Mr. Hollis Watkins, President, Jackson, MS, is one of the co-founders of Southern Echo. He was the first Mississippi student to become involved in 1961 in the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Highlander Research and Education Center, the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network, and the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG). Mr. Watkins is a founder and member of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi. Mr. Watkins is African American.


Ms. Rachel Mayes, Executive Director, Jackson, MS, manages both Southern Echo’s financial structure, coordinates office operations at the central office in Jackson, MS, and maintains communications and scheduling links among Echo staff members. She is a former comptroller for the McRae’s Department Store chain, a former Finance Director for a Jackson, MS community development corporation, and formerly an accountant with the Jackson, MS accounting firm of Wells & Associates. Ms. Mayes is African American.


Ms. Brenda Hyde, Assistant Director, Jackson, MS, provides training and technical assistance to numerous grassroots organizations in Mississippi and manages the training and technical assistance components of two foundation-funded intermediate support programs for community organizations in eight states in the southern region. Ms. Hyde serves as the president of the Board of Directors of the Southern Organizing Cooperative located in Birmingham, AL, as president of the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network, located in Durham, NC., and is a member of the Board of New World Foundation. Ms. Hyde is African American.


Mr. Leroy Johnson, Special Projects, Holmes County, MS, is one of the co-founders of Southern Echo in 1989. Mr. Johnson also serves as Chief Financial Officer and principal resource developer for Southern Echo. Mr. Johnson is a founder of the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network and the Southern Partners Fund, of which he is a past President and current member of the Board. Mr. Johnson served on the Board of New World Foundation and Rural Schools and Community Trust. Mr. Johnson is African American.


Ms. Betty Petty, Senior Organizer, Indianola, MS, is Director of Sunflower Parents and Students Organization, formerly known as the Indianola Parent Student Group, and was the principal organizer of the Indianola Math Games League. She is also an appointed member of the Indianola School Board of Trustees. Ms. Petty also provides training and technical assistance to community groups that are organizing around public education issues in several counties in the Mississippi Delta. Ms. Petty is Board Chair of the Special Education Advisory Panel to the MS Dept. of Education. Ms. Petty is African American.


Ms. Janas Saulsberry, Field Staff Intern, Tallahatchie County, MS, has long been involved in Tallahatchie County as an outspoken volunteer activist in connection with education, redistricting, access to the political process, and other issues of concern to the African American communities within the county. Prior to joining the Southern Echo staff Ms. Saulsberry had also been involved with Southern Echo training and technical assistance work in the county. Ms. Saulsberry is African American.


Ms. Marilyn Young, Organizer, Tunica County, MS, is a founder of Concerned Citizens for a Better Tunica County and Tunica Teens in Action. She is also an elected member of the Tunica County School Board. Prior to joining the Echo staff Ms. Young served on Echo’s Board of Directors. As a young teenager she began to work to elect African-Americans to all county offices. African Americans now hold majorities on the Tunica County Board of Supervisors and the Tunica County School Board. Ms. Young is African American.


Ms. Dianna Freelon-Foster, Organizer, Grenada, MS, is founder and Director of Activists With A Purpose, a grassroots community organization based in Grenada County that works with students and adults to impact education policy formation and implementation in the local school district. Ms. Foster, who has been actively involved in the political process in Grenada for more than twenty years, was elected the first African American and first woman Mayor of the City of Grenada. She is African American.

Student Interns

Mr. Kahlil Johnson, Holmes County, MS, was a student at Tougaloo College. Mr. Johnson was a youth organizer with Nollie Jenkins Family Center,  formerly Nollie Citizens for Quality Education, in Holmes County since his early teens. He is the current Chair of the Board of Directors of Nollie Jenkins Family Center. He was first a student and is now a trainer in the MS Demography Group. Mr. Johnson has also provided training to school administrators on how to use student performance outcomes on standardized tests to adjust curriculum strategies. Mr. Johnson is doing writing, community outreach and technology development as part of his program of work for Southern Echo. He is African American.

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