Staff & Co-Creators
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.
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.
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.
Moor Ali El,
Neighborhood Organizer and Director of the Youth Neighborhood Organizer Training (YNOT) Program
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 specializes in microenterprise development, nonprofit management / capacity-building, youth development, and technology in education. He is also the Program Director of our Youth Neighborhood Organizer Training (YNOT) Program.
Roosevelt Davis, Neighborhood Organizer and Director of Community Beautification
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.
Justina Thompson, Assistant Farmer
Justina joins us as a current graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where she is studying in 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.
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.
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, 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 is an earthling, organizer, artist, farmer, educator, and student of the universe. Alex has spent 15 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
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.