Fall 2021 Residents Profiles
Maria Bautista, Campaigns Director, Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), Kew Gardens, NY, has over 8 years developing and leading campaigns that shift and challenge power dynamics in NYS in order to win big for NYS students. Maria has been organizing for over 15 years working from a lens of racial justice and empowering and building community towards collective goals. Previous to AQE, Maria worked as a community liaison for the city council, focusing on education justice issues and access to affordable housing. One of Maria’s greatest accomplishments was driving, supporting and winning the statewide fight for full funding for public schools in NYS.
Steve Diaz, Deputy Director, LA CAN, Los Angeles, CA, helped create a coalition against the city zoning update plan, which would allow for higher density without providing direct benefits to the community most impacted. Steve’s work includes organizing community members dealing with poverty, create and discover opportunities by developing leadership to ensure the community has a voice, power and opinion in the decisions that are directly affecting them. Prior to being LA CAN’s deputy director, Steve served as Community/Tenant Organizer, co-leading member trainings and political education on issues of the political process, community organizing, advocacy, campaign planning and implementation.
Laura Martin, Executive Director, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, started actively organizing and coalition building in college during the invasion of Iraq. She moved from her hometown of Colorado Springs to Las Vegas to work with SEIU to elect a president committed to health care for all. Laura joined Americans for Democratic Action to organize low income communities of color around kitchen table issues. She joined PLAN first as a volunteer, then organizer, then communications director, and eventually executive director. The first woman, and first Black person to lead PLAN in the organization’s 27 year history.
Veronica Mendez Moore, Co-Director, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Minneapolis, Minnesota, has over 14 years organizing and developing leadership with low-wage workers to fight for fair wages and working conditions for industries across the Twin Cities. Veronica played a significant role in building the coalitions and alignments necessary to support janitors from Target stores from the metro area who organized to implement a responsible contractor policy. The responsible contractor policy is the first of its kind in the nation and ensures organizing rights for janitors who clean Target stores.
Quinton Harper, Manager/visionary team-leader, Activate! IFC, Carrboro, NC, is an HIV activist, voting rights advocate, community organizer, and public service leader. He led his first political campaign at the age of 15 and has supported local grassroots leaders and candidates to turn their protests into politics for nearly 20 years. Quinton chairs the Affordable Housing Commission in Carrboro, where he works to connect and expand access for more people to participate in local government. He studied journalism and political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for his service in the National Black AIDS Movement.
Joelle Eliza Lingat, Staff Attorney, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Newark, NJ, represents low-income immigrants facing detention and deportation. They are also involved in statewide and national campaigns for immigrant rights. Joelle is part of the Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative in New Jersey that believes that ICE should be abolished and that all people should be free; they provide Universal Representation to low-income immigrants in detention. Joelle is most proud of their work to expose the atrocities of the Elizabeth Detention Center as someone who has had a loved one detained in the facility. In 2020, Joelle co-founded Solidarity and Mutual Aid Jersey City, a collective that provides survival programs and support in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erika Murcia, collaborator, Birth Detroit, Detroit, MI, has two decades of experience as a facilitator supporting womxn, storytellers, healers, community organizers of the global south to reclaim their creative intuitive power through decolonizing embodied ancestral practices. She is also co-author of the recent publication of an anthology of texts: Maternidad Creativa. Erika has supported grassroots organizations in various countries in Latin America and cocreates with collectives around the globe. Erika holds a master’s in social work from the University of Michigan.
Nazshonnii Brown-Almaweri, Land Team Member & Design Engineer, Sogorea Te’ Land Trust (STLT), Oakland, CA, works with the urban Indigenous women-led land trust that returns Indigenous land to Indigenous people. She co-leads food distribution, construction, website management, crop care, and cultural education. Her other roles connected to her work with the land include: Veteran Farm Educator, Anti-Oppression Working Group member, Assembly member, and Council member at the Gill Tract Community Farm. Nazshonnii is passionate about STEM education and advocates for exposure and opportunities for marginalized people, especially Black and Native young women.
Sandhya Jha, Founder/former Director, Oakland Peace Center, Oakland, CA, has worked in Congress, in multifaith organizing, and with East Bay Housing Organizations and remains engaged in equity work in Oakland as co-chair of the board of East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. Sandhya is currently working on their fifth book, focused on how connecting with our ancestors can equip us for the work of dismantling white supremacy. Sandhya also serves as an anti-oppression consultant with the goal of incorporating decades of community organizing experience into how nonprofits and religious organizations engage Diversity/Equity/Inclusion work.
Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, Co-Director/Collective, Movement Generation, Berkeley, CA, Michelle has worked for the last 25 years building movement vehicles for frontline communities to move a shared vision and strategy. Prior to her work at MG, she co-led the Center for Food and Justice, National Farm to School Initiative, Rooted in Community, and School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL). In her role as an MG collective member, Michelle was a founding co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and the Our Power Campaign which is uniting frontline communities around a just transition.
Tomiquia Moss, CEO, All Home California, Oakland, CA, has more than 20 years of leadership in housing, public policy and community development. Tomiquia’s work includes advancing regional solutions to disrupt the cycle of poverty and homelessness, redress the disparities in outcomes as a result of race, and create more opportunity for economic mobility for extremely low-income (ELI) individuals and families within the Bay Area. By engaging the entire ecosystem of community based organizations, public and private sector partners, Tomiquia is currently advancing a regional action plan campaign that seeks to bring all of her unhoused neighbors indoors in the next 8 years. A first of its kind regional Bay Area plan to address homelessness and the housing crisis.
Zach Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland, CA, helped build California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth which led the effort to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones, and defeated Prop 6—a destructive and ineffective criminal justice ballot measure. He is also co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that empowers Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families. Additionally, Zach is co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.
liz suk, Executive Director, Oakland Rising, Oakland, CA, has worked for more than 25 years in various non-profit and grassroots organizations in the Bay Area. Liz joined Oakland Rising as the Leadership Development Manager, transitioned to Political Director in Fall of 2019, and now serves as the organization’s Executive Director. Liz played a leadership role with the Defund Police Coalition in Oakland. By facilitating strategy meetings, organizing community members to directly speak with council members and board of education directors, coordinating the media campaign and speaking at public actions. She is committed to social, racial, and environmental justice for Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities on Turtle Island and internationally and brings a micro to global lens in her coordination, strategy, and politics.
Xan West, Executive Director, OneLife Institute for Spirituality & Social Change, Oakland, CA, provides healing justice for marginalized communities through retreats, classes and workshops. She is one of the facilitators of the Healing Black Lives program, which was created as a response to uprisings in Oakland to address systematic oppression and police brutality. Healing Black Lives is a space for people of the African Diaspora to gather, be still, access Black healing practitioners and heal in culturally relevant modalities. She is also a preacher of Black Lives Matter and other millennial liberation theologies, a teacher of direct action, and a grassroots organizer. Xan has over 20 years of experience in social justice movement work, mostly related to police accountability, queer rights and community healing.
Cindy Wu, Executive Director, LISC Bay Area, Oakland, CA, has led work on a range of challenges—from affordable housing to equitable transportation to culturally sensitive economic development. In addition to her nonprofit experience, Wu has served on the San Francisco Planning Commission, including a term as president, where she worked to develop strategies that protect neighborhood businesses and streamline affordable housing construction. In 2018, she won a LISC Michael Rubinger Community Fellowship to study neighborhood-based approaches that mitigate displacement amid gentrification. Additionally, Cindy helped grow Chinatown CDC’s affordable housing units over the last five years, and managed the organization’s planning program which helped residents advocate for their community attracting more than $45 million in neighborhood capital improvements.