In this Open Letter, Rooted Change—the newest initiative created by The Moriah Group—is expressing its solidarity with Tennessee State Representatives Justin J. Pearson and Justin Jones who were expelled from the House of Representatives over their protest against gun violence. They have since been reinstated, but we affirm their unequivocal right to fight for racial justice and gun reform. We also remain committed to amplifying the pathways of liberation for all boys and young men of color.

By The Field Leaders’ Table

The name “Justin” is a derivative of the Latin and biblical name “Justus,” which means “…just, fair, and righteous.” Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson received the opposite of fair or just treatment when the Democrats were both expelled from the House of Representatives by a Republican majority last month. Their infraction? Breaking the rules of “decorum” during a protest on the House floor where they spoke passionately against gun violence. Justice continues to elude “The Justins” (as they are affectionately referred to by their constituents), and elude many young men and boys of color across the nation. 

We, the members of The Field Leaders’ Table, pen this open letter in support and admiration for the courage and resolve of these two representatives who called out the atrocity of gun violence. We acknowledge the racial injustices facing all boys and young men of color and urgently appeal to like-minded, mission-driven organizations to unite during this heightened moment in history.

As a collective of social justice leaders led by the Rooted Change initiative of The Moriah Group, The Field Leaders’ Table empowers BYMOC-serving organizations to actualize their missions—through leadership and capacity development, and research and policy change, in service of creating systems that support the positive evolution of communities of color. 

To The Justins, we say:

You are serving your communities with the determination and mission of liberation that’s reminiscent of other civil rights activists and leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Ziad Ahmend. You stood resolute against the silencing that marginalized communities and leaders of color experience throughout their lives. You exhibit a core appreciation for humanity, intellect, and the wisdom of your elders. You demonstrate the likeness of icons who are on a mission; who are encouraging peace, respect, and dignity; and who are manifesting love. 

Furthermore, your expulsion shined a light on the white supremacist ideology that still permeates American politics. White supremacist ideals are perpetuating an exponential growth of domestic terrorism and nationalism that is being willfully ignored. In fact, community violence has become a daily norm and mass shootings have become a household term radicalizing and dividing our communities. Both are seemingly sanctioned and encouraged by members of our own government. Your protest calls attention to the broader systems and structures that empower and motivate extremists through relaxed gun laws. 

According to the Center for American Progress, Americans of color (ages 15 to 34) experience the highest rates of gun homicides across all demographics. The gun and whoever wields it has become the judge, the jury, and grievously, the executioner—far too often. Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide, and they are twice as likely as white Americans to die from gun violence. If we reenacted a federal assault weapons ban, researchers estimate that we would see 70% fewer mass shooting deaths. Yet, our legislators and leaders continue to offer their thoughts and prayers instead of enacting systems change and policy reform.

We, The Field Leaders’ Table, want Representatives Jones and Pearson to know that we see you, we hear you, and we offer our unyielding support—as we do for all boys and young men of color striving to realize freedom and reclaim their humanity. You are now the torchbearers in the struggle for social equality. We encourage you to call out the legacy of white supremacy whenever it attempts to stifle the voices of young men and boys of color in leadership—and in life. We salute you for boldly speaking on the sickening realities and trauma inflicted on communities due to gun proliferation. And we stand with you in demanding the immediate enactment of gun reform policies.

To local and national organizations, we say:  

Remain committed to amplifying pathways of liberation for boys and young men of color and join us in our efforts to build a coalition of support for all of “The Justins” we know and love in our communities by:

Through Rooted Change’s work with boys and young men of color, we recognize that we are partnering with current generations who are The Justins of tomorrow: men who will stand up to issues that are important to their communities, despite the oppositional white power forces at play. We applaud how The Justins handled adversity in stride and remained unequivocally solid—proving intellectual power can confront and challenge and match white supremacy. 

Representatives Pearson and Jones, we affirm your unequivocal right to confront and challenge adversaries. We see you and we are here for you as leaders who understand your fight for justice. And in this moment, we tip our hats in your honor for being legislators who won’t back down, truth tellers who won’t give in, and audacious men of color who won’t give up. You are the brilliance all boys and young men of color embody. 

In solidarity,

As Senior Director of Executives’ Alliance (EA), now housed within The Moriah Group, Ericka facilitates a network of philanthropic and field leaders to collectively dismantle the systems and narratives that traumatize young people of color. Her expertise spans education, philanthropy, health, community development, and direct service in nonprofit leadership. She is also deeply passionate about uplifting, empowering, and healing communities of color. 

Learn more about Ericka in this Q&A, and say hello at

Tell us about yourself.

I am the daughter of Renee, granddaughter of Juanita, great-granddaughter of Addie Lou, and great-great-granddaughter of Georgianna. I was raised in Washington, D.C., primarily by my grandmother, so I embody the old school values of fairness, community, service, hard work, integrity, and family. Because of this grounding, I am a truth seeker and lifelong advocate of justice and equity. My education at Howard University (proud Bison for life!) incubated me—fortifying a deep understanding of my history and my gifts. As a mother of two daughters and a son, it is my personal responsibility to use those gifts to make this world better for them and for future generations. The spiritual and emotional health of our communities is also important to me. I am a Reiki Master and avid learner of various healing modalities. And I love live music, a great movie or book, and time near any body of water.

Describe some of the previous experiences that bring you to this work.

I have spent the past 25 years in service-centered roles and leadership positions working with both national grasstops and local, grassroots community members. This includes serving on various boards such as the D5 Coalition—a five-year initiative aimed at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy. My expertise spans organizational development and governance; to building and strengthening leaders; to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). In my professional career, I have often been the only woman, the only person of color, or both at many tables. I know firsthand how it feels to be invisible, labeled, overlooked, and oppressed. I also know about the brilliance that is ignored and untapped in communities of color. In recognition of my advocacy for equitable opportunities for women, children, and communities, I was a 2021 recipient of the YWCA of Greater Charleston’s “What Women Bring” Award. 

What are you passionate about?

I am a student of social justice and a staunch believer that those living through complex societal and systemic inequalities should be the architects of the solutions that will improve their futures. They deserve a seat at the table and their voices deserve to be heard. I am also passionate about coaching and inspiring individuals to reclaim their power and embrace their personal and professional potential. 

What inspires you about EA?

I am deeply inspired by the potential for youth of color to thrive as they see fit. Through the EA model, national philanthropic, advocacy, and nonprofit leaders will collaborate to set the stage for thriving by dismantling the systems and narratives that oppress communities of color. And I am excited about the opportunity to fuse my personal values, lived experiences, and professional expertise to drive systems change and liberation for communities of color.

What does thriving mean to you?

The ability to thrive is a basic right that allows individuals to lead secure and prosperous lives as they define it. Thriving means thatthroughout their livespeople have equitable access to supports such as affordable and quality healthcare, housing, education, safe neighborhoods, and careers where they are paid based on knowledge rather than gender. These types of supports allow individuals, families, and communities to thrive emotionally, economically, physically, spiritually, and mentally.