About the Program

At Grantmakers for Southern Progress, we know that the South incubates ideas and actions the rest of the nation follows. At its worst, the South has laid the blueprint for dehumanization and harm. At its best, the South has created the conditions for real transformation by practicing community care for the most vulnerable among us, and envisioning liberation for us all.

Fellows for Southern Progress (FSP) is an innovative leadership development program that helps participants develop the knowledge and skills necessary to support grassroots movements and structural change in the South. Together, we are reckoning with philanthropy’s complicated history and building a future where our communities can thrive.  

We know a more just and equitable South is possible. We believe philanthropy will help get us there.

We are building a community of changemakers in the South who are accountable to the region, the philanthropic sector, and each other in the service of justice. Are you in?  

Who We're Looking For

This may be the space for you if: 

  • You believe the South can and has changed for the better; 
  • You believe philanthropy has been shaped by white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, and other unjust systems;  
  • You believe funders are responsible for returning stolen resources to marginalized communities;  
  • You are a member of a philanthropic institution who can guide how monetary resources move through your organization, and;  
  • You are committed to funding Southern movement work.  

As a Fellow
, you will learn how to:

  • Cultivate a justice-focused, people-centered approach to philanthropy; 
  • Align your grantmaking with structural and cultural change work in the South; 
  • Center race and gender equity in your funding practices;  
  • Strengthen your sense of change agency and your ability to create change;  
  • Explore authentic healing practices, honor your full self, and find joy in the work;  
  • Practice interdependence and care for people, and;  
  • Share what you’ve learned with your institution with the intention of making aligned commitments to the South.







Shawnda Chapman

Shawnda Chapman joins the Ms. Foundation as Director of the Girls Fund Initiative. Prior to joining the organization, Shawnda worked as a lead program specialist on a national initiative aimed at preventing and ending girls’ incarceration at the Vera Institute of Justice. She also served as Director of the Beyond the Bars Fellowship program at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. Partially based on her own experiences, her work has focused on racial justice, gender justice, and understanding the ways girls of color get pushed into the criminal justice system. With a particular focus on marginalized and vulnerable populations, Shawnda has broad experience developing as well as implementing research, monitoring, and evaluation materials both domestically and internationally.

Shawnda sits on the board of Black Women’s Blueprint, a transnational organization that works to end all forms of violence against Black women and girls. She also serves on the advisory board of Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement, an initiative that works to increase refugee access to tertiary education. Shawnda earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Master of Science degree in Applied Social Research from The City University of New York, Hunter College.

Sherra Bennett

Sherra is a daughter of the south, specifically the Arkansas Delta region. She is a social worker, community organizer, servant leader, and difference maker at her very core. Sherra is the daughter of parents raised in the Jim Crow south and it’s that foundation that drives her commitment to equity of all forms — centering racial equity, systems change, movement and power building.

She is a two-time graduate of the University of Michigan, earning both a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Her communications background, combined with the ethical framework of social work, creates the catalyst that propels her to advocate and serve as a voice and vessel against injustice. Throughout her mission-focused career, she’s served the non-profit sector throughout the United States, Africa, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands.

Sherra has served as a Non-Profit Founder, Executive Director, Director of Operations, Program Director, and Principal Consultant for human service organizations. Her impact-led career started as a Field Organizer with President Barack Obama’s campaign, and she credits this opportunity as what propelled her community-centered career focus. At the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Ar., Sherra leads the movement building and leadership development portfolio to address and evolve the voices at the table concerning the future of Arkansas.

Samantha Franklin

Samantha Franklin (she/her) has over a decade of experience working at philanthropic and capacity building organizations. As Senior Program Officer at Ms. Foundation for Women, she collaborates with Ms.’s grantmaking and capacity building team to move grants and other supports to women and girl of color-led organizations advancing structural change for trans and cis women and gender expansive folks and their communities. Prior to Ms., she served at L+M Development Partners as Director of Community Investment. At L+M, she coordinated with various stakeholders and institutional partners to bring programs and resources to NYC communities through grant making and other CSR. Prior to working at L+M, Samantha was a Program Officer at Johnson Family Foundation (New York City, NY), a Project Manager at Jobs for the Future (Boston, MA) and a Junior Capacity Building Specialist at the Harm Reduction Coalition (New York City, NY). She also served on the advisory boards of the Brown Boi Project (Oakland, CA) and Third Wave Fund (NYC) and participated in various collaborative efforts with philanthropic groups that include Funders for LGBTQ Issues, New York Women’s Foundation, North Star Fund, and Queer Youth Fund. She was recenly appointed to the Denver County Cultural Council, the grant review council for Denver’s Tier III Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) funds. She currently serves on the board of Rainbow Heights Club, a support and advocacy program for LGBTQ+ consumers of mental health services that provides socialization, peer support, and a safe place to take the next step on the road to emotional recovery and wellness. She also serves on the board of the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum Foundation, which supports the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum in its pursuit of a more just, loving, and inclusive world through music.

Raquel Thomas

Raquel Thomas is a social justice advocate and culture worker. She is passionate about health, restorative justice, and the preservation of memory. She is a Black American writer, musician, and certified yoga teacher. Through her life’s work, Raquel hopes to encourage joy, vulnerability, and creative self-expression.

Maryam Abdul Kareem

Maryam Abdul-Kareem is the daughter of community organizers, builders, and healers. She wears many hats (or hijabs) as a Transformative Coach, Anti-Racism Educator, Racial Equity Strategist, Writer and Funder.

Ebony West

Ebony West (she/they) is a Senior Program Associate at Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice. In her role, she supports two Election Program initiatives: Voting Power, which invests in long-term and immediate support to organizers building power for civic engagement in their communities, particularly communities of color, and Resilient Elections, which focuses strengthening election infrastructure by funding and training election administrators, and calling attention to those who are trying to change election outcomes for partisan gains.

Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Ebony was a Program Associate at Triangle Community Foundation in Durham, NC. While there, she worked to establish and strengthen relationships with nonprofit organizations in the region. She managed the Community Development program and the Sudden and Urgent Needs Fund for the Foundation. She also oversaw community and nonprofit research for the Foundation and developed opportunities for community learning and convening. Finally, she brings a decade of experience in civic engagement, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and campaigns working on issues including equitable elections, access to higher education, LGBTQ+ rights, economic and reproductive justice.

Ebony graduated from East Carolina University with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Communications. She also holds a Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Danica Lee

For the past year, Danica Lee (she/they) has been a Grants Associate at Democracy Fund. She has a background in community and youth organizing and is passionate about investing in the southern communities that raised her. With an emphasis on racial equity and popular education, she has worked across North Carolina and nationally to advance leadership development and civic participation. Working with community nonprofit organizations through the 2020 election prompted her to learn more about equitable grantmaking and what role philanthropy and grantmakers play in a rapidly changing public sector. Danica currently lives in North Carolina, where they serve as a board member and volunteer for local community organizations empowering communities of color and leadership development for young people across the state. In their free time they enjoy finding and trying new bread recipes.

Briana Perry

Briana Perry (she/her) is the Director of Liberatory Learning and Capacity Building at Communities for Just Schools Fund, a national collaborative that brings together philanthropy with the power of grassroots organizing to transform schools. In her role, Briana leads the technical assistance and capacity building program, supporting CJSF’s partner network with deepening capacities around organizing, leadership, and healing and wellness.

Previously, Briana served as the Co-Executive Director at Healthy and Free Tennessee, a statewide network working to grow a movement for reproductive freedom. A Black feminist who proudly calls the South home, Briana is a facilitator, writer, trained birth doula, and a former teacher. She graduated from Vanderbilt University with her B.A. in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies in 2013. In 2016, she completed her M.Ed. in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies at Vanderbilt University, Peabody College. Briana has organized around gender and racial justice issues for nearly a decade, having organized with groups including the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter and the Nashville Feminist Collective. Briana is passionate about transformative justice and reproductive justice and building power in the Southern region.

Brandy Hudson
Brandon Gleaton

Brandon brings over a decade of diverse experience, spanning K-12 schools, adult education, higher education, and the non-profit sector.

He currently serves as Program Officer at Borealis Philanthropy’s Spark Justice Fund, which resources grassroots organizing groups that are ending money bail and unjust pretrial detention policies, all while supporting organizations and power-building groups to decarcerate, close jails and advance transformative visions of pretrial justice in the communities most impacted by incarceration.

Brandon serves as a board member for Affirmation’s Community Center, a leading LGBTQ advocacy and programming organization in Michigan. In a bid to enhance civic participation, he successfully ran for and was elected as a precinct delegate, actively engaging in efforts to inform and boost voter turnout during pivotal elections.

Brandon is a graduate of Wayne State University, obtaining a B.A in Education and a master’s in Public Administration and Policy from The University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Meet the FSP Faculty

Click on the faculty member photos to learn more!

Karimah Nonyameko

Karimah Nonyameko is a program officer with the Human Rights program at the Heising-Simons Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Karimah worked for the National Alliance on Mental Illness South Carolina (NAMISC) as the Ending the Silence Lowcountry Regional Program Manager. Before joining NAMISC, Karimah worked with Encore.org’s Generation-to-Generation Program designing an online learning community for youth-serving practitioners and supporting a diverse network of communities and organizations experimenting with innovative models for engaging older adults to help children thrive. Prior to Encore.org, Karimah was the Subject Matter Expert in Community Development for Habitat for Humanity International.

Earlier in her career, Karimah lived in every region of the US, working as a community organizer with local, regional, and national nonprofit organizations and networks supporting social change issues and building relationships across differences. Karimah has over two decades of experience supporting nonprofit organizations and movement building work as a community organizer, non-profit senior staff, an organizational development consultant, grantmaking foundation board member, award-winning trainer/facilitator, and skill-building curriculum designer.

Kim Pevia

Kim Pevia is an experienced life strategist, an engaging keynote speaker, and a skilled workshop facilitator. Her workshops are experiential and transformational. She specializes in identifying the issues that keep us stuck and addresses them by developing a personalized toolbox to help us hurdle over them. Her favorite work is done in circles. Her favorite topics include Emotional intelligence, Gifts of Conflict, Impacts of Historical Trauma, Cultural Healing, Innocuous Nature of Fear, most of which she includes in Race, Equity, and Inclusion work. Born and educated in Baltimore, MD she currently lives in Robeson County, NC where her roots run deep as a member of the Lumbee Tribe.

She serves on many local, state, and national boards that support community activism and local economy through arts, food, culture, and tourism. She recently served as Chair of the Board of Alternate Roots. In 2015 she founded Artist Market-Pembroke, providing retail opportunities for local and regional artists in southeast North Carolina. Her love of community and films is expressed as the curator of the annual Lumbee Film Festival (along with Cucalorus) and the quarterly CommUnity Cinema (in partnership with Working Films). She expresses her creativity as a writer and workshop/training facilitator.

Rukia Lumumba

As Executive Director of the People’s Advocacy Institute, co-coordinator of the Electoral Justice Project, and campaign co-coordinator of the successful Committee to Elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba for Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Rukia Lumumba is a transformative justice strategist and human rights advocate.

For more than 18 years, she has worked within and outside the system to foster justice for all, especially as it relates to criminal justice disparities for people of color. She has served as director of two of New York state’s largest criminal justice nonprofits, CASES (the Center for Alternatives Sentencing and Employment Services) and the Center for Community Alternatives, providing visionary leadership and building community and system partnerships to help break the prison pipeline. During her leadership tenure, more than 4,200 youths received supportive community-based services including housing, education, job, and health and well-being services, in lieu of incarceration. She also served as co-chair of the Anti-Violence and Criminal Justice Working Group and steering committee member of the first Young Women’s Initiative in the United States dedicated to developing gender equitable policies in New York City, particularly for young women of color. Her work contributed to the development of She Will Be, a 144-page report of recommendations from stakeholders across New York City, including but not limited to community-based organizations, advocates, policy experts, and young women themselves.

A graduate of Howard University School of Law, Rukia clerked for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Washington, DC, Public Defender Service where she represented children and collected data on human rights violations at the former Oak Hill Youth Detention Center, one of the nation’s worst juvenile facilities. The data was included in a report that contributed to the closing of the facility. She was program director of Parents Watch, Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit that assists parents in advocating for their detained child’s release. During her tenure, she helped launch the first parent resource center housed within a detention facility. She served on the board of directors of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, an association of lawyers, activists and legal workers who defend human rights and expose the criminal justice disparities for people of color. She served as national coordinator of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a membership-based organization dedicated to promoting human rights and self-determination. She co-founded Katrina on the Ground, an initiative that organized over 700 college students to participate in post-Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. She launched the Community Aid and Development Day Camp, an education and cultural enrichment program for over 200 children ages 6-16 in Jackson, Mississippi.

Rukia currently co-chairs the People’s Assembly process in Jackson, Mississippi which works to (1) increase community access to city government and (2) to institutionalize People’s Assemblies as community governing models that enable a deep democratic participation of people in their own governance. She was selected as one of the brightest and most promising women of color by New York University Wagner School of Public Service and she is a 2011 Youth for Justice Leadership Fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network.

Rukia holds family very dear and is most proud of being a wonderful mother to her son Qadir. She was instrumental in the successful and revolutionary mayoral campaigns of her father and brother. Her assistance to elect her brother, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, as mayor of Jackson united people across generations and cities, moving as brilliantly among the grassroots as it did among the grasstops.

Rukia holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in international relations from Tougaloo College in Mississippi. She holds a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. and has studied law and politics in South Africa at the University of Forte Hare and the University of the Western Cape.

Wesley Morris

Wesley Morris is a community organizer, facilitator, and Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church in Greensboro, NC. His work centers on addressing the interlocking injustices of systemic racism and systemic poverty. Wesley currently serves as Vice President of the Pulpit Forum and as Associate Director for Southern Vision Alliance (SVA) where he works with emergent social justice organizations to develop racial, economic, and environmental justice solutions for collective liberation in the US South.

Prior to joining SVA, Wesley served as an Intern chaplain at Harlem Hospital and worked for more than a decade as a community organizer with the Beloved Community Center, home to the nation’s first Community Truth and Reconciliation Process.

Through his solidarity projects in Cuba, Barbados, and Brazil he has supported opening cultural and spiritual pathways to bridge the gap between Black, indigenous people of color and the African Diaspora. Wesley acknowledges the pain caused by systems of oppression and has committed his efforts towards achieving a more just and equitable world. Wesley has been a strong supporter and active participant in the national Poor People’s Campaign – a relaunch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolent civil disobedience protest in over 40 states addressing voter suppression laws, mass incarceration, and livable wages led by Dr. William Barber.

Wesley earned a B.A. degree from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He enjoys traveling, listening to his vinyl record collection, and reading.

Program Eligibility

Curriculum + Time Commitment

Participants attend three 3-day convenings, one virtual convening, individual coaching sessions with a professional coach or peer-to-peer, and applied practice work between convenings.

  • October 10-12, 2023, in Jackson, MS
  • March 2024 (dates and location TBD)
  • July/August 2024 (virtual)
  • September 2024 (dates and location TBD)


Tuition is $2,500 for GSP members, and $3,000 for non-GSP members. Scholarships are available.

Apply to be a Fellow


Applications are open from May 1 – May 19, 2023. We will reach out to applicants about the status of their applications in July. If you would like to express interest in the program or connect with GSP staff prior to the application period, please use the contact form below.


Frequently Asked Questions

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FSP Questions

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