Past Awardees

Windcall Residencies are a healing (and leadership evolution) process that places full faith in human-beings ability to heal themselves – when we are ready and have conditions that promote well-being and spaciousness. Fall 2021 Residents Maria Bautista, Campaigns Director, Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), Kew Gardens, NY, has over 8 years developing and leading campaigns that […]

Windcall Residencies are a healing (and leadership evolution) process that places full faith in human-beings ability to heal themselves – when we are ready and have conditions that promote well-being and spaciousness.

Fall 2021 Residents

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, 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.

Spring 2021 Residents

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.

Maria Ibarra-Frayre, Deputy Director, We the People Michigan, Ypsilanti, MI. Maria grew up in Detroit and has been fighting for immigrant justice for over decade, including grassroots organizing and political advocacy. With initiatives such as the Deep canvassing program, Maria’s work has impacted how Michigan voters are engaged in a more meaningful way. She works closely with grassroots organizations to center undocumented people and put people of color and women in positions of leadership. Maria graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a degree in English and has a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan.

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

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

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.


2020 Residents

Janette Robinson Flint is Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness, a woman-centered, community-based organization for reproductive justice. Ms. Robinson Flint is also part of the Los Angeles Coalition for Reproductive Justice, California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Janette began her work in the health field as an advocate during her own pregnancy. It gives Jan great pleasure to imagine a world with powerful women, at optimum physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and financial health leading us to justice and peace. As a researcher in Cuba, she witnessed the reality of what political will accomplishes with health for all. Her journey over the years includes: The Birthing Project USA, Great Beginnings for Black Babies, National Health Foundation, March of Dimes, California Primary Care Association, Inglewood Healthy Mothers & Babies, South Los Angeles Health Project, Women Infant and Children Programs, and community faculty member at Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Jorge Mújica was born in Mexico City and participated in several popular movements in Mexico until he migrated to the US in 1987. He worked in several Spanish language newspapers and at Univision and Telemundo Spanish TV stations as a journalist, winning two “First Place” awards by the National Association of Hispanic Publishers. As an activist, Jorge has collaborated with many labor unions in organizing and election campaigns, picket lines, and strikes and is a member of several community organizations dealing with Mexico-USA issues, from remittances to the right to vote from abroad. He is one of the three conveners of the historic immigrant rights marches in Chicago in 2006, and ran for the US Congress in 2009, representing the immigration movement in the electoral arena. As Strategic Campaigns Organizer he works with large groups of workers who are organizing for long-term workplace improvements.

Juanita Lewis is the Hudson Valley Organizing Director for Community Voices Heard, a member-led, multi-racial organization, formed principally by women of color and low-income families in New York State that builds power to secure social, economic and racial justice for all.  Juanita develops community members’ leadership through issue-based campaigns. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in History and Political Science, and earned her Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership Degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Juanita started as a community organizer with the Minnesota chapter of ACORN. Since 2004, she has worked on numerous electoral campaigns at the city, state and federal level in different capacities. Recently Juanita became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service teaching Elections in Action. 

Roberto Tijerina is a queer Latino first-generation child of immigrants, keeper of the heart-space, and closet diva. Since becoming politicized in his early adolescence around language as a tool of power and his emerging queerness, Roberto has worked as an activist focusing on LGBT, immigrant, and language rights. His experience includes working for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Highlander Research and Education Center, and the Audre Lorde Project. He currently serves as Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG). Roberto has worked for many years as a freelance interpreter and interpreter trainer. In his many years organizing, he has maintained close ties to the immigrant community in which he was raised, working on issues of literacy, second-language learning, and civil rights.

Brittany “Tru” Kellman is a mother of 3 boys, wife, activist, birth doula, Midwife, author, visionary, peer counselor, and Founder and Executive Director of the Jamaa Birth Village in Ferguson, MO. As a young teen mom, Tru experienced the disgraceful side of U.S. maternity care. After 2 unnecessary cesarean sections and debilitating postpartum depression, she took her health into her own hands during her third pregnancy with traditional midwifery care. After researching that her journey was similar for many women of color across the country, she began working with traditional midwives in Ghana. There she had a vision for what her own community needed to improve the lives of families of color. In 2015, she launched a community campaign to improve birth, maternal, and infant care in St. Louis that turned into Jamaa Birth Village. Tru became Missouri’s first black Certified Professional Midwife in 2019. She received the prestigious Corinne Walentik Leadership in Health Award in 2018 and has been featured in numerous national and international publications.


2019 Residents

M Adams (all pronouns) is the Co-Executive Director of Freedom Inc. M loves rap battles, reading, and being a dad. M is a Radical Black Queer Feminist born and raised in Milwaukee. M witnessed state violence first hand and has been dedicated to building Black futures. M’s dad has been incarcerated most of her life and she comes from a community that has been the extreme targets of police violence. In March 2016, M’s mother transitioned after fighting cancer and many forms of violence. As a queer Black person, M has developed and advocated for a strong intersectional approach in numerous important venues. M is a leading figure in the Movement for Black Lives and Take Back the Land. M  presented before the United Nations for the Convention on Eliminating Racial Discrimination and is the co-Author of Forward from Ferguson and a work in progress on Black community control over the police, and author to intersectionality theory in Why Killing Unarmed Black folks is a Queer issue. M provides guidance, support, and development to the Youth Justice Team in their fight for police free schools. 

Carrie-Meghan Quick-Blanco received her BA in international studies from Ohio University and a MS in naturopathy from Clayton College of Natural Health. She has over a decade of experience in business, management, and professional development. Carrie-Meghan has provided professional development on 21st century education, global studies, and STEM topics, helping to found a satellite branch of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab at Marshall University’s June Harless Center. She is a DONA-certified birth doula and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). Carrie-Meghan is passionate about choices in childbirth and providing women with evidenced-based information to make the best choices for themselves and their families. She is the mother to a beautiful and bilingual two-year-old son.

Charlene Carruthers is a strategist, author and a leading organizer in today’s Black liberation movement.  As the founding national director of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), she has worked alongside hundreds of young Black activists to build a national base of activist member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

As a Black queer feminist with over a dozen years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work, Charlene applies her political commitments and expertise through intellectual, cultural and grassroots organizing labor across today’s movements for collective liberation.  She was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans in The Root 100, one of Ebony Magazine’s “Woke 100,” an Emerging Power Player in Chicago Magazine and is the 2017 recipient of the YWCA’s Dr. Dorothy I. Height Award. Charlene’s book Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, was published in 2018 (Beacon).

Carlos Duarte is a Mexican immigrant who has worked on progressive social change for the past 25 years, both in Mexico and the United States. He has led efforts to register, educate and mobilize thousands of voters in Arizona, Texas and Florida. He co-founded the Emerging Latino Leaders program and is Texas State Director for Mi Familia Vota. Carlos is actively organizing to defeat efforts that hinder our democracy including restrictive voter id, gerrymandering that dilutes people of color’s political voice and SB 4 and other anti immigrant legislation as member of several local, state and national coalitions. Carlos has taught at higher education institutions in Mexico and the US and has served in numerous boards and commissions. He is also a recognized leader having received multiple awards.

Carlos holds a Master’s in Social and Industrial Psychology a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and is a PhD candidate in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Jayeesha Dutta is a tri-coastal, nearly tri-lingual Bengali-American interdisciplinary artist, cultural organizer and pop-ed facilitator. She is a co-founding seed member for Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative, galvanizing voices and experiences from across the Gulf South to the Global South working towards a just transition for our people and the planet. She is an emiritus member of 826 New Orleans co-founding board of directors, current voting member of Alternate ROOTs, and serves on the national steering committee of the Climate Justice Alliance. Jayeesha is an avid traveler, home chef, live music lover, and adores being near (or in) any body of water. She was born in Mobile, raised in New York, aged in Oakland and is deeply grateful to call New Orleans home.

Jihan Gearon is Diné and Black. She is Tódích’ií’nii (Bitter Water) clan, and her maternal grandfather is Tł’ashchí’í (Red Bottom People) clan. Jihan is from the community of Old Sawmill and she grew up in Fort Defiance, AZ. She is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelors of Science in Earth Systems and a focus in Energy Science and Technology. Jihan recently stepped down from her role as the Executive Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. She serves on the boards of Sustainable Nations Development Project and the Groundswell Fund, and on the advisory committee of the Radical Imagination Family Fund. Jihan is a skilled and creative facilitator, fundraiser, manager, popular educator, movement-builder, writer, and painter. Her paintings were recently featured at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival in a show entitled Gateways & Guardians. She also writes a blog atwww.navigatingcontradictions.com. Jihan’s other organizational affiliations include the Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, World March of Women, Climate Justice Alliance, and the Center for Story-based Strategy. Jihan is a movement leader and her experience and expertise includes work on Indigenous Peoples rights, environmental justice, climate justice, just transition, Indigenous feminism, and decolonization.

A national speaker, trainer, and advocate, Naina Khanna has worked in the HIV field since 2005, following her HIV diagnosis in 2002. She is the Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA, a national membership body of cis and trans women living with HIV. Naina currently serves on the Board of Directors for AIDS United, the National Steering Committee for the US People Living with HIV Caucus, as a member of the Women’s HIV Research Initiative, and served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) from 2010 – 2014.  Prior to working in HIV, Naina co-founded and served as National Field Director for the League of Pissed Off Voters, a progressive national organization working to expand participation of young people and communities of color in electoral politics. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Medical Sociology at the University of California – San Francisco.

Erin Matson is co-founder and co-director of Reproaction, a national group using bold action to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice. A nationally sought speaker, Erin has appeared frequently on television, including MSNBC, CSPAN, Al-Jazeera English, ABC World News, BBC World News, and PBS’ To the Contrary. Prior to Reproaction, Erin served as action vice president for the National Organization for Women, and at age 23 she was elected to be the youngest NOW state president in the country. She also served as an editor at large for Rewire. Her writings have appeared in a variety of publications, including Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and three books. From her first state of Minnesota to her current state of Virginia to the national stage, Erin has always taken a provocative, leading role in demanding public officials do right for reproductive rights as well as for women, and organizing the power to make that happen. Erin currently serves on the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation board of directors and writes on her personal blog at www.erintothemax.com.   

La’Tasha D. Mayes, MSPPM is a nationally recognized
leader in the field of Reproductive Justice, Human Rights
and leadership development for Black women and girls.
La’Tasha is the Founder and Executive Director of New
Voices for Reproductive Justice, a multi-state
organization in Pennsylvania and Ohio dedicated to the
health and well-being of Black women, femmes and girls
headquartered in Pittsburgh with offices in Cleveland and
Philadelphia. La’Tasha is a graduate of the University of
Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Business
Administration and she earned a Master of Science in
Public Policy and Management at the Heinz School of
Carnegie Mellon University. La’Tasha serves on the
Board of Directors of the Groundswell Fund – the largest
funder of Reproductive Justice and women of color – and she was appointed to a second term on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. La’Tasha is past National Board Chair of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective La’Tasha is a passionate Reproductive Justice activist, native of West Philadelphia and believes in the indefatigable spirit of women.

Karen Ann McDaniel is Co-Founder and ED at The Place4Grace, based in Southern California. Place4Grace restores and advocates for families impacted by incarceration. It operates 22 programs in 16 California prisons throughout the state, plus a Youth Facility that reach thousands of system-impacted families annually. Karen has more than 25 years of experience in education and criminal justice reform. She has a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology, from California State University, Northridge and was a Professor of Child Development and Education for more than a decade in the Inland Empire. Her expertise focuses on children impacted by trauma and multicultural/anti-bias education. She has been recognized with a 2018 UCLA Justice Work Group Beyond the Bars Fellowship, a 2018 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S.
Representative Pete Aguilar, and most recently, the 2018 UnCommon Hero Award given by UnCommon Law for her work on family reunification throughout California.

Aisha Truss-Miller is a Chicago native dedicated to the creation and sustainability of safe spaces for social-emotional learning, leadership development, and political education for Black folks and people of color. She currently works with Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) as Development Manager and for 3 years served as the agency’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program’s Community Organizer.  She is a graduate of CPS, Harold Washington City College, and UIC. Aisha served as a member of Inner Faith Peace Builders’ African Heritage Delegation to Palestine/Israel, is Fellow Alum of Cultivate: Women of Color in Non-Profit Leadership, and a Diversity Scholar with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Aisha is a loving mother and wife dedicated to “changing systems designed to oppress my communities and profit from our plight”.  She accredits her growth and achievements to family, friends, mentors, “the block”, and everyday people modeling positive leadership and provide her with insight, inspiration, debate, hope, support, accountability, laughs, and love.

Aza Nedhari has more than 15 years of experience in community organizing, reproductive health education, program management, and curriculum design. She is a Certified Professional Midwife, Family Counselor, and the Founding Executive Director of Mamatoto Village, a perinatal family support organization in Washington DC that utilizes a three-generation model that integrates a holistic approach to care delivery and extends support toward family stability. Aza is fiercely dedicated to her beliefs that by promoting health equity, the reduction of barriers in maternal and child health begins to dissipate; giving rise to healthy individuals, healthy families, and healthy communities. Aza is pursuing her Doctorate in Human Services with a concentration in Organizational Leadership and Management with an eye towards moving organizations from passion to sustainability and cultivating innovative models of perinatal care delivery in high needs communities. Aza is a mother to three spirited and gentle children and partner to an amazing artist.

Monique Tu Nguyen is a passionate change-maker on the leading edge of women’s rights. Since becoming the Executive Director of Matahari in 2012, under her leadership, Matahari has become a vibrant, political community organization making strides in advancing the rights and protections for domestic workers, women, immigrants and their families. Monique help founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers that successfully spearheaded the passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2014. Monique’s drive for social justice is rooted in her own personal experience as a former undocumented immigrant and daughter of Vietnam War refugees and deep belief that all people deserve dignity. She loves to cook, dance, hike, and dream and scheme about community building. She currently serves on the board of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and in the past served on the board of United for a Fair Economy and the Student Immigrant Movement. She is based in Boston, MA and also calls Vancouver, Canada and Houston, TX her other homes.

Rapheal Randall is the Executive Director of Youth United for Change (YUC), a youth-led, democratic organization with a membership of working-class and communities of color, who organize “people” power to improve Philadelphia public schools. He has both a BS in Design and a Master of City and Regional Planning. Before taking the helm at YUC in 2014, he worked as a product designer for Michael Graves Design Group and later as an urban planner with Interface Studio, developing community plans for nonprofits and neighborhood groups throughout North Philadelphia. He used his skills as a community planner to join fights for local anti-displacement and minimum wage organizing campaigns. His goal at YUC is to help young people of color develop their own approaches to social justice leadership and embrace their roles as change agents through organizing campaigns rooted in their own needs and experiences.

Amanda Ream is the Strategic Campaigns Director for the United Domestic Workers Union (UDW), California’s homecare workers’ union representing more than 100,000 caregivers who work with seniors and people with disabilities.  She leads the union’s Care Agenda campaign, an effort to create affordable, accessible long term care for all who need it and union employment for immigrant workers. She got her start in the labor movement as a founding staff member of New York Jobs with Justice. Before coming to UDW she led Interpreting for California, a campaign for language access in healthcare with the union AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She helped found a post 9/11 workers’ center in New York City with the union UNITE HERE, and is a former Revson Fellow on the Future of New York at Columbia University. She got her start in the labor movement as a founding staff member of New York Jobs with Justice.  She is on the board of the East Bay Meditation Center and is a teacher-in-training with Generative Somatics. She lives in Oakland and is from Santa Ana, California.

Branden Snyder was born and raised on Detroit’s East Side, and is the founding Executive Director of Detroit Action. He has been involved in electoral and community organizing projects throughout the United States for 10 years. Previously, Branden was the Deputy Campaign Manager for the groundbreaking Gilchrist for Detroit City Clerk campaign and the Deputy Organizing Director in charge of Youth Voting for the Hillary For Michigan 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to that, Branden was the Statewide Organizing Director for Michigan United -a coalition of faith, labor & civic organizations in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Branden’s commitment to democracy, racial and economic justice is fueled in great part by his experiences as a Detroiter and that of other Detroiters who have endured poverty and the criminal justice system. He believes in the power of bringing our communities together and challenging leaders to go from victims to victors by engaging the systems and policies that impact our lives. Branden is a graduate of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a degree in Political Science and Afro-American studies with a minor in Urban Community Studies. He also attended the Ford School of Public Policy, earning a Master’s in Public Policy with a concentration in Urban Policy.


2018 Residents

Ellen Barry works as Senior Consultant for Women & Justice Issues Consulting, in Oakland, CA, focusing on issues affecting women and girls impacted by the Criminal Justice System. She has worked to advance the civil and human rights of prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, their children and families for over 40 years. In 1978, Ellen founded Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), focusing on the impact of the criminal justice system on these communities.She was executive director through 2001, returning in 2015 to assist the organization with fund development. LSPC pioneered work around women in prison, children of incarcerated parents, and the impact of the prison industrial complex on people of color, their children, families and communities. She is a Senior Soros Justice Fellow (1997), a MacArthur Fellow (1998) and, as one of 1000PeaceWomen, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (2005/2008). She is co-founder of National Network for Women in Prison, Critical Resistance, and the Criminal Justice Initiative Funding Circle. Ellen has written and spoken extensively on these issues and the relationship between race and mass incarceration. Now a “recovering lawyer,” she has brought over a dozen class action lawsuits on behalf of incarcerated parents and their children. Recently, as executive director of Insight Prison Project, she encouraged the growth of racial diversity among staff, board and volunteers in this restorative justice organization. She is a family member of people formerly incarcerated and in recovery, a mother of two amazing youth, a former Blues Club owner, and a recent convert to yoga.

Christine Cordero is an organizer, strategist, and public speaker. She has 20 years of experience in social justice sectors including environmental health and justice, youth organizing, and labor. From organizing environment, labor, and community coalitions – in the bay to the Philippines; to facilitating 200-person Occupy the Hood meetings; and participating in direct actions to stop wars at home and abroad – Christine believes in our collective power to imagine the world we need, to build it, and get free. Currently, she is the executive director at the Center for Story-based Strategy (CSS), where imagination builds power. CSS offers training and strategic support to social justice organizations and networks to use the power of narrative to change the story on the issues that matter most. She received a BA in Linguistics from Stanford University, with a concentration in language and power. She is also proud to serve on the Leadership Sangha (Board) of the East Bay Meditation Center, as well as the Advisory Board for the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES).

For almost twenty years, Desiree Evans has worked with international and domestic human rights organizations as a journalist, human rights activist, and community organizer. Her work experiences range from reporting to advocacy around issues of gender justice, labor rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform, and economic justice — work that has required her to analyze the broader workings of international and domestic policy. Desiree serves as Director of Programs at Women With A Vision, Inc., based in New Orleans, where she has organized to elevate community voices, change punitive public policies, and fight for the health, livelihoods, and collective power of Black women in New Orleans and across the Deep South. In 2013, Desiree co-founded Wildseeds, a feminist-of-color collective that uses the literary arts as a resource for social change. In recent years, Desiree has also worked as a research associate at the Durham, North Carolina-based Institute for Southern Studies, where she reported on policy issues in the U.S. South, as well as at the Washington, D.C.-based TransAfrica Forum, where she was a lead researcher producing policy reports on economic and political issues concerning U.S. policy in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. As a journalist she has covered issues of race, poverty, and economic justice for such publications as Alternet, The Chicago Reporter, In These Times, The Indianapolis Star, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and others. Desiree holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL., and a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Human Rights from Columbia University in New York City.

Ezak Amaviska Perez was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Ezak is a two spirit, Hopi Native American and Latinx community organizer. They have been organizing locally and nationally for the past 15 years.  Currently, the Executive Director of Gender Justice LA, they build up the collective leadership and power of the trans & gender non-conforming community. Ezak co-authored a report: Addressing HIV Prevention Among Transmasculine Californians and helped create the first Indigenous Pride LA. They were honored by the Sons & Brothers Portrait Series for Native American heritage month and selected for the art series Queer Icons, by Gabriel Garcia Roman.  He was also a 2018 Trans Justice Funding Project grantmaking panelist, helping to move over half a million dollars of unrestricted funds to trans-led organizations. They believe that self-care & community care are critical and essential to be able to do this work for the long haul which is why he spends his spare time in nature and with his chosen family.

Zon Moua is a Queer, Femme, Hmoob womxn born and raised in Wisconsin. She is the youngest of 11 children, born to refugee parents. She is the Director of Youth Organizing at Freedom Inc. in Madison. Zon has worked on gender-based violence, queer and youth justice issues since the age of 16. In 2016, she co-organized the US Hmong LGBTQ Delegation to the first Global Hmong Women’s Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand; where over a hundred Hmong women and allies convened to discuss what it would look like to build a future free of gender-based violence. She introduces Black and Southeast Asian youth to social justice movements through direct services, leadership development, and community organizing with innovative cultural art, music and dance programming. Zon’s passion for youth justice has led her to organize on the issue of policing in schools. Through her work, she hopes to not only transform herself, but her community in raising the visibility of Queer, Trans, Black and Southeast Asian leadership and liberation.

Karen Monahan is a Senior Organizer for the Sierra Club in Minnesota. Karen has worked on Environmental Justice issues and uses an equity lens regardless of the issue or groups who are around the table. Karen has provided racial equity and diversity training for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and served as the co-Chair of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Diversity Council. She served as a co-chair of the subcommittee on workforce education and training with Senator Mike Jungbauer (R) for the Minnesota Green Jobs taskforce in 2008. Karen is a Green For All Fellow and Wellstone Action Fellow. Karen served as the Ambassador for Minnesota representing NIAC (National Iranian American Council), for three years. Karen was born in Iran and adopted when she was four months. She is the proud parent of two boys and a grandmother of two. She believes the change we are seeking, starts within and with family.

Kitzia Esteva-Martinez comes from a movement family and began organizing community in San Francisco during high school. They were a youth organizer with PODER’s Common Roots program and POWER’s women workers project, as part of SOUL’s summer school. Kitzia joined their mom in the “No papers No Fear Journey for Justice”. After college at UC Santa Barbara and two years doing multiracial organizing with the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union and Labor Community Strategy Center, they returned to the Bay Area. Kitzia helped build vibrant Immigrant Justice and Racial Justice coalitions in SF and Alameda County by providing space for people from the base to participate through member/ leadership development work. Previously the Regional Lead organizer for Immigrant Rights at CJJC, Kitzia recently became Co-director of the Community Rights campaign to build Black and Blown unity on issues of criminalization and state violence against Black and Latinx Bay Area residents.

Hakima Tafunzi Payne has a Bachelor’s of Nursing and a Master’s in Nursing Education. She is currently a student of Midwifery working toward the CPM credential. Ms. Payne is the Executive Director of Uzazi Village, dedicated to decreasing perinatal health disparities in communities of color. She is the creator of The Sister Doula pregnancy navigator Program, The Chocolate Milk Café (breastfeeding support group), the Village Circle Group Prenatal Care Model, and the Lactation Consultant Mentorship Program. She is an editor for Clinical Lactation Journal, and authors her own blog, Mama Hakima Speaks. Ms. Payne serves on her local Fetal Infant Mortality Review Board (FIMR) and is director of the Ida Mae Patterson Prenatal Clinic. She presents professionally on the topics of maternal and infant health in the Black community and the role of systemic racism in poor health outcomes. Her career goals include increasing the number of midwives of color and improving lactation rates in the African American community through increasing the number of IBCLCs of color. Ms. Payne resides in Kansas City, MO.

Tasha Amezcua is Manager of Finance and Administration at the Audre Lorde Project and also coordinated their Safe OUTside the System Collective. Previously she was the Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Violence Community Organizer at the NYC Anti-Violence Project, coordinating statewide and local community organizing, public advocacy, and policy. She coordinated the NY State LGBTQ Domestic Violence Network, developing the leadership of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors to lead organizing and advocacy. She has 13 years of LGBTSTGNC POC anti-violence community organizing experience. She wanted to be a nun as a child, but realized that the desire was really for queerness, safety, and community. She believes that we are all we need to survive, that we are experts in our own lives, and that community are the folks who show up for you and have your back. Tasha, a femme-identified queer Chicana survivor of violence, loves cats and bikes, and is originally from Santa Ana, CA, but has called New York City her home away from home since 2003.


2017 Residents

Vivian Anderson directs #EveryBlackGirl and has been a member of Black Lives Matter NYC since 2014. Vivian is a healer-activist dedicated to building a world where all Black girls thrive. Since 1996, her work has been rooted in youth, teen, family and community well-being. Vivian began her career as a teacher at Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology and as Senior Director of youth programs at the YMCA of Greater New York. In 2015, Vivian moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where she was inspired by the courage of two young Black girls to launch the #EveryBlackGirl campaign. The girls, Shakara and Niva, were brutally assaulted and threatened with arrest by a school resource officer for refusing to hand over a cell phone and for standing up for their rights. This incident sparked #EveryBlackGirl, Inc., a nonprofit focused on creating the radical systemic change that is needed to have a world worthy of the genius and heart of Every Black Girl.

Linda Bermas has worked in the labor movement organizing for workers rights and fighting for social justice for more than 30 years. Linda began her labor activism as a rank-and-file member of groups organizing women office workers. In 1984, she took her first union job and for the next 3 decades worked with local unions that are affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Throughout her time in the labor movement, Linda’s work has focused on building a movement for social justice by helping develop member leaders and supporting workers’ efforts to take collective action. She is the proud mom of 2 sons, ages 21 and 25, who are the light of her life. In May of 2017, Linda retired from SEIU Local 32BJ.  She will be consulting with unions and labor-related organizations on staff development and member engagement and continue to be an activist.  She resides in NYC. 

Z! Haukeness is an organizer working with various local, statewide and national organizations rooted in racial justice with a focus on other interconnecting systems of oppression and liberation.  These organizations include Operation Welcome Home, a Black centered housing justice organization; Sankofa Behavioral and Community Health, a Black women centered mental health organization; Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national anti-racism organization engaging white people in racial justice work; Dane County Trans Health Group working on various trans justice issues; and Leftroots a national study and strategy organization pushing for 21st century socialism. They won the LGBTQ Advocate of the year award and the MLK Humanitarian Award in Madison in 2016. They come from the small Wisconsin town of Strum and have been in Madison for the past 20 years doing social justice work.  They are all about creative expression and cultural organizing.  Their work is very spiritually based, with an eye towards the magical, and rooted in love for new possibilities of getting free.

Yamani Hernandez is a Black, queer mama and visionary and strategic leader working at the intersections of reproductive, racial, and economic justice. She is the Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, an organization that builds power of grassroots member organizations and leverages their direct access to abortion seekers across the country for cultural and political change. Her leadership is defined by a commitment to cultivating leadership for women of color and young people. She has been awarded the 2012 Margaret Carr Wiley Bright Horizons Award by Planned Parenthood of Illinois. She was presented with the Visionary Leader Award in 2012 in her previous role as Executive Director for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. Yamani has been a proud member of the Strong Families leadership team and is a writer for Echoing Ida, a program of Forward Together that supports the leadership and amplifies the voices of Black women. In her spare time, she practices yoga, runs and volunteers as a birth doula.

Melissa K. Nelson is a Native ecologist, writer, media-maker and indigenous scholar-activist. She is the president/CEO of The Cultural Conservancy, a Native-led indigenous rights organization she has directed since 1993. She is also associate professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. For nearly two decades Melissa has been involved in the Native American food movement in North America and since 2006 in the indigenous food sovereignty movement internationally. Melissa is a Switzer Environmental Fellow and has received awards for documentary films, community engagement, and experiential education. Her first edited anthology Original Instructions – Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future (2008), focuses on the persistence of Traditional Ecological Knowledge by contemporary Native communities. Her next edited anthology, Keepers of the Green World: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability will be out in 2017. Melissa is Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and Norwegian. She is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

José R. Padilla is the State Director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), a position he has served in for over 30 years. He was born and raised in the Imperial Valley of California, of parents who came from farm worker families. The principle of giving back to his community through public service has guided José professionally and personally. José received his BA from Stanford in 1974 and went on to Boalt Hall School of Law, U. C. Berkeley. After graduating in 1978, he started what has become a 39-year legal career with CRLA, advocating for the rights of California’s farm worker and rural poverty communities. Jose’s work focuses on immigration, civil rights and education law. He serves on two national boards, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. He has received numerous awards for his years of service. José has been married for 35 years to Deborah Escobedo, a Youth and Education Rights attorney in San Francisco.

Olympia Perez is an Afro-Latina Transwoman raised in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. She is a poet, healer, multi-media artist and facilitator invested in decolonizing spaces. She has been organizing since 2006 around the intersections of violence against trans and gnc (gender non-conforming) communities of color. She awakens and restores spirit to dismantle the systems of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy as a trans warrior. She enjoys adventures with her wife Sasha, reading, writing, and her time with yellow cats. She serves as Content Director of Black Trans Media, reframing the value of black trans people through the media, education, and community building. Her pronouns are Her-She – like the chocolate bar. Olympia is also Co-Coordinator of Trans Justice at the Audre Lorde Project, building on the organizing capacity of trans and gnc communities of color.

Sasha Alexander Perez is a Queer Trans, Black/South Asian, artist, educator, and healer. Sasha has been working at the intersections of LGBTQ, youth, media, economic, gender and racial justice movements for almost 20 years. Sasha is the Founder of Black Trans Media, addressing the intersections of racism and transphobia by reframing the value and worth of black trans lives #blacktranseverything. Sasha is Membership Director and Co-Director of the Movement Building Team at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City, a legal and movement based organization strengthening the leadership of trans, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGNCI) people. Sasha uses the pronouns he/she/they and insists that you mix it up.

Kabzuag Vaj was born in Laos and came to this country as a refugee child with her mother and siblings. She is founder and co-executive director of Freedom Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin, and has dedicated the majority of her life to ending gender-based violence. She is a strong believer that those who are most deeply impacted must be at the forefront of the movement; those who are most impacted must have opportunities and resources to advocate for themselves and tell their own stories. In recognition of her work, she was awarded the White House Champion of Change award in 2012, Alston Bannerman Sabbatical award for long-time community organizers, and more recently the Hmong National Development Impact Award-change makers advancing the Hmong community. Kabzuag’s ability to build family, solidarity, and shared analysis across race, culture, and generations has become an example of how Asian and African American communities can collectively build power, share resources, and mobilize to bring about deep social, political, cultural and economic change.

Kelley Weigel served as Western States Center’s Executive Director from 2010 to 2017. She started with the Center in 2002, working to institutionalize a movement-building approach to community organizing. She instigated the Center’s Voter Organizing Training and Empowerment Program, which registered tens of thousands of voters across the west and committed organizations to civic participation. Over her tenure the Center helped grow the power, impact and grassroots leadership of 47 organizations across six states representing over 200,000 members, especially people of color, LGBTQ folks, women, and youth. Kelley is a graduate of the Center’s first intensive leadership program, the Western Institute for Leadership Development. She began her organizing trajectory with Community Alliance of Lane County in confronting the homophobic initiatives of the religious right and countering white supremacist organizing. She lives in Portland with her husband Brian and son Quinn. Kelley is a committed kitchen gardener, avid home cook and finds restorative energy at the beach, both in sun and rain.


2016 Windcall Awardees

Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles.  Taz is currently a Campaign Strategist at the Asian American new media organizing group 18MillionRising.  As an electoral organizer, she’s mobilized thousands of Asian American & Pacific Islanders to the polls in over 17 different languages in the past 15 years.  In 2004 she founded South Asian American Voting Youth and has recently worked at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. Their Your Vote Matter campaign employed in-language culturally competent tools to mobilize hundreds of volunteers resulting in 48,000 voter contacts. While pursuing a Master in Public Policy degree with a concentration on Racial Justice from UCLA, she took part in a student-led initiative to bring Critical Race Theory into public policy. Also an essayist, poet and podcaster, her media content creates a counternarrative for youth, Muslim, South Asian, and counterculture communities.  She is cohost of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast that has been featured in O Magazine, Wired, Mother Jones and NPR. Her third poetry chapbook was published in early 2016. Additionally, Taz is an editor and curator for the South Asian American music website Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza. A mixed media artist, her annual #MuslimVDay Cards have been featured in Colorlines, and on NBC News. In May 2016, she was at the White House in Washington, DC as one of ten individuals from across the country who was recognized as a “White House Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.”  (www.18millionrising.org)

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Frank Barragan is the South Alabama Regional Organizer at Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ). ACIJ is a grassroots, statewide network of individuals and organizations that works to advance and defend the rights of immigrants in Alabama. The coalition consists of seven non-profit organizations, 15 grassroots immigrant community organizations, and hundreds of individual members. A Latino community leader in Mobile, Alabama, Frank first became active with ACIJ after the passage of HB56 (Alabama’s statewide anti-immigrant legislation)  and hasn’t stopped educating, organizing and mobilizing southern Alabama ever since. In 2012, he founded the Coastal Coalition for Immigrant Justice. Prior to his work with ACIJ, Frank had a long history of community service and leadership in Mobile, organizing events such as the Mobile Special Olympics, Deep Sea Fishing Tournaments, and annual fundraising events for variety of charitable organizations. Frank has worked tirelessly for the last few years and as been invaluable in building connections both in south Alabama and statewide among local elected officials, business leaders, and civil rights groups. https://www.acij.net/

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Claudia Bautista is the Regional Campaign Coordinator with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) for the Los Angeles Region. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and having worked alongside her farmworker parents in the avocado groves of Southern California during middle and high school, Claudia became highly interested in social justice during her college years at the University of California, Los Angeles. After graduating in 2009, she moved to Phoenix, AZ to work as an organizer with Unite HERE during the early years of SB1070 (Arizona’s statewide anti-immigrant legislation). She then worked with the United Farmworkers Legal Department as a paralegal and came back to Los Angeles in 2014 to work with NDLON, where she built a workforce development project for indigent day laborers that includes a partnership with local community colleges and unions to create a pipeline for workers to gain more stable job opportunities. She also works in local efforts to combat the criminalization of immigrants by police and sheriffs in Los Angeles. Claudia also coordinates Chant Down the Walls, a series of concerts outside of immigrant detention centers and prisons to bring attention to the injustices happening inside of these centers and challenge the good immigrant/bad immigrant narrative while bringing music to the people inside those walls to express our commitment to not forget about them and continue fighting until everyone is free. Music becomes a tool for liberation because although this world was created without borders and without walls, when those walls and borders are built, sound can travel, when people can’t. https://www.ndlon.org

Strela Cervas Photo

Strela Cervas is the Co-Director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), based in Los Angeles, California.  She coordinates the Energy Equity Program, Civic Engagement Program, and Organizational Development for CEJA. Strela helps communities across California chart their own vision of a clean energy future, empowers people to speak for themselves, and to develop their own policies to transition off of dirty energy. Part of her passion for environmental justice started while visiting a Dole banana plantation in the Philippines and witnessing that not only were the bananas genetically modified, but the workers and poor local communities were being sprayed overhead by toxic pesticides. Strela then learned that deforestation and heavy fossil fuel development rapidly led to health impacts and climate change in the Philippines and in other Global South countries and low-income communities. This experience propelled her to a life-long commitment to social justice work. She became an organizer with the Pilipino Workers’ Center for 8 years in LA where she organized low-wage Pilipino domestic workers and caregivers to fight for meal breaks and wage theft. Strela helped launch the first California Household Worker Bill of Rights campaign as part of a statewide coalition. She joined CEJA in 2008 determined to fight for communities suffering from asthma and other health issues due to environmental injustice. She is most inspired when community leaders are empowered enough to take on corporate polluters. Strela says, “I am a mom to the smartest kid on the planet, Iskra, so I need a daily dose of quality coffee, I sneak chocolate treats, and secretly binge watch cooking shows and NBA basketball games.” (www.caleja.org)

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Brenda Coley is a Wisconsin based activist. Besides working for the Milwaukee Water Commons as their point person for community engagement, she currently runs Brenda Coley and Associates where she presents on diversity issues, conducts project management, and does executive coaching of non-profit managerial staff. Brenda worked in HIV Behavioral Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin where she led projects focusing on women, young men and gay men of color. She was the former Associate Executive Director at the Milwaukee LGBT Center before joining the staff at Diverse and Resilient Inc. as the Director of Adult Services. Brenda is the past chair-person of the Wisconsin Minority Health Leadership Council and the Wisconsin HIV Prevention Council. She is currently the Chair-person of the Milwaukee Reproductive Justice Collective Board of Directors. She has extensive experience in HIV prevention and research, empowerment programs for Transgender individuals, and in leadership development for Lesbian and Bisexual Women. Brenda has been given several awards, including the 2006 Equality Award from the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, the 2013 Women’s Empowerment Award by the YWCA of Southeastern Wisconsin and most recently the 2016 Reviving the Dream; Bayard Rustin Award. https://www.milwaukeewatercommons.org/

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Vicki B. Gaubeca joined the ACLU of New Mexico in January 2009 to become the director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights, based in Las Cruces, where she helped develop and implement its mission of addressing civil and human rights violations that stem from border-specific immigration policy and enforcement. The Center stands with border communities to defend and protect America’s constitutional guarantees of equality and justice for all families to live freely, safely and with dignity. Vicki is also the co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a network of rights organizations along the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. She has more than 20 years of experience in policy advocacy, community organizing, public affairs, communications, and public health, but immigrant, border and LGBTQ rights are close to her heart. Born and raised in Mexico City, Vicki joined ACLU-NM most recently from Tucson, Arizona. She was a member of Las Adelitas, a group that aims to improve the quality of life for Latinas and their families through political empowerment, and part of the steering committee for Adelante, Nuestro Futuro. She also participated in numerous university and community LGBT groups and committees, including Wingspan, Equality Arizona and the University of Arizona OUTreach group, where she helped obtain domestic partner health benefits for state employees. In addition, she took leadership roles in campaigns that aimed to defeat anti-LGBT legislation in Arizona. https://www.aclu-nm.org/what-we-do/regional-center-for-border-rights/

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Araceli Hernandez is Program Director at Casa Latina in Seattle, Washington. Its mission is to support Latino immigrants through education, employment, empowerment, and community involvement. Since Araceli arrived in Seattle, Casa Latina has truly been her home (casa)! Her first contact was as an ESL student and volunteer 20 years ago. Since then, she has held different positions in the organization from bookkeeper to Program Director. She is a native of Mexico who emigrated in 1996 and has been advocating for the Immigrants Workers Rights Movement since 2000, organizing Domestic Workers and Day Laborers.  Araceli has been a board member for different organizations including National Day Laborers Organizing Network NDLON (Treasurer) for 8 years and currently serves on the board of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (Treasurer) since 2010.  Araceli loves to take time off with her son Eduardo and practice meditation, Reiki and Bio Magnetic. These practices help her do her job with love and compassion.  (www.casa-latina.org)

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Katelyn Johnson is the Executive Director of Action Now in Chicago, IL. Action Now’s mission is to build power in low-income Black communities so that individuals and families can work together to fight for justice. Katelyn grew up in a small, rural town in western Pennsylvania, and her humble roots drive her to fight for people who have historically been marginalized. She began her community work shortly after graduating from North Park University in 2004, as the primary organizer in the successful fight to save nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing on the west side of Chicago. Following this success, Katelyn worked to help educate minority and faith-based communities on organ and tissue donation with the Center for Organ Recovery and Education in Pittsburgh, crafting the inaugural “Communities for Life” program. In 2009, she came back to her organizing roots in Chicago as the Grow Your Own Teachers (GYO) Cohort Coordinator and Education Director for Action Now.  Katelyn was named Executive Director of Action Now Institute in 2010 and now helps African-American leaders toward taking public stances on issues that concern their communities. When she isn’t engaged in the fight for racial justice, she is off somewhere being a Sci-Fi fanatic, collecting Doctor Who and Star Wars memorabilia. https://www.actionnow.org/

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Myrna Orozco De La O works as the Associate Director and United We Dream Network (UWD), the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. The nonpartisan network is made up of over 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. UWD organizes and advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. Originally from Ciudad Juarez, in Chihuahua, Mexico, Myrna immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 4. She has been organizing locally and nationally for the past 8 years and began her journey with UWD as part of the first-ever elected leadership body of the network, the National Coordinating Committee. Since then Myrna has held several roles within UWD including Organizer, Field Director and Deputy Director of UWD’s implementation campaign, “Own the Dream.” Myrna serves as Board President for the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement, the only immigrant-led, interfaith community organization that is solely focused on immigration issues in the Kansas City metro area. She is a recipient of various awards including the prestigious Ohtli Award presented by the Mexican Consulate as well as the First Annual John Backer Award from Church World Service for outstanding advocacy for immigrants’ and refugees’ rights. Myrna currently resides in Houston, TX. www.unitedwedream.org

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Whitney Richards-Calathes is co-founder of Sweet River Consulting in New York City and is a member of the Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles. Sweet River Consulting is an organization dedicated to building a transformative and restorative justice practice in schools in NYC that is led by youth and communities of color, and that is deeply connected to larger organizing movements. The Youth Justice Coalition is a direct-action community-based organization on the border of Inglewood and South Central, led by system-impacted people, that addresses the mass lockup of Black and brown youth. Whitney works on issues of transformative justice and building alternatives to mass incarceration and other institutions of state violence. Additionally, she is a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York, writing her dissertation on transformative justice organizing and Black radical imagination. Whitney has done organizing work at the intersection of educational justice, prison abolition, gender justice and youth leadership for over a decade. Most importantly though, she was born and raised in the Bronx. https://www.youth4justice.org/

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Eric Rodriguez is a Senior Organizer at Latino Union of Chicago.  He started with the organization in 2003 and was Executive Director from 2008 to 2015. Eric is the son of undocumented Mexican immigrants whose father worked as a day laborer and his mother as a domestic worker.  He was born and raised in Chicago and first started organizing at the age of 12 with other youth of color on issues of environmental justice using the arts. He uses many principles and values of his Native American heritage (the Yaqui tribe is found on both sides of the US/Mexican border near Arizona) along with the popular education methods of Paulo Fierre for teaching, learning, reflecting and organizing.  As Senior Organizer, Eric mentors new staff, oversees legislative campaigns, and runs the immigration and anti-wage theft program. He has co-founded projects and initiatives such as the Day Labor hiring hall in 2004 (the Albany Park Workers Center), Cafe Chicago (a coffee roasting coop that is a social enterprise experiment), the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers (domestic worker organizing program), and the Raise the Floor Alliance (a non profit organization started between all 8 worker centers in Chicago) – just to name a few.  Throughout the 13 years at Latino Union, Eric has participated, represented and learned much from the National Day Labor Organizing Network and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. (www.latinounion.org)

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Mark Toney has been involved in social movements since organizing campaigns for student rights and founding an underground newspaper while in high school. In college he was involved in anti-nuclear, as well as South African and Central American solidarity campaigns. In 1982, Mark was hired as a community organizer for Workers Association for Guaranteed Employment in Rhode Island, organizing welfare moms to fight for basic needs. In 1986, he founded Direct Action for Rights & Equality and served as its executive director for eight years, organizing low income Black and Latino communities to fight for neighborhood playgrounds, police accountability, health insurance for home daycare providers, utility service, and multi-cultural curriculum in public schools. For four years starting in 2000, Mark served as executive director at Center for Third World Organizing. Mark has served as executive director of TURN–The Utility Reform Network since 2008, promoting affordable green energy and phone service through legal advocacy, grassroots organizing, and policy campaigns.  His leadership defeated an anti-consumer statewide initiative despite being outspent $46 million to $120,000, expanded LifeLine discounts to wireless phones, and included diverse communities in policy making. He has served as a board member of the National Organizers Alliance, ACLU of Northern California, National Whistleblower Center, and the Haymarket Peoples Fund. His leadership has been recognized nationally as a Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, an Echoing Green Fellow, and a Mother Jones Unsung Hero. https://www.turn.org/

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Isabel Vinent is the Deputy Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), based in Miami. FLIC a statewide coalition of more than 65 member organizations and over 100 allies who envision a new Florida based on inclusion and equality, without racism and exclusion, where immigrants can live and love without fear. Isabel was born in Honduras and has lived in the U.S. intermittently since 1983. In almost 30 years of social justice work, she has experience working with grassroots organizations of youth, indigenous, immigrant, women, and rural people in the U.S. and Central America. She earned a Ph.D. in Education in 2001 in Spain. Her areas of expertise include popular education, gender training, participatory research and project evaluation. She has also taught university graduate and postgraduate courses. Isabel and her husband founded a popular education team called “La Tapizca” in Central America and “Popular Education Consultants” in the U.S. to assist social organizations in creating and implementing educational and organizational capacity building processes. Isabel is also a Board member of the Palm Beach County Coalition for Immigrant Rights (PBCCIR). She joined FLIC in 2008. https://floridaimmigrant.org

Andrea Williams is a seasoned social justice advocate with 25 years of experience developing and executing projects and strategic initiatives; conducting leadership training; coaching rising community leaders; and executing strategic advocacy campaigns.  Her particular interest is in sustainable, interdisciplinary, community-based social justice initiatives.  Andrea holds a JD degree from the Rutgers School of Law and has worked for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the HIV Law Project. She currently works with previously incarcerated women at the Correctional Association of New York where she directs the ReConnect program, a leadership development and advocacy training program for women transitioning from prison. She is also an artist, avid reader and music aficionada. https://www.correctionalassociation.org

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Sondra Youdelman has worked both in the United States and abroad to achieve social and economic justice through organizing. She has over 20 years experience as an organizer and activist with grassroots groups including farm workers, Native Americans, public housing residents, and low-income workers in the United States, and abroad for various populations throughout Latin America and in several African countries. She has worked with the grassroots organization Community Voices Heard (CVH) in New York since 2000, and served as CVH’s Executive Director from March 2007 until July 2016. While at CVH, Sondra has focused extensively on welfare and workforce development policy, public housing improvement and preservation, and civic engagement and participatory democracy. She has written and researched numerous reports for CVH on these issues. Under Sondra’s leadership, CVH grew from a one city, one issue shop into a multi-chapter, multi-issue organization. CVH now has chapters in NYC, Westchester, Orange and Dutchess Counties. CVH also has established an affiliated 501c4 organization, CVH Power Inc., to take its political work to the next level. https://cvhaction.org/


2015 Residents

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Artemio Arreola is currently the Political Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) in Chicago. He manages the New Americans Democracy Project, a non-partisan civic engagement program that engages and mobilizes voters on issues ICIRR members and allies prioritize. In addition, Artemio deals with many different political organizations and individuals that directly work with the immigrant community including the Federation of Michoacán’s Clubs in Illinois (FEDECMI) and Casa Michoacán, both of which he co-founded. He is a member of the Conejo Consultivo Del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior/ Consultative Council of the Institute of the Mexicans in the Outside (CC-IME). The CC-IME helps people establish their Mexican birth-right to participate in the Presidential Mexican elections. Artemio was one of the main organizers and co-founder of the historic immigration demonstration (The March 10th Movement) that brought more than 500,000 people to the streets of Chicago. Artemio was previously a union organizer and labor activist for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for more than 15 years. He has received several awards for his work for immigrant justice. www.icirr.org

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Jai Dulani has been working at the intersections of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), Youth, Immigrant Justice and Anti-Violence Movements for over 15 years. He was a cultural worker and organizer around post 9-11 state violence, combatting the targeting of Muslims, Arab and South Asian communities. Dulani has been a trainer and educator around intimate partner violence in LGBTQ and South Asian immigrant communities. He has worked with youth through various community based and school-based settings as a Media Educator, Teaching Artist and facilitator of various leadership development programs, utilizing popular-education based political education with an anti-oppression framework. He is Co-Editor of the anthology, The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities. Currently, he is Co-Director of FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment), a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City. FIERCE develops politically conscious leaders who are invested in improving themselves and their communities through youth-led campaigns, leadership development programs, and cultural expression through arts and media. https://www.fiercenyc.org/

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Mónica Hernández is the Regional Coordinator of the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN).  The mission of SEIRN is to lift up the voice and leadership of immigrant communities in the Southeast regionally and nationally. SEIRN promotes collaboration and exchange among its members, as well as political education and collective action to build just and inclusive communities. SEIRN envisions grassroots immigrant communities joining other marginalized communities as equal partners to build a regional movement to transform the South into a place that respects the dignity and the human rights of all. A native of Mexico with roots in both countries, Mónica has been organizing in immigrant communities for over 25 years. She moved to the South to join the staff of the Highlander Center, where she led Highlander’s immigration work, co-developing and co-facilitating the Institute for Immigrant Leadership Development (INDELI) from 2004 to 2006. INDELI’s goals were to develop Latino grassroots leadership and organizations in the Southeast. She was also lead staff person on the Threads Leadership and Organizing School from 2008 to 2010. Mónica served as Highlander’s Interim Co-Director for 14 months in 2005-06. She was the Founding Chair of the Board of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and currently serves on the board of the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Before moving to the South, she worked at the Northern California Coalition for Immigration Rights in San Francisco from 1988 to 2001. Mónica lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia with her good buddy Maritza, dogs Dingo and Sugar, and cats Kiki and Rubio. https://seirn.squarespace.com/

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For the last decade, Vanessa Moses has been using her love of the people to organize for racial and economic justice. She found her calling after moving to the Bay Area of California and having the great fortune of working with brilliant organizers and activists on youth development, police accountability, and transformative justice. She joined Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC) in Oakland, California as a staff organizer in 2005 after being trained at the Labor Community Strategy Center’s organizing school in Los Angeles. She currently serves as the Acting Executive Director of CJJC, a multi-racial, grassroots organization building community leadership to achieve justice for low-income San Francisco and Oakland residents. The organization successfully passed over a dozen tenants rights ordinances in two cities and fought deportations of immigrant communities, winning sanctuary city status in both cities and helping to get motions passed by both counties pledging due process and not to cooperate with ICE on immigration holds. Vanessa is excitedly awaiting her & her partner’s first born at the end of this year (2015). www.cjjc.org

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Andrea Quijada’s favorite title is Tía to all of her fabulous nieces and nephews. She is a recovering executive director and has worked, played, and fought for social justice for over 22 years in various organizations, projects, and productions. Most recently, she directed the Media Literacy Project where she spent 13 years integrating and elevating media justice in New Mexico. Andrea believes in a world where each person has the resources they need to thrive.

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Jacqueline Robarge is Executive Director of Power Inside, a Baltimore, Maryland harm reduction and human rights organization for women and girls she founded in 2001. Alongside the women of Power Inside, she has fought for and won victories that held the city jail accountable for egregious human rights violations; stopped illegal sex-based discrimination in city services; and most recently, passed a statewide ban on the practice of shackling pregnant incarcerated women during childbirth. Jacqueline was born and raised in upstate New York and left for San Francisco at 19 after surviving a chaotic childhood in a family struggling with mental illness, alcoholism, and violence. Her passion for social change is rooted in her experiences as a survivor and her insight on domestic violence, rape, mental illness, institutionalization, and poverty. In California, Jacqueline found her way to healing through grassroots movements that were the foundation of her early social justice training. Working in community with elders and seasoned mentors doing clinic defense and domestic violence counseling, she developed the organizing and advocacy skills that shape her work today. Jacqueline’s work has included peer-led trauma healing and justice projects, white anti-racism organizing, anti-oppression trainings, LGBT rights, and a range of human rights advocacy. In her role as an appointed member of the Maryland Statewide Prisoner Reentry Task Force and the Governor’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System, she advocated for reform of policies that give rise to preemptive arrests and mass incarceration of people of color, poor people, and disabled people. https://powerinside.org/

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Maria Alegria Rodriguez has worked to defend basic human rights of low-income and migrant peoples for 25 years. She is the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), a statewide coalition of 50+ member organizations. With staff in four counties, and members throughout Florida, FLIC’s leadership builds depth in local communities, breadth for statewide reach and national alignment. Maria is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she was active in the anti-apartheid and Central America solidarity movements. She connected with Tenant and Workers’ United where she co-lead the formation of a housing cooperative. She has worked to defend public health care coverage and promoted the growth of award-winning free clinics: La Clinica del Pueblo in Washington, D.C. and Good News Care Center in Florida. She also served as Deputy Director of the Human Services Coalition (Catalyst Miami). She is the mother of Dante. https://floridaimmigrant.org

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Karyn Rotker lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and serves as Senior Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, heading its Poverty, Race & Civil Liberties Project. She works on such issues as transportation, environmental justice, voting rights, fair housing, police misconduct, and immigrants’ rights. Prior to joining the ACLU in October 2001, she spent 15 years working with migrant farmworkers, low-income families, and senior citizens as a staff and supervising attorney for legal services programs in Toldedo, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and Milwaukee. In addition, Karyn and her family are active in many issues in Wisconsin, and she is a member of MICAH – Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope, where she served on the Board for 5 years and just received MICAH’s “To Do What is Just” award for 2015. She also received the Good Citizen Award from the Sierra Club in 2014, the Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Award from the Milwaukee NAACP in 2010, and the President’s Award from Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee in 2010. www.aclu-wi.org

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Florence Simán is a founding Board Member and now serves as the Director of Programs at El Pueblo, Inc., in Raleigh, North Carolina. El Pueblo’s mission is for Latinos to achieve positive social change through building consciousness, capacity, and community action. Originally from El Salvador, Florence’s family moved to North Carolina in 1980 because of the political situation in their home country. In 1988, Florence received her BA in International Studies from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and in 1991, her Masters of Public Health, specializing in Health Behavior, Health Education. Since then, she has worked on several health-related projects throughout North Carolina. From 1994 to 2004, Florence worked at Child Care Networks, a child care resource and referral agency in Pittsboro, NC, where she developed and implemented a Latino Program to serve the needs of Latino families in the area. In 2004, Florence left Child Care Networks to direct a lay health advisor program at El Pueblo, where she is now the Director of Programs. Through her work at El Pueblo, Florence has worked on several “photo-voice” projects and is passionate about using photos as a tool to encourage dialogue and to create positive social change. https://www.elpueblo.org/


2014 Residents

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Erika Almiron is the Executive Director of Juntos, a Latino immigrant community-led organization in Philadelphia, PA fighting for human rights as workers, parents, and youth. She was born in South Philadelphia to immigrant parents from Paraguay and has spent almost two decades working in the Latino community. In her youth, she served as president of Latino organizations in high school and Penn State University.  After college, Erika went on to work with Latino communities in the Philadelphia area on issues ranging from women’s health, gentrification, prison reform and poverty.  Several years ago, she helped start the Media Mobilizing Project while working at the American Friends Service Committee with the Mexico/US Border Program on the issue of living and working conditions for maquiladora workers.  Before joining Juntos, she was the assistant director of the Philadelphia Student Union working with young people on leadership development and fighting for education reform.  In her spare time she is a freelance photographer and her pictures have been published and exhibited in Philadelphia and beyond.  She has documented prison conditions in South America, mountain top removal in West Virginia, homelessness in Harlem, and has recently received the prestigious Leeway Foundation Award to document agricultural reform and land distribution in Brazil and Paraguay. www.vamosjuntos.org/

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Prerna Lal, born in the Fiji Islands, came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 14, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Washington D.C. When she hit a glass ceiling as an undocumented immigrant, Prerna co-founded DreamActivist.org, a multicultural, migrant youth-led, social media hub for the movement to pass the federal DREAM Act. Since then, Prerna has helped create many local immigrant youth groups, providing direct support, mentorship and advocacy to individuals caught up in the immigration dragnet. A social media strategist, her pioneering use of online communications to stop deportations has become standard among organizations across the country. Her work and commentary for immigrant rights has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Al-Jazeera and the Huffington Post. In 2011, Prerna was awarded the Changemaker of the Year award on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 from the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). Prerna is a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, and she is currently serving on the Not One More Blue Ribbon Commission to the White House, while practicing immigration and civil rights law.  https://prernalal.com/

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Annie Loya is the Executive Director of Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) in East Palo Alto, CA. She’s been with the organization for over 16 years, starting as a volunteer at age 13. Annie was a key youth organizer within the Environmental Justice Accountability Campaign for 5 years, then joined the staff at 18 years old, where she drew from her experiences as a youth to restructure YUCA’s leadership development program to add more components that addressed the holistic development of youth, expanded the membership, and increased the number of campaigns at YUCA.  Annie was a crucial organizer in the campaign that led to the historic shutdown of Romic, a negligent toxic waste facility in East Palo Alto. She was a representative to the Environmental Justice Air Quality Coalition, the East Palo Alto Air Resource Team, the Community Advisory Group, Environmental Justice Group, and the Ravenswood Business District Coalition.  Annie also sits on the boards of Greenaction, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, the City of East Palo Alto’s Public Works and Transportation Commission, and San Mateo County’s Redistricting Committee. https://youthunited.net

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Dr. Cecilia Martinez is the Director of Programs at The Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) in Minneapolis, MN. CEED’s mission is to ensure a healthy, clean and safe environment for all communities and to develop solutions that are democratic sustainable and socially just. Cecilia has worked for over 20 years in the environmental justice movement, and has led a variety of projects to address sustainable development at the local and international levels. She currently serves on the Climate Action Planning Steering Committee for the City of Minneapolis, and has also worked with a range of organizations from local grassroots groups to international organizations engaging in the promotion of sound environmental policy and environmental justice. She has been appointed to several national advisory boards including the National Advisory Committee to the EPA for the Council on Environmental Cooperation, and the Research Working Group for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She is leading the effort on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on environmental harms. Among her publications is the co-edited volume Environmental Justice: Discourses in International Political Economy which includes some of her work on North American Indigenous peoples and the challenge of forging a common agenda of indigenous rights, justice and sustainability. She received her B.A. from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware’s College of Urban Affairs and Public Policy. Cecilia currently serves on the boards of the Minneapolis American Indian Center and Nawayee, an alternative Native-based high school. https://www.ceed.org/

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Sharlen Moore currently serves as Executive Director of Urban Underground, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has committed her life to building and sustaining grassroots leadership for change. She is a native of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and migrated to the United States with her family at the age of 6. Sharlen began her professional youth work career as a tireless volunteer and swim instructor at the Northside YMCA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a passion for community justice, which as a teen in high school led her to co-found the YMCA Leaders Club, currently known as Teen Achievers program. In 2000, she co-founded Urban Underground with Reggie Moore, a nationally recognized grassroots youth development organization whose members have been at the forefront of youth-led social change in Milwaukee and the region. Urban Underground’s members have consistently demonstrated both courage and determination as they address some of the most critical issues facing their community including education, public safety, health, and the criminal justice system. Sharlen’s commitment to youth was shaped by her early experiences with racial and economic injustice in Milwaukee. The product of a resilient family of faith, her efforts have touched the lives of countless youth and have inspired a new generation of young leaders that will carry forth the struggle for justice and equality. In addition to all her hard work, her greatest accomplishments include the co-founding of Urban Underground and the birth of her 3 amazing children. www.urbanunderground.org/

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Andrea Ritchie is a police misconduct attorney and organizer who has engaged in extensive research, writing, litigation, organizing and advocacy on profiling, policing, and physical and sexual violence by law enforcement agents against women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color in the U.S. and Canada over the past two decades. She currently coordinates Streetwise & Safe, a leadership development initiative aimed at sharing “know your rights” information, strategies for safety and visions for change among LGBT youth of color who experience gender, race, sexuality and poverty-based policing and criminalization. As such, she serves on the steering committee of Communities United for Police Reform, a city-wide campaign to challenge discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing practices in New York City led by grassroots community groups, legal organizations, policy advocates and researchers from all five boroughs. She is co-author of Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States and Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living With HIV. As a member of the national collective of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence from 2003–2008, she coordinated the development of the organization’s Toolkit on Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color and Transgender People of Color. She also wrote a piece for The Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology. She was recently awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship by the Open Society Foundation to engage in research and advocacy around women of color’s experiences of profiling and policing. www.streetwiseandsafe.org

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Yesenia Sanchez is founding executive director of P.A.S.O. West Suburban Action Project, a multi-issue social justice organization working to empower Latinos and immigrants in the West Cook suburbs of the Chicagoland area in Illinois. P.A.S.O. has been instrumental in the passage of the Illinois DREAM Act and Driver Licenses for All legislation as well as blocking the expansion of Secure Communities in Illinois. Under Yesenia’s leadership, the organization has quadrupled its budget, grown to a staff of 4, and expanded its offices. She was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and migrated with her family to Illinois at the age of 8, settling in the Chicago area. Her commitment to justice comes from her personal experiences as well as her faith and deep belief in the dignity of each person. Yesenia has been involved in the fight for immigrant rights since 2003, starting as a youth leader working on the passage of HB60, the in-state tuition law for undocumented students in IL. While a student at UIUC, she co-founded La Colectiva, a student-led organization focused on immigrant rights that engaged the administration to address issues that were impacting immigrant students and the local immigrant community. She was selected in 2012 as of one of 40 Gov. Edgar Fellows with the Institute of Government Public Affairs with the University of Illinois. ImpreMedia recently named her one of 10 Latinas with the “Mujeres Destacadas/Distinguished Women” award. She is a board member of the IL Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights and was formed as a Scalabrinian lay leader. While her passion for justice is a key motivation, Yesenia is also enriched by other loves, including dancing, biking, travelling, jewelry making, and most importantly spending time with her loved ones. www.pasoaction.org/

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Natasha Thomas-Jackson is a writer, performance artist and the Co-Founder/Executive Director of RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness, in Flint. MI. RAISE IT UP! promotes youth engagement, expression, and empowerment through performance, literary art, and social activism. Natasha’s literary works have been published by the John Hopkins Center on Genetic Research, AlterNet, and the Black Congressional Caucus. She also writes about feminism, politics, activism and pop culture on her blog, B(e)GirlManifesta. Her performances have been featured on the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Making Genes Dance. In 2008, Natasha’s work as an artist and activist earned her the National Hip Hop Political Convention’s Up and Coming Social Justice Activist Award. In 2012, the Detroit Pistons and their Come Together Foundation honored Natasha as one of their first-ever Community Impact-Game Changer awardees and donated $25,000 to RAISE IT UP! Natasha is the Founding Editor of a new website that will be launched in January 2015 called Flying Through the Intersection, which is an innovative digital space designed to explore intersectionality within the women’s/feminist movement.  Through a variety of content media, including powerfully written think-pieces, a video dialogue series, and podcasts (with all content created by women), FTTI will serve as resource for those looking for ways to explore the various models, strategies and opportunities for creating and sustaining a more intersectional, inclusive, accountable, and holistic women’s/feminist/womanist movement. Natasha is happily married with 3 children and enjoys reading, writing, making/listening to music, yoga, capoeira, meditation, art, fashion, interior design, and serving as the front woman for her new band, Audio Insurgence. https://www.raiseitupyouth.org/

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Charles “Chaz” Wheelock is from the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin and has worked for many years for sustainable, responsible development in rural communities that looks ahead seven generations. He currently serves as the Executive Administrative Assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin and holds a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning and Rural Development. Chaz’s past and present work in the twin themes of diaspora and sustainable community development for Indigenous peoples has provided a diverse field of references and resources from an international to a local context. Early on, Chaz helped to develop the Iroquois Farms as a tribal organic agriculture venture which established a cooperative management structure reflecting the Oneida worldview of cooperation and sharing – and which drew upon another model, the Mondragon cooperative in Spain. He has been active in a wide range of organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, the Indigenous Environmental Network, International Indian Treaty Council and the Midwest Treaty Network.  He is currently the Wisconsin point-person for the Indigenous People’s Working Group of the US Social Forum, on the US EPA National Tribal Consultation Policy Group as well as the Environmental Defense Fund/Pollution Prevention Alliance, the Wisconsin Community Fund and the Fund of the Sacred Circle of the Headwaters Fund in Minnesota. He is a proud father and grandfather as well!

2013 Residents

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Barbara Armstrong-White is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina and has been involved in the uplift of her community throughout her lifetime. Over the years, she has worked on many campaigns for civil rights, environmental justice, disability rights, and poverty eradication. Her current work with The Community Factor provides opportunities for grassroots individuals to engage in strategic brainstorming and collective problem solving sessions. TCF has tackled a number of critical issues in the community, from flooding to police accountability. Through UCAN Educational Services, Barbara provides inspirational training and facilitates workshops and retreats.  She enjoys storytelling, traveling with her grandchildren, and mentoring former students.  Barbara says, “Having almost died in 2000, I am committed to living as much life as possible and allowing myself to be less perfect – and more fun!” The-Community-Factor

Anthony photo

Anthony Clark is President and co-founder of the North Carolina Rural Education Working Group. The NCREWG is an advocacy group whose mission began with public education issues and concerns.  NCREWG represents un-served and underserved communities in North Carolina’s First Congressional District, a predominantly minority community.   The organization has worked against charter schools, vouchers, scholarships, high stakes testing, and the “School to Prison Pipeline” as NCREWG believes this trend has a negative impact on Public Schools. In response to identified issues, concerns, and needs, NCREWG has expanded its agenda to include voting rights, human and civil rights, immigration entitlements, and mass incarceration. Anthony was a public school teacher for 18 years, served as CEO for a community development corporation for 15 years and recently transitioned into this role as an advocate in the later stages of his career. North-Carolina-Rural-Education-Working-Group

Nijmie

Nijmie Dzurinko is a founder of Put People First! PA, a statewide grassroots multi-issue base building organization uniting people across traditional divides in Pennsylvania. She is obsessed with building a new organizing model for the 21st century that combines base building, study and narrative. Nijmie is a co-founder of the Media Mobilizing Project and a former Executive Director of the Philadelphia Student Union. https://putpeoplefirstpa.org/

Ron photo

Ron Garcia-Fogarty is a national of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the U.S., and spent his formative years becoming radicalized during the Sandinista Revolution, which helped to instigate his passion for working for participatory and electoral democracy as well as revolutionary change. He identifies as Multiracial, Latino and White and enjoys running, soccer, yoga, reading, and most of all, spending time with family and friends. Ron was recently a Workers Rights Paralegal at the North Carolina Justice Center, and serves on the board of directors of Student Action with Farmworkers. Previously, he has worked since 1996 in immigrant rights and workers’ rights organizations and multinational social justice networks in the U.S. & Latin America.  Ron is also a freelance interpreter, translator and nonprofit workshop facilitator, and is collaborating with other Language Justice activists in North Carolina and beyond to create multilingual spaces that empower and create bridges between monolingual immigrant non-English speakers and monolingual English speakers.

Alicia

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Alicia Garza is the Executive Director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), a multiracial, intergenerational organization fighting poverty at the root in San Francisco and beyond. Prior to assuming the role of Executive Director, Alicia was a lead organizer and helped to launch POWER’s Bayview Hunters Point Organizing Project in 2005. Alicia is a member of the Board of Directors for the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and an advisory board member for Asian Youth Promoting Leadership and Advocacy (AYPAL). Alicia is also a contributing writer for WarTimes magazine. https://www.peopleorganized.org/

Rev. William (Bill) Kearney is a consultant and facilitator and serves as Assistant to the Pastor at Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Warren County, North Carolina. Bill coordinators the church health ministry and chairs the United Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Association health committee. He has more than 30 years of experience developing and facilitating asset-based capacity building opportunities for groups and communities with emphasis on individual and environmental health, social justice and economic equity. Bill is a partner in several  community-based participatory research partnerships including: The Harvest of Hope Church Garden Project; The Faith, Farming, and the Future Youth Mentoring Project; The Community Leadership and Reciprocal Development Project; the Carolina-Shaw Partnership for the Elimination of Health Disparities, and was chosen as a 2011-2012 scholar in the novice UNC Translational and Clinical Sciences Research Engaged Community Scholars Program where he began a new research project aimed at engaging members of his community in discussion about environmental justice and the role the 1982 Warren County PCB toxic landfill protests played in the birth of the “environmental justice” movement. He is also a research affiliate with the African American Collaborate Obesity Research Network and a fellow in the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Lynn

Lynn Lewis is the Executive Director of Picture the Homeless. She has worked in the social justice movement for over 30 years in New York, Florida and revolutionary Nicaragua in organizations led by poor people. Lynn has worked with Picture the Homeless since 2000 and has been the director since 2003. She has worked extensively on police violence and abuse of homeless folks and is on the steering committee of Communities United for Police Reform. Her other burning interests are land reform in the U.S. and internationally and the (mis) use of domestic and international funding for community development that actually serves the interests of maintaining economic elites in power. https://www.picturethehomeless.org/

Glenda Perryman

Glenda Perryman, born in Chicago, Illinois, has been a community organizer and advocate in the Lucedale, Mississippi area for over nineteen years. She is the Founder, CEO and Executive Director of Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation, which serves eight rural counties throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.  The organization’s mission is to moderate the negative impact of isolation and poverty often faced by rural under-served, disadvantaged, low-income populations. Added to these issues are those of unjust hardships, racial tension and lack of adequate food, health services and access to education and training, services and programs. Hurricane Katrina added tremendously to these pre-existing issues and since then, Glenda and Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation have worked overtime to address these concerns. Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation

Sarai Portillo

Saraí Portillo is currently the Program Director for Miami Workers Center (MWC). The MWC is a strategy and action center that builds the collective strength of low-income people of color and its communities for power and self-determination. She joined the staff of the Miami Workers Center in October 2005 after graduating·from the Center’s summer 2005 Organizers Training Program. A native of Mexico, she built the grassroots membership council Miami en Accion back in 2006. Saraí came to MWC with organizing experience in Mexico within the student movement. She is an Anthropologist from Escuela National De Anthropologia e Historia and·has completed her thesis on the Immigrant Movement Struggles in the United States for the Last Decade.  https://www.miamiworkerscenter.org/

Helena Wong phoho

Helena Wong is a native New Yorker and couldn’t be more proud of it. She is currently the Executive Director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities (aka Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence), which works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City. CAAAV organizes communities to fight for institutional change and participates in a broader movement towards racial, gender, and economic justice. Helena first got involved with CAAAV as a high school youth in 1995 and joined the staff in 2003 with a fellowship from the Open Society Institute. She co-founded CAAAV’s Chinatown Tenants Union with member leaders to develop the leadership of immigrant residents to fight gentrification and displacement in New York City. Helena became Executive Director in July 2010 and currently also serves on the Board of Directors for Grassroots Global Justice National Alliance. https://caaav.org/