MS UNITED FOUNDERS

SANDRA JORDAN

CO-FOUNDER

Mississippi United co-founder Sandra Jordan has worked in government, business, community-based and faith-based local and national organizations in New York City, Washington, DC and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Jordan has written proposals, speeches, and has hosted radio programming and helped communities organize around issues of concern in NYC, the Bronx and Hattiesburg, MS. She has worked with members of Congress, specifically members of the Congressional Black Caucus, state legislators, the White House Faith-based Initiative, federal agencies including the Department of Justice and ATF, and the EPA, as well as other state and local officials and caucuses.

After severe illness, Jordan became committed to the benefits of increased community health through reducing the mosquito arthropod vector. The very fact of Jordan’s survival reinforced her dedication to community efforts in areas that both reflect both her lifelong policy and racial advocacy efforts and her more recent passion for public health. Jordan’s passion is to provide education and, as possible, gift repellents to families who are less protected because of lack of access to pertinent information and lack of resources to purchase effective repellent products.

Most recently, Jordan’s continues her community work as a Board Member of The Family YMCA of Southeast Mississippi, where she provides a platform for community engagement in family health as well as life skills education for children. In August 2019, on behalf of the YMCA, Jordan convened what was perhaps the first Community Engagement Model, hosting families in dialogue and conversation and providing essential information and education cautioning the importance of avoiding the bite of mosquitoes and discussing the various types of repellent products.

Sandra was appointed by Mayor Toby Barker to the Hattiesburg City’s Sustainability Committee and is being nominated to serve on the recently established Sustainability Commission. She is also active in supporting efforts for her home of Palmers Crossing, a historically significant African American community in Hattiesburg, to achieve a more equitable distribution of services including public health, environmental safety and economic opportunities.

Jordan has served and consulted with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), a member organization at that time of the 600+ state Black elected officials who represented districts in 44 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. Her work included policy research and coordinating activities for NBCSL committees as well as establishing a Faith Roundtable to engage faith leaders in discussions around public policy. Working under the organization’s President, she planned and organized an event to bring together nationally known faith leaders and federal government officials to discuss and debate the viability and impact of what had been conceived as the White House Faith-Based Initiative. In policy areas, Jordan was responsible for staffing the Law & Justice Committee and the Science & Technology Committee as was involved in the organization’s efforts related to education, environmental health and human rights.

Among those efforts, Jordan worked on policy issues advocating for better laws in environmental justice, criminal justice reform and strengthening the position of communities to have a voice in government policy. She conceived, developed, helped institutionalize and served as the first executive director of the National Black Caucus States Institute (NBCSI), an institute formed within NBCSL to conduct education and research regarding public policy, in particular examining the efficacy of policy on specific demographic neighborhoods.

Jordan has also consulted under the rubric of the White House Faith-based initiative on faith-based conferences coordinated and overseen by the National Crime Prevention Council on behalf of the quasi-governmental body, the Corporation for National & Community Service (AmeriCorp/Vista), the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Health. Conferences examined practice and policy, were convened in several states to advance local programming with emphasis on children of incarcerated parents, re-entry programming and asset building, under the preface of strengthening families’ success.

Additionally, Jordan was a co-founder of the National Institute for Dialogues on Anti-Racism and Multi-Culturalism, a faith-based group organized within the National Episcopal Church to do educational work in the areas of multi-culturalism, working to construct a methodology toward a truly multi-ethnic/multi-racial society.

During the mid to late 1990s, she also worked as a consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church and previously for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. Her assignments focused on hate crimes and human rights. Projects included work on the historic Vernon Dahmer civil rights case, convening a public hearing led by the Dahmer family with national faith leaders. As a member of a faith team, she helped investigate and coordinate activities related to the burning of predominantly Black Churches in the mid-1990s, coordinating communications between burned church pastors and federal ATF officials. She was a member of the Racial Justice Working Group, an organization of faith-based and community organizations that came together to address many national and international issues of justice. Jordan also worked closely with the United Church of Christ as they launched and strengthened the efforts to institutionalize the concepts and precepts of Environmental Justice. She has worked on efforts to change policy regarding sentencing and re-entry programming with the Harlem-based Community Justice Center.

Previously, Sandra worked in the New York State government as the Special Assistant to State Senator Joseph Galiber, where she worked in the south Bronx on issues of the environment and criminal justice. With legislative counsel on bill drafting, she helped draft the New York Senate’s first cumulative impact legislation to attempt to lessen the number of waste facilities that were disproportionately cited in the Bronx and other high population, economically depressed areas of the State. She was instrumental in working with community activists to successfully propose and receive one of the most prestigious EPA community grants establishing a GIS mapping project at Hostos Community College located in the south Bronx. Jordan has also worked with the community, protesting a large medical waste incinerator with a unique strategy: enlisting a local priest to perform an exorcism, which received remarkable media coverage. The incinerator plan all but disappeared. Her college degrees are in mathematics and philosophy.

Sandra is married to veteran, community supporter and theological educator and pastor, Rev. Nathan Jordan.

MICHAEL MARKS

CO-FOUNDER

Mississippi United co-founder Michael Marks is a former Mississippi Teacher of the Year, National Milken Educator and America’s Outstanding Teacher of the Performing Arts, currently serving as National Executive Director of Schools Against Vaping.

Instructor of theatre for over 20 years at Hattiesburg High School, he directed over 50 productions including The Wiz, which played at The International Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Under his direction, Music Theatre International selected HHS as America’s Best High School Performing Arts Department. His theatre students have originated roles in national shows from Broadway’s Hairspray to Marvel’s Black Panther to NCIS: New Orleans. Under Marks, HHS also became the first high school in America to establish a chapter of Equity Fights AIDS on its campus.

As debate coach at Hattiesburg high School, Marks qualified students to national tournaments in every event. His mock trial teams claimed eight state championships and just as many Top Ten finishes in national competition. Marks served on the Deep South District Committee, chaired The Mississippi District, served as a national parliamentarian for the National Forensic League (now National Speech and Debate Association), and founded the Biloxi Catholic Forensic League.
Marks’s original Hattiesburg High School docudrama, The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water, toured the continental United States, including a performance in Dallas at the National Forensics League Tournament; enjoyed a command performance for Congress; and received the NEA’s National Human and Civil Rights award. The show was recently revived for the 10thAnniversary of Hurricane Katrina and to date has generated over $400,000 in relief benefits for natural disaster victims across the United States.

As former president of The Mississippi Association of Educators, Marks once negotiated a 36% pay raise for his state’s educators. As former Executive Officer of the 3.3 million-member National Education Association, he was responsible for the National Read Across America Program. He represented America at The Education International Conference in Berlin, keynoted the India Teachers Conference and championed diversity via workshops he presented in Barbados. In addition, Marks served as National Treasurer of The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently chairs the Hattiesburg Mayoral Health Council. He also chaired the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education and Sales & Marketing Professionals’ Pinnacle Awards.

A founding director and former President of the Miss Mississippi Pageant Local Directors Association, Marks holds the distinction of having his contestant win the state title for a record 4 times. In addition, he directed the Miss Mississippi Troupe and served as talent coach for Mississippi’s last national winner. In addition to a Miss America title, his former students have also included an America’s Junior Miss (now America’s Distinguished Young Woman) and Miss Teen of America.

When funding was recently cut from the Hattiesburg High School Debate Team, Marks organized Speak Up, Hattiesburg, a community-built coalition that raised $16K to keep the speech and debate team on the road. Speech and Debate coaches from across the country recognized his efforts with their Josephine Dukes National Teacher of the Year distinction. A member of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, he is co-author of the book, Katrina: Ten Years After and serves as a director on the boards for Downtown Hattiesburg, Family Y of Southeast Mississippi, Partners for the Arts, Mississippi Miss Hospitality Competition and is Secretary of the Pine Belt Foundation and CEO for the educational and arts consulting firm Stage, Style & Study, LLC.

Marks is a brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and a lifetime member of the NAACP. For his exceptional community service, he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. He is a former principal of Mississippi’s ADEPT Dropout Recovery School, former Public Relations Coordinator at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, and recently raised thousands of dollars to provide Chromebooks for Hattiesburg Public School District students in order to facilitate distance learning during the pandemic, as chair of the Hattiesburg Hall of Fame. Marks was recently appointed as Commissioner of Hattiesburg Tourism.

With such a long track record for rallying the community and effecting change, Marks is honored to serve Mississippi United as we create a better future together.

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