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Board and Staff

CTC is led by a team of diverse, passionate individuals committed to the work of transforming communities. On this page, meet the members of our Board of Directors and the people who manage our day-to-day operations.



Cynthia Bradford, Baptist Memorial Health Care
Lesley Brown, Memphis Education Fund
Chip Clay, Binghampton Community Land Trust
Kenny Latta, University of Memphis
Eureka Pickett, South Memphis Shalom Zone
Dominique Primer, Junior Achievement



Adam Nelson

Operations and Finance Manager

Adam was raised in Memphis and returned here after graduating from the University of Chicago with a BA in Public Policy in 2008. After stints in youth ministry and early childhood music education, Adam served a year with the Episcopal Service Corps. There, he discovered his passion for social justice and shifted into nonprofit organizing. Most recently, he administrated a program for people dealing with homelessness in the Medical District of Memphis, where he lived in community with formerly homeless people for two years. He came to CTC in 2018 to cultivate equitable systems in Memphis neighborhoods.


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Ameerah Jones

Senior Program Manager

Ameerah Jones is a Memphis native and a graduate of Northside High School and the University of Memphis. She is a wife and a proud mother of two. Ameerah is passionate about youth development and community building and organizing. Her gifts lie in her ability to build strong relationships and to plan, execute, monitor, and implement projects.
"I am excited to be a part of an organization where my gifts and talents, as well as those of others, are both highlighted and celebrated. It is my absolute pleasure to join CTC's team as Senior Program Manager." - Jones.



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Brooke Sarden

Director of Operations and Culture

Brooke Sarden was raised and has lived most of her life in Memphis. Her early career in nonprofit management at Memphis Area Legal Services, Memphis Fair Housing Center, and Mid-South Peace and Justice Center sharpened her focus on the realities of systemic racism and poverty in the City. For the past decade, she has drawn upon her creative skills as a writer, visual artist, theatre practitioner, facilitator, and youth mentor to address those critical challenges, employing arts and culture as tools for accelerating personal empowerment and creating social change. Her blended practice has been shaped by extensive work with the Racism to Reconciliation community at the Memphis School of Servant Leadership and Hattiloo Theatre. She was selected for the 2016 ArtsMemphis Fellows Program, (now “ArtUP”) where she studied arts-based equity programs in underserved communities of Memphis, Chicago, and Boston; the 2018-2019 Theatre of the Oppressed Distance Mentorship sponsored by the Mandala Center for Change in Port Townsend, Washington; and The Orpheum Theatre Group’s inaugural Teaching Artist Training Program in 2019. She came to CTC in 2020 as Youth Director and manager of CTC's artist collaborative, Creative Underground. 


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Chase Madkins

Tennants' Rights Connector

Chase Madkins is a proud father, community leader, veteran, mentor, lyricist, activist, organizer, and transformative changemaker. He can be found daily in the community engaged in mutual aid projects, voter education, and continuous movement building. Chase has led organizing and voter engagement for Mark Kelly and Joe Biden in Tuscon, Arizona. He has also supported the proliferation of student enrollment into public schools here in Memphis. Raised in South Memphis, he has been and remains well acquainted with and proximate to the many of the systemic issues which impact our community. Chase also uses one of his art forms (rap) to connect with the community and to share his message more broadly. Chase currently works as a Tenant's Rights Advocate for CTC, in Memphis, TN and is a 2022 Mosaic fellow


Connie Binkowitz

Managing Director

Connie left her native country, the Philippines, to pursue a business graduate degree. However, a series of serendipitous events conspired to change her academic pursuit landing her instead with a Master of City and Regional Planning Degree with an Economic Development Concentration from the University of Memphis. Having made Memphis her home, Connie's dedication to improve her adopted community is evidenced by a career path that winds through government, non-profit and private industries, and academia with almost 40 years of combined experience in housing and community development, economic development, community health improvement, supply chain and health care logistics. She was Senior Staff to the Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board, Manager of the Memphis & Shelby County Health Department - Community Development Section, Program Manager at Healthy Memphis Common Table, Program Director at YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, Adjunct Instructor at University of Memphis and Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and Materials Management Coordinator at Baptist Memorial Hospital - Collierville.

In joining CTC in her life's 3rd act, she continues her life's mission of Tikkun Olam (Repair the World), and by collaborating with others, build communities in which solace, healing, wholeness, lovingkindness, hope and joy are norms.


Donzahelia Johnson

Neighborhood Connector, Whitehaven

Donzahelia Johnson is a native Memphian and a graduate of Melrose High School in the heart of Orange Mound. She also is a graduate of the Brewster Theological School, Union University, and is currently attending Memphis Theological Seminary, pursuing a Masters in Divinity to become a certified Chaplain (a service that is much needed in our communities and not just in the hospital). Donzahelia serves on planning committees for My Sister's Keeper with Methodist University Hospital, Christian Community Development Executive Team, and the Executive Board for Regional One Spiritual Care Council. Organizing, outreach and connecting people are her passions and Donzahelia has worked organizing city-wide events such as Convoy of Hope, Midsouth Mission of Mercy, and community events such as Embrace Unity for the Whitehaven community. She has worked with several different outreach and community events over the years and working with the Center for Transforming Communities has challenged her in ways she never thought possible. Donzahelia has been married for 37 years to Clifford Johnson and has two kids, Erika and Clifford, and two grandchildren, Cy and Jersee.


Frank W. Johnson

Neighborhood Connector, South Memphis

Frank W. Johnson. currently serves South Memphis as a Neighborhood Connector within the Center for Transforming Communities network. A native of South Memphis, Frank is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a BA in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations. He also holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Phoenix. Frank has worked in the areas of Environmental Justice and was a 2019 Candidate for Memphis City Council. Frank has worked as a classroom teacher for Shelby County Schools, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and is currently the President of the Alcy-Ball Neighborhood Association. Frank has served as a grassroots committee member and primary board for the Shelby County Democratic Party and organizer for 2017 Karl Dean for Tennessee Governor campaign. He is also one of the newest members of Leaders of Colors. Frank has worked in entertainment, banking, education, several arts-based non-profits, and as a professional actor/singer. He hopes to leverage these experiences to serve the CTC mission and generate new narratives for South Memphis, Tn.




Harry T. Cash, III

Community Partnerships Director

Harry T. Cash III is the Network Director for the Center for Transforming Communities. Since graduating from the University of Memphis with a BA in Business Administration in May 2000, he has worked in local/state governments, local/national nonprofits, and for-profit organizations focused on education, politics, entertainment, consumerism and community engagement. Previously, he has been recognized nationally by General Mills for a Community Hero Award and locally by the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals as an Agent of Change Educator of the Year. Formerly, he was the host of K97’s OnPoint radio show. He volunteers with service projects like “Room At The Inn”, and spends his spare time sharing memorable moments with people he loves, reading, playing sports, cooking, enjoying cultural events, and practicing yoga. 


He lives his life by his personal mission statement, “I am a spiritual being who seeks to be present in life’s moments, so I can be open to finding mutually beneficial opportunities to share love through thoughtful words and actions with others.”




Johnnie Hatten

Neighborhood Connector, North Memphis

Johnnie Hatten is a current resident of Hollywood and has worked tirelessly in the community and implemented several projects to benefit the residents of North Memphis. She moved from Hattiesburg, MS to North Memphis and has served her community as a social worker in the public school systems, mental healthcare centers, and other well- known nonprofit organizations. Her broad and extensive leadership skills were granted by successful completing Leadership Memphis (2010), Nexus Leadership Program (2011), Memphis Junior LEAD (2011), City of Memphis Community Leadership (2015), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority (2017), Momentum Nonprofit Partners-Executive Directors Boot Camp (2019), and New City Builders Cohort (2019).


Johnnie currently serves on the Board of Directors for Frayser Community Development Corporation and Raleigh Community Council. In addition to working with CTC, Johnnie also runs a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that focuses on providing career advancement opportunities and supportive services to families impacted by domestic violence, known as Restoration Time Family and Youth Services, Inc. 



Joy Sharp

Community Health Director

Peers in the field would often express Joy as infectious in her passion to help others, and it is transparent in her presentations and administration techniques. Sharp is a growth-oriented and highly talented lifestyle coach with a strong background in all aspects of chronic disease management, care management, community project facilitation, curriculum development, wellness/health education, grant writing and grant funding budgeting processes as well as excellent communication and leadership skills. Sharp has worked within the Memphis community for over two decades and has championed the work for whole person community health.                                                                                                                                       


Justin Merrick

Executive Director

Justin Merrick is no stranger to Memphis. Formerly the Artistic and Operations Director of Stax Music Academy, where he received a Grammy nomination for his work in cultivating the voice of his students, Justin now cultivates authentic voice across our city.  Artist, visionary, servant, and educator, Merrick unlocks the power of civic engagement and ethical storytelling throughout Shelby County to spur equitable practices, economic development, and thriving neighborhood democracies. He crafts an approach based on the conviction that systemic evolution and transitional justice must be informed by personal transformation.  Accolades include featured articles in Ebony and Forbes magazines and most recently Memphis Flyer's top 20 under 30.  Merrick earned his Masters in Opera and Nonprofit management from Indiana University and his Bachelors of Arts from his home by the sea, Hampton University.




Kate Kananura

Special Projects Manager

Kate was born and raised in Uganda and moved to the U.S. in 2007. She attended Union University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership in 2010, then joined University of Memphis to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration. While in graduate school, Kate got opportunities to work with city government and nonprofit agencies that are leading community development efforts in Memphis. After completing her degree in 2014, she worked for the US Census Bureau focusing on Housing and Urban Development projects. 


Her passion for community building led her to join the CTC team in 2016.


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Kayla Smith

Neighborhood Connector, Orange Mound

Kayla J. Smith (she/her) is a Memphian born and raised with a proud Orange Mound heritage. Her family has been in the same Orange Mound home since 1936. Kayla J. is a 2021 Harvard Divinity Graduate. As a M. Div student, she completed a thesis titled “Something is Happening in Memphis”: Black Spirituality and Culture of Resilience in Memphis, Tennessee. She also served as President of Harambee: Students of African Descent at Harvard Divinity and co-led the 4th and 5th Annual Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference at Harvard. Kayla J. is a 2018 Birmingham-Southern College graduate who self-contracted a major in Human Rights and Justice. Kayla J. loves learning from the community who raised her and molded her to live with womanist values rooted in love. Kayla J. also is the Event and Impact specialist at New Memphis. It brings her joy to meet people of all kinds and to be back home in the 901- the most beautiful land in the world.


Kathy Yancey-Temple

Neighborhood Connector, North Memphis

Kathy Yancey Temple comes to the CTC family with over 25 years of experience in community organizing and social services. Born in Memphis and raised in Memphis and Los Angeles, Kathy started her career in Los Angeles as a Community Social Worker with the City of Los Angeles in the early 90s which led her deeper into the world of community activism. After returning home to Memphis in 1999, Kathy settled in her old neighborhood, Douglass, and now works as a Community Connector in the Douglass, Bungalow, Crump & Nutbush areas of North Memphis.



Saint Courts

Neighborhood Connector, North Memphis

"If you don't have a plan for yourself, the system has one for you." These are the words of the North Memphis Native, St. Courts, whose chosen name is after the apartment complex 'Saint's Court'. This is

where he spent his childhood - on the notorious intersection of N. Watkins and Brown Avenue, knowing to see a change where he's from, he would have to first be the change. This led him to become part of CTC. "I always felt nobody is coming to save us, but I never knew we had the power to save ourselves, and the time is now". St. Courts is also a recording artist, film writer, film producer, the President Of PURE HERBAL IMMUTEA, a philanthropist, and revolutionary.

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Shahidah Jones

Organizing Director

Shahidah Jones is an unapologetically Black & queer organizer and an experienced communication strategist. Shahidah has an exceptional talent for using her radical perspective to help businesses and nonprofits develop creative strategies that improve communication efficiency, increase brand visibility, drive engagement and establish strong organizing campaigns. Shahidah dedicates much of  her time and efforts to uplifting the community and fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised and truly believes no one is free until we all are free.                                                                                                                        

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Zyanya Cruz

Neighborhood Connector, North Memphis

Zyanya Cruz was born in Southern California but grew up in Memphis graduating from Overton High School and Cum Laude as a first generation student from the University of Memphis. She has been doing organizing work as a means of survival for most of her life and has always brought her whole self to the work focusing on indigenous identity, decolonization, and solidarity with other groups experiencing colonial violence. She has worked in substance abuse and mental health recovery spaces, as a high school educator, and volunteer coordinator. She co-founded Native RITES, an organization dedicated to bringing together a diverse and dispersed indigenous population across the MidSouth and SouthEast as well as providing knowledge, and tangible steps to be in solidarity with the original and rightful caretakers of this Turtle Island. She is also a skilled visual artist and muralist as well as a jingle dancer and one of the three drivers behind the Three Sisters Land Project. In her work at CTC she is building community with women through self defense classes and is looking toward changing the narrative of community safety beyond police.                                                                                                                                            

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