• Mission-Driven Professionals, Dedicated to Transforming Your Organization 

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    The Collective brings decades of experience to our mission: to create inclusive, equitable and welcoming communities and work environments for all. We believe all humans deserve to live a wholesome life, free from violence and abuse, and work in an environment where they are seen, valued, heard, and respected; therefore, we collaborate with our clients to disrupt and dismantle practices and policies that perpetuate anti-Blackness, racism, and other forms of isms.


    We believe it’s never about individuals and organizations not having the ability to disrupt unfair and harmful practices and policies; the fact is, some people choose to support and maintain the status quo that benefits some at the expense of others.


  • Our work is informed by our lived experiences, history, empirical research, diverse cultures, and stories shared by individuals and communities most impacted by anti-Blackness, racial inequities, institutional racism, and other isms.


    Our roots and lived experiences give us a unique understanding of the plight of people of color and the realities and practices needed to achieve equity, wellness, healing, and liberation. The TISC team has over 50 years of experience working with and supporting thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations committed to advancing social justice.

  • Founding Director

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    Arlene Vassell

    Arlene is a proud immigrant, born in Jamaica, a mother, an Auntie to many, a mentor, a self-published author, a hope dealer, and a joy seeker. She is a nationally recognized trailblazer, speaker, trainer, facilitator and thought leader, who has devoted her entire career to ending and preventing gender- based violence (GBV), disrupting systems and structures of inequalities and oppression, promoting leadership advancement of people of color, and developing equity centered, trauma-informed, culturally relevant programming.


    For over 25 years, Arlene has worked alongside and on behalf of individuals whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, homelessness, human trafficking, substance use, poverty, and other life altering situations. Her “formal” advocacy work began in Virginia at the YWCA Women’s Advocacy Program. She later worked at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Most recently, she served as Interim CEO and Vice President of Programs, Prevention and Social Change at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). Prior to joining NRCDV as staff in 2015, she served as Vice-Chair of NRCDV’s Board of Directors for several years.


    Arlene has provided thousands of hours of trainings and comprehensive capacity building support to individuals, government agencies, non-profit organizations, state level coalitions, and community- based organizations on topics related to implementing survivor-centered, trauma informed, evidence-based, equity-centered policies and practices. Additionally, she has successfully developed and implemented dozens of programs and initiatives intended to prevent intimate partner violence, shift organizational cultures, and accelerate mindset and behavior changes on all levels.


    Arlene’s commitment to dismantling inequitable systems and supporting survivors of GBV have been highlighted in numerous publications and articles. She has also served on various community-based, state-level and national committees and workgroups and has received many recognitions and awards for her advocacy work.

  • Advisors

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    Umi Hankins

    Umi Hankins has nearly 50 years of leadership experience in the anti-violence against women field leading efforts to empower and uplift the status of women and girls. She co-founded and is currently the Executive Director of the National Institute of Transformation and Healing in the Black Community LLC (NITHBC) and for the Black Sage Collective, a Michigan non-profit organization. She is the Senior Advisor for Ujima. Inc: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community and for the National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Abuse. Umi is a Training Director for the State of Michigan Division of Victim Services.


    She served as the Co-Executive Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at the University of Minnesota, an organization that she also co-founded. Umi has held the following additional leadership positions: Project Director for the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, in Lansing, Michigan; Vice President of Programs for HAVEN in Oakland County, Michigan; Project Director for Laurel Consulting Group in Laurel, Maryland; and Administrator of the STOP Violence Against Women Grant for the State of Florida’s Governor’s Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Tallahassee, Florida. Additionally, she has held the position of Executive Director of Detroit Women’s Justice Center, and of the Downtown and Northwest Branches of the YWCA of Metropolitan Detroit.

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    Nkiru Nnawulezi

    Dr. Nkiru Nnawulezi is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Affiliate Faculty at Yale School of Public Health. She earned her doctorate in Ecological- Community Psychology at the Michigan State University and has additional graduate certifications in college teaching, community engagement, and quantitative research methods. Her research examines the ecological factors that enhance equity within and across the

    domestic violence housing continuum. She aims to improve the social and material conditions for survivors of gender-based violence who occupy multiply marginalized social identities. Dr. Nnawulezi also seeks to develop sustainable survivor-centered, community-based systems of support that can serve as alternatives to traditional social service systems. Her work has been

    funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, State of Michigan, and Center for Victim Research.


    She is an award-winning researcher and mentor and has disseminated her

    scholarship to academic, policy, and community audiences. As an expert in community-based, participatory research and trained facilitator, Dr. Nnawulezi designs participatory research processes with community partners to find innovative solutions to complex social problems. She serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Family Violence and is on the editorial board of

    the Community Psychology in the Global Perspective Journal. She is also a Research and Evaluation Advisor to multiple systems change organizations such as the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community.

  • Facilitators

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    Rachel Gibson

    Rachel is a dynamic advocate, public speaker, trainer and technical assistance provider where she has provided training to over 1,000 victim service providers, community-based organizations, law enforcement, judges and more on topics related to, but not limited to gender-based violence, technology facilitated crimes, serving communities of color, and victim service provision. Rachel is the founder of RG Williams Consulting and has served as an expert in gender-based violence, technology-facilitated crimes, poly-victimization and serving communities of color related to victim services around technology and community coordinated efforts. She provides technical assistance, subject matter expertise, content creation, training and more.


    Rachel is formerly the Director of the Center for Victim Service Professionals at the National Center for Victims of Crime, where she worked to further the mission to identify the needs and gaps of professionals in the field, through technical assistance, resources, training and support. She provided training and technical assistance for victim advocates, law enforcement, service providers, and any allied professional that a victim of crime may work with. Rachel also worked at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, on the Safety Net Team, the National Resource Center on Reaching Victims through the Vera Institute of Justice, and at the former Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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    Joyce L. Kyles

    Joyce Kyles is an award-winning, global speaker, 2x Amazon best-selling author, ICF-trained master certified coach, CEO of Joyce Kyles Consulting LLC, and the Executive Director and founder of Walking Into A New Life. Her local, national, and international training, coaching, facilitating, and course creation experience and clientele include nonprofits, corporations, military installations, law enforcement, high schools, colleges, universities, faith-based communities, and social/civic organizations.


    A graduate of Arkansas State University, Joyce has received certifications in Women’s Entrepreneurship, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mental Health First Aid US, and gender-based violence. Her humbling accolades and published work include features in Huffington Post, Tri-State Defender, Black Press USA, the New Orleans Tribune, the Welcome Greenbook for Black Tourists, and being named the Crime Victim Advocate of the Year.


    Joyce also wrote PSAs and performed voiceovers for domestic violence campaigns. Joyce currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Coaching Federation-Tennessee Chapter and has been newly appointed as the DEIB Committee Chairperson. She is also a member of ICF Global, Atlanta Black Chambers, ForbesBLK, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.-Northwest Georgia Chapter.

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    Marissa Williams

    Marissa Williams is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in the states of DC and VA. Marissa is certified by the National Board of Certified Counselors and is also a Sex Offender Treatment Provider and Clinical Trauma Provider.


    In 2008, Marissa started her journey in the social justice movement as a domestic violence advocate. While growing in her career, Marissa served on the board for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, representing the Women of Color Caucus. After graduating from the Women of Color Network's leadership institute, Marissa dedicated her career to developing programming for survivors and advocates that prioritized mental health and wellness specific to varying cultural dynamics.


    Marissa has over 10 years of experience creating programming, training facilitation, and supporting leaders as they strive to shift workplace culture, and establish best practices for wellness. In 2021, Marissa co-founded Atlas Behavioral Health and Wellness, a premiere training institute in Richmond Virginia that provides culturally specific clinical supervision for aspiring masters level and doctoral level therapists. Since 2012 Marissa has worked in

    various executive leadership roles connecting her powerful skill set of business development and clinical leadership.


    In practice, Marissa provides therapy specifically geared to people in the helping profession, and she is intentional about creating brave spaces for healing for black people, and other minority groups that are traditionally marginalized.