Darkness RISING is a mental health 501(c)3 nonprofit. We provide free community wellness workshops, REBUILD, Find Me a Therapist, a Black Mental Health Resource Packet, a Black Mental Health Provider Database, inspirational cover songs, visual albums, and live concerts created by Black Broadway and theatre professionals, many who have experienced a mental health condition. Our goal is to reimagine and provide safe and equitable mental health resources, address issues which directly affect the Black community, connect community members to resources, and erase the stigma. We empower the Black community, communities of color, formerly incarcerated community, LGBTQIA, trans community those with lived mental health challenges, and those at the intersection of these communities.



the health and wellness of the Black community


awareness about mental health in our community


and engage our community via resources, events and services.


the negative stigma of mental health issues


  • Darkness RISING strives to offer a safe space. We are committed to building a space where people can bring their whole selves.
  • LGBTQIA-affirming, Black-affirming space
  • Community-led and community informed
  • People-first approach, strength-based approach
  • Peer support model centering people with lived experience
  • Centering the healing power of joy and laughter
  • Abolitionist re-imagining of the mental health system rooted in community care
  • Disability justice approach centering the needs and experiences of people facing intersectional oppression
  • Community trust, consent, and wellness are prioritized
  • We are constantly growing and evolving – this is a living statement

Board Members

Tamar Draughn, LPC

Programs Director

Sherenne Simon, MPH

Board Member

Demetrius Edwards, MPA

Board Member

Dr. Kalisha Smith

Board Member

Carlita Victoria

Founding Executive Director

Shani Graves, LMHC

Board Member

Cathey Ector-Cox

Grants Specialist

Bryan Parker

Board Member

Jacquim ‘Jacq’ Curtis

Board Member

Tuesday P. Brooks


Lillias White

Advisory Board Member

Collin Howard

Advisory Board Member

Brandy McKoy

Board Member

DR Team members

Antuan Byers

Operations Director

Kyma Lassiter

Community Programs Director

Nisani Lopez

Community Organizer/ Social Media Manager

Nekeyeta Newkirk

Events and Marketing Intern


Cashmere Bentley

REBUILD Program Manager

Jay Giles

Therapist Connector

Bobby Harrington

Therapist Connector

Rodrigue Dorleus

Therapist Connector

What We Do

Wellness Workshops

We offer free wellness workshops throughout the year, including: Meditation, Fitness, Yoga, Adult Coloring, Community Forums & more

Mental Health Resources

Darkness RISING provides free mental health resources including:

Find Me a Therapist
Black Mental Health Provider Database
Black Mental Health Resource Packet
Wellness Workshops

Music & Mental Health

Our Broadway singers perform at live events and virtually, singing songs of hope. Our video series includes singing, dancing + conversations about mental health

Tamar Draughn




Tamar Draughn began her work in therapy with military families with the US Army overseas in Germany. A dedicated clinician. She achieved her goal of providing optimal treatment to her clientele when she opened Phoenix Professional Services in early 2014. Phoenix Professional Services provides an array of mental health and community-based services. Tamar also conducts humanitarian missions to countries where she provides essential requested needs, psychotherapy & groups to those struggling with the effects of trauma. Additionally, she conducts community events “Teen Summits” for teens 2-3 times per year. The Teen Summits are focused on the issues in the community, the needs/barriers presented in adolescent’s development, and ways to overcome them.

Tamar is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Connecticut. She holds her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University Europe, and a B.A. in Psychology from University of Maryland Europe. She is trained and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Re-Processing Therapy and utilizes other innovative models such as Botanical (Horticultural) therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

She has extensive experience in providing direct and administrative services to children and families. While living in Europe, Tamar worked 2 years as a Human Resource Specialist with the United Stated Department of Defense (US Army), and 4 year as a Family Welfare Manager servicing military families overseas. Since relocating to Connecticut 2009, she worked 6 years for The Village as an Intensive Trauma Focused Therapist. Since 2014, Tamar has been the sole proprietor with noteworthy success at Phoenix Professional Services. Tamar provides an array of behavioral health services to children and families in Hartford county. 

Sherenne Simon

Board Member

Sherenne simon, MPH

Sherenne Simon is an artist and public health professional. She is a leader, advocate, and innovator for mental health, health disparities and equity. Sherenne holds a dual MPH in Epidemiology and Health Education and has spent the last 15+ years leading large-scale domestic and global initiatives for Black and under-resourced communities. Sherenne is a Modern and African dancer. She has performed with various professional dance companies. As a yoga and dance instructor, Sherenne has taught students throughout the U.S and abroad.





Demetrius Edwards, MPA

As a servant leader, Mr. Edwards serves as the Chief Diversity Officer at Legal Aid of North Carolina, where he will develop and lead diversity initiatives supporting the firm’s mission to eliminate and ameliorate poverty.

In Mr. Edwards’s previous role with the City of Raleigh Department of Equity and Inclusion, he was charged with embedding equity within the organization and the community. He oversaw issues concerning persons with disabilities, gender identity, race, ethnicity, community health, and social justice.

Mr. Edwards’s proven experience in equity emphasizes the following:

1. Eliminating health disparities and addressing the social determinants of health
2. Explicitly addressing institutional and systemic racism
3. Building inclusive communities through cross-sector collaboration

Mr. Edwards has a passion for embedding equity in all the work he is a part of and looks forward to continuing to make an equitable impact in these areas.

Demetrius is a dynamic leader who has significantly contributed to advancing equity, organizational change, and social justice throughout his career. With over nine years of experience in program and system-level work, Demetrius has consistently demonstrated his ability to drive internal and external engagement through innovative and inclusive strategies.



Dr. Kalisha Smith

Dr. Kalisha Smith, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Use Master Counselor, in New York State. She has worked in the behavioral health field for the last decade, explicitly focusing on substance use, mental health, and co-occurring disorders. Dr. Smith currently holds a leadership role as the Clinical Director of the Bushwick Outpatient Treatment Program with the organization, Start Treatment and Recovery Center. Dr. Smith completed her doctorate of Social Work at Simmons University, with a capstone focused on the impact of burnout on Black Women in Social Work Leadership Roles, and culturally responsive interventions to promote proactive self-care. Her interests include the effects of racism on leadership, mental health and wellness equity, health advocacy, and maternal health equity. Dr. Smith is currently an adjunct professor at Hunter College and Lehman College, subsidiary of the City University of New York. She also owns a private therapy practice serving women of color in New York.



Carlita victoria

Carlita Victoria is a Raleigh, North Carolina native, she attended The University of NC at Greensboro (BFA Dance Performance & Choreography, K-12 Dance Education). A committed mental health advocate, Carlita founded Darkness RISING Nonprofit for Black mental health to create a safe space and mental health resources for the Black community, due to her personal mental health experiences. 

Carlita is a Licensed Mental Health First Aid Instructor and the Chief Wellness Advisor for the Harriet Tubman Effect, an institute of research and strategy for justice advocacy. 
Carlita is also an active performer and certified personal fitness instructor.

Board Member

Shani Graves, LMHC

Shani Graves, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and speaker. She is passionate about providing safe spaces for BIPOC individuals to grow and heal. Shani is the owner of SG Wellness PLLC, a group psychotherapy practice located in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. SG Wellness PLLC provides therapy, workshops and support to adults for stress management, self-esteem, anxiety/depression and interpersonal relationships. Shani has been featured in online publications such as Bustle, Books for Better Living and Allure Magazine. 

For more information: sgcounselingnyc.com 

Program Director

Cathey Ector-Cox

Cathey EctorCox has been involved with youth, community advocacy, and volunteer initiatives for more than 27 years. She currently serves as the Youth Services Director in the City of Raleigh Community Engagement Division, and is a Nonprofit Consultant. 

Cathey oversees the Raleigh Pathways Center, which houses a portfolio of workforce development programs, services and resources meant to increase opportunity and provide clear pathways to success for young adults. 

Cathey plays a vital role in the facilitation, organizing and planning of youth programs, community offerings, and services.  She is knowledgeable in the areas of community development, strategic planning and administrative management.  She works with youth service organizations by finding real time solutions to community issues, while simultaneously working with local government, grantors, and other stakeholders in order to create collaborative partnerships in bringing those solutions to fruition.  

BP Headshot



Bryan P. Parker is a Founding Partner of the Freedmen Law Group, a law firm that takes its name from the Freedmen’s Bureau of 1865. Acting as the Managing Attorney of the firm’s Family Law and Estates departments, Bryan is intentional about using his legal talents and resources to promote racial and social equality.  

Bryan received his J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and began his legal career working in the non-profit sector. He then started his own firm, The Law Office of B.P. Parker, PLLC where his practice areas included Family Law, Criminal Law, Sports & Entertainment, and Business Transactions. During his time as a solo practitioner, he often used his resources to serve traditionally underrepresented communities. Bryan then moved on to the banking industry where he worked as a Legal Compliance Consultant for major banking institutions. 

Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Bryan moved to Fayetteville, NC during his high school years and has been a resident of North Carolina ever since. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in African American Studies. Bryan is an active member of the Charlotte community, spending time mentoring young people, assisting with community development projects, and holding membership positions with different service organizations.

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Jacquim ‘Jacq’ Curtis

Jacquim ‘Jacq’ Curtis is a dynamic lifestyle and partnership marketer hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina. Renowned for his ability in connecting brands with consumers, Jacq has charted an impressive career trajectory, starting in sports/entertainment marketing and making a significant mark in the hospitality industry.

Jacq initiated his journey with IHG Hotels & Resorts, supporting a global F&B relaunch campaign for Holiday Inn. His journey into partnership strategy, global campaign management, and loyalty marketing at IHG solidified his foundation as a strategic visionary. Transitioning seamlessly to Marriott International, Jacq focused on luxury marketing, orchestrating impactful in-hotel, social, and email marketing strategy campaigns for the field marketing team.

Venturing into the heart of New York City, Jacq assumed the role of Associate Director, Travel for lifestyle marketing at Condé Nast, showcasing his versatility and adaptability.  While at Condé Nast, Jacq was able to strategically align travel industry leaders with CN’s renowned portfolio. Recently returning to Atlanta, Jacq develops and executes multicultural strategies for American Express allowing the financial giant to reach Black millennials and gen-z audience.

With a global perspective cultivated through extensive travel to three continents and over fifteen countries, Jacq firmly believes in the power of relationship marketing. His approach aims to build and nurture mutually beneficial relationships between brands and the ever-evolving social society of today.

Bobby Harrington



Bobby Harrington is a single father of two boys from Raleigh, NC, born and raised. Bobby is a mental health advocate and program manager of Restorative Transitions, ReEntry Housing program in Durham, NC. Bobby is a Therapist Connector with the nationwide program, Rebuild. Bobby is a Community Health Worker, Certified Peer Support Specialist, and Advanced Level Facilitator for the evidence based system, Wellness Recovery Action Planning. Bobby has been working in the mental health field since 2014 and fully engaged in the restoration of the black community and healing through mental health recovery.



Tuesday P Brooks, MBA

Tuesday P. Brooks, MBA is a business owner, educator, trusted tax & accounting advisor, and proud US veteran. Her role with a self-help housing advocacy organization, boutique CPA tax firm, and private equity investment firm precipitated the launch of a financial management firm of her own. Her company, AJOY, is committed to improving profitability of micro and small business enterprises. Tuesday’s vision is to foster exponential growth of financially-sound wxmen-led companies that employ, across the US, both for profit and non-profit. As such, she works tirelessly providing direction to aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start and grow. Her keen knowledge in the area of accounting for small business, makes bookkeeping, tax compliance, credit readiness, and cash flow management accessible to early-stage business owners. To date, she has educated more than 2800 aspiring entrepreneurs, and has developed strong relationships with community-based organizations and government agencies that provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs and freelancers primarily through one-to-one coaching, workshops, and business curriculum development. Tuesday is a frequently sought panel presenter and workshop facilitator and has been honored multiple years as a Best For New York Changemaker.

Tuesday holds a Master of Business Administration from Metropolitan College of New York in Media Management, Master of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her financial management firm, AJOY, specializes in ventures in media, sports, entertainment, beauty, fashion, and wellness.

Lillias White

Advisory Board Member

Lillias white

Described by The New York Times as a “one-of-a-kind performer who combines the sass of a classic blues mama with the skill of a Broadway star,” Lillias White is world-renowned for her glorious voice and extraordinary ability to communicate the heart of a song. Lillias joined Darkness RISING as the headline performer in Darkness RISING: Live 4, The Block Party, and has been a committed advocate for Black mental health. 

Her performance in Cy Coleman’s Broadway musical, The Life, won her the TONY® AWARD for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She was nominated for a second TONY® AWARD for her brilliant work in Fela!  Additional Broadway credits include: Barnum, Dreamgirls, Cats, Carrie, Once on This Island, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Chicago. Other Off-Broadway and Regional Credits include The Public Theater’s Romance in Hard Times, for which she won the OBIE® AWARD, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (directed by Phylicia Rashad), for which she won the NAACP AWARD, and the Carnegie Hall Concert version of South Pacific, starring Reba McEntire, which was also broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances. 

In addition to receiving Broadway acclaim, Lillias is internationally-recognized for her TV and film work. Lillias received the DAYTIME EMMY® AWARD for her role as Lillian Edwards for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series on Sesame Street in 1992, and is beloved by audiences around the world for voicing the lead muse Calliope in Disney’s animated feature Hercules. Film credits include Pieces of April (starring Katie Holmes) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (starring Jim Carrey). Recent TV credits include the Baz Luhrmann-directed NETFLIX series The Get Down, as well as Russian Doll and Search Party. She has appeared in cabarets and concert halls around the world, including The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. She can be heard on several Broadway cast albums, in addition to her acclaimed From Brooklyn to Broadway.

Get Yourself Some Happy! which is Lillias’ first solo studio album, is being released on July 23, 2021 via Old Mill Road Recording.  It’s a modern mix of Motown, Standards, Rock-and-Roll, Broadway, and Jazz – all re-invented for today’s audiences.  The tracks all center on the theme of happiness.  Titles range from a soulful When You Wish Upon a Star to a lightning-fast The Twist to a sweet, tender version of You’re My Best Friend.  Her disco-inspired, orchestral You’ve Made Me So Very Happy will inspire dancing, and her tropical Put on a Happy Face will make listeners grin from ear to ear.


Director of Creative Content

Collin L. Howard

Collin L. Howard is a performer, producer, hospitality expert and an overall culture enthusiast. Originally from Piscataway NJ, Collin graduated from the prestigious Hartt School at The University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT where he earned his B.F.A. in Music Theatre and now resides in Harlem. He has performed Off- Broadway, regionally as well as in film and television. A proud member of Darkness RISING since its inception, Collin is an inaugural member of its Board of Trustees as well as Director of Creative Content. He firmly believes in making mental health and self-care awareness more accessible to the Black community; with a strong emphasis in the destigmatizing of addiction.

Brandy McKoy photo 1 in Red


Brandy mckoy

Brandy Dolby-McKoy is currently employed with the NC Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) and has been with this department since 2012.  She currently serves as the Director of the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which was created in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.   She received her BA in Political Science with a Criminal Justice Concentration and has her Master’s in Public Administration and Masters in Education.  Prior to taking her current position, she held financial positions within NCDPS that focused on budget and grant management.  Prior to 2012, Brandy spent 7 years employed as a Juvenile Justice Planner I with the Governor’s Crime Commission.  During this role, Brandy was given the opportunity to speak at several local, state, and national conferences on minority disparities in the criminal justice system.    

Since beginning her career in 2002, Brandy has worked in several community programs directly working with youth such as the teen court program, court ordered community service and restitution program and wake county juvenile court. During her role as a court counselor, Brandy worked directly with the youth in the juvenile justice system and strived to instill the youth she worked with hope and inspiration to become positive productive young adults.  Prior to her starting her career with state government, she spent some time employed with a non-profit organization that worked with the adult offender population and their successful transition back into society.  In this role, Brandy served as the liaison between the identified participants and local agencies such as the US Attorney’s Office, Department of Probation and Parole and the Raleigh Police Department.  All these positions provided Brandy with a thorough knowledge of the adult and juvenile justice system and working with at-risk populations.  

Brandy remains involved in the community.  She currently serves as an adjunct instructor, teaching various classes in government and grant writing.  She served as a volunteer cheerleading coach for the City of Raleigh from 1999-2015 and was awarded the City’s prestigious Fred Fletcher Volunteer of the year award in May 2007.  She also spent time serving on various advisory boards in the community as well as academic advisory boards.  She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.  Her hobbies include, traveling with her husband, shopping, visiting new restaurants and spending time with family and friends.  

Brandy is a published author.  Her first book, “I’m Waiting on God”, was published in 2013. Her second book titled “I’m Just Brandy “Blessed” Dolby, is scheduled for release Spring 2024.  Brandy is a member of Watts Chapel Baptist Church.  Her favorite bible verse is Proverbs 3: 5-6.   “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path”.   KJV

Antuan Byers - Headshot810


antuan byers

Antuan Byers (he/him) is a dancer, creative entrepreneur, and arts activist based on Lenapehoking (Manhattan, NY). He is a high honors graduate of the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and holds a certificate from the Parsons School of Design. Antuan has performed with the Washington National Opera Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Group, has been a guest artist with Keigwin + Company, and performed the solo work Grey” by Kyle Abraham. After touring internationally with Ailey II, he returned to Lincoln Center to rejoin the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where he is a frequent performer. He is also a model with Stetts Modeling Agency NYC.

Antuan is currently a fellow in The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron of the Arts Creative Arts Residency Program where he is a thought partner to Bebe Miller, and Dominic Moore-Dunson. He is a founding member of the Black Caucus at the American Guild of Music Artists, where he also serves as a member of the Board of Governors representing dancers in the New York Region.

He is the proud Founder/CEO of Black Dance Change Makers.



kyma Lassiter

Kyma Lassiter (she/her) is a performing artist and event consultant currently residing Raleigh, NC. She has worked in numerous programming and administrative roles for nonprofits and community organizations across the Triangle area in North Carolina. She has also lent her expertise to multiple financial institutions, divisions within state government and performing arts companies across the state. In the spirit of Black uplift, Kyma considers one of her greatest attributes as being a connector in bridging gaps and bringing people together to assist one another in reaching their goals and achieving higher levels of success.




Nisani Lopez (she/her) is a Caribbean-American dancer and movement creator from the New York Metro-Area. She graduated with honors from The George Washington University in 2020, with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Dance. There, she explored the endless bounds of how bodies interact with space and its influence on the quality and production of movement. When approaching choreography, she explores new and unknown possibilities while widening her understanding of dance origin, history and culture. Nisani has danced for Tabula Rasa Dance Theater, Elizabeth Dishman+Co, Jamel Gaines and Victor Rottier. Currently, she is a freelance performer and dance educator.

Nisani has also studied dance administration and collaborated with companies such as The International Association of Blacks in Dance, EMERGE125, AIM by Kyle Abraham and Freeskewl.





Nekeyeta Newkirk (she/her) is a creative powerhouse, cultural pathfinder,  community proponent, and storytelling enthusiast. A Southern-born, globally-raised, and island-groomed brand strategist and event curator, Nekeyeta delivers original fashion to developing her client’s brand voice and curating both professional and intimate events brimming with creativity and soulfulness. Her deep understanding of style and human connection became a launching pad for her marketing career.

With a talent rivaled only by her unstoppable hustle, the thread that connects Nekeyeta’s work is her goal to inspire, aspire to, and support those often overlooked by society. She is a conscious blend of electric energy, soulful style, and powerhouse genius who is doing her part to build an inclusive platform for untold style stories, including her own.

Cashmere Bentley



Cashmere Bentley, a native of Portland, Oregon, embarked on her journey in mental health advocacy during her studies at Saint Augustine’s University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. With a strong commitment to making a positive impact in her community, Cashmere currently holds the role of Program Manager at StepUp Durham, a local non-profit organization. In addition, she serves as a Therapist Connector and Administrative Assistant at REBUILD, further contributing to her mission of promoting mental well-being. 

As a passionate advocate for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community, Cashmere firmly believes that prioritizing mental health is of paramount importance. Her dedication to raising awareness and providing valuable resources reflects her unwavering commitment to fostering mental wellness within underserved populations

Jay Giles


Jay giles

Jay Giles (they/them) is a dedicated nonprofit professional with a profound commitment to supporting re-entry and mental health initiatives. Based in the vibrant community of Durham, NC, Jay channels their passion into the realm of workforce development. Their overarching mission is to facilitate a seamless transition for returning citizens, ensuring they have the tools and resources needed for a successful reentry into society. Drawing on their expertise, Jay enjoys cultivating a sense of belonging and empowerment within their community. Through their work, they forge connections and provide opportunities for individuals to flourish. 

Outside of their work, Jay finds solace and inspiration in the pages of books, indulging their avid love for reading. Additionally, they revel in the simple joys of spending quality time with their cherished feline companions

Bobby Harrington



Bobby Harrington is a single father of two boys from Raleigh, NC, born and raised. Bobby is a mental health advocate and program manager of Restorative Transitions, ReEntry Housing program in Durham, NC. Bobby is a Therapist Connector with the nationwide program, Rebuild. Bobby is a Community Health Worker, Certified Peer Support Specialist, and Advanced Level Facilitator for the evidence based system, Wellness Recovery Action Planning. Bobby has been working in the mental health field since 2014 and fully engaged in the restoration of the black community and healing through mental health recovery.

Rodrigue Dorleus



Rodrigue, born in Brooklyn with humble beginnings grew up in a community filled with culture. Inspired by his diverse background he always wanted to help people. Working in private security, then the medical field. Driven by true understanding he found a new purpose in the mental health area. Now working with a great team, he is dedicated to changing the perspective of healing within black communities. Rodrigue a father, a son , a brother, a friend on a mission to be part of the solution.