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Our Team

Our team is the heart of the Memphis 13 Foundation. With diverse backgrounds and shared passion, we continue to honor the legacy of the Memphis 13 and inspire change.

  • Prof. Daniel Kiel – Co-Founder and Board Chair: A renowned Professor of Law at The University of Memphis—Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Prof. Kiel brings his expertise in legal matters to the board. He is a passionate advocate for civil rights history, and his commitment to preserving the stories of the Memphis 13 led him to write and direct "The Memphis 13," a documentary film that shares the experiences of the first students to desegregate public schools in Memphis. His role at our foundation continues to be invaluable in sharing these pivotal narratives and guiding our strategic decisions.


  • Dwania Kyles – Co-Founder and President: A living embodiment of the Memphis 13's legacy, Dwania Kyles is not just a witness to history but an active participant in it. As one of the original Memphis 13, she carries a powerful, personal connection to our mission. Dwania's firsthand experience and tenacious spirit guide her leadership of the foundation. Her enduring commitment to social justice and equality breathes life into our work. Today, she serves not only as our Executive Director but as an enduring symbol of the resilience and bravery of The Memphis 13. Her voice and vision continue to inspire our journey to commemorate this significant chapter of American civil rights history and to spark ongoing conversations about equality and justice. 

  • Dr. Gina Tillis – Co-Founder and Board Secretary, Director of Curriculum and Instruction: As a seasoned expert in instructional design and pedagogy, Dr. Gina Tillis is instrumental in driving our educational initiatives and curriculum development. Her breadth of knowledge and experience in crafting educational content, combined with a keen understanding of diverse learner needs, uniquely position her to lead the creation of the curriculum. Under Dr. Tillis's guidance, we seek to inspire a new generation of students to reflect on and learn from the profound story of the Memphis 13. Through her leadership, we are empowering teachers across the nation with resources that facilitate engaging, contextual, and insightful discussions on civil rights history. 


  • Dr. Archie Moss, Jr. – Co-Founder and Board Treasure: A steadfast advocate for equitable education and a respected educator, Dr. Archie Moss, Jr., brings his wealth of knowledge and passion for social justice to his role as Board Treasurer. His experience in strategic planning and financial management is pivotal to our organization's fiscal sustainability and strategic growth. Beyond his financial acumen, Dr. Moss contributes valuable insights from his own experiences in the field of education, which help us ensure our actions and initiatives are rooted in the reality of today's educational landscape. His commitment to our cause is a driving force in our ongoing mission to honor the Memphis 13 and advocate for equity in education. 

  • Sheri Neely - Co-Founder and Communications Director: Boasting over 15 years of experience in communications, Sheri Neely serves as our organization's voice, crafting and disseminating our mission to a wide audience. Her extensive background working with nonprofits, paired with her advanced business and theology degrees, uniquely equip her to convey our story with both impact and sensitivity. As the Chief Communications Strategist of The Neely Agency, LLC, Sheri brings a wealth of strategic insights and a proven track record in expanding organizational reach. Her exceptional skills in communication and her commitment to our cause ensure that the legacy of the Memphis 13 continues to inspire and educate, reaching ever-wider audiences.

  • Dr. Dee Lofton – Co-Founder and Compliance Manager: An expert in grant acquisition, nonprofit management, and regulatory compliance, Dr. Denise Lofton steers our projects with skill, experience, and a deep understanding of our mission. As a former IRS employee, she brings an intricate knowledge of financial regulations that bolsters our transparency and accountability. Dr. Lofton's proficiency in project management ensures our initiatives are executed smoothly and effectively, maximizing our impact while honoring the legacy of the Memphis 13. Her expertise is instrumental in propelling our mission forward and ensuring our operations align with the highest standards of nonprofit governance. 

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