Co-Creators

Staff & Co-Creators

Elizabeth Okero, Director of Operations

Elizabeth Okero is an avid activist for human rights and social justice. Originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island her passion for pursuing equality and fighting injustice began at an early age as an intern at The Rhode Island for Community and Justice. A lover of humanity and Mother Nature, Elizabeth has spent extended time in Kenya, her father’s native country, working closely with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. This led to her connection and calling for the foundation of a humanitarian aid project supporting an orphanage of HIV positive children living in the rural Nyanza Province.  Fighting for equal access to sustainable resources and clean drinking water has also been a passion of Elizabeth’s while volunteering in Kenya. Since moving to Philadelphia she has joined the Reclaim Philadelphia’s Housing Taskforce, supporting equal housing justice and has fallen in love with the “city of brotherly love”. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Elizabeth has worked to fight food insecurity helping deliver 1,500 meals per week to our community in North Philadelphia. In her spare time she enjoys a sunny day at the beach in Rhode Island, reading non-fiction novels, participating in neighborhood cleanups and a healthy morning run as the sun begins to rise over Philadelphia.

Tyler Ray,

Community Organizer and Program Manager

Tyler A. Ray is a community organizer and activist based in Philadelphia, and recent graduate of Temple University with a degree in Urban Planning & Architectural Preservation. 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. 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

Taylor Nickens,

Public Curator

Taylor Nickens is a Philly native event curator, social entrepreneur, photographer, and holistic healer. Simply put, Taylor makes things happen. She is a powerhouse of energy, enthusiasm and valor, capped off with an infectious smile. 

Taylor was sent to elevate her community by sharing her story, creating art, curating experiences that evoke universal emotions, and sharing knowledge about healing practices celebrated throughout the world. 

She is a fountain of new ideas, driven by a sense of community and respect for the accomplishments of those who helped pave the way. Everything she does comes from a place of divine feminine energy, genuine intention, and heart. She has experience producing events and programs for Footlocker, Adidas, REC Philly, and several corporate and non-profit partners throughout Philadelphia and Tri-state region, and has worked with industry leaders including DJ Jazzy Jeff, Bri Steeves, Kur, Christian Crosby, Chill Moody, Paris Nicole, and many more. She is also a founder of her own holistic healing and loose-leaf teas companies: Sacred Intentional Sisterhood, and Rise and Ritual.

Shawn, Farm Manager

Shawn is our Farm Manager at Life Do Grow Farm. He joins us as a seasoned farmer with extensive knowledge and experience on the best ways and practices to work with the earth and Mother Nature! In this role, Shawn is in charge of the production of all seasonal crops at Life Do Grow farm, harvesting, sales, and co-leading volunteers in the garden. In his free time he enjoys punk shows, trips to other farms and farmers markets and spending quality time with his other half.

Justina Thompson

Food Education and Volunteer Manager

Justina is our main facilitator of Food Education and Volunteer experiences. She joins us as a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she received an M.S.Ed through the Education, Culture, and Society program. She intentionally chose to attend school in Philadelphia so she could “connect her passion and experience to the ongoing environmental justice work in the area.” She possesses extensive knowledge on urban farming, having been inspired to work in the field of environmental justice since a young age. Justina served as a youth environmental educator at an urban farm in Albany, NY. She’s taught high schoolers about co-working the land, maintaining greenhouses, turning compost, befriending chickens, and even learning about environmental design principles. That serves as just the beginning to Justina’s passionately pursued knowledge on urban farming and environmental justice + sustainability practices. 

Roosevelt Davis, Community Advocate

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. Roosevelt has helped to build our Mobile Market and community marketplace and, most recently, has taken it upon himself to use the Urban Creators as a platform to beautify his community, and now leads all of our Neighborhood Beautification projects. 

Jatory Foster, 

Assistant Event Coordinator

Jatory Foster, 25, is an assistant event coordinator for Urban Creators. Tory enjoys the art of music thru poetry and being a local DJ. He was raised in north Philadelphia, where his family was involved in ILE IFE and the Village.

Mimi Tran, 

Assistant Farmer

Mimi Tran (she/they) is from Fairhope, Alabama, a coastal town on the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, they are a student at Haverford College (‘23) and the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing Urban Studies and Environmental Planning. Mimi works closely with Justina and farm volunteers, runs the market-stand, and manages the herb garden. As a daughter of Vietnamese and Thai immigrants, her relationship to farming is tied to her roots: she sees food as a language, a maker of identity and community. Through farming, they connect with others, fostering a mutual love of land, earth, identity, and ancestry

Rodney Turner, 

Assistant Farmer & Production Assistant

Rodney is a 24 year old Philadelphia native, currently working as both an Assistant Farmer and Production Assistant with Urban Creators. Rodney has been a part of the UC family since 2015 and has worn multiple hats during his tenure here.

Rodney is a fan of music, visual arts, and technology, and is very passionate about bettering himself and others through meaningful conversations and actions. Often known as the Farm’s ‘Wild Card’, Rodney consistently makes the time to flesh out the needs and wants of those around him in order to intentionally accommodate and support whatever he can. 

Co-Founders

Devon and Alex are two of the many Co-Founders and Co-Creators who have played a central role in building the vision, culture, structure, and expression of the Urban Creators since 2010. Devon and Alex have 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

Devon Bailey is a North Philadelphia native, family man, and green developer who works in carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, mechanics, and home remodeling, doing “everything under the sun except for electric”. 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

Alex Epstein is an earthling, organizer, artist, farmer, educator, and student of the universe. Alex has spent 16 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.  

Urban Creator Board

Jacqueline Wiggins

Jacqueline (Ms. Jackie) is a long-term resident of North Central Philadelphia and now of Germantown, and currently is a retired educator. She has over 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher of English/language arts and social studies in public, parochial, and charter schools. And, she is a retired adjunct instructor of English for Community College of Philadelphia. She has been an administrator at two HBCUs-Historically Black Universities and Colleges, namely, Florida A& M University and Bennett College in institutional advancement. At the University of Massachusetts and Mt. Holyoke College, she worked in residential housing and education. Jacqueline has resource development experience working with many non-profit organizations. In 2014 and 2018, Jacqueline became an elected committee person for the 32nd Ward-11th Division in North Central Philadelphia. She is active with a group called Stadium Stompers that is focused on preventing a 35,000 seat football stadium from being built in a residential neighborhood by Temple University.  As a docent/tour guide, she gives tours of the Johnson House Historic Site and is the founder of her business Wiggins Tours N More

Bridget Palombo

Bridget is a food system consultant. She assists people across the country with identifying gaps and opportunities in their community to effectively solve inequities that lead to hunger. She has a 16-year background working hands-on in the food industry and has garnered accolades for working to increase food security in Philadelphia. She previously was Senior Associate at The Food Trust leading their Community Food Retail program to help launch or grow community-owned and operated food businesses across the country. Before that she was a Community and Economic Development program manager at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) where she implemented strategic initiatives to improve quality of life in Lower North Philadelphia including launching APM’s Food Buying Club in 2014. Ms. Palombo obtained her B.A. in Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College.  Currently she is an appointed member of Philadelphia’s Food Policy Advisory Council and a board member for Neighborhood Gardens Trust. When she is not working, you can find Bridget spending time with her family, tending to a garden, or cooking food.

Veronica Ayala Florez

Verónica firmly believes in everyone’s ability to participate in a greater conversation; one that affects the way we live, and the pursuit to improve it. For years, in both volunteer and professional capacities, she has been facilitating collaborations, organizing and developing strategies, leading creative initiatives, and building the skills of leaders to advance social transformation.

 
A native of Puerto Rico, Verónica has made Philadelphia her home over the past 15 years. She currently serves as program manager for the Citizens Planning Institute, the outreach and education arm of the City’s Planning Commission. Previously to CPI, Verónica worked at Philadelphia LISC, where she facilitated the Community Connectors program and the co-facilitated the Experience Eastern North tour program.

William Tyrone Toms

William Tyrone Toms 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.

Friends of Urban Creators - Advisory Group

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. Marangeli served as a board member of the Urban Creators from 2019-2021, and continues to support the organization as a friend, mentor, and advisor.

Aarati Kasturirangan

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. Aarati served as a board member of the Urban Creators from 2019-2021, and continues to support the organization as a friend, mentor, and advisor.