Born in East Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Dr. Mari is a community based healer, educator, and activist. For over a decade she has taught and directed a wide range of programs in schools and community organizations throughout New York City and Philadelphia. She is currently the founder and director T.U.F.F. (Turn Up for Freedom) Girls, an arts based and activist driven community leadership program for Black and Latina youth. She earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in Urban Education from Temple University and her dissertation, Tough Love: Young Urban Women of Color as Public Pedagogues and Their Lessons of Race, Gender, and Sexuality, was also awarded by the Myra Sadker Foundation in 2011. She taught teacher education at its College of Education for several years and recently rejoined Temple’s faculty as an adjunct where she teaches the course, Education for Liberation.
As a wounded healer, Dr. Mari draws from her own healing journey as a sexual assault survivor. This work began in 2010 where she began leading sexual healing and empowerment workshops for schools, community organizations, and spiritual retreats. As an organizer for FAANmail, she has co-lead Philadelphia's Anti-Street Harassment campaign for the past five years, and was a featured speaker at Philadelphia's 2013 March to End Rape Culture. Understanding that state violence highly informs the gender and sexual violence within our intimate networks, Dr. Mari also works on behalf of BYP 100, a national activist organization that uses a Black queer feminist lens to work toward the liberation of all Black peoples.
She is passionate about grassroots organizing with youth, developing healthy racial, gender, and sexuality identities, and creating cultures of healing and resistance within urban communities. She believes that when we build people power with urban youth, we can see them for the superheroes they were always destined to be.