Organizer Bios

The Julius Ford/Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community

Tem Blessed is a socially conscious Hip-Hop Artist that has been making relevant music with a message for over ten years. Born in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa to Cape Verdean parents, Tem currently resides in Amherst, MA. His music and message is about sustainability, climate change, social justice and is designed to inspire the audience towards positive change and global responsibility. Tem Blessed is Green For All fellow, Artist in Residence, and a Board Member of The Marion Institute. Tem Blessed always reminds the audience that this Generation needs to take action by finding their passion and using that drive to inform, educate, and inspire others to be part of the solution to climate change and other social justice issues. Find him online at

Edgardo Cancel is a Sanish interpreter with Language Bridge and International Interpreters, Inc. A community organizer and father of two beautiful children, Edgardo was born and raised in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico and came to Western Massachusetts in 1987. During his spare time, he also works as a photographer, DJ, and youth organizer.




Lauren Corash is an occupational therapist with a background in massage therapy and acupressure. She has worked as an occupational therapist with populations with neurological-psychosocial deficits and short-term rehabilitation centers. She is also a member of the Occupational Therapy Special Interest Group of Western Mass (OT SIG WMass) for mental health and disabilities. Her passion is advocating for social justice, under recognized populations and building better communities to help build a better tomorrow.  She enjoys traveling and experiencing other culture, is a proud mother of two and spent most of her life in the Pioneer Valley.

Joseph DiCenso is a personal coach, leadership consultant, and social justice activist and consultant. For over 20 years he has facilitated conferences, workshops, and leadership development programs, helping individuals and groups bring more of themselves to life. Joseph lives with his partner on a small farm in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.







John Elmore is a 24 year old Haitian man from Springfield, MA that moved to Amherst in 2012. He began working with the Julius Ford Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community the following year. Since joining the JFHTHLC he has worked with Capacidad, a multicultural after-school program that focuses on celebrating diversity. John was also assistant football coach for the Amherst Hurricanes Suburban League, coaching kids between the ages of 10 and 12, in the fall of 2014. Leadership, integrity, and family was the teaching theme for the season. Recently John has been hired as a Counselor working for the Behavioral Health Network, helping reintegrate kids with mental health issues back into the community. In the last few years, John has started his mission for encouraging and guiding young people toward reaching their goals.

Débora D. Ferreira is an attorney, poet, civil rights investigator, administrator and workshop facilitator.  She is dedicated to diversity, equity, social justice and inclusion and creating a world where everyone can be who they are.  Débora is the Executive Director for the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass).   As the Executive Director she monitors and oversees the investigations into civil rights complaints alleging discrimination and harassment.  She also monitors the search procedures to ensure compliance with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws.  EOD includes the Office of Disability Services which provides accommodations to faculty, staff and students per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Débora serves as the ADA Compliance Officer.   Débora also assists UMass to accomplish its goals and objectives set forth in its Diversity Strategic Plan as the Chief Diversity Officer for the University.  Lastly, she is the Title IX Coordinator for UMass and oversees the prompt investigation into all Title IX complaints (which includes sexual violence) as well as to prevent, stop and remedy incidents of Title IX on campus. She is also a proud mother of two children, an eleven year old and a six year old. She has been asked to be a workshop facilitator or keynote speaker at numerous talks and conferences.

Gopi Krishna AKA Donald Shelton was a co-founder of the Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Project. HTHLP's intention was to help inspire and actualize healthy community building in the region's youth, particularly youth of color in under-served communities of the Pioneer Valley. Gopi has served on the Board of Earthdance in Plainfield, MA Where JF/HTHLC continues to have an annual conference in community building and sell empowerment. He is a husband, father, carpenter, and gardener living on a small homestead in Plainfield, MA.



Amina Jordan-Mendez is an AfroLatina queer woman from Amherst, MA. As a poet-performer she has performed at campuses, community centers, and conferences locally and nationally, for over a decade. Amina has worked for such influential community and arts-based organizations as Youth Leadership in the Arts, New WORLD Theater, Capacidad Multicultural after school program, and the Performance Project's Mural Project. Amina's niche is leading hands-on workshops focusing on engaging middle and high-school age youth develop media literacy, critical thinking, and linking the arts with education. It is her pleasure to be involved with the diverse and inter-generational Julius Ford Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community increasing access to practices of mindfulness, natural settings, and redefining healthy communities with urban and marginalized youth. Future endeavors include a Healing Handbook for community leaders, and an Arts to Education Pipeline Project which she is developing while pursuing her Associates degree from Holyoke Community College.

Tyson Rose is Director of the Upward Bound Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Tyson is an administrator, lecturer, researcher and facilitator who has taught and facilitated numerous courses and workshops which focus on: social justice, critical pedagogy, critical theory, and Hip Hop-based educational practices. Tyson’s research and practice interests include critical theory, critical pedagogy, Hip Hop pedagogy, social justice-based educational leadership and organizational development, and equity & access in higher education. Tyson co-authored a 2015 book chapter entitled: History of Research on Multiliteracies and Hip Hop Pedagogy: A Critical Review in the Oxford Handbook of African American Language. Tyson has served as the Assistant Residential supervisor at the A Better Chance House in Amherst, MA supporting young men of color who travel to Amherst, MA to attend high school. Previously he worked 12 years as a civil engineer focusing on environmental assessment, remediation, and cleanup in Massachusetts and California. In addition Tyson is one of the original members and organizers of 3rd EyE Unlimited, a Hip Hop-based youth advocacy, activist and community development organization in New Bedford, MA. Tyson is an organizer for the Julius Ford/Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community, a community based organization dedicated to fostering social justice and healthy, vibrant communities through critical thinking, leadership development, self-expression, cultural exchange and environmental sustainability. Tyson is an American born Cape Verdean from the Secret City – New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Catherine Sands is a front-line community food systems organizer, educator, network facilitator, capacity builder, and evaluator/learning partner living in Western MA. Catherine brings to her work a commitment to social change and a belief in the potential of groups of people coming together to create powerful solutions to entrenched social issues. She is an adjunct professor of food systems and food justice at the UMASS Stockbridge School of Agriculture. As director of Fertile Ground, established in 2001, Catherine provides school districts with technical assistance in developing curriculum-integrated teaching gardens, mentoring, and evidence tracking programs that unify school communities around growing fresh food and cultivating local knowledge. Since then she has provided technical assistance to the MA Food Planning process, conducting listening sessions with food and justice groups. She is also designing evaluation processes for community food projects throughout the state to strengthen the impacts of their programs to improve health and access to good food. Catherine holds a Master’s degree from the University of MA/Amherst Center for Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on food access and social justice.