Big Election Wins for Leaders of Color in Memphis!

On May 3, 2022, Shelby County, TN residents voted for three Leaders of Color to represent them on the County Commission. We are proud to have endorsed and supported these leaders who are poised to make a difference in their communities! Please see below to learn more about Charlie Caswell, Erika Sugarmon, and Britney Thornton. In addition, the Leaders of Color program supported Shante Avant in her race for County Commissioner, District 5, which she won! 

This election in Memphis represents the core of our work: In a county where 54% of people identify as Black and 7% as Hispanic or Latino, the elected officials were overwhelmingly white. We are working hard to support more Black and Latino leaders in Louisiana, Memphis, New York, and DC to run for office and make changes in the education system so our children can achieve a brighter future.  

We look forward to more wins and greater representation for our communities, families, and children.


Meet the Leaders of Color Shelby County 2022 Primary Winners:

Charlie Caswell: County Commission District 6

Charlie Caswell Jr. was born and raised in the projects of Dixie Homes in North  Memphis as one of 17 siblings. Charlie had many disadvantages such as a high  school dropout, lived in a drug infested neighborhood, son of a single mother,  but that did not stop him. Today, he is husband, father, community activist, author, entrepreneur, Outreach Pastor at Impact Church, and recipient of many  awards; 2021 Community Advocate of the Year, 2017 Visionary of the Year from  Methodist Community Health Network, 2014 Frayser Humanitarian of the Year.  Charlie is  running for County Commissioner District 6. His desire is to help better the quality of life of citizens of his community. Charlie plans to work to better the educational, health, and economic outcomes of our country for all citizens, especially for the underserved.


Erika Sugarmon: County Commission District 12

Erika has been teaching at a large, diverse public school for the Memphis/Shelby County School District for the past 23 years. Previously, she was the Deputy Director of Finance for the Shelby County Criminal Court. She also serves on MSCEA: Political Action Committee Education Board, the Foster Care Review Board, the Youth Village & DCS Respite Parent, and more. An educator in the Shelby County school district for more than two decades, she’s spent many years traversing District 12 listening to your concerns and sharing her vision. Now, she’s ready to take action as District 12’s County Commissioner. Reflecting on being challenged at an early age by her father, the late Judge Russell Sugarmon, who championed social justice and equity for underserved communities, Erika knows that entering public service as an elected official is the most effective and impactful way to voice the causes that the people of District 12 hold dear and that she has been fighting for. Her mother, the late Dr. Miriam DeCosta-Willis, instilled in her the values of family, education, and community service.

Britney Thornton: County Commissioner District 10

Britney Thornton is a native Memphian from Orange Mound. A master social worker, licensed educator, and former law student, Britney has found her passion as a community organizer.  A graduate of Baylor University and the University of Pennsylvania, she has called Memphis home for 32 years. Founder of the non-profit JUICE Orange Mound, Britney continues to challenge systems of oppression by thinking of new and creative ways to address old issues.  Under her leadership, she mobilized residents to invest over $12,200 in spare change to fund community-based initiatives. Innovative, personable, and driven, Britney is ready to be a public servant. Intentionally building relationships across the city for the past 7 years, Britney has become aware of many unacknowledged disparities in our neighborhoods. One theme continues to be clear: we deserve better.

Winning Candidate Supported by Leaders of Color:

Shante Avant, County Commissioner District 5

Shante K. Avant is a native Memphian who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee. After completing her studies she returned to Memphis with the belief that her beloved city had much to offer to her and she to it. She currently serves as Deputy Director for the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM) and manages WFGM’s staff and operations. She has 17 years of non- profit experience, specifically with agencies focused on women and children.

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