The Cucalorus Leadership Fellows program recognizes community members who have earned their power and influence. These driven, passionate and visionary women have worked tirelessly to make our world a better place. This year’s fellows are Ashley Daniels, Deborah Dicks Maxwell, Franchon Francees, Lettie Shumate, Lily Nicole, and Sonya “Amen-Ra” Patrick.
Ashley Daniels is the Southeast Regional Director for Carolina Federation/Community Organizer for New Hanover for All. Ashley has worked for the past seven years to bring justice to residents impacted by unregulated pollution, coal ash, factory farms, and climate change. She has previously used her hands as a certified nursing assistant giving supportive care to elders in her community, her head to develop outreach materials and marketing strategies, and her heart to speak with clarity concerning communities impacted by environmental and climate injustice. She is now employing all three to support grassroots electoral power in Southeastern North Carolina. Ashley comes from a long line of deeply faithful rural North Carolinians who were farmers, mechanics, caregivers, ministers, creators, and stewards of the earth. The honor of her ancestors compels her to labor in the place they knew as home.
You can follow her work by connecting on the New Hanover for All Facebook page.
Deborah Dicks Maxwell
Ms. Deborah Dicks Maxwell is the current President of the New Hanover County NAACP and District Director for the Walter B. White District of North Carolina NAACP. The District covers Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender County. The North Carolina NAACP recognized her as District Director of the Year in 2015. Deborah is a retired Public Health Social Worker. Public health has been her passion and career for the past 25 years. The North Carolina Public Health Association named her Public Health Social Worker of the Year in 2009. One of her primary areas of concern is voter education and engagement along with the environment since she lives on the NC coast. She is also an Army veteran, having served in Operation Desert Storm and is a past commander of the Wilmington National Association of Black Veterans. Currently, she is a member of the North Carolina Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. A board member of Cape Fear River Watch, NC Child, NC League of Conservation Voters and Steering committee of New Hanover County— Resiliency Task Force. Deborah has a Bachelor’s degree in Administration and Management from LaRoche University and a Masters in Social Work from East Carolina University. Ms. Maxwell works tirelessly to increase equity and reduce disparity based on race in her community.
Franchone Francees is the founder of Healing Your Almond, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and a Certified Trauma Practitioner and Trainer. She graduated from Bentley University in 2005 with a degree in business and earned a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health in 2011 from Ohio University. Franchon founded Healing Your Almond, a Wilmington-based consulting group, in 2019, utilizing her expertise in both trauma and emotional intelligence to help companies address employee stress and team efficiency.
Franchon is the granddaughter of the civil-rights icon Major General Joseph McNeil. Franchon’s experiences growing up not only on a Native American reservation, but also spending considerable time in rural southeast Ohio, and in and around New York City has left her uniquely qualified to recognize the struggles of many cultures. Franchon is recognized for her authentic leadership and engaging presentations. She uses her well-honed skill as a trauma specialist to help first responders and today’s civil-rights activists heal, connect and optimize their effectiveness in the battles they encounter.
Lettie Shumate is a Black woman, historian, antiracism educator, and facilitator in Wilmington, North Carolina. She is the host of her podcast, “Sincerely, Lettie”, where she educates about history, discusses racial and social issues, and bridges the past to the presen. She doesn’t hold back the truth. Her gift and ability to “connect the dots” is something that is critical to learning from the past. Lettie received her Masters in History in 2015 where she focused on American history and specialized in Black history and race studies. She also completed a Masters in Conflict Management and Resolution in 2020. Lettie is a leading voice in racial justice and history education. She is co-chair of the New Hanover County Community Remembrance Project through the Equal Justice Initiative, and a board member at DREAMS Center for Art Education and the Bellamy Museum.
Connect with Lettie on Patreon at www.patreon.com/lettieshumate and on Instagram @sincerely.lettie.
Lily Nicole is a Wilmington community activist. She rose to the forefront during the protests of the death of George Floyd. She is the co-founder of Wilmington School of the Arts as well as the lowercase leaders. Both non-profits fight for community cohesion, efficacy and inclusion for all. Lily hopes that through honest conversations and demands for accountability, the community can begin to heal and move forward together.
Sonya “Amen-Ra” Patrick
Sonya Patrick is the Southeastern Regional Director of the National Black Leadership Caucus which includes · North Carolina / South Carolina / Georgia / Virginia / Florida / Mississippi / Alabama / Louisiana. She is also a Community Leader with Black Lives Matter and Chairman of the National Reparations Coalition for the Descendants of the 1898 Massacre and 1898 Observance Committee. She also served as the board member for the Reverend Isaiah James Jackson Jr. Foundation Inc. Sonya was instrumental in helping to get the Affordable Health Care passed and was invited to the White House by former President Barack Obama. She serves as the Chairperson for the Congressional 7th District of the NC Democratic Party (the first African American and Woman to hold that position for district 7 of the NCDP which includes Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, Harnett (part), Johnston, New Hanover, Pender, and Sampson Counties) as well as the first black chairperson of Regional Director Region 9 for Democratic Women of NC. She was instrumental in advocating for the Pardon of Innocence for the Wilmington Ten and served as district director of this committee resulting in the Pardon of Innocence was granted by former Governor Bev. Perdue.
Patrick was instrumental in successfully working with the McCrae family to change Hugh McCrae to Long Leaf Park. She is a descendant of four United States Colored Troops. Patrick has also worked hard to educate the community about the current and historical impact of racism. She has remained unrelenting and persevering in her fight for social justice.