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,  an impact-driven professional with progressive achievements and ten plus years of experience in the areas of education administration, program management, youth development and a belief in authentic community engagement as an avenue to promote change, Adia Harmon has owned her role as a leader, dreamer, achiever and change agent.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. She challenges the youth she works with to fearlessly march 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. 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 .

Denise Robinson, Program Assistant desires to live in a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect...where a person is free to say what they desire and not be confronted for having a different view point...where peace is not just a word people say but an action they perform.  As the Outreach Coordinator and Program Assistant here at the Advocate, Denise has been honored to work with some awesome people.  She has the privilege of assisting those who are less fortunate obtain what they need in her outreach work.  She also makes sure all the youth and adults are safe and greeted warmly in her work as a program assistant.  She enjoys conversing with the students in the afterschool program.  Even though it’s often not a long chat, she gets to observe their changes in their outlook on life.  When not at work you can most often find Denise watching television with her husband.  She also takes time out to read, and write.  Contact Denise at outreach@churchoftheadvocate.org.


Mamie Mathis, Advocate Cook, is the head cook and kitchen manager for The Church of the Advocate and The Advocate Center. She is safe-serve certified in kitchen management and has been in the industry for 8 years working in various kitchens around the city. Mamie enjoys working with a variety of people as the kitchen operates with volunteers.  When she’s not serving up some of the best food in North Philly, you can find her playing games on Facebook.  Mamie has two adult sons that she a raised in North Philadelphia where she has lived for over 30 years.  An avid sports fan, particularly of football and basketball, Mamie enjoys talking with the students about their favorite players and recent games. She also likes to read urban novels, and unknown to most she is a bit of a trivia buff. Contact Mamie at kitchen@churchoftheadvocate.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.


Jarrett Thompson, Arts4All Drama and Voice Teaching Artist is a singer, Actor, dancer studying to receive a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts via the Pig Iron Applied Performance Theater Company. Jarrett has toured the world singing in South Africa for President Mandela as well as a number of Philadelphia officials. Jarrett has taken his education throughout the years to work with youth through Y.O.A.C.A.P (Youth Outreach Advocate Center and Program)  and the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. Additionally, Jarrett has taught the theater, dance and creative writing processes in the Lock Haven areas before returning back to Philadelphia in 2014; where the The Advocate Center became a new home in 2015.




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.




Jay Beck, We the Poets Teaching Artist Jay Beck is a percussionist, vocalist, drum-maker, songwriter, actor and educator who has been performing, teaching, touring and recording professionally for many years. He has performed with numerous groups including Phillybloco, Croatan West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Psalters and the Carnival De Resistance. He is the founder of Croatan Studio in Philadelphia which seeks to aid resistance movements and develop reconciliation through studying the artforms and spirituality of oppressed, nomadic and indigenous people groups. He teaches West African and Brazilian percussion and has worked for Artwell facilitating The Art of Growing Leaders, Heartbeat, and We the Poets curriculum.


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.



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.


Lavon HowardHigh School Coach, coaches the high school students at The Advocate Center. Lavon loves dedicating his time and talents to youth and being a positive male role model. Lavon is the founder of Path to Greatness, a nonprofit program designed to empower middle school and high school students to be GREAT while in their youth. He implemented the program in 2013 while working at Robert Morris Elementary School through Playworks. In the 36 months since the program was established, 130 speakers have been recruited to speak to over 1,000 middle and high school students. Lavon is also the self-published author of two books: Release (2012) and Path to Greatness (2013).


Dominique "Dom" DennisAssistant Coach 


 Jihad SmithAssistant Coach


 Bob CombsAssistant Coach