Board of Directors
CEO & Founder
Elaine is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Johnson C. Smith University located in Charlotte, North Carolina. A graduate study in Learning Disabilities was taken at Montclair State University.
She was an educator in Newark, New Jersey for the Newark Board of Education for thirty years. She then became Lead Teacher for Montclair State University’s Pre-Collegiate Teaching Academy in Paterson shortly after retiring from Newark. She remained in Paterson for four years. At present, Elaine is an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University teaching courses related to teaching. She also mentors student teachers.
In 1998– Elaine lost her son to gun violence. In that year 3,792 youth under the age of 19 were killed due to gunviolence, according to the Center for Disease Control. The loss of her only child took a heavy toll on her life. After years of suffering with grief, she founded David’s Shoes a New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation. The program’s aim is to reduce teen violence by encouraging children and youth to honor life. She has developed various programs that give opportunity to students to reflect positively about their lives.
Elaine’s dream is to make David’s Shoes’ full program dedicated to uplifting children and parents, making sure our child have roots and wings. Her greatest desire is to be a vehicle of change to at least one teenager.
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Deborah Lashley, ESQ.
Deborah Lashley, retired in October 2013 from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. She had held the title of Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Juvenile Crimes Bureau of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, located in Brooklyn, New York. She began her career as a prosecutor after graduating from Brooklyn Law School in l979. In l98l, Ms. Lashley was assigned to the Juvenile Crimes Bureau. During her tenure at the District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Lashley has focused on adolescents, both as a prosecutor and an administrator of alternative sentencing programs.
For the past few years, Ms. Lashley was working with Senior Deputy District Attorney Joan Gabbidon in the development and implementation of the Youth and Congregations in Partnership Program (YCP), Gender-Responsive Reentry Assistance and Support Program (GRASP) for the Kings County District Attorney’s Office’ Ms. Lashley oversaw the day to day activities of these programs and also recruited volunteer mentors from faith-based institutions and the community.
In addition to a law degree, Ms. Lashley has a BA in Psychology and an MS in Education. Prior to becoming an attorney, she was a teacher specializing in early childhood education. Ms Lashley also received a certificate from Georgetown University Public Policy Institiute in Juvenile Justice Multi-System Integration.
She was a member of the NYS Governor’s Task Force on Transforming the Juvenile Justice System, the NYS Office of Family and Children’s Services Working Group for parenting and pregnant girls. She is presently on NYC’s Division of Youth and Community Development’s Inter Agency Coordinating Council on youth and court-involved youth and the New York City Family Court Advisory Committee. She was also a member of the working group of the NYC School-Justice Partnership Taskforce.
Rev. Alphonsus E. Platt
PASTOR, NIA FELLOWSHIP BAPTIST CHURCH
Reverend Platt was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was educated in the Newark Public School system where he graduated from Weequahic High School. He has an extensive education and music background. He has two Master’s degrees in Education from New Jersey City University and The College of New Jersey. He also has a Certificate in Christian Ministry from New York Theological Seminary. He has worked as a professional drummer with many well-known gospel artists.
Rev. Platt is a bi-vocational Pastor. He is currently the Principal of WOK Middle School in Hillside, NJ and he serves as the Pastor of the Nia Fellowship Baptist Church in West Orange, NJ.
Rev. Platt has made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people since becoming a professional musician in 1975 and becoming a teacher in 1982. He has been the recipient of many community service awards. He works hard to improve the quality of life for all people. He believes that the healing formula to help our communities is the mixture of God, Education, and Love.
Rev. Platt resides in Union, NJ and is married to Gwendolyn Denise Platt since 1988. They are the parents of two lovely children a daughter Parminder, Marcus, and a Grandson name Gideon
President, Just Us Books, Inc.
Children’s book publisher and author Wade Hudson, Jr. was born and raised in Mansfield, Louisiana, where he attended Desoto High School. He went on to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Hudson worked for several civil rights organizations in the South and was one of the “Baton Rouge Three,” three African American men arrested because of their involvement with civil rights activities in Baton Rouge, LA.
He has also worked as a newspaper reporter, a public relations specialist and served as executive director of Pure Energy Music Publishing, a music publishing company he owned with his brothers. The company gave Madonna the hit song, “Holiday.” Hudson earned a certificate from the Channel 13 film and television program in New York City in 1975. The program was established to provide opportunities for minorities in the film and television industry. An established playwright, Hudson’s plays produced on the professional stage include Sam Carter Belongs Here, A House Divided and A Black Love Story.
In 1988, Hudson and his wife Cheryl, founded Just Us Books, Inc., a company that publishes books for children and young adults that focus on Black history, Black culture and Black experiences. The company is now one nation’s leading
children’s book publishers. Hudson serves as president of the company, managing the business and marketing responsibilities, while Cheryl handles serves as editor. Because of Hudson’s marketing success with Just Us Books, major companies such as Harper Collins and Scholastic, Inc. have hired him as a marketing consultant to boost their sales in the African American market.
Hudson is also a celebrated author. His books have been published by his own company and by publishers such as Scholastic, Abingdon Press and Children’s Press. Some of the books authored by Hudson include Powerful Words: More Than Two Hundred Years of Extraordinary Writing by African Americans, Pass It On, African-American Poetry for Children, Jamal’s Busy Day and The Underground Railroad. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Stephen Crane Award for his writing, and he was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2004. Hudson serves on many boards, including the Langston Hughes Library at the Children’s Defense Fund and he is a Deacon at his church, Imani Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey. He lectures around the country on topics such as writing, publishing, black history and culture and black empowerment.
Shirley is an Alumni of Essex County College, majoring in Special Needs. She desired to work with special needs children in a learning environment. Her Military Educational Background includes: The Department of the Army Non-Commissioned Officer Academy. There, she earned the Commandant’s Award for Outstanding Student, graduated The New Jersey Military Academy, graduated USAR Advanced Retention NCO Course at Fort McCoy, WI., graduated Authorized Facilitator for the Total Quality Leadership Program in Atlanta, GA., and received various other diplomas, certifications and award letters during 28 year of military duty.
She is a mother of four (one deceased), grandmother, sister and Christian. Shirley states her greatest achievements are helping those in distress or in need. Some of her community involvement includes: Church, David’s Shoes, United Way volunteer, Women’s Resources (shelters for battered women) volunteer, and Retirement Services Office volunteer.
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Gercy Jean Pierre
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Stacy Abdul Qawi
Stacey Abdul-Qawi is a retired teacher of 32 years with Newark Public Schools in Newark, New Jersey. Ms. Abdul-Qawi retired in June 2018 as a Computer Teacher from Bruce Street School for the Deaf and George Washington Carver Elementary School
In her years with Newark Public Schools, she taught 7th Grade ELA at Sussex Avenue School and Harold Wilson Middle School from 1986 to 1996; and Computer Technology at Harold Wilson Middle, Madison Avenue and Bruce Street School for the Deaf – George Washington Carver Elementary from 1996 until her retirement.
Each assignment has afforded Ms. Abdul the opportunity to grow as a professional. Teaching Kindergarteners to use technology effectively requires a different set of skills from teaching middle school hearing students which is also different from teaching middle school deaf and hard of hearing students.
Ms. Abdul-Qawi has facilitated many workshops and trainings for teachers on the effective use of technology in the classroom; as well as consulted with school administrators over the years on the best ways to expand each schools’ technology resources.
Ms. Abdul-Qawi has also been active in non-profit work for several years. She has been a member and officer of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc. Alpha Chapter since 2007. As a national organization for teaching professionals, Stacey has served with her talents of computer design and teacher training. Stacey has also worked with David’s Shoes since its inception. Whether it has been selling tickets, recruiting volunteers, or creating computer designed items, Stacey recognizes the need that David’s Shoes fills and works towards the organization’s success.
Ms. Abdul-Qawi graduated from New Jersey City University (NJ) in 1985 with a BA in Elementary Education and studied Computing Education at Teachers College Columbia University (NY). Although her non-profit work keeps her busy, Stacey maintains balance in her life by the enjoyment she experiences with her three sons, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter and close family members.