Harris Connections was founded by Dr. GE Washington and Dr. Sarah Chepkirui Creider, who grew up together as cousins in rural Pennsylvania. They reconnected as adults during the summer of 2020, and realized that they had developed separate and yet complementary approaches to working with discrimination and interactions. Together, they offer the perspectives of a Black man and a White woman, doctorates in art education and applied linguistics. Their work rests on the foundation of a shared belief in the power of conversation.
The Harris family is one of five Black families who have lived in Bedford County (just north of the Mason Dixon Line) since the 1820s. GE's grandmother, Rae (Harris) Washington, and Sarah’s grandmother, Sarah King (Harris) Anderson, were both matriarchs in the family. Our name honors our grandmothers, the land that has held our family for many generations, and the complexities of personal, familial, and community connections.
Pictured is the hillside where the original Harris homestead stood, now a county reservoir.
Dr. GE Washington
Dr. GE Washington holds a PhD in art education and a national reputation for innovative program development, community organizing, and creative curriculum happenings. GE is a seventh-generation Black farmer from Bedford PA and also offers over 18 years of experience as a professional facilitator and community activist. His performances and community organizing work have touched communities across North America, from housing projects in Chicago, Illinois to community development organizations in Grenada, and teaching institutes on the border at Nogales, Mexico. As a facilitator, he asks what happens to identities that are not accepted or perhaps not easily seen. He focuses on the micro-events that occur when we learn together and believes that the practice of analyzing micro-aggressions builds stronger, deeper relationships.
Dr. Sarah Chepkirui Creider
Dr. Sarah Chepkirui Creider is a linguist, conversation analyst, teacher, and self-defense instructor. She has a doctorate in Applied Linguistics from Columbia University, a black-belt in Kajukenbo Kung Fu, and over 15 years of experience as a facilitator. She speaks English, French, and German, and has lived in Paris, Berlin, Brooklyn, and San Francisco. As a Jewish, White woman who was born in Kenya and raised in a Black family in rural Pennsylvania, Sarah has a personal understanding of the dangerous silence that can enfold our stories about race, on both familial and societal levels. Currently, she is a member of the Applied Linguistics & TESOL faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her work, as both an academic researcher and facilitator, is focused on what she calls a “micro-revolution” — the possibility for change inherent in each moment of everyday interaction.
Dr. Shannon Telenko
Dr. Shannon Telenko has a PhD in cultural anthropology with a concentration in race, gender, and social justice as well as an MA in public anthropology from American University, an MEd in higher education administration from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and a BS in business administration from Robert Morris University. Her dissertation focused on the urban housing displacement of African American families who had migrated into more rural communities in Pennsylvania. Her knowledge of Pennsylvania history and culture has guided her in collaboratively developing applied, educational opportunities for college students, higher education employees, local leaders, and community advocates. She is the founder of Interrogating Bias, LLC, which offers curriculum, leadership consultation, and facilitation for looking inward at our histories and taking thoughtful action toward better futures.
Yakusan Shapiro is a chaplain, mentor and formal student with the New York Zen Center. She stewards the Inside-Outside Study Group, which brings together people inside and outside of prison to share lived experience, cultivate contemplative skills and hold space for creativity amid oppression. Yakusan is available for freelance chaplaincy partnerships in service of spiritual and emotional support.
Rachel Allen, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, Writer, and Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher.
Rachel facilitates Trauma Sensitive yoga in community partnerships. Rachel has worked in hospice for two decades serving patients with her voice and the Celtic Harp.
She is rostered as a healing arts practitioner with The Breathe Network, certified as a Dynamic Gentle Yoga Teacher and as an Accessible Yoga Teacher and Ambassador.
Rachel is committed to engaging people in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities. Rachel is available for wellness consultations for organizations as well as for training on Resilience, Cultivating Compassion, Mindfulness and Somatic Empowerment through Yoga Song.