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PO BOX 1494 Newark, NJ 07101

©2006 - 2019 by Masakhane Center. Proudly created with


We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization currently working with an entirely volunteer staff. We were started in 2006, by our founder, Stephanie Franklin, who wanted to provide a sex positive resource for young people in Newark and its surrounding communities.


WHAT DOES MASAKHANE MEAN? LET US BUILD TOGETHER. We want to make sexuality education a community experience. Bringing it to young people, as well as adults. Providing workshops in schools, youth organizations, drug and alcohol treatment centers, parent groups, shelters, and lots of other places.

Stephanie has a comprehensive background in sexual and reproductive health education and has worked for non-profits in the US and South Africa. Her career in the non-profit sector started in 2002 when she began working for CHOICE, a sexual and reproductive health organization in Philadelphia. She started as a part-time Outreach Worker and rose to the position of Youth Education Coordinator. In October 2004, Stephanie accepted a volunteer sex education position with Restless Development (formally Students Partnership Worldwide). Stephanie volunteered with their South Africa program and departed for her work in January 2005. For the next 9 months Stephanie lived and worked in a rural community in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.


While in South Africa, Stephanie decided to bring to fruition a vision of hers: to start an organization focusing on comprehensive sexuality education in Newark, New Jersey. The concept for the center derived from a noticeable lack of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education in Newark schools, and consequently for Newark youth (including many of her family members). With the support of her family and friends, Stephanie created the Masakhane Center.



Avery Heimann (they/them pronouns) has been teaching sexuality education for 12 years with Masakhane.  Avery has their Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Gender and Sexuality and a Master’s Degree in Sex Education from Widener University.  Avery was a counselor for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming individuals at The NJ Center for Sex Therapy in Chester, NJ.  They provide lectures, talks, and teach workshops up and down the East Coast.  Avery created a psychoeducational Health and Wellness group for a major rehabilitation organization for five years.  Avery is an AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) member and is working towards their certification in counseling.  They are a certified trainer with the Transgender Training Institute and is a member of both the Triota Honor Society as well as Gamma Eta Rho Honor Society for Gender and Sexuality.  Avery has been published in the first edition of the Trans Sex Zine and has spoken on sex-positivity in The Conscious Consumer Network’s “For the Love of Learning” Podcast. Avery is attending the Rutgers School of Social Work to pursue their MSW with a focus on LBGTQ communities.  Avery is also interning for HiTops in Princeton, NJ working with LGBTQ youth and they work as a Patient Service Representative for PROUD Family Health at RWJBH Somerset Hospital.  They run a blog,, geared towards sex toys, accessibility, and social justice.



Jessica Valladolid (she/her, they/them, JV) has worked with Masakhane since 2011 - first as a Sexuality Educator Intern and now as a member of the board. JV is in charge of fundraising efforts and is Masakhane’s resident host for Sex Ed Bingo. JV studied Sociology as an undergraduate and has received a Sexuality Education Certification from the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. As an intern, they filmed and published 'Coming Out Stories' - an online series documenting the varying experiences of Newark resident's "coming out". In 2015, JV worked with Drexel University's School of Public Health, serving as a research assistant for a project entitled 'Piloting a Needs Assessment Survey to a Cluster of LGBTQIA Racial Minority Young Adults in Philadelphia, PA'. JV has served as a Program Coordinator for a 21st Century Learning Center after school program for a North Ward middle school in Newark and is actively involved in neighborhood revitalization efforts in the East Ward of Newark, lifting awareness regarding environmental racism and housing justice. Jessica is now working in New York, throughout all 5 boroughs, as a Senior Adult Sexuality Educator for English and Spanish speaking adults. 


As a lifelong Newark resident, JV has an immense sense of gratitude to have the opportunity to help broaden dialogue surrounding sex and sexuality within her community through activism and advocacy. JV is  500 hour trauma informed yoga certified, co-founder of Down Bottom Bike Crew youth mentorship program, and is currently learning Kitchwa so that they can begin to expand on decolonized understandings of sexuality and community building.



Chanta is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified School Social Worker in the state of New Jersey.  She has a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Child Development from Spelman College in Atlanta, G.A.  Chanta also has her Masters of Social Work from Rutgers University and her Masters of Education in Human Sexuality from Widener University. Chanta has been providing psychotherapy to adolescents and adults for the past 10 years in various settings, including schools, community mental health agencies, and HIV/AIDS prevention organizations. For the last eight years she has been a mental health counselor in a public high school where she is also the co-advisor for a comprehensive sexual health program called Teen PEP.  Chanta is also an adjunct professor at Bloomfield College, teaching courses related to general, social, and developmental psychology as well as human sexuality.  In addition, Chanta is the co-founder and lead sex & relationship therapist at Blue Counseling and Wellness Center in Montclair, NJ.



Bethany Diaz is a former intern and volunteer, and our newest appointed board member! She holds a bachelor's degree in public health from Rutgers University and has intentions to go back to school for an MPH sometime in the future before going on to work as a sexuality educator. For now, she is enjoying her workshops with Newark youth and hopes her work destigmatizing sex inspires people of all ages to embrace their sexuality. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting books she might never get to, buying way too many candles, and hate-scrolling Twitter. You can connect with her on Instagram at @celestialvulva. 



Carolina Marrano is a sophomore studying Social Work at Rutgers University-Newark. She has a passion for spreading knowledge and awareness of the issues revolving around sexual and reproductive justice. Her interest in sexuality education emerged after taking a sociology course which focused on sexuality and reproduction that opened her eyes to how much is missing from what is usually provided in schools and how young people should be receiving more information which is provided in an inclusive way without any judgment. Carolina hopes to make a difference by fighting the stigmas surrounding sexuality and painting it in a positive light so that people are able to have conversations about it and not be ashamed by who they are. She is excited to learn a wide variety of new information and be able to meet and work with the people of Newark throughout her experience with the center. In her free time, Carolina enjoys listening to music, creating art or watching movies.



Fatimata Diabate is a fourth-year college student at Montclair State University. She is a Public Health major and a Peer Advocate at Health Promotion. Her passion for health stems from her childhood. At a very young age, she witnessed the Ivorian Civil War. She saw how the tragedy caused destruction and the sense of hopelessness for the Ivorian people. Those scary nights in her homeland ignited an inquisitive nature that is threaded in everything she does. She later realized how blessed she was to have the opportunities here in America. Fatimata’s long term goal is to create a company and use its platform to give back to the Ivorian people. She is going to use her skills from being a health promoter for women’s health back in the Ivory Coast. Her ultimate goal is to create health care facilities and performing art centers for the Ivorian people and children. Fatimata states that she doesn’t want to be a woman of success, but one who is self-made and driven by her success.



Sereina is a senior at Long Island University Global majoring in Global Studies with a minor in Arts and Communication. She is based in Brooklyn, conducting thesis research on the orgasm gap and the coping mechanisms that women develop and share to enjoy sex more.


She is passionate about sharing resources, uplifting marginalized voices, and analyzing relationship toxicity in popular media on her Insta stories. She deeply enjoys cooking for friends and talking about sex in any capacity.