2023 Maven Leadership Cohort

2023 Maven Leadership Cohort (l-r upper row) Denise Ghartey (she | her); Brayland Brown (he | him); Marie Vickles (she | her); (l-r lower row) Iman Clark (she | her); G Wright (she | her); Iliana Santillan (she | her)

Meet the Mavens
Maven Leadership Cohort is our signature initiative that engages social impact practitioners in a transformative experience where we learn collaboratively, reclaim our well-being, reimagine and experiment with new practices, and deepen our connections with people who are bringing about meaningful change in our communities. It is a five-month gateway to lifelong support.

Maven Denise Ghartey (she | her)
Attorney & Designer
Ekow + Ama

“I’m a Black queer feminist who happens to be a lawyer.”

Denise has a beautiful voice. It wasn’t long before she had us all singing our favorites and improvising spontaneous arrangements during Maven gatherings. Denise has a way of infusing a vibe that makes us want to linger together and find levity in moments that may be hyper-charged because we are talking about all of the things we are not supposed to in polite company. And while she may be reluctant to accept compliments on her voice, she does not hesitate to use her voice to advocate for those who failing systems impact most: Black women and girls, the unhoused, and system-involved individuals. Her work requires so much. Luckily, she has found a creative expression in her clay-based jewelry-making practice that serves as a powerful outlet. She shares it with other women in movement spaces and the legal profession through workshops that are lessons in jewelry-making and reclaiming a sense of belonging and groundedness.

Maven Brayland Brown (he | him)
Co-director, The Smile Trust
Founder, Visibility 365

“My visibility could possibly change someone’s life.”

If we are honest, our leadership journey is often a series of realizations that propel us forward. The more we learn about ourselves and give ourselves permission to lead from that deep sense of knowing, there is a certain sense of clarity that focuses our values and impact. Brayland Brown knows who he is. As a director. As an advocate. As a trans man. He is a well-respected community leader known for his ability to deliver for a wide range of our neighbors and loved ones. His lived and professional experience now leads him to elevating the visibility of the Black trans masculine experience. Brayland is developing a new digital platform to share the compelling history, achievements, and everyday issues in hopes of raising awareness and facilitating connections nationally.

Maven Marie Vickles (she | her)
Senior Director of Education,
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
Little Haiti Cultural Center

“I want to be in community, learn from, and grow with others that have the same goals and desires to better their communities.”

Marie has such a passion for art and a commitment to artists that it is clear why she wants to increase access for the rest of us. Irrespective of our present connection to the field, Marie believes there is an opportunity to deepen it through demystifying the language, gatekeeping, and biases that often serve as obstacles to having a more than an arms length relationship with Art and the humans who make it. Her curatorial work and community engagement takes an expansive view of what is possible when we throw open the doors to cultural institutions. Marie is exploring the role of allyship in bringing greater ease to working artists with identities that the system did not contemplate but must now navigate.

Maven Iliana Santillan (she | her)
Executive Director
El Pueblo

“Burn-out has become “normalized” and I want to lead by example and find new ways to rest and energize ourselves.”

Like most Mavens, Iliana contests the injustices she encountered so that others may move through our society with greater ease and agency. Leading work that prioritizes self-advocacy and community power-building for Latinx youth and women in North Carolina requires considerable intellectual, physical, and emotional labor. Iliana is an empathetic powerhouse who is identifying sustainable strategies for integrating well-being practices into social justice movement work more consistently for herself, her team, and the community she serves. Iliana is the first North Carolina Maven to join our community of learners.

Maven Iman Clark (she | her)
Teaching Artist
Miami City Ballet

“My mission is to use dance as a tool to help build self awareness, creative expression, and supportive communities.”

To give yourself over to discovery when leaders are often expected to have all the answers can be a liberatory exercise. At 24, Iman is one of our youngest Mavens. She is interrogating her identity and the perceptions of others as she defines for herself what it means to be a working artist and entrepreneur with a social conscious. Iman has quickly made deep connections with a growing community of emerging and established artists who are reimagining how to take up space authentically and craft a practice that contests long held beliefs about aesthetics, power, and excellence.

Maven G Wright (she | her)
Co-founder & Executive Director
Black LGBTQ+ Liberation, Inc. (BLINC)

I curate liberated spaces and opportunities where folx are free to be bold, vulnerable, creative, and joyful.

An established community leader with decades of service in the legal profession, G Wright is learning what it means to begin again. Best known for her long-running performance and visual art series, Thou Art Woman and her LGBTQ advocacy, G is propelled by a wave of goodwill developed from creating a flourishing community of creatives and enthusiasts while she enters into a new chapter as executive director of BLINC. She is a savvy coalition builder, which will come in handy as G builds out a more expansive vision for facilitating well-being, creativity, and civic engagement in South Florida.