Tyler A Ray
Tyler A. Ray is a 22 year old community organizer and activist based in Philadelphia. His call to be a social activist was deeply inspired by his life growing up in North Central Philadelphia, and witnessing the systematic racism that has plagued North Philadelphia for generations. For the last four years, he has taken a more political approach to community activism. Since 2018, Tyler has been the Ward Leader for the 16th Ward. As a Ward Leader, he has hosted workshops to empower young African-Americans to become more politically involved to potentially run for public office, and helped build positive relationships between police departments and community residents. After 10 years with the organization, he was promoted to the role of Neighborhood Organizer for the Urban Creators as of April 2020. For relaxation, Tyler enjoys urban farming, and riding his bike around the city to visit historic locations throughout Philadelphia. He is currently enrolled at Tyler School of Art & Architecture at Temple University, pursuing a Masters degree in Urban Planning & Architectural Preservation. His overall goal in life is to “design and create a North Philadelphia that is economically stable and self reliant for the current and future generations.
Mari Morales-Williams (She/Her/Them) is an educator, activist, transformative justice practitioner, and grower/herbalist, originally from East Harlem and the Bronx. Based in Philadelphia for the past 14 years, Mari is a former Social Studies teacher and Director of Culture and Climate at El Centro de Estudiantes High School and adjunct professor at Temple University. She is also a founding member of several organizations including Black Youth Project 100 and Educators for Consent Culture. Currently, she is the executive director of T.U.F.F. Girls, and a Farm Fellow at Life Do Grow Farm. As an internationalist, yogi, and prison abolitionist, she has a long term commitment to working with Black and Brown youth and their communities in order to actualize radical healing for the world we all deserve. When she is not on the farm she enjoys making mischief with her cat, ChaChi, reading the works of Black radical thinkers, and watching the Office. Pre-COVID, she also really enjoyed long hugs with family and friends and dancing at street fairs like Odunde. Some day soon.
Free Spirit Team
Robert Smith, Daekweon Walker, and Rodney Turner are best friends, lifelong members of the Urban Creator family, and co-founders of the Free Spirit Cloud Company (FSCC); an arts & entertainment company striving to establish Philadelphia as the Arts capital of the world. Daekweon is the oldest son of Urban Creator’s co-founder, Devon Bailey, and has been a part of building Life Do Grow farm since his childhood. From 2014-17, Daekweon and Robert participated in the Urban Creators summer youth program, stepping into leadership roles at the age of 16. After highschool, Robert, Daekweon, and Rodney branched off to pursue their artistic passions, and in 2019 co-founded the Free Spirit Cloud Company (FSCC) to create opportunities for young and emerging artists to be seen and heard. Recognizing the lack of resources for young Philadelphia artists, the FSCC team came together “out of necessity to create more resources and platforms for other artists in similar situations”, and to “use art as a medium to bring communities together”. Now, Robert, Daekweon, and Rodney are all a part of the Urban Creators core leadership team, while FSCC manages Life Do Grow farm as an event venue. Together, they represent the next generation of Urban Creator leadership, and embody the lasting legacy of the organization as we move into our second decade.
Co-Founders & Co-Executive Directors
Devon and Alex are two of the many Co-Founders and Co-Creators who have played a central role in building the vision, culture, and expression of the Urban Creators over the past decade. Devon and Alex contributed to the physical & business foundation of the organization, but none of what we have accomplished would be possible without the critical contributions of ALL our founding members and co-creators along the way. As the Urban Creators evolves, so too do our roles…..we are in motion…..
Devon Bailey is a North Philadelphia native, family man, and green developer who works in carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, mechanics, and home remodeling. Devon holds his family legacy as inspiration for the work he does, using the skills he learned from his grandfather ‘Ike’ to revitalize his neighborhood, and wisdom gained from his lived experience to inspire a younger generation of creators. As a leader in his community, developer by trade, and owner of ‘The Shop’ on 11th & Dakota street, Devon has been the foundation of the Urban Creators since its inception, building all of Life Do Grow’s physical infrastructure and keeping us rooted in his community. Now, Devon is uplifting the leadership of his son’s who represent the future of his family’s, and Urban Creator’s, legacy.
Alex Epstein (He/Him) is an earthling, organizer, artist, farmer, educator, and student of the universe. Alex has spent 14 years building bridges across differences, organizing radically inclusive communities, and advocating for social & environmental justice. Alex believes deeply in the importance of local action and collaborative leadership, and is passionate about inspiring young people to find their role in creating sustainable social change. As a Co-founder of the Urban Creators, Alex has been immersed in an ongoing process of self-reflection, navigating his role as a white non-native Philadelphian working in North Philly, learning from the medicine of mistakes, and finding ethical ways to leverage his privilege to build capacity for the organization as it evolves. No matter how much the Urban Creators has grown, Alex has remained deeply committed to practicing emergent, adaptive, and collaborative leadership as guiding values towards building collective liberation.
Moor Ali El (Neighborhood Organizer)
Moor Ali El is a community organizer from Southwest Philadelphia, working in North Philly and throughout the city for over 25 years. As a youth, Moor Ali experienced the tragedies of his parents’ alcoholism, domestic violence, and drug abuse. Through his personal resilience, support from mentors, and faith in God, he attended Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), studied Industrial Engineering, and returned to Philly to continue his career in community youth development. His portfolio includes work with Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee, After-School All-Stars Philadelphia, US Small Business Administration, Institute for the Development of African American Youth, Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation, etc. Moor Ali, aka Mark Ensley dba ME IT, specializes in microenterprise development, nonprofit management / capacity-building, youth development, and technology in education. He is also Project Director of MY BAaBEE with The Frator Heru Institute and other partners.
Roosevelt Davis (Neighborhood Organizer)
Roosevelt Davis is a North-Central Philly native, entrepreneur, and community organizer. Roosevelt has spent years advocating on behalf of his community, and working across several different neighborhood organizations to make North Philly a cleaner, safer, and more connected place. On any given day, you might find Roosevelt cleaning the avenue, passing out flyers for community meetings/events, distributing fresh produce, selling merchandise, or mentoring local youth. Roosevelt is a “man of many hats”, and someone who is always trying to make connections for the greater good. Among the many roles Roosevelt plays in the neighborhood, he is a co-founder of the Hartranft Playground Alliance, a neighborhood connector with the Village, and a community organizer with the Urban Creators where he has helped to build and promote our Mobile Market and community marketplace.
DND Farm (Urban Agriculture Mentors)
DND Farm was founded by 2 farmers. Our History is just that, our future is what we are building towards. In 2020, DND Farm co-founders are offering intimate mentorship and growing support for Life Do Grow farm.
Julieta Varela (Digital Platform Curator)
Julieta Varela (She/Her/Them) is a mixed media artist, educator, curator and community organizer. Her social engagement focuses on co-creating sanctuaries. She is the founder and organizer of Amsterdam Collective Casa de Cultura, which is based in Harlem, where she was raised and continues to reside. Amsterdam Collective and Urban Creators have joined together over their mutual passion for creative expression, community connecting and environmental justice. Julieta is supporting the Urban Creators website with the resource database and events calendar outreach and management.
Urban Creator Board
Aarati’s (pronounced Arthi) (She/Her) is proud to serve on the Board of Directors for Philadelphia Urban Creators. She is a long-time organizer, activist, educator and researcher in movements for equity and justice. She currently is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at Dragonfly Partners where she helps changemakers learn to be the most powerful version of themselves. Aarati is a trained community psychologist, who started her career as a crisis-counselor for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. In 2002, Aarati co-founded the Chicago chapter of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, and in 2013 she helped re-launch the Philadelphia chapter of 350.org. Her commitment to dismantling systems of oppression runs deep. Aarati loves Urban Creators because its very existence has transformed Philadelphia. She believes in transformation because she has witnessed it with her own eyes.
Marángeli Mejía Rabell
Marángeli Mejía Rabell (She/Her) is a Puerto Rico-born, Philadelphia-based cultural producer, strategic thinker and community development practitioner whose work is centered on cross sector partnerships and arts & culture as a tool for social change and community self actualization. As Co Founder and Creative Partner of AfroTaino and Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival she curates, designs and executes arts & culture programming, special events and projects for multicultural audiences in public and private arenas. She brings strong skills in developing and leading projects, campaigns and programs that combine business and community objectives and over three decades of experience establishing systems and metrics to measure collective impact. She is also part of the inaugural cohort of the National Arts Strategies Leadership Coaching Training Program on her way to become certified by the International Coaching Federation. Some of collaborations include Pepon Osorio’s reForm at Tyler Contemporary BrideNext, a Building Audience Demand project with Marty Pottenger and Bienvenidos Blancos with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation.
William Tyrone Toms
William Tyrone Toms (He/Him) is the Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of REC Philly, serving as the visionary behind the company’s endeavors. This Germantown-born, Philadelphia native has quickly made a name for himself in our region’s startup community. In under four short years he has grown his organization to almost 20 employees and raised over $3M dollars to scale his socially-driven business model from a warehouse in North Philadelphia to a state-of-the-art facility in Center City. Powered by his innate innovative aptitude, Will’s vision is to scale REC’s model to span across international communities, establishing a network of independent creators that all have access to the resources, strategies and opportunities necessary to own their future. Outside of his work at REC, William continues to serve his community at large as an active member of several non-profit boards including HopeWorks, Urban Creators and the Arts + Business Council. William takes pride in ensuring all of his efforts are centered around democratizing access and opportunity for all of Philadelphia’s citizens.