Board of Directors


Rev. Clyde W. Jones, Jr.

Rev. Clyde W. Jones, Jr., is an at-large Arise board member from Daphne and is the president elect to the Arise Board. A native of Charles City, Va., he is a retired U.S. Army first sergeant with 21 years of service as a signal communications soldier. He is also a Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom II veteran as well as a Bronze Star recipient. He relocated to south Alabama in 2013. Rev. Jones received his B.S. degree in liberal arts with a focus in administration and management from Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y.

Rev. Jones is an associate minister at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Daphne. He also is employed at FMC Agriculture Solutions as a process safety management coordinator. He is the Education Committee chairman for the Baldwin County NAACP and on the Executive Committee for Supporting Educational Excellence in Daphne Schools (SEEDS). He is married to the former Nichelle Barnes of Wichita Falls, Texas. They have three children: Shunika, Micah and Timothy. They also have six grandchildren. In his spare time, Rev. Jones enjoys great food, traveling, live music and singing in the Path to Peace Choir.


Shakita Brooks Jones

Shakita Brooks Jones is vice president of Arise's board and represents the Central Alabama Alliance Resource and Advocacy Center of which she is founder. She is also an adjunct social work instructor at Auburn University. Shakita is a Montgomery native who earned a B.S. in social work from Troy State University and an MSW from the University of Alabama. She also has a master’s degree in public administration and a nonprofit management certification from Auburn University Montgomery. Shakita’s experience as a social worker serving HIV/AIDS patients and hospice clients with low incomes led her to work for more humane state policies as an organizer with Arise and other organizations. Shakita has written for Equal Voice Action about grassroots community organizing work in Alabama. Her work also has been featured in RSVP Montgomery, which in 2018 named her to its list of people in the community who were making significant contributions. The Montgomery Advertiser selected Shakita as its community hero for May 2019 because of the work she does in the community.


Benard Simelton

Benard Simelton is treasurer of Arise's board and represents the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP on Arise's board. He is a Harvest resident who graduated from Mississippi Valley State University with a degree in sociology and served 23 years in the Air Force before retiring in 2000. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked for COLSA Corporation in Huntsville for 16 years, working on the Missile Defense Program before retiring from COLSA in 2016. He is active in the community and his church, where he serves as a deacon. He is president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. He also serves on various other boards and community-based organizations. Benard is married to Elaine Simelton, and they have two children.

Jamie Sledge

Jamie Sledge

Jamie Sledge is secretary of Arise's board an at-large Arise board member from Gadsden. He is a former U.S. bankruptcy judge in the Northern District of Alabama.

Carmen Maria Austin

Carmen Maria Austin

Carmen Maria Austin is a community volunteer representing Mary's House Catholic Worker Center on the Arise board. Carmen retired from the Bellsouth Corporation and later was a public school teacher in Shelby County. She is a member of Prince of Peace Catholic Church and Beloved Community Church. She lives in Hoover.

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Ashley Edwards

Ashley Edwards is an at-large Arise board member from Montgomery. She works as a social worker/investigator at the Federal Defender Program for the Middle District of Alabama. She holds both a B.A. and an M.A. degree in social work from Auburn University. Ashley is a member of First Christian Church in Montgomery.


Susan Ellis

Susan Ellis is a Vestavia Hills resident and represents People First of Alabama on Arise's board. She was set on the path to disability rights activism when her son, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. She saw that Matthew and others with developmental disabilities faced lives with limited opportunities for employment, community involvement or social justice. A former teacher and coal miner, Susan was hired in 1999 by the Arc of Shelby County to create its adult programming. People First of Shelby County was created in 2004. As executive director for People First of Alabama, Susan supports Alabamians who have developmental disabilities with self-advocacy and leadership training as they learn to advocate for their own interests. This includes learning about civil rights and relevant state and national legislation. People First provides assistance with social services, including resources for employment and understanding health care and Social Security benefits. Susan was a recipient of the Community Service Award from the Arc of Shelby County in 2013.

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Benga Harrison

Benga Harrison is an at-large Arise board member from Birmingham, where she has worked in the nonprofit sector for 19 years. She is the director of United Way Hands On, which serves as the volunteer center for United Way of Central Alabama. She previously worked with Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba and with Leading Edge Institute, a leadership development program for young women. Benga received her B.S. degree in psychology with a minor in sociology and a concentration in leadership studies from Birmingham-Southern College. Benga has been married for 41 years to James T. (Tom) Harrison, an engineer at Southern Nuclear, and they are the proud parents of two daughters and a son-in-law.


Kenneth Tyrone King

Kenneth Tyrone King represents Church of the Reconciler on Arise's board. He grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and now lives in Birmingham. Kenneth is a husband, a father and an advocate for people who are homeless and formerly incarcerated. He has volunteered with groups including Greater Birmingham Ministries, Ban the Box and ACT: Action Changes Things. Kenneth was trained in print production and now works in landscaping.


Audrey Noel

Audrey Noel represents Community Enabler Developer of Anniston on Arise's board.

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Tiearra Pettway

Tiearra Pettway represents Bay Area Women Coalition of Mobile on Arise’s board. She is a community advocate who has teamed with Arise in our Medicaid reform work as part of the Alabama Community Health Partnership.


Judith Taylor

Judith Taylor represents Grace Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa on Arise's board. Judith recently retired from full-time employment in pharmaceutical development to focus on contract research monitoring part-time. Her commitment to activism on economic and social justice issues has been demonstrated over the years by events she has hosted or organized for the community. She is actively involved in the organization of the People's Loan Program, Move to Amend, The Sisters, Tuscaloosa's International Friends Program, MOMS Demand Action-Tuscaloosa and many other civic and economic causes.


Tari Williams

Tari Williams is the organizing director at Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM), an Arise member group. She also is co-founder of the Empowerment Alliance, which advocates and educates on criminal justice reform, voting rights restoration, civic engagement and the intersectionality of race and gender. Tari has worked for economic and social justice throughout her career. She began her career as a judicial law clerk and an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore. She has held positions with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the University of Alabama School of Law, where she was an adjunct professor and assistant dean of public interest law. Tari also is a former member of the Alabama Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Tari came to GBM in 2011 to serve as economic justice/systems change organizer. She received a B.A. in psychology from the University of Maryland in 1992 and a J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1998.

Carole Zugazaga

Dr. Carole Zugazaga

Dr. Carole Zugazaga is an at-large Arise board member from Auburn. She is an associate professor and chairwoman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Auburn University. She holds a BSW from Florida State University and an MSW and a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida. Her research interests include homelessness, poverty and health care. Dr. Zugazaga was named a Fahs-Beck Fellow in 2007 and was the recipient of a research grant for research and experimentation to support her study of the fastest growing subgroup of the homeless: women with children. She served as a consultant to the Governor of Alabama’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives regarding issues related to homelessness and also served as an inaugural member of Gov. Bob Riley’s statewide Interagency Council on Homelessness Academic Advisory Group. Dr. Zugazaga was the recipient of a grant from the Alabama Women’s Commission to study the issues that affect women in Alabama with children age 1 and below. She was also the recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Engaged Scholar designation for 2008-11.