Spring 2021 Residents Bios
Ingrid Brostrom, Assistant Director, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), El Sobrante, CA, leads the organization’s Toxic-Free Communities campaign and People’s Senate to eliminate toxic threats and drive reforms of hazardous waste in California’s low-income communities and communities of color. She is a member of the Hazardous Waste Reduction Initiative Advisory Committee for the Department of Toxic Substances Control and leads CRPE’s policy team to promote state legislation for environmental justice in California’s Central Valley. Before joining CRPE, Ingrid worked on wildlife and land conservation issues. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with degrees in environmental studies and politics and interned with the Jane Goodall Institute, the Center on Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. She is also a graduate of the University of California-Hastings College of Law.
Elise Bryant, Executive Director, The Labor Heritage Foundation, Silver Spring, MD, launched her labor arts career as the artistic director of the University of Michigan’s labor theater project, Workers’ Lives/Workers’ Stories in 1982. She joined the National Writers Union, began her screenwriting career and has been involved with several productions for the last several decades. After working 35 years as a labor educator, Elise retired from her professorship at the National Labor College to start her own consulting service, the E.L.I.S.E. Consortium. In 2012 she was given the Lifetime Achievement award from the international organization, United Association of Labor Educators. Elise was elected President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) in 2017.
Jessica Byrd, Director, Three Point Strategies, Philadelphia, PA, is a nationally renowned political strategist and capacity builder for the independent Black Political Ecosystem. She founded Three Point Strategies in 2015 to provide a home for electoral strategy that centers racial justice and transformation. She is one of the architects of the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project and the Black Campaign School. Jessica was part of the production of the groundbreaking Democracy in Color project and the first-ever Women of Color Presidential Forum, She The People. She served as a chief strategist for Black women US Senate Candidates, Congresswomen, and Mayors of major metropolitan cities. Jessica served as the Chief of Staff to Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and was recently named to the 2021 Time 100 Next as one of the most influential leaders of the future.
Paige Fernandez, Policing Policy Advisor and Campaign Strategist, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Philadelphia, PA, develops and implements comprehensive strategies that advance the ACLU’s affirmative vision for reducing the role, power, presence, and responsibilities of the police in U.S. communities. She also develops and leads nationwide advocacy around police practices. Fernandez’s approach to policing advocacy places communities at the forefront of the work, a practice rooted in her grassroots experience. Prior to joining the ACLU, she co-founded and directed multiple chapters of Together We Stand, a nonprofit aimed at dismantling racism, discrimination, and police brutality. She also has a master’s degree in Public Policy from Oxford University and a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
Grace Gamez, PhD,Program Coordinator, ReFraming Justice, Tucson, AZ. Grace is the founder of ReFraming Justice, the premier advocacy platform in Arizona for directly impacted people and communities to influence and promote responses to harm that center transformative justice and healing. Her current research on community safety alternatives, makes the argument for shifting resources from regimes of punishment, retribution and coercive control (carceral safety) to collective care and investment in community. Her body of work illustrates her values: wholeheartedness, holding tension and space for complexity, accountability over punishment and brave visioning. Grace holds a masters degree in Mexican American Studies and Public Health from the University of Arizona, and a doctorate in Justice Studies from Arizona State University.
Jordan Green, UX Designer, Co-Worker-Owner and President, Story 2 Designs, Seattle, WA. Story 2 Designs is a worker-owned design cooperative led by people of color that provides the creative muscle for people, projects, and organizations walking a path toward a more just and thriving planet. Family introduced him to social justice as his grandmother was involved with the International Long shore and Warehouse Union and his grandfather’s and father’s barbershop served as a community hub in SF’s Fillmore District, which was lost to gentrification. His organizing began as a queer health educator at the age of 13 and went on to work on issues of public health and education, queer issues and issues that impact people of color. He served as youth outreach coordinator for ACLU, designing and implementing youth activists retreats. Jordan graduated from Portland State University.
Emily Harris, Policy Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC), Oakland, CA, works with EBC on racial and economic justice issues to end mass criminalization and incarceration. Prior to joining EBC, Emily was the Statewide Coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) a coalition of 75+ anti-prison organizations. Emily’s prior work experience includes working with people in women’s prisons through roles at Free Battered Women, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and the Prison Creative Arts Project. Over the past few years, she has worked on expanding credits to people in prison or on parole, visitation rights, reducing the cost of calls and fees on families, eliminating sentence enhancements, pretrial reform, rights for incarcerated transgender people, elder parole, and commutations.
Imani Keith Henry, Executive Director, Equality for Flatbush (E4F), Brooklyn, NY, founded the organization in 2013. E4F is a Black/POC-led, grassroots organization whose focus is police accountability, affordable housing and anti-gentrification/anti-displacement organizing in Flatbush, East Flatbush and Brooklyn-wide. E4F was created as a direct response to the increase in tenant and police harassment due to gentrification. Imani holds a Masters in Social Work from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and a Masters in Public Administration from The Wagner School of Public Service.
Mayra Huerta, Austin Campaign Manager, Workers Defense Project, Austin, TX, serves as the Austin Campaign Manager for Workers Defense Project, a membership-based organization whose focus is workers’ rights and immigrant advocacy to build power among construction workers. At WDP she leads workers’ and migrant rights’ policy campaigns, deportation defense cases, and local and statewide electoral campaigns. Prior to her service as the Austin Campaign Manager, Mayra worked in WDP’s Dallas office as the Legal Manager/ Organizer where she supported hundreds of workers in recovering stolen wages and organizing against unscrupulous employers. Mayra graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Rights and International Studies. Mayra also organizes young workers through the Young Active Labor Leaders (YALL) program.
Lyla June, Artist, Dream Warriors Management, Florence, AL, is also a poet, singer-songwriter, hip-hop artist, human ecologist, public speaker and community organizer Her dynamic, multi-genre performance and speech style has invigorated and inspired audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing. Her messages focus on Indigenous rights, supporting youth, inter-cultural healing, historical trauma and traditional land stewardship practices. She blends her undergraduate studies in human ecology at Stanford University, her graduate work in Native American Pedagogy at the University of New Mexico, and the indigenous worldview she grew up with to inform her perspectives and solutions.
Kimi Lee, Executive Director, Bay Rising, Oakland, CA, has over 30 years of organizing and alliance building experience. Kimi was the National Coordinator of the United Workers Congress, a strategic alliance to build power for excluded workers and their national independent worker alliances. She was also a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center, with a focus on building national strategic alliances and creating intersections for different social movements. She was the founder and Executive Director of the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles and helped to establish MIWON, the Multi-ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network. Most recently, she started a preschool cooperative for her children in East Oakland serving families of color who wanted to engage their young children in social justice issues.
Pecolia Manigo, Executive Director, Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN), Oakland, CA, joined PLAN in 2013 as a Program Director. In January of 2016, she was appointed to serve as Acting Executive Director based on her multifaceted understanding of parent engagement and advocacy. Before working with PLAN, Pecolia worked for Coleman Advocates organizing with low-income families of color to improve the conditions of their children’s education environments. During her time with Coleman Advocates she worked to build a theory of change to create systemic change in education in San Francisco. Before her time at Coleman Advocates, Pecolia worked at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE).
Dana Perls, Emerging technology program manager, Friends of the Earth, Berkeley, CA, leads the organization’s international and national campaigns to fight for a non-toxic, environmentally healthy and just food system. She is engaged in fighting for environmental, food and social justice through her organizing and campaigning in the Bay Area. Prior to joining Friends of the Earth, she was the Northern California community organizer with Pesticide Watch, where she led regional campaigns to ban toxic pesticides used in agriculture. Dana is currently on the board of Urban Tilth, a food justice organization that weaves together people, land, and food into grassroots solutions for a just transition. She holds a Masters in City Planning from U.C. Berkeley, a B.A. from Cornell University, and she served in the Peace Corps in Panama.
Jessamyn Sabbag, former Executive Director, Oakland Rising and Oakland Rising Action, Oakland, CA, brings two decades of experience employing civic engagement strategies to build the political power of working-class communities of color, and advance racial, economic and environmental justice in the Bay Area. Jessamyn has led political strategy development and directed dozens of campaigns with Oakland Rising over the years, and has helped deliver campaign victories for numerous progressive, movement-born elected officials. She serves on the boards of Bay Rising Action, East Bay Action, and California Calls Action Fund, and sat on Oakland’s Budget Advisory Commission for three years. Jessamyn is a graduate of Brown University, with a double major in ecological and evolutionary Biology and history and public policy of Education.
Shirley Sherrod, Executive Director, Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Albany, GA, is a Georgia native who grew up on her family’s farm. The tragic murder of her father in 1965, when she was 17 years old, had a profound impact on her life and led to her decision to stay in the south to work for change. Alongside her husband, she co-founded New Communities, the first Community Land Trust in the US, that served as a model for all community land trusts (CLTs). Shirley has a B.A. in Sociology from Albany State University and a M.A. in Community Development from Antioch University. She was awarded a Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Sojourner-Douglas College in Baltimore, MD. In 2009, Shirley was appointed by the Obama Administration as USDA Georgia State Director of Rural Development, as the first person of color to hold the position. She was forced to resign her position in 2010 after being set up by conservative blogger Andrew Brietbart who edited a speech to make it appear that she discriminated against a white farmer while serving in her federally appointed position. USDA Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack apologized and offered her another position, which she declined. Shirley also serves as Vice President for Development for New Communities, Inc. and State Lead for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI).
Jessica Guadalupe Tovar, Energy Democracy Organizer, Local Clean Energy Alliance, San Francisco, CA, helped shut down the PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant in 2004 and in 2010 successfully mobilized against a tar sands-dirty crude expansion of the Chevron Richmond oil refinery. She currently promotes equity in clean energy as the coordinator of the East Bay Clean Power Alliance, which has advanced local clean energy solutions by establishing a Community Choice program; East Bay Community Energy, a public energy services provider agency that is now providing electricity for over 1.5 million people in Alameda County. The Local Clean Energy Alliance is jumpstarting a just transition with a Local Development Business Plan–A Green New Deal for Alameda County.
Nathaniel “Nate” Williams, Executive Director, Choices for Freedom, Oakland, CA, was one of the first juveniles in California to be sentenced as an adult at age seventeen. While incarcerated, he chaired the Men’s Advisory Council, as representative to prison staff of the Deuel Vocational prison. Author Michelle Alexander heard about Nate’s story and helped bring him home. Released in 2011, Nate began helping others while also furthering his education. He graduated from CIIS with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. He serves as speaker for issues related to youth development, restorative justice and community reentry and provides case management for gang affiliated youth to stay out of prison. He also provides direct assistance to the Cease Fire Violence Reduction Strategy in Oakland. Nate represents the state-wide Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and convenes the Alameda County chapter to advocate for improved policies for juveniles and adults.
Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director, API Equality – Northern California (APIENC), Oakland, CA, organizes to build power for transgender and queer Asian and Pacific Islander people in the Bay Area. In their current role, Sammie supports hundreds of community members to organize for rights, build intergenerational connections, and heal for trans justice. Sammie has worked with numerous organizations to deepen gender justice praxis and healthy group culture, served as a fellow for the Trans Justice Funding Project, and honored by the Mario Savio Young Activist Award.
W. KaNeesha Allen, Prevention Committee Chair for the Houston Coalition Against Hate, Houston, Texas, a network of community-based organizations, institutions and leaders working to reduce hate and build belonging. Additionally she serves as AmeriCorps Programs Director for The Alliance, improving the lives of refugees and migrants. She previously worked in education for 15 years. Throughout her service within these various roles, KaNeesha integrates racial and social justice advocacy, awareness and education in alignment with her personal values and professional commitment to dismantle all forms of oppression against historically marginalized BIPOC. KaNeesha is also a certified yoga instructor.