Our Staff and Partners




The Rev. Peggy Jean "PJ" Craig, Executive Director, joined the Advocate Center for Culture and Education (ACCE) in June of 2015. Before coming to ACCE, PJ worked at the international relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) developing institutional relationships and student programming with universities and colleges across the Northeast. PJ has worked in a variety of different secular and faith-based contexts. As a missionary and youth director, she worked with youth in Laos, Alabama, and Atlanta. In Washington, she worked for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and at the denominational level for the United Methodist Church. Along with her faith-based involvement, she also has experience in education. PJ taught preschool in Alabama, middle school English in Laos, and ran an after school program in Camden, NJ. She is currently working on her PhD in Community Development-Public Affairs from Rutgers University-Camden. PJ received her M.Div. from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University with a concentration in church and community leadership. Her undergraduate degree is from Fordham University in communications and media studies with a concentration in journalism. Contact The Rev. PJ Craig at pjcraig@theadvocatecenter.org .


Adia Harmon, Program Coordinator, is an impact-driven professional with progressive achievements and ten plus years of experience in the areas of education administration, program management and youth development. A skilled writer and lover of everything arts, Adia’s passion for bringing creative visions to life through words and artistic expression has inspired her to share her gift with people of all ages and backgrounds. In her role as Program Coordinator, Adia challenges the youth she works with to march fearlessly in the direction of their dreams and believes that in order to truly transform the mindset of young person, you must first get them to recognize and believe in their own power and ability to be successful - not just academically - but in every aspect of their lives. Adia earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, MD. Her greatest aspiration is to impact the lives of youth in ways that are equally inspiring, empowering and transformative. Contact Adia at adiaharmon@theadvocatecenter.org .







Shamira O’Neal, Mighty Writers North Program Director

Shamira O'Neal, Program Director for Mighty Writers North, is an education enthusiast and a lover of reading and writing. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women's Studies as well as Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Florida International University, in Miami, FL.  While in Miami, Shamira volunteered heavily with Relay For Life as part of the American Cancer Society and worked as a peer educator - participating in women's forums, relationship summits and most importantly presenting information to incoming freshman students about being safe on campus. Upon graduation, Shamira joined Teach For America and moved to Philadelphia where she taught high school, and thereafter middle school mathematics. During that time she served as advisor of the student yearbook, and monthly student newsletter. Shamira earned her Masters of Education degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. Contact Shamira at soneal@mightywriters.org .



Ardencie Hall-Karambe, Ph. D. , director and founder of Arts4All, is an associate professor of English/Theatre Arts at the Community College of Philadelphia, avid artist, and single mother.  She has worked as a college professor for 20 years; as an actress, she performed in NYC at The Public Theatre, Theatre for The New City, P.S. 122 and other theatres; in 2011, Dr. Hall’s musical “Ain’t Nobody…” was presented at TNC by her theatre company, Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective.  Most recently, she adapted and directed “Lysistrata, Cross Your Legs Sister!” presented at Community College of Philadelphia. She lives in Philadelphia with her son.




Sharlena Johnson, Arts4All Drama and Dance Teaching Artist At 25 years of age, Sharlena is a working actor, born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Theatre from Temple University in 2014 and now works as a performer at Arden Blaire Enterprises, an upcoming theatre company established by Ardencie Hall-Karambe'. This is her first year working for Arts4All. Sharlena is excited that she can take her love for Theatre and share the art of acting/dance with our youth. Some of her favorite hobbies include cooking, listening to music, reading and dancing to her favorite show tunes in her bedroom mirror.


Shawna Evans, MFA received her MFA in Acting from Temple University in 1991 and her BFA in Theatrical performance from Eastern New Mexico University. She was a Teaching Artist, Director and Playwright in Residence  at New Freedom Theatre. She is currently a Teaching Artist for Arts4All. Shawna has performed for a number of theater companies such as Big Mess, Theatre Double, Novel Stages, Swerve Productions and The Blythly Way Theatre Company.




Valerie Anderson, We the Poets Teaching Artist Valerie has been an assistant to several of the teaching artist at ArtWell. She has a social work and social justice background with over 20 years experience as a skilled group facilitator working with vulnerable, at risk, and oppressed populations. She is interested in healing from the effects of trauma and internalized oppression particularly in African American families using history, art, and culture. She is such a lover of black history, art, and culture that she has volunteered as docent at the African American Museum of Philadelphia since 2008 and recently became the lead docent for the George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate docent program.

Scott Bickmore leads project-based curricula and workshops in collaboration with area organizations, institutions and businesses. Working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Art Futures program in 2016, he won the People’s Choice Award and the Robert Rauschenberg Award for a mural project involving two classrooms. Bickmore has exhibited and been featured in print, television, and online locally, nationally and internationally.

"I am interested in experimenting and exploring new forms. I want to find new ways of looking at things, and facilitate work with collective purpose and cultural contribution. I enjoy being resourceful and developing creative solutions with materials, production and participation—considering whatever is around, and then reconsidering its purpose and all the things it could be. The charcoal out back is pigment for India ink. Weeds across the street combined with designer scraps from Fashion Week enter an autistic classroom and come out as nests for The Bluebird of Happiness Project. A “French Knot” is braille code on a bracelet introducing sighted and unsighted populations. Whether working with crafts or concepts, I value creative activity as a vehicle for growth and learning, and for forming new relationships with people, material and initiatives alike."


Gregory “Heavy” Deas, H.E.A.V.Y. Founder, Director, and Head Coach, known to many as "Coach Heav" or "Heavy" has been coaching and working with young people for over two decades. Every now and again, here at The Advocate Center, we hear one of our young people ask, "So, why do they call you Heav?!" Fun fact: Heav was a nickname given to him as a teenager to describe his strong passion and involvement with the sport of basketball, a sport he has played on every level through junior college. In 1995, Coach Heav began his coaching career and since then has coached several traveling and A.A.U. teams in and around North Philadelphia where he grew up. In 2004, he started The H.E.A.V.Y. (Help Educate Athletes Very Young) Program as a way to give back to the youth in his community, many of whom still play on the same playgrounds and courts he did as a kid. Through the H.E.A.V.Y. Program, Coach Heav hopes to provide a safe haven and positive outlet for young people in Philadelphia, equipping them with the tools and fundamentals they will need to be successful student-athletes.

Lamar Jackson,  Basketball Coach, is new to The Advocate Center through partnership with Up2Us Sports/Coach Across America. Born and raised in Philadelphia, and a basketball lifer, Lamar has been playing organized basketball since the age of 9. Coached last season as the top assistant basketball coach at Bodine High School for International Affairs. Played collegiate basketball at Shippensburg University and Widener University. Graduated with Bachelor's of Science in Sociology from Widener. Recipient of the The William R.F. Phillips and Joseph R.G. DeMarco Prize for the Department of Sociology. Passionate about basketball, but more importantly how the power of sports and mentoring youth can help them achieve the life skills that they will need to be successful in their futures.




Dasha Saintremy, MSW, MDiv., is a spoken word artist, interfaith spiritual counselor, and poetic preacher who loves to learn the world through the voices of the people as they share stories of their lived experience. She recently joined the Advocate Center after learning about its mission and activities that served the youth within an urban context, which were aligned with her passion and ministry to be an advocate for youth. Dasha has been in Philadelphia since the summer of 2015. Right after she graduated from seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center, she did a short term mission work in North Philly working with youth to build urban gardens throughout the city. Dasha is currently completing a second year Chaplain Residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with youth for over a decade in various capacities as a mentor, youth minister, social worker, therapist and chaplain.

Dasha has developed a creative expressive platform to address the social emotional health of the youth that will frequent the Advocate Center. Through the integration of various skills, talents and training she hopes to facilitate meditation groups, drum circles, and spoken word cyphers as an outlet for youth to begin to deal with their internal selves outwardly. Her overall mission is to do spirit work through living, loving and liberating.

"If you're just listening to the beat then you've miss the message." ~dasaint