Charles Jackson MPA, BA, BS 

Is a 4th generation agent of change, has 32 years working for various non-profit organizations in Connecticut and NYC and  has worked primarily in community improvement and youth development. While a senior staffer for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Charles oversaw African, Southeast Asian, and Musliam affairs in his portfolio. Further, Mr. Jackson was the go to person for HUD, DoD, DoT and coordinated the congresswoman’s district arts during his tenor. As a transplant from Brooklyn NY, Mr. Jackson has been a resident of Syracuse since 2015. During this time he has worked for the Prevention Network as the Director for the Syracuse Youth Substance Abuse Prevention initiative and Coalition Coordinator. Mr. Jackson is honored to have been serving as the Board President of the Community Folk Art Center, where his focus is on expanding the institution’s reach and legacy. In addition, Charles is a former member of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, where he stepped down to serve as a Redistricting Commissioner for the City of Syracuse; as well as a member of the Mayor’s Reimagining Policing Committee. As evidence of his love of improving young people’s lives, he is a former collegiate and prep level basketball coach, and is presently working with young players as a player developer. His commitment to youth extends further as a member of the 100 Black Men of Syracuse. Mr. Jackson attained a dual degree in 1990 from Hunter College in Urban Planning and Sociology, as well as achieving his Masters in Public Administration in 2004. Other than his dedication to his 4 children and partner, Charles is a part-time DJ. 

Cjala Surratt 

Advocates for equity and restorative justice in the arts through socially engaged practices, site-specific projects, and public interventions. Her art advocacy emphasizes amplifying the work of historically excluded artists, cultural workers, and creatives. An alumna of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, she brings 20 years of experience in public relations, marketing, and community outreach for arts, culture, and social justice organizations, including Community Folk Art Center, Redhouse, Light Work, Syracuse Community Choir and Urban Video Project. Surratt’s dedication to social justice was recognized in 2021 when she received the Interfaith Works: Racial Justice Catalyst Award. Actively serving on multiple boards and committees, including the CNY Foundation: Black Equity and Excellence Fund Review Committee, Everson Museum of Art Members’ Board, Racial and Equity Task Force, Arts NYS Commission, Gifford Foundation Board, and Community Folk Art Center Advisory Board, Surratt co-founded the Black Artist Collective. Additionally, Surratt actively participates in various juror, commission, and advisory roles, contributing her expertise to initiatives such as the Syracuse University MLK Celebration (Unsung Hero: Award Committee), Central New York Arts Decentralization Grants (juror), Creatives Rebuild New York: Central New York and Finger Lakes Region (outreach coordinator/juror), and HueArts New York State (advisory committee).

Evan Starling-Davis 

Is a narrative artist, curator, and producer. More precisely, he names himself a digital-age “griot”—a term used for traveling storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history derived from the African diaspora’s culture and history. As a New York-based afro-surrealist, Starling-Davis is responsible for creating content that speaks truth to his experiences as a Black American. After studying under the guidance of SUNY Purchase’s writing conservatory, he spent the following years investigating storytelling within multidisciplinary art related to sociopolitical discourse, maneuvering avenues that transformed and translated his insomniac imagination into vibrant storytelling. Currently, Evan is a doctoral student of Literacy Education at Syracuse University. He was previously recognized as the inaugural Writing Our Lives Fellow via the Department of Reading and Language Arts devising and facilitating literary art programming for underrepresented voices within the Rust Belt region communities. Evan’s passions heavily reside in developing creative environments that inform reading and writing practices. His literary, visual, and staged work has been exhibited internationally in various galleries, theaters, and warehouse shows. He’s a 2018 INKTANK Fellow via Rising Circle Theater Collective, a 2018 recipient of the CNYArts individual artist commission, a 2018 Light Work honorable mention, a Van Lier New Voices finalist via The Lark Theater, and a 2019 Saint-Paul Vence James Baldwin writer-in-residence recipient. 

Rochele Royster Ph.D., ATR-BC

Is a seasoned artist, community psychologist, and educator who inspires people and the community. Her upbringing immersed her in the rhythms of the South—a fertile ground for creativity, where she learned the importance of the connection to land, rituals, customs, and people. Proficient in quilting, printmaking, and various dye and resist techniques, Rochele breathes new life into discarded materials, crafting narratives that echo themes of blackness and the resilience of ordinary individuals navigating worlds where patterns become as integral as the people they adorn. Through meticulously examining life’s rhythms, Rochele Royster invites viewers to reflect on the resilience and beauty that persist amidst life’s clutter and chaos.

Additional Members 

Kofi Antwi, Kenyata Calloway, and Yolanda Seegers

Ex-Officio: Tanisha M. Jackson, Ph.D., Executive Director