Our Team

DeWayne Barton
Founder/CEO

I’m still chasing the memories of my childhood – when community members created opportunities and showed consistent patterns of support to not only the young people, but the entire community. It was an extended family. That support came in the form of their time: always volunteering a encouraging word; their treasure: only given for report cards, odd jobs and running errands; and finally, their talent: I can recall countless days of elders sharing their skillset to all those who would listen. Growing up with a father who was very active in the Washington DC area gave me another example of helping others and the daily maintenance communities sometimes need. Since that time, I’ve always been drawn to grassroots leaders that use what they have to improve their environments. No matter where I was in the world, I sought out these leaders and I was always a UI (under instruction). It wasn’t until I moved back to Asheville that I felt forced to step up into a leadership role of helping to transform my neighborhood, initially serving as president of our community association. What started with picking up garbage led to the creation of the Peace Gardens, the co-founding of Green Opportunities and the creation of Hood Huggers International.

Safi Martin
COO

Like DeWayne, I grew up in deep community – filled with collective work and collective fun. As I grew older, however, I noticed a dark shadow hovering around the edges of this deep community: unacknowledged and untreated trauma – both individual and collective. This launched me into a 20+ year career in the field of child & adolescent mental health where I learned that “behavior problems” are often survival skills and that trauma can affect brain development with impacts which, left untreated, can last a lifetime. As a mental health professional, I also know the power of gardens and green spaces to heal and restore, to transform a wounded spirit and bring us home to ourselves. So in 2003, DeWayne and I created the Peace Gardens – which has evolved into both a healing space for transforming trauma and a social enterprise that provides opportunities for neighbors and visitors alike. And, in 2021, I made the leap from a career in public mental health to join DeWayne in the ever-growing work of Hood Huggers International.

Angie Hines
Administrative Specialist

I’m a wife and mother of 4. I have spent 24 years in the medical field, advocating for adult, eldery and children’s health, as well as continuing to advocate for equal education for African American students and students with medical disabilities within the school system. Joining Hood Huggers International in 2017 gave me the opportunity to also support my brother Dewayne’s vision and help make a difference in my hometown of Asheville, NC.
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