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 Coordinator • 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.
Program Manager, Southern Equality Research and Policy Center
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 to better population health outcomes, especially for historically marginalized communities. Specializing in qualitative methods and survey methodology, Chase provides research and evaluation support to the organization, including leading the Southern LGBTQ Health Survey.
Along with a history of community organizing, he has experience with incorporating community-based participatory program evaluations and research practices. He has worked with various advocacy groups across the South to help strengthen services and address needs identified by the community. With a focus on Appalachian communities. Chase has numerous peer-reviewed publications focusing on LGBTQ health, substance use disorder treatment, HCV/HIV, and health care access for historically marginalized communities. He received his Master of Social Work from Western Carolina University in 2018. He is currently a Public Health Doctoral Candidate at East Tennessee State University. When not in the office, Chase enjoys listening to records with his cat, Sugar Pie.
Gender Justice Director, Southern LGBTQ Health Initiative • 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.
Impact Coordinator • They/Them/Theirs
Lore was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. Prior to joining the CSE team Lore was a counselor at a youth shelter and provided an affirming space for queer residents. They are passionate about lived and legal equality and so during one of the worst anti-LGBTQ youth legislative sessions on record they sought out a position that would enable them to continue serving their community.
As the Impact Coordinator at CSE, Lore works to maintain and grow our volunteer program by connecting with the community and providing training. They are also able to pursue their passion for uplifting and protecting queer youth in CSE’s Supportive Schools program. They are currently attending Western Carolina University for a degree in Emergency and Disaster Management. In their spare time they enjoy hiking with their partner, caring for their pug and two cats, and making art.
Engagement & Resource Manager • She/Her/Hers
Whisper M Moore (she/her) was born and raised mostly in Charleston, SC. A graduate of Winthrop University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology she has spent over fifteen years working in the non-profit sector. Living in Asheville, NC for the past 8 years she has seen marked parallels between what has happened in Charleston to her family and the Black communities there and what continues to happen to the Black communities here in Asheville with gentrification and exploitation. Whisper has a strong passion for racial equity and has worked with many community groups and programs toward this endeavor; serving on the board of the Asheville Buncombe Community Land Trust, doing yoga with YTL, and serving as an Americorps Member.
As the Engagement and Resource Manager Whisper brings her talents to create strong and lasting community relationships that uplift the intersectionality of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities. Mother, activist, philanthropist, yogi, herbalist, and environmentalist are a few words used to describe this powerhouse who continues to shape a better future for her daughters.
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 to push for the successful passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022 and has provided communications and design support for The Brigid Alliance, the Local Solutions Support Center, Freedom to Marry Global, GLSEN, Campus Pride, Religious Exemption Accountability Project, Southern AIDS Coalition, and the Religious Institute. Adam enjoys reading and is always happy to recommend a good book or five. He lives in Asheville, NC.
Community Connector Coordinator • 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. Wynston is 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 5th generation 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. Allison’s career has spanned working in the corporate world with Information Technology to serving her community as a community organizer and bridge builder regarding equality for LGBTQ people at the local, state, and national level. Along with her work Allison currently serves on the advisory board for Caring for Children of Western North Carolina. In 2020 she was recruited to serve as the Co-Chair for the Biden for President North Carolina LGBTQ+ Leadership Council, and participates in working sessions advocating for LGBTQ rights at both the regional level and with the US Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the EEOC.
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.
Creative Director, Southern Equality Studios • 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.
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.