D1: Our Community, Our Voice: Organizing and Advocacy in Real-time

This presentation will focus on the community-driven work by The Urban Advocate in Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit V, including the neighborhoods, Mechanicsville, etc. As The Urban Advocate’s work in the community grew, so did the goal of each project, which evolved into re-envisioning community norms to create attitudes and behaviors that revitalize Mechanicsville into a healthier community.

Derek Hersch, MPH (Moderator)

Health Education Specialist

University of Minnesota Medical School

Derek Hersch is a public health researcher who is passionate about community health and social justice. Over the course of his career Derek has worked on a variety of community and healthcare-based projects. He is currently a research manager with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Derek leads the department's evaluation and statistics hub and manages research projects focused on improving healthcare delivery in primary care clinics. He serves on the board of the Minnesota chapter of SOPHE as the Advocacy Chair. Derek lives on the Dakota land currently known as Minneapolis, with his partner Gifti and their cats Asteria and Lentil.

DeMicha Luster, MPH, BSPH, CHES®,


The Urban Advocate

DeMicha Luster is a community-based public health strategist who engages local communities through amplifying voices, Community-Based Participatory Research, and active civic engagement. She is the founder of The Urban Advocate, a grassroots community organization that engages communities civically with equitable, multi-tier solutions and works with various community-based organizations on aspects of programming, outcomes, evaluation, strategy, and sustainability through her consulting group, Alexxus Community Group, LLC. 

A graduate of both Georgia Southern University and Georgia State University Schools of Public Health, she is an Atlanta native who wears many hats. Since 2016, she has worked in Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) V of Southwest Atlanta to alleviate community trauma through gun-related violence prevention with an emphasis on reducing adverse childhood experiences. Embracing creative solutions, she is a champion of community-based equity. 

Telania Thomas-Smith, MPH

Health Education Specialist

Youth Enhancement Services, Inc.

Telania Thomas-Smith is an educator and public health professional with a passion for increasing the social, emotional, and physical well-being of the collective. As a former high school science teacher with an MPH, Telania is shaped by her experiences in the classroom, in the field, and at home(school). Telania enjoys facilitating, planning activities to encourage insightful conversations, and developing tools for sustainable initiatives. Her latest projects include program and curriculum development for an alternative education service provider and coordinating a public health response to gun-related violence.


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13 Questions
0.75 Entry CECH/CPH CE Credit credits  |  No certificate available
0.75 Entry CECH/CPH CE Credit credits  |  No certificate available