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About Urban Survivors Union

USU started from the need of citizens to have control over their own bodies and to make their own decisions involving their safety and drug treatment. Our dedicated leadership team works hard to fight for drug user rights and challenges the harmful War on Drugs that destroys both lives and communities. We recognize that with compassion, support, and harm reduction strategies, people can make the best decisions for themselves and life their best lives.

About Us: Headliner

Leadership Team


Shilo Jama

Board Member at Large, he is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance and the founder of Urban Survivors Union both locally in Seattle and Nationally in the United States; two of the most daring and innovative Harm Reduction organizations in the country. He successfully implemented both a crack and methamphetamine pipe exchange in Seattle, Washington and is working to open the first Drug Consumption Room in the United States.


Isaac Jackson, PhD

Isaac Jackson is a community organizer and cultural worker. In the 1980’s, he was a founding member of "Blackheart: A Journal of Writing and Graphics" by black gay men. Joesph Beam, Assotto
Saint and other writers were published for the first time in Blackheart.


Louise Vincent, MPH

Leadership team member of Urban Survivors Union (USU), founder and executive director of North Carolina Survivors Union (the first drug user union in the US south and a key USU chapter), and a Harm Reduction Consultant for North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. Louise is a dedicated harm reductionist who intimately understands the consequences of ineffective drug prevention and treatment programs.

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Robert Suarez

Robert Suarez is the National Coordinator for USU and an Anti-Racism Consultant with NCSU. He acted as facilitator for the West Virginia action, leading both the candlelight vigil and the die in with his powerful and captivating vocal direction.


Dinah Ortiz

Dinah dedicates most of her time advocating to end the stigma faced by drug users. For over ten years, she has advocated for marginalized parents in a variety of contexts. She has appeared on dozens of panels nationwide to discuss the racial disparities in the child welfare system as well as educate doctors, lawyers, and social workers on Harm reduction methods to better serve and save lives.

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Jess Tilley

Jess Tilley is the former Overdose Prevention Coordinator/Site Manager of the Cambridge Needle Exchange at AIDS Action Coalition. She is the executive director of the New England Users Union and is currently co-chair of the American Alliance of Drug User Unions (USU National). At present, she heads the NEUU SCS Task Force. Her most recent USU National project is a collaboration with Louise Vincent Beale known as #REFRAMETHEBLAME, a campaign launched against Drug-Induced Homicide Laws and the failed war on drugs.

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Aaron Ferguson

Aaron is a cult survivor who grew up on the streets of California from age 14. Most of what Aaron knows about harm reduction as it relates to drug use he learned on the streets of San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Traveling to over 30 countries and living in several European countries as a citizen taught Aaron that the US has an unnecessarily barbaric way of dealing with people who use drugs.


Mark Kinzly

Mark Kinzly was the recipient of the 2017 Drug Policy Alliance Dr. Andrew Weil Award for Achievement in the Field of Drug Education. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Harm Reduction Coalition. Mr. Kinzly is co-founder of the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative (TONI). He is currently on the
advisory board for content of the online overdose training site GETNALOXONENOW.ORG. He has also served on the Community
Advisory Committee and Executive Committee at Yale’s Center for

Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS.


Caty Simon

Caty Simon is the Sex Worker Liaison for Urban Survivors Union. She is a small town activist, writer, escort, and dilettante in Western Massachusetts who has long worked on the intersection between sex work and drug use. Since 2013, she's been the co-editor of Tits and Sass, a national media site by and for sex workers, and is co-organizer of "Whose Corner Is It Anyway," a Western Massachusetts harm reduction, mutual aid, and political education organizing group by and for low-income, street-based, and survival sex workers who inject drugs.


TerL Gleason

TerL Gleason is part of the LGBTQ+ community, has lived with HIV for almost thirty years, was cured of Hepatitis C in 2015 after living with the virus for twenty-seven years, and is a drug user. Through
education, training, and solidarity with community members, TerL has managed to created positive change in his home state of NC for those who have less and are discriminated against. TerL is the founding member and executive director of Advocacy House Services located in his hometown of Greensboro, NC.

About Us: Team Members
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