The four original founders of Uzazi Village (Hakima Tafunzi Payne, Mariah Chrans, Rebecca Liberty, and Tash Reed) had their first community meeting on December 9th, 2011 at the Kansas City Health Department, when community members were invited to share what their vision was regarding community-based maternity care. Uzazi Village was officially founded in May of 2012.

With the support of our community, we continue to dedicate our time to decreasing maternal and infant health inequity among Black and Brown communities.




Cecilia Besler Patton

Building Just Systems



Catina Taylor

Education Consultant



Ashley Haden-Peaches

Healthy Start, LMSW, CD(DONA), CLC, CBE, CPST



Rachel Woodard

Nurse, Truman Med. Center



Latosha Morris

Professional Counselor



Sandra Yoder

Social Worker



Tru-Kechia Smith

CEO, Bridging the Gap



Julie Riddle

Social Worker



Nadia Igram




Kourtney Woodberry

Education Policy Analyst



Shary Jones




Dacia Busch

Education Counselor


Hakima Tafunzi Payne


Netta Thompson


Kellye McCrary

Program Director

Ceciley Wong

Office Manager

Nia Casey

Community Outreach Coordinator

Ameenah Johnson

Director of Education


Izula Jade Maximillian

Community Gardener

Ruth McCleery

Doula & Admin for KS Office

Join Uzazi Village to make a difference for families in your community

4232 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64110  •  (816) 541-3718

Cecilia brings a passion for community, well-being, and grassroots organizing to her work in transforming healthcare at HealthTeamWorks. Adept in adaptive reuse of structures and land to strengthen neighborhoods, Cecilia spearheaded new residential and mixed-use construction projects on the Westside of Chicago with Bethel New Life. She also administered the capital and facility operating budget for Bethel’s diverse portfolio of properties including apartment complexes, homeless shelters, commercial properties, and a senior nursing facility. Cecilia partnered with the Henry Horner Mother’s Guild to document and advocate for the resolution of inadequacies in Chicago’s public housing developments, as a Housing Litigation Paralegal with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Ms. Cecilia’s commitment to public health and patient safety has bridged her professional calling and includes extensive civic participation. She has served for eight years as a Brownfield’s Commissioner, appointed by the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. Most recently, Cecilia has collaborated with the other founding members of Uzazi Village’s Community Expert Review Board to advocate for improved Black maternal infant health outcomes by amplifying Black women’s experiences, influencing equitable research, and ensuring culturally congruent care. Cecilia received her B.A. from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and her Executive MBA from Rockhurst University, Helzberg School of Management in Kansas City, MO.

Ashley Haden-Peaches has been working in social services for 10 years with community-based health care being among her priorities. She graduated from KU with a masters in social work in 2013. Ashley has been working at Sam Rodgers in the Kansas City Healthy Start program since 2016. Since starting this position, she has become a doula, lactation counselor and childbirth educator.  She has a passion for lactation and supporting people who want to  reast/chest/bodyfeed and will be sitting for the IBCLC exam in 2021. Ashley also has experience helping queer and/or non-gestational parents to induce lactation so that they may also nurse their baby. When she's not working, doulaing or providing lactation support to families, she's helping one of several projects in KC focused around youth self-development and social justice, AnytownKC and 2020 Leadership. She also is married and has 2 young children, 2 cats and a dog.

Sandra is a creator and mother living and building community in Lawrence, Kansas. While earning her Master’s in Social Work, Sandra joined a cohort from the Kansas Leadership Center to produce a video curriculum for medical professionals at the University of Kansas exploring the impact of racism on the Wichita community’s high rate of Black infant mortality. Sandra also worked with organizations in Wichita offering prescription and health care assistance to low-income residents in her community. Sandra and her family moved to Lawrence in 2016 where she worked at KU, assisting the State of Kansas with early childhood programming and supporting underrepresented student groups in the KU School of Engineering. Currently she owns and operates a small business founded by her partner, providing support for adults with special needs and volunteers with the Anytown KC Steering Committee and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) KC and LFK chapters.

Tru-Kechia Smith (Kechia) began her role as Programs Director for Bridging The Gap (BTG) in December 2018. Under her leadership she provides oversight and direction for various environmental programs. Her community-centric approach ensures BTG’s program impact is equitable, diverse and inclusive by prioritizing people and partnerships within its natural environment focus.

A native of Kansas City, MO she has spent 20 years working in various roles in nonprofit leadership. Early life mentoring experiences and passion for charitable work inspired her dedication to improve the quality of life in the communities. Tru-Kechia’s catalytic nature and strategic focus fuels her successful track record of leveraging organizational strengths into effective partnerships and mission driven results.


Julie Riddle, who earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Kansas in 2001, has worked in a variety of direct services and management positions focusing primarily on financial capability and asset building for low-wage workers.  After directing financial stability programming for United Way of Greater Kansas City for nearly 10 years, Julie brings grant writing and review experience, broad organizational relationships and a deep knowledge of the philanthropic landscape in Kansas City.

Nadia Igram is a practicing attorney, a doula, and is the founder of Divas and Doulas. As a former Americorp volunteer and legal aid attorney from Iowa, Nadia’s legal and doula work focus on serving low-income clients and clients from marginalized populations. She continues to volunteer with legal aids and other nonprofit organizations, along with building her legal and doula practices. Nadia and her husband moved to Kansas City in 2016 and have three children.

Hakima, known to her community as Mama Hakima, is a co-founder and CEO of Uzazi Village, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating health outcome disparities in maternal and infant health in African-American communities. She holds a B.A. in Nursing and a Master’s in Nursing Education. Hakima is the creator of the Sister Doula Program (a community-based home visiting community health worker program for pregnant individuals), Chocolate Milk Café, (a breastfeeding support group for Black families), and the Village Circle (an Afro-centric group prenatal care model). She sits on her local Fetal Infant Mortality Review Board (FIMR) to address Black infant mortality, is a member of the Rockhurst University Institutional Review Board (IRB), and is an anti-racism trainer with HTP Consulting. She is an editor of the Clinical Lactation Journal and also sits on the board of Alive and Well Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to the principles of trauma-informed care and the elimination of toxic stress in Missouri residents. She is a certified trainer for Community Health Workers, and speaks nationally on the topics of Black maternal and infant health. Hakima works tirelessly to make birth safer, the village healthier, and to promote anti-racist care models for Black and African-American families. She is the creator of Melanin Uprising, a bimonthly webcast produced with Dr. Paul Scott, that explores the intersection of race, research, and healthcare. She is the subject of an upcoming documentary, “Sister Doulas,” and the author of a soon to be published book, “Birthing While Black.” 

Netta is the COO at Uzazi Village. She is a Certified Breastfeeding Educator and holds a Master’s degree in Health Administration with an emphasis on Education. She has been in the healthcare field for more than 17 years. In 2015 she began working on a Mother/Baby unit at a local hospital and noticed that there were not enough women of color in the important role of teaching and assisting black mothers with breastfeeding. After many months of research, she began her journey towards becoming a lactation consultant and was referred to Uzazi Village in 2017. Under their teaching, guidance, and support, she is now ready to take the International Lactation Consultant boards. Netta is an active participant in Cradle KC, a collaborative in Wyandotte County whose focus is to eliminate racial bias in the healthcare system and create systems to empower families of color. Netta’s goals are to make breastfeeding a natural conversation in the healthcare field with expectant mothers, assist and provide support to women in her community throughout their pregnancy, and provide them with the tools and education to meet their individual goals of exclusively breastfeeding.

Kellye McCrary originally pursued a degree in Fashion Design with a minor in Accounting, but the universe had something different in mind. After running her own business for 25 years, and working in the nonprofit sector since 2002, Kellye was led to Uzazi Village and was trained to be a Perinatal Doula, Certified Community Health Care Worker, Perinatal Doula Instructor, and then transitioned to be the Program Director of Uzazi Village. Throughout Kellye’s life in Kansas City, where she was born and raised, she discovered she worked and lived in zip codes that statistically had the highest infant mortality rates. Being a single mother of one brainy and beautiful babe, Kellye knows the importance of a place like Uzazi Village in our community that supports and connects moms to resources, and support groups and other needs to help them through what life throws our way. Being a part of such an organization was aligned with her mission of being able to help other moms navigate through pregnancy and life’s peaks and valleys. In her free time, Kellye enjoys sewing, designing handbags, and learning about essential oils.

Ceciley is the Office Manager at Uzazi Village, where she works hand-in-hand with the entire Uzazi Village team to conquer Black Maternal Health and reduce disparities in health care. When Ceciley isn't assisting the Executive Team, she is providing the highest quality care to each client that walks through the doors of Uzazi Village. Ceciley is also the Rental Administrator, providing the community with the availability to rent out the Uzazi VIllage space for events.  

Nia Casey serves as Uzazi Village's Community Outreach Coordinator. She is a trained childbirth doula with a passion for supporting birthing people during pregnancy through postpartum. Nia holds a MPH in epidemiology with a focus in maternal child health. She is dedicated to serving Black and Brown communities to achieve equitable healthcare access.

Izula was born in Kansas City, Missouri (aka Occupied Missouria-Otoe Territory). As a lover of the soil and soul of her people, she seeks to bring equity to black maternal and infant health outcomes. She works to bridge birth and reproductive justice and prevent pregnancy and post-partum related complications in the following ways: food sovereignty, empowering people to connect with the spirit of the land, the power of the plants and the ability of families to grow fresh food for themselves, and holistic nutrition. Izula began her service to the sacred 20 years ago as a raw vegan chef and organic gardener. She is a perpetual student of Indigenous herbalism and Urban Permaculture and she deepened her journey in sacred birthwork by becoming a community-based doula. She trained to become a doula at Uzazi Village in 2019 after she encountered racially-biased medical treatment during pregnancy that could have cost her her life. She finds it to be an honor to be the Community Gardener for Uzazi Village’s midwifery herbal garden, placenta garden, and grieving garden, which provides a space of growth, beauty, and meditation for the healing and liberation of her people.

My name is Ruth McCleery I am a doula and love experiencing life to the fullest. I have a passion to help women empowering them to be the best versions of themselves.