The staff that keeps the fight for Equity moving
tequila M. Johnson,
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Tequila M. Johnson is an award-winning activist, community organizer, and political strategist whose work focuses on creating equity by increasing access to economic opportunities and civic engagement for marginalized communities. Revered as “The Mouth of the South,” she has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, on CNN, MSNBC, and around the country.
Tequila is the co-founder and CEO of The Equity Alliance, a Black Led Tennessee-based multi-entity network of for-profit and nonprofit businesses designed to equip black people with tools and strategies to strengthen their communities and keep the government in check. She is most known for Building culturally relevant programs and events that center the voices and leadership of those at the helm of injustice. Her work in and for the community has earned widespread praise and recognition. Her awards include the 2020 Roddenberry Civil Rights Fellow, 2021 Echoing Green Fellow, 2020 Tennessean of the year, 2019 Human Rights Coalition Rising Advocate Award, The Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award 2019; Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Superstar 2019; the NAACP Ella Baker Power Award 2019; the Women’s Political Collaborative of Tennessee’s Movers and Shakers Award 2018; Nashville. Business’ 100 Leading African Americans 2018; Nashville Black 40 Under 40 2018; and Nashville Voice’s 2018 Nashvillian of the Year. Tequila was a featured presenter at the 2020 Global Political Activism Summit in Ghana, Accra, in 2019 at the national Unrig Summit, and in 2019 at the Muslim Women’s Conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Tequila graduated from Tennessee State University, received her master’s degree in counseling psychology, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. Additionally, she is a certified project manager and holds a graduate certificate in grant writing and nonprofit, public, and executive management. She serves on the Metro Nashville Industrial Development Board, the sustainable business coalition, and is the Vice President of Rosebank Elementary PTO. When she’s not working, she enjoys singing in her church choir, dancing, and spending time with her daughter.
STATEWIDE ORGANIZING DIRECTOR
Rachael Spriggs is a native Memphian with over 15 years of professional experience in youth advocacy, organizing, overseeing key functions of continuous improvement, and program management. She is a graduate of HBCU University of Maryland Eastern Shore and is extremely passionate about dismantling the systems of white supremacy.
Strongly self-directed, with a drive to continuously improve her team’s performance, she has a proven track record of selecting, training, motivating, and growing exceptional teams. Rachael is a proud member of NAACP and Leadership for Educational Equity. She is a certified Policy and Advocacy Equity Leader who previously partnered with the largest predominantly Black school district in Tennessee to provide project management and program evaluation methods to enhance the performance of schools in the bottom 5%. She is a Leader of Color and a member of Leadership Memphis, with strong ties to her community.
In partnership with her husband, she founded a mentorship program that focuses on leadership development and the character building of Black youth in underserved communities. Of all of Rachael’s accomplishments and accolades, Rachael is most proud to be the mother of her son and daughter.
DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING
Jess Williams is a self-proclaimed Nashvillian, imported from Detroit, Michigan, and a graduate of Tennessee State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications and is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, Inc. Throughout her professional career, she has positioned herself in non-profit communications, marketing, and events.
Over the last five years, Jess has built relationships through advocacy and marketing within the Nashville non-profit community, including working with the Lupus Foundation of America, Mid-South Chapter, and YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee. She is an experienced and dedicated communications and social media strategist specializing in growth and brand management. Jess is proudly one of the 2022 Nashville Black 40 Under 40 award recipients, a Re:Power Women of Color Leadership Cohort alum, and a 2023 Cause Effective Advancing Leaders of Color in Fundraising Fellow. As the director of development and marketing, she oversees partnerships and investor relations to further TEA’s impact and movement for building a democracy where we are all thriving.
REGIONAL ORGANIZING DIRECTOR, MIDDLE TN
Growing up in Tennessee with parents as educators, giving back has always been RaCarol Woodard’s foundation. During childhood, she understood and believed in the power to give people knowledge to ensure a better community, economy, and nation.
A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she majored in political science and minored in criminal justice. Everyone has a calling, and this is hers! As an organizer, she is the bridge to help fill the gap and make sure that democracy is best achieved when everyone participates.
Youth Organizing Director
Kayla Prowell is the Youth Organizing Director who leads initiatives and actions designed for Gen Z. She is a Vanderbilt University graduate who served as Student Senator and Student Body Vice President.
Kayla is experienced in leading large advocacy teams, working with extensive budgets, and building ample relationships throughout her community. She developed a $5 million student transportation assistance fund, as well as a permanent and free Thrift Shop for all students. These achievements highlight her never-ending commitment to serve the community. Kayla is also a LiberTEA Collective Cohort 7 Liberator.
Originally from Oklahoma, Kalen Russell serves as communications manager where she uses creative strategy to support and advance The Equity Alliance’s mission through brand storytelling by managing the newsletter, website, and social media.
Kalen has worked on the communications side of advocacy for several non-profits, using social media and grassroots organizing to scale reach, build partnerships, support voter registration and voter education.
Kalen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master’s in Education from Vanderbilt University. Kalen loves being a part of Music City- namely enjoying all of Nashville’s food, culture, and community!
liberTEA collective coordinator
Terrica Arnold is a Louisiana native who was raised in Georgia. She earned degrees in political science and educational leadership from two Nashville gems: Fisk University and Tennessee State University.
Terrica has dedicated over ten years to community-based minority health disparity research and programming, service learning, and student academic achievement. In recent years, she has supported health equity through policy research and training future minority health care professionals. As LiberTEA Collective coordinator, she directs the program’s curriculum, partnerships, cohort support, and impact efforts.
youth organizing fellow
Born and raised in the South, Devron Burks is passionate about uplifting and supporting black voices, especially those in the South. They attend Vanderbilt University and study psychology and linguistics with a research focus on Black language.
Devron has experience in communications, event planning, strategy building, and problem-solving in leadership and academic research roles. In their current role as an Equity Alliance youth fellow, he strives to contribute to the ongoing pursuit of Black political power and liberation. As a Black queer person, they recognize the importance of community engagement for all, so they hope to use their voice to unite diverse identities within the black community and beyond.
youth organizing fellow
As a community organizer and leading activist in the Memphis area, Richard worked closely with organizations and elected officials on a range of pressing issues facing working class, ordinary people. Following the heinous murder of Tyre Nichols, he spearheaded efforts along with other activist channels to successfully introduce a slate of important police reform measures in Memphis. He has also worked to secure higher pay, improved safety, and safeguard bonuses for Republic Sanitation workers amidst the Sanitation Strikes of 2023.
Richard has advocated for a fair, equitable city budget before the Memphis City Council that included addressing maintenance backlogs for MSCS public schools, vital road infrastructure investments, public housing repair, sustainable investments into MATA to accelerate stop times and address understaffing, and wage increases for city employees. Within his hometown of West Memphis, Arkansas, he’s worked correspondingly with Mayor Marco McClendon to authorize a city-wide purchase of gun locks to address gun violence within the community. He is currently a Sophomore at the University of Memphis, and he’s pursuing a B.A. in Political Science and Legal Studies and eventually a Juris Doctor (J.D.).
He is currently working on developing actions to address environmental injustice in South Memphis, climbing housing costs & corporate landlords, criminal justice reform (phone fee reform, ending cash bail, and ending mandatory minimum sentencing), and farm system reform.