQ Equality in the South” – The Advocate
- “What Level of Discrimination Will We Accept in NC?” – Raleigh News & Observer
- “Southern Fried Pride: What Hattiesburg’s First Pride Means in the Deep South” – Medium
- “Pay It Forward: A New Way to Fund Grassroots LGBTQ Organizing in the South” – Responsive Philanthropy
Operations Associate • She/Her/Hers
Leila is a proud Iranian-American who was raised in Carrboro, NC. She got her Associates in Arts from Durham Technical Community College before moving out west to attend UNC-Asheville and study Political Science. In April 2019 she graduated from the prestigious Frontline Leaders Academy where she traveled across the US training to work on political campaigns. She has worked on several political campaigns focusing on campaign management and field directing throughout WNC. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering in the community, hiking, and kayaking whenever possible. Listening to funk music and cooking food (especially Persian) are among her favorite activities as well.
Community Health Program Director • They/Them/Theirs
Ivy Hill was born in Piedmont, SC, where they currently reside. Ivy is a co-founder and the Executive Director of the award-winning trans advocacy and support group Gender Benders based in Upstate SC. Since 2005 Ivy has served marginalized communities in a variety of capacities ranging from education and advocacy work for inclusive hate crime legislation, to serving on SC Equality’s Trans Action Committee, and Greenville Forward’s Inclusion and Diversity Task-Force, to organizing many rallies, events, and even summer camp programs for trans Southerners. Ivy was honored to accept the Ryan Wilson Equality Award for outstanding advocacy for the LGBTQ community of SC. Check out their 2015 TEDxGreenville presentation and their 2018 article, “Why Transgender Health Care is Primary Care,” which appeared in Scalawag and The Advocate. Today their work is largely focused on providing trainings for medical providers around trans health issues, doing research around the barriers trans people face in accessing medical care, and building grassroots programs to circumvent those barriers. Ivy was recently recognized as one of NBC Out’s #Pride50 honorees.
Southern Equality Research and Policy Center Director • He/Him/His
Austin was born and raised in Union, South Carolina. Receiving his Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University in 2017, he is now an assistant professor of Sociology at Kenyon College. Austin is a scholar-activist whose academic research is geared toward better understanding the social problems that affect LGBTQ+ southerners. He is an award-winning scholar whose peer-reviewed research has been published in Sociology Compass, Sociological Inquiry, Advances in Gender Research, Sociology of Health & Illness, Qualitative Health Research, and Gender, Work, & Organization. Austin serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Benders, a regional non-profit serving trans and non-binary southerners based in Upstate SC. He has served as Research Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality’s Southern LGBTQ Health Initiative since 2019. Austin and his senior shih tzu Lola Jean live in Gambier, Ohio.
Director of Relationships and Special Projects • They/Them/Theirs
Al was born and raised in Western Kentucky. They’ve made Asheville home since moving from Connecticut in 2012. Al earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky and a MA in Art History from The University of Connecticut, focusing their research on queer activist art. Al has spent the last 15 years working in non-profits in the South and believes in the power of creativity, empathy and courage to drive change. As Director of Relationships and Special Projects, they directly engage with supporters of and participants in CSE’s programs–from Southern Equality Studios to the Southern Equality Fund. Al is passionate about leadership development and capacity-building and works to strengthen resource mobilization across the South. Al also supports organizing efforts for reproductive health, rights and access and harm reduction. At home, they operate a metalworking studio and parent twins Sam and Starr with their partner Rebecca.
They also REALLY love pizza.
Communications Director • He/Him/His
Adam Polaski is a writer and strategist who works to harness the power of narrative, digital organizing, social media, and creative design to advance social justice. Before coming to the Campaign for Southern Equality he worked on the digital and communication teams at Freedom to Marry, the successful campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples across the United States, and Freedom for All Americans, a national organization committed to securing LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. He has been recognized for Excellence in Online Journalism by the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association, and his writing has been published in Hello Mr., The Seventh Wave, The Bilerico Project, and the anthology Love Unites Us. He has also supported communications work with The Brigid Alliance, Freedom to Marry Global, GLSEN, the Religious Institute, and the Local Solutions Support Center. Adam enjoys reading and is always happy to recommend a good book or five. He lives in Asheville, NC.
Southern Equality Fund Organizer • He/Him/His & They/Them/Theirs
Wynston, a native of Upstate SC, holds a BA degree in Music and Philosophy from a private university. He was published in the USA Today’s articles in double measure in both 2019 and 2020, in regards to his valiant efforts in bringing hope and a voice to the LGBTQ+ community. His passion for his community is what drives him. They continuously strive to transcend and anticipate the needs of their community to ensure it thrives. As the Southern Equality Fund Organizer, he oversees their micro grant making program, dedicated to getting money and resources to grassroots organizations throughout the South. In addition to their work with CSE, they are also the Program Coordinator for Gender Benders – a trans advocacy and support group based in Upstate SC. Wynston has a genuine love for people, performing arts, food and longboarding.
Director of Impact and Innovation • She/Her/Hers
Allison is a multigenerational Asheville/WNC local. She is a trans woman who advocates for LGBTQ Southerners as the Director of Impact & Innovation for the Campaign for Southern Equality. In 2018 she was chosen by USA Today to represent North Carolina in their 50 Faces of Pride for NC, and she has also been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Associated Press, NBC, The News & Observer, along with other national and statewide media. Along with being a featured speaker for Creative Mornings, she served as co-chair for the Biden for President North Carolina LGBTQ+ Leadership Council. Allison is a community organizer and bridge builder who has coordinated with school systems, medical practices, churches, businesses, news agencies, and politicians regarding equality for LGBTQ people.
Allison is based in Asheville, NC.
Director of Resilience and Healing • He/Him/His
Holiday Simmons, MSW is the founder and Lead Practitioner of Southern Soul Wellness, a holistic mental health and spiritual wellness practice for the liberation of mind, body, community and planet Earth. He is also a consultant with Black Emotional and Mental Health (BEAM). Holiday finds beauty in soccer, the ocean, and hugging moments of liberation. He makes his home in Atlanta, GA.
Southern Equality Studios Director • She/They
Liz Williams is thrilled to be CSE’s first Artist in Residence. Through means of photography, digital mixed media, and graphic design, Liz seeks to collaborate with her community and create uplifting artwork and conversation reflective of the LGBTQ identity and the nuances of it. In doing so, she hopes to create work that is a catalyst for empowerment and positive change. Liz is also the recipient of a Campaign for Southern Equality Artist grant after winning the 2018 Summer Pride design contest and has provided design work for several other projects through CSE and other queer run organizations and businesses including QORDS, Lightning Bolt Ink, Tranzmission, and Equality North Carolina.
During her spare time she enjoys singing, dancing, and laughing with her wife Amanda, along with napping with her two cats.
CSE Special Projects Team Members
Legal Team Leader • She/Her/Hers
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Meghann Burke is an attorney at Brazil & Burke, where she focuses on civil litigation and criminal defense. She received her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. During law school, Meghann worked with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project on the first case ever to recover damages against a public entity for its complicity with the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of racial violence during the Civil Rights Movement. She authored an amicus brief on behalf of the Campaign for Southern Equality in the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges and is a frequent presenter on constitutional law at workshops around the South. She also leads the Buncombe County Criminal Defense Bar and serves on the Legal Affairs Committee of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. Meghann began her law practice after finishing a ten-year professional soccer career and is a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
Bilingual Communications Consultants
As Cenzontle Language Justice Cooperative we believe in language justice to ensure we uplift all human dignity. We are interpreters, translators and consultants that strive to build bridges between communities working for liberation. / Somos Cenzontle. Como la Cooperativa de Justicia de Lenguaje Cenzontle nosotrxs creemos en la justicia de lenguaje para asegurarnos de elevar toda la dignidad humana. Somos intérpretes, traductorxs y consultorxs que se esfuerzan en construir puentes entre las comunidades que trabajan para la liberación.
Evaluation and Research Consultant
Chase Harless (he/him/his) was born and raised in East Tennessee. As a researcher with a passion for policy and public health, he is interested in utilizing research to help shape public policy and procedures, especially for marginalized communities. He became involved with CSE in 2017 while completing a graduate school internship with the organization. Specializing in qualitative methods and survey methodology, Chase provides research and evaluation support for the organization, including leading the Southern LGBTQ Health Survey. Along with a history of community organizing, he has experience with engaging communities in field research through designing program evaluations with various advocacy groups across the South to help strengthen services and conducting needs assessments to address community issues.
Chase’s research interests include reducing disparities in LGBTQ healthcare, increasing understanding of the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals living in the South, and improving access to mental health care and substance use treatment in rural areas, He received his master of social work from Western Carolina University in 2018. When not in the office, Chase enjoys playing board games and listening to records with his three cats.
Megan (Maggie) Nanney,
Research Team Member • They/Them/Theirs
Maggie Nanney holds a PhD in Sociology from Virginia Tech. Their research focuses on inclusion and diversity policies and practices in higher education, with a specialization in trans collegians at historically gendered colleges. In addition to their consulting work at CSE, Maggie is the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Research Associate in the Office for Equity and Diversity at East Carolina University and is the chair of Sociologists for Trans Justice.
Digital Communications Consultant • She/Her/Ella
Based in Richmond, Virginia, Kelly is a queer multimedia writer, digital, and social media specialist, with years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She has served as a digital content manager, communications, and assisted in the development of the anthology: If We Want to Win: A Latine Vision for a New American Democracy, to be published in the Fall of 2021.
Prior to digital communications consulting, she received her BA in English with a focus on postcolonial studies from Mills College. She has experience writing for Black and Latinx community outreach, QTBIPOC centered narratives, culture shifting rapid response, as well as copy editing and writing for various campaigns.
As a descendant of Salvadoran revolutionaries, she hopes that her deep love for storytelling will contribute to the liberation of her communities.
Diane Walton (“Dizy”) is a licensed attorney in private practice in North Carolina. The focus of her work is family law, including child custody, adoption, divorce, and partnership documents. Diane served in the United States Coast Guard, is on the CSE legal team, and resides in Asheville, NC with her partner Sarah and their three sons.
Supportive Schools Director and Special Projects Advisor • He/Him/His or They/Them/Theirs
As Supportive Schools Director, Craig provides training, policy guidance, and assessment services to assist Southern schools in becoming more inclusive and welcoming for students of every sexual and gender identity. He also advises and advocates on other LGBTQ youth-related issues and policies. As Special Projects Advisor, Craig plays a support role for CSE’s equity work and policy advocacy work, and supervises many of CSE’s interns in social work and other field placements. Outside of his CSE work, Craig is the lead facilitator for Craig White Consulting, a private consulting practice through which he does racial equity training and consulting with schools, nonprofits and foundations around the US. He also teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Education Program at Warren Wilson College, and is a co-leader of the Leadership Learning Exchange for Equity organized by the Maine Community Foundation. Craig holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University and an MSW from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a William C. Friday Fellow for Human Relations through the Wildacres Leadership Initiative. He has lived with his family in the Asheville, NC area since 1999.