Charles Jackson MPA, BA, BS 

Charles Jackson, a seasoned agent of change with 32 years of experience in non-profit organizations across Connecticut and NYC, specializing  in community improvement and youth development. During his tenure as senior staffer for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, he managed African, Southeast Asian, and Muslim affairs, while serving as a key liaison for HUD, DoD, and DoT. Since relocating to Syracuse in 2015, he’s directed the Syracuse Youth Substance Abuse Prevention initiative and served as Board President of the Community Folk Art Center, focusing on its expansion. Formerly a member of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, he now serves as a Redistricting Commissioner and contributes to the Mayor’s Reimagining Policing Committee. Charles is deeply committed to youth empowerment, coaching basketball at collegiate and prep levels, mentoring young players, and participating in the 100 Black Men of Syracuse. With degrees in Urban Planning, Sociology, and Public Administration, his dedication extends to his family and DJ pursuits.

Cjala Surratt 

Cjala Surratt, advocates for 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 over 20 years of experience in public relations 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 

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

Rochele Royster, 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. 

Kofi Antwi

Kofi Antwi,is an African American writer, composition professor at SUNY Cortland, and assistant editor of Aquarius Press/Willow Books. In 2018, Kofi completed an MFA in Creative Writing. During the summer of 2020 Kattywompus Press published Kofi’s debut book Tidal Wave. Kofi is the assistant editor of BLACK FIRE – THIS TIME and the forthcoming anthology Black Fire This Time Volume 2 published by Aquarius Press/Willow Books.Kofi’s devoted work to inner city communities has created a relationship as a facilitator of writing workshops – exploring lyrics and memory as entries into participants writing. Kofi’s writing workshop encourages participants to identify their personal experiences within the lens of their community/cultural practices.Kofi’s contribution as a creative writing facilitator and author has produced generative workshops such as Rhythmic Writing Workshops with middle school students, Creative Expression Workshops with Upward Bound Program, and an instructor for seniors’ exploring grief and gratitude Creative Writing Workshops with the Westcott Community Center. To encourage diversity and inclusion of black voices and writers in Central New York, Kofi is assembling a Creative Expression Project to highlight various creative mediums – as explorations and discoveries of family rituals and inclusion of cultural traditions such as African Folk Art and storytelling.  

Additional Members 

Kenyata Calloway, and Yolanda Seegers

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