Board and Staff

Board and Staff

WAF is led by  Melissa Moore, Nijeeah Richardson, and a dedicated Board of Directors. It is an organization that is sustained by youth, donors, and volunteers from the greater Charleston area.

Melissa Moore- Outgoing Executive Director

Melissa Moore HeadshotMelissa Moore grew up in Mount Pleasant, SC at a time when there were no visible LGBT role models, none of their classmates were “out”, and there were no formal supports for LGBT youth. They know, firsthand, how hazardous it is to be isolated when you are young and queer in the south. After earning their Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from College of Charleston, they quickly realized how few opportunities existed in SC for young, innovative people to earn a living doing transformative social justice work. Nevertheless, they made a commitment to stay in SC and devote their life to improving their little corner of the planet. In 2005, Alliance For Full Acceptance took a chance on them and hired them as Assistant to the Executive Director. They then went on to become a Field Director for SC Equality during the Fairness for all Families campaign against a discriminatory constitutional amendment, then Interim Director for the post-campaign transition.

In 2010, Melissa became Executive Director of We Are Family, the only organization in SC that has a mission focused on the needs of LGBTQ+ and straight ally youth. Through their work with We Are Family, they have been a mentor, they have helped countless young people see the value in themselves and their lives, and they are a leader in the work of ending youth homelessness in Charleston, a city where there are no services focused on youth experiencing homelessness. They believe the best leaders come from hardship, and they are committed to doing whatever they can to create pathways to paid advocacy for the most marginalized members of our community.

Other stuff:

  • They play bass & guitar;
  • They have volunteered with Carolina Youth Action Project (formerly Girls Rock Charleston);
  • They are the 2016 recipient of the Center for Women Influential Women In Business “Rising Star” award;
  • They are the recipient of the 2015 Alliance For Full Acceptance Advocacy Award;
  • They are a founder of Charleston Pride;
  • They are a founder of Trans Love Fund, a micro grant program that provides financial support to Transgender people living in SC.

Nijeeah Richardson, LMSW- Interim Director

Nijeeah Richardson is a young licensed masters-level social worker and activist from Charleston, SC. unnamed-9 Nijeeah completed their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in2015 and Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2017 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. As an undergraduate, Nijeeah interned at Time Out Youth, a local LGBTQ youth center in Charlotte, NC. For their graduate field experience, Nijeeah interned at the Freedom Center for Social Justice, also located in Charlotte, NC. They currently work as a behavioral interventionist at Justice Works Behavioral Care in Charleston, SC. Nijeeah is a co-founder and workshop facilitator with the Transformative Teaching Collective, a cooperative based in Charleston that provides social justice education to schools, community groups, non-profits and government organizations. In the past, Nijeeah has also worked as an assistant preschool teacher. They continue to organize and volunteer with various grassroots organization in their hometown of Charleston, SC.

Cator Sparks- Chair

Cator Sparks is the Editor in Chief of TheManual.com. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia Cator attended the College of Charleston where he majored in French and Cator Sparks Tintypelater the American College in London where he graduated with honors with a Fashion Marketing degree.  Since moving to New York City in 1999 Cator has worked in both beauty and fashion PR, which lead to his transition to a full time journalist. Mr. Sparks has written for 1stdibs.com, Elle Décor, T Magazine and The Huffington Poststyle.comVanityFair.comnowness.com, Candy Magazine and Brooks Brothers first Magalogue. Cator finds writing about men’s lifestyle brands the perfect way to continue educating himself and his fellow man through everything from trips to the Scottish Highlands for a deer stalk to digging deep in designers studios for the perfect button or collar.  Cator has been featured for his own dandified style in Ike Ude’s Style File, The Daily TelegraphStylelikeu.com and in Bill Cunningham’s section of The New York Times, Evening Hours. Mr. Sparks splits his time between his apartment in Harlem and his home in downtown Charleston where he escapes with his husband and Scottish Terriers for Southern sojourns and excellent cuisine.

Jessie Parks- Vice Chair

A lifelong South Carolina resident, Jessie Parks moved to Charleston after obtaining a bachelor of arts in imagephilosophy from Clemson University. She hails from a long line of strong, socially conscious Southern women and is passionate about continuing that tradition. Jessie believes that grassroots organizing is key to making her home state a more progressive and tolerant place, and she has volunteered for numerous nonprofits and social movements, including Girls Rock Charleston, and Occupy Charleston. In her spare time, she enjoys thrifting, playing dress-up, and relaxing with her fiance, Scott, and their three rescue critters.

Leigh LaChapelle- Secretary

Leigh2Leigh is a Charleston native and recent College of Charleston graduate with degrees in both Psychology and Gender Studies. Leigh volunteers with local community organizations including Carolina Youth Action Project, Charleston Alternative to Detention Initiative, and Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer. In addition to serving on the board, they assist with Trans Love Fund and youth programming for We Are Family. They are most passionate about prison abolition, queer liberation, and improving community mental health response.

Kris Grafing- Treasurer

Kris has called Charleston home on-and-off again for the past 30 Kris Grafing Headshotyears, and brings to the board over 20 years of non-profit and accounting experience. As a former youth member of We Are Family, Kris is passionate about serving the LQBTQQI and straight ally youth community, and the under-housed in his hometown. When not working as an accountant, you can find Kris out on Wadmalaw Island tending to his chickens and numerous fur babies. Kris strongly believes that Black lives matter, trans rights are human rights, the patriarchy should be smashed, and that the Super Nintendo is the greatest gaming system of all time.

Jonatan Guerrero Ramirez

Jonatan Guerrero Ramirez was born in Celaya, Mexico and moved to the United States at the age of 5. Growing jonatan head shotup in the small town of Waynesboro Georgia, Jonatan was involved in music, theatre and dance where he was even featured in Teen Vogue Magazine and receiving recognitions such as ‘Best in Theatrical Caption” from the Georgia literacy Association. After moving to Charleston in 2014, Jonatan started working in fashion through styling, PR, and special event planning. Some of his work includes Charleston Fashion Week, Lowcounty Live, and Bravo TV’s Southern Charm. While working with the city during special projects, Jonatan became a strong supporter of animal rights, LGBTQI rights, adult education, as well as one of the youngest Hispanic activists in the low country. His passion for children and helping others is his driving force to “Keep moving forward”. www.jonatanguerreroramirez.com Social Media: @jonatanguerreroramirez

KJ Ivery

KJ is a Charleston native, and a current West Ashley resident. He KJ Headshotgraduated from the University of South Carolina in 2012 with a BA in Criminal Justice and moved back to Charleston shortly thereafter with his wife, Sam. He has been working here as a police officer, with a particular interest in improving the department’s policies and relationships with LGBTQ community members. KJ is also a dog dad to an 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier/Muppet mix, Emma, and has a wide range of interests. On any given day, you may find him either out on the water fishing and kayaking or practicing yoga. He also enjoys more low-key activities like podcasts, savoring his eighth cup of coffee for the day, and crafting.