Elle Hearns – Founder and Executive Director

Elle Hearns is an artist, community organizer, speaker, and writer from Columbus, Ohio. She is the Executive Director and Founder of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute and was a co-founding member and former strategic partner of the Black Lives Matter Network.  In her role as  interim Organizing Director, she successfully led campaigns such as, “Raise The Debate” and the #SayHerName National Day of Action.  She is credited for organizing the first ever National Day of Action for Black Trans Women in 2015 in response to the consecutive murders of black trans women. Prior to founding The Marsha P. Johnson Institute and the Black Lives Matter Network, Elle worked for GetEQUAL where she led many campaigns including,  More Than Marriage and Year Without Tamir.
Elle has delivered keynotes and talks at The Movement for Black Lives inaugural convening, Harvard University, Columbia University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Public Theatre, and the The National Lawyers Guild.  She has been honored by the Women’s Information Network and Black Women’s Blueprint. In 2017, she was named to Essence’s Woke 100 and as one of the most influential African Americans by The Root 100.  Elle’s writing has been published by The CUNY Law Review and Ebony. Her work has also been featured in TIMECNN, MTV, The New York Times, Democracy Now, and more.

Eva Reign

Eva Reign is an actress, artist and writer from St. Louis. She previously worked at Condé Nast’s LGBTQ+ platform, them. as Assistant Editor. Her writing focused on trans issues and pop culture. Eva can be seen in Tourmaline’s latest projects SALACIA and Mary of Ill Fame coming later this year.


Aaryn Lang

Aaryn Lang (Brooklyn,NY)  is an Artist, Human Rights Advocate, Public Speaker and Media host who uses unwavering honesty and humor to affirm the plight of black transgender people everywhere. An Ohio native, Aaryn has played a vital part in solidifying and strengthening social justice movements in the United States. From co-founding the Ohio branch of the Trans Women of Color Collective— to working in partnership with the budding Black Lives Matter movement, Aaryn has consistently challenged local and national organizing spaces on supporting the liberation of the black transgender community. In conjunction with her movement service, Aaryn has advanced her work creatively— Publishing pieces in Very Smart Brothas, them., Cosmopolitan, as well as being featured in HuffPost, Mic, Allure, and more. In collaboration with Barnard college, Aaryn co-wrote a PSA equipping people with intervention strategies to defend against white-supremacist attacks following President 45’s inauguration. Most notably, Aaryn hosted the NY Emmy-Nominated PBS series First Person, an interview style series highlighting LGBT stories through intimate portraits of everyday life. Aaryn’s commitment to simplifying challenging social constructs while holding our collective failures with grace has opened the door for various speaking engagements. She has been welcomed to speak on panels, at conferences, and universities such as The White House, Slayfest, Vice, The Claremont Colleges, Columbia, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky, and more. You can follow Aaryn’s work @Aarynnlang on Instagram.

J Mase III

J Mase III is a Black/trans/queer poet & educator that has worked in the US, UK, and Canada on LGBTQIA+ rights and racial justice in spaces such as K-12 schools, universities, faith communities and restricted care facilities. He is founder of awQward, the first trans and queer people of color talent agency. His work has been featured on MSNBC, Essence Live, Everyday Feminism, Black Girl Dangerous, NPR, Blavity, the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Root, the Huffington Post, TEDx and more.

Jonathan Lykes

Jonathan Lykes is a Black queer artist, activist and senior policy analyst. Jonathan’s interdisciplinary approach to art, activism and anti-oppression work, merges policy change, artistic expression and activism. Combining these forms of social transformation—and harnessing their synergy—Jonathan works to create awareness, promote personal healing, surmount institutional barriers and generate systemic change. Jonathan’s current position as Director of the Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network and National co-chair for BYP100 Action Fund situates him to merge his multidisciplinary artistic background with public policy reform, community engagement and systems change work. Lykes is the founder and CEO of JonRah Consulting Partners, an equity consulting firm teaching liberation praxis by pushing the revolutionary edge of systems change. Lykes is also a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), a movement of young adults using a Black queer feminist lens to advocate for community and institutional change, and healing and safety. Jonathan is also the current Artistic Director and Co-producer for BYP100’s freedom song and chant album, The Black Joy Experience, helping to teach holistic energy through the Black radical tradition. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received his master’s degree from the School for Social Service Administration.

Rae Nelson, Organizing Fellow

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