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Arcus Center Staff

Mia HenryExecutive Director

Mia Henry (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Mia joined the team in 2014 with over 18 years of experience in nonprofit management, training facilitation, intergenerational community organizing, and civic and history education.

Mia was the founding director of the Chicago Freedom School (CFS), a nonprofit organization that supports youth-led social change and youth-adult partnerships in community organizing. Since her work with CFS, Mia has been a consultant nationally with Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity (SPACEs), and in Chicago with the Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Schools, the University of Chicago Hospital, and the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. 

Mia is the owner and operator of Freedom Lifted, a small business dedicated to providing civil rights tours. She is also the founder of Reclaiming South Shore for All, a diverse, grassroots group of residents committed to mobilizing the South Shore (Chicago) community and institutionalizing systems that promote peace, youth leadership, and political accountability. She has been a visiting lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Harold Washington College, as well as a high school history teacher and International Baccalaureate (IB) program coordinator for Chicago Public Schools. 

Mia is deeply passionate about social movement history, positive youth development, and civic engagement through an anti-oppression lens. She serves on the Boards of Directors for the Mikva Challenge and the Community Justice for Youth Institute.  Mia earned her B.S. from Rutgers University and her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Academic Director

Lisa Brock_2014Dr. Lisa Brock (she/her/hers) is the Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Her articles on Africa and the African Diaspora have appeared in dozens of academic journals and as book chapters. Her text, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution, was co-edited with University of Havana Professor Digna Castaneda in 1998; her latest project is a comparative study of Afro-descended peoples in the United States and Cuba.  Lisa is also on the editorial collective of the Radical History Review and on the Board of the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund.

Lisa has been an activist all her life, from fighting for girl’s rights and black rights in her native Cincinnati, Ohio area and against police violence and judicial misconduct in Washington D.C, to becoming a leader in the anti-apartheid movement in Chicago, Illinois. She lived in Mozambique as a Fulbright Scholar in the 1980s and successfully merged her academic interest with southern African Social Justice Struggles. In the mid 2000s, she worked with others to found the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection (archives) at Columbia College Chicago and led the effort to endow an international travel scholarship there. She herself successfully developed study abroad programs in South Africa and Cuba.

Lisa has maintained strong ties with many of her former students and began a unique networking/leadership matrix to continue peer-to-peer and cross-generational mentoring. As an historian and activist, Lisa is an internationalist who views history as a way to enter contemporary discussions about race, class, gender, and global inequalities, and has for over twenty years been an active Public Intellectual.  Lisa attended Oberlin College and earned her B.A. from Howard University. She earned her Ph.D. in African History from Northwestern University.

Jax GardnerCenter Manager

Jax Lee Gardner (they/them/theirs) is the Center Manager of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Jax joined the Center in February 2016 after five years with Kalamazoo College in the History and Social Science Departments. Jax has spent the last twenty-plus years working in and around issues of social justice personally and professionally.

Originally from Washington, DC, Jax holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Western Michigan University, a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of Charleston, and is a professional Birth Doula. They previously held an ACSJL Staff Fellowship (2015).

Jax’s social justice trajectory has closely followed issues of health and economic justice for women and children (particularly as they intersect with queerness and racial justice). Jax is the Founder of the St. Luke’s Diaper Bank to help combat diaper need in the City of Kalamazoo. 

When they're not busy fighting the good fight, Jax relishes in spending quality time with their partner and two children.

Program Coordinators

Kourtney Johnson (she/her/hers) is one of the two Program Coordinators of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Kourtney received her Bachelor’s Degree in History from Kalamazoo College in 2017. She is currently working to earn her Master’s Degree in Education Policy from American University. She previously worked as a Program and Outreach Student Fellow for the Arcus Center and is excited to serve in this new role.

Before returning to Kalamazoo, Kourtney served as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year Denver, working with her school’s Culture Team, to promote a safe, inclusive, and engaging learning environment for students and their families.

Kourtney’s passion for creating an equitable education system, and all of her work, is fueled by her unbreakable bond with her two younger sisters.

Nichole Real (she/her/hers) is one of the two Program Coordinators at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Nichole moved to Kalamazoo from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2013 and in the past five years has fallen in love with the Kalamazoo community. In June 2018, Nichole earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Gender & Women’s studies from Western Michigan University. She plans to continue her studies in graduate school surrounding Feminist Theory and Pedagogy along with Social Justice Theory and practice.

Nichole has previously worked closely with students through her years as a nanny, an English teacher in China, and her work as a paraprofessional. Now, she’s excited to start this new chapter of working and learning with Kalamazoo College students and the community alongside the rest of the Arcus staff.

Nichole is particularly passionate about intersectionality, educational equity, helping others develop a strong social justice analysis, and queer rights. When she isn’t working, you can find Nichole laughing with her people, talking to her plants, taking Buzzfeed quizzes, reading a book, or listening to podcasts.

Bailey MeadPraxis Center Managing Editor

Bailey Mead (she/her/hers) is the Managing Editor of the Praxis Center. She joined the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in 2016 with more than 17 years of experience in fund development and marketing at organizations that work against violence and for justice for low-income and LGBT communities, women, people of color, elders and children. Bailey also served as the Project Director for the With/Out - ¿Borders? 2016 Conference.

Bailey earned a B.S. in Women’s Studies and English from Eastern Michigan University. An activist in Detroit for more than 20 years, Bailey has been involved in feminist and queer organizing, the movement against police brutality, environmental justice actions, community gardens, literacy projects, and was a founding board member for the Southwest Detroit TimeBank. She currently serves as Board Treasurer for the Can-Do Kitchen. Bailey relocated to Kalamazoo in 2012 and together with her partner, opened Handmade Kalamazoo, a social enterprise dedicated to strengthening the artist economy and building authentic community connections in Kalamazoo.

Bailey holds a RYT500 yoga teacher certification and teaches trauma-informed yoga as an act of resistance and self/collective-healing in a culture of violence, creates safe spaces that attempt to welcome marginalized people into empowered practice, and approaches this work with deep gratitude and respect for the liberating gift of yoga that westerners have received from Indian culture.

Julie Marron-ParkerExecutive Assistant

Julie Marron-Parker (she/her/hers) is the executive assistant at Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. In 1986 she received her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University and her Massage Therapy Certification from Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts in 2001. She has spent over fifteen years supporting a variety of small businesses in achieving their goals including her own art business and massage therapy practice. 

Julie is a long term resident of Kalamazoo who cares deeply for her community and its members. Her passions include women & children issues, restorative justice and exploring the impact of white privilege.  She was grateful to participate in the Kalamazoo Infant Mortality Community Initiative as a member of the community.

Julie’s other interests include being a Mom and a Grammie, creating art, listening to podcasts and canning fresh produce to savor in the heart of winter.