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Announcing the 2018-2019 National Leading From The Inside Out Yearlong Fellows

By October 23, 2018September 25th, 20199 Comments

Rockwood is proud to announce our 2018-2019 National Leading from the Inside Out Yearlong fellows.

Since 2003, this executive leadership program has emerged as one of the nation’s leading learning laboratories for experienced social change leaders. Each year, Rockwood selects a cohort of nationally-recognized leaders to participate in this transformative yearlong fellowship.

National Leading From The Inside Out Yearlong fellows must be nominated in order to apply for the fellowship, and the extensive selection process takes into account a great number of factors, including Rockwood’s commitment to build connections between leaders who are diverse in methodology, issue focus, geography, and personal experience and identity.

Please join us in celebrating the 2018-2019 fellows:


Craig Aaron | President and CEO, Free Press

Craig Aaron has led Free Press and Free Press Action Fund since 2011. For more than a decade, he has been a leader in major campaigns to safeguard Net Neutrality, stop media consolidation, oppose unchecked surveillance, defend public media, and sustain quality journalism. He works in Washington and speaks often to the press and the public on media and technology issues. He has written for The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, Politico, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, Slate and many other outlets. Before joining Free Press, he was an investigative reporter for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch and the managing editor of In These Times magazine. He is the editor of two books, Appeal to Reason: 25 Years of In These Times and Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @notaaroncraig.


Levi Allen | Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of America

Levi comes from a long tradition of UMWA coal miners. Born in Franklin County, PA in1981, Levi and his brother Aaron were raised in Moundsville, West Virginia, and began his coal mining career in 2007. Hired into the McElroy Mine (now the Marshall County Mine) as a general inside laborer, he worked primarily at the coal face. After working as a beltman, he earned his electrician’s card and began working as a mechanic/electrician throughout the mine. Levi was recognized as a rising talent in the UMWA and was hired by President Roberts onto the International staff in 2015. He became the executive assistant to the international Secretary-Treasurer in January 2017 and assumed the duties of international secretary-treasurer on July 1, 2017. Levi graduated from John Marshall High School in Moundsville and attended West Liberty University. He is married to the former Shannon Sechrest. He and Shannon are blessed with five children; Owen, Chloe, Lucy, Finnegan, and Auggie.


Ashley Allison | Executive Vice President of Campaigns and Program, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Ashley brings over a decade of outreach, organizing, and campaign experience, along with an expertise in crisis management and coalition building. She served as the deputy director and senior policy adviser under Valerie Jarrett in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Her portfolio included managing a team that worked with the LGBTQ, Muslim, faith, African-American, disability, and entertainment communities. Allison’s primary policy focus at the White House was criminal justice and policing reform. Prior to joining government, she worked on healthcare enrollment and partner engagement at the nonprofit Enroll America and on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign doing statewide African-American voter outreach in Ohio. Allison is a graduate of Ohio State University. She also spent seven years in New York earning her Juris Doctorate and Masters in Education while working as a high school special education teacher.


Sarah Audelo | Executive Director, Alliance for Youth Action

Sarah is the executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, the nation’s largest youth grassroots organizing network. An organization that is “of young people, by young people, for all people,” the Alliance works to build political power with young people across the United States. Sarah’s passion is centering and uplifting young folks, and particularly young folks of color, in progressive movements and institutions. Before joining the Alliance, Sarah served as Hillary Clinton’s Millennial Vote Director in the 2016 election. She has experience as an organizer and advocate for the Millennial generation, working on economic justice, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, civic engagement, and more at organizations including Advocates for Youth and Generation Progress. After graduating from Georgetown University, Sarah was a special education teacher with Teach for America in the Rio Grande Valley. She is originally from Bakersfield, CA and lives in Northeast Washington, DC.


Mackenzie Baris | Deputy Director, Jobs With Justice

Before joining the national staff of Jobs With Justice in January 2012, Mackenzie served as the director of DC Jobs with Justice from 2002 to 2011. During her nine years in leadership, DC JWJ helped win union recognition and good contracts for thousands of DC-area workers and led campaigns to pass Living Wage and Paid Sick Days laws in the District, to keep ICE out of DC jails, and to organize day laborers to combat wage theft. During her time on national staff, Mackenzie has served in a number of roles including field organizer, deputy field director, senior organizer for network capacity, and was recently named deputy director. Mackenzie studied history at Yale University and has been involved in both student and faith-based movements, and as a rank-and-file union activist and elected officer.


Saqib Bhatti | Co-Executive Director, Action Center on Race and the Economy

Saqib is the co-executive director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE). He works on campaigns to win racial and economic justice by taking on the financial institutions that are responsible for extracting wealth and resources from communities of color and poor people in order to further enrich themselves. Coming from an immigrant Muslim family from Pakistan, Saqib’s first foray into organizing was as part of the anti-war movement at Yale University following 9/11. After college, he spent 10 years working on corporate social responsibility campaigns with the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He was awarded a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship in 2013, which he used to launch the ReFund America Project, a predecessor organization to ACRE. Saqib serves on the boards of the Midwest Academy and Political Research Associates and is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.


Charlene Carruthers | National Director, Black Youth Project 100

Charlene has spent over a decade developing leaders as an effective strategist, community organizer, and educator. She is a Black lesbian feminist and founding national director of the BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), a leading organization of young activists in the movement for Black liberation. Her work has been featured in outlets including The Nation, NBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Al Jazeera, Ebony, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Charlene was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she currently resides. Her inspirations include a range of Black women, including her mother, Ella Baker, Cathy Cohen, Marsha P. Johnson, and Barbara Ransby. In her free time, Charlene loves to cook and believes the best way to learn about people is through their food. Charlene is the author of the bestselling debut book, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.


Christine Chen | Executive Director, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote

Christine was APIAVote’s founding executive director from 2006-2008 and returned in January 2011 to serve as its current executive director. During her tenure, she strengthened and expanded APIAVote’s partners into 26 states. APIAVote’s research and polling of Asian American voters and their regional trainings and field programs have strengthened the local grassroots programs in reaching and mobilizing Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. Profiled by Newsweek in 2001 as one of 15 women who will shape America’s new century, Christine served from 2001 to 2005 as national executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), one of the leading APIA civil rights organizations in the country. Leading an organization with more than 80 chapters and affiliates across the nation, she worked with OCA’s national board, executive council, chapter representatives, members, and funders while managing a staff of 13. Christine currently serves on the Kennedy Center Community Advisory Board, Center for Asian American Media, OCA Northern Virginia Chapter, and the advisory boards for the Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association (APAMSA), and CAPAL.


Kathay Feng | Executive Director, California Common Cause and National Redistricting Director

Kathay leads California Common Cause in championing election and redistricting reforms, government sunshine and accountability laws, campaign finance reforms, media access, and the voting rights of traditionally disenfranchised communities. Kathay helped spearhead California Common Cause’s successful effort to create an independent citizens redistricting commission; the state’s program has become a national model. She also led efforts that secured passage of California laws bringing online voter registration and same-day registration to the state. Before joining Common Cause in 2005, she headed the Voting Rights and Anti-Discrimination Unit at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Her advocacy led to the creation of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which provides citizen oversight over the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on issues ranging from discrimination to use of force. She serves or has served on numerous boards including the California Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Voter Participation and Outreach, the LA County Human Relations Commission, and the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. She is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a law degree from UCLA School of Law.


Chris Melody Fields Figueredo | Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

Chris became the executive director of the BISC in June 2018, bringing over 15 years of experience in advocacy, movement building, and leading large-scale programs. Her career is devoted to social justice and racial equity. She believes in “We the People” and building an inclusive and participatory democracy. She demonstrated that through her work at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Common Cause where led fights for voting rights and getting big money out of politics. Prior to joining BISC, she served as the Associate Director for Voting Rights at ReThink Media where she deployed effective communications and capacity-building strategies. A seasoned strategist, she began her career working on several progressive political campaigns across the country. Her first job in DC was organizing for access to quality education for DC’s children and families. Chris is Venezuelan-American, raised in Texas. She lives in Washington, DC with her amazing daughter.


Arisha Hatch | Managing Director, Color of Change

Arisha serves as managing director of Campaigns at and leads the organization’s civic engagement, voting rights, criminal justice, corporate accountability, and media work. During her time at ColorOfChange, she has led efforts to convince corporations to divest from the Republican National Convention, pushed for policy changes in the way that online fundraising platforms like GoFundMe and Indiegogo profit from police violence, and successfully pressured Saturday Night Live to add Black women to its cast and writers’ room. Prior to joining ColorOfChange in 2012, Arisha left behind a legal career to organize for the Obama Campaign in 2008 and later served as National Organizing Director of the Courage Campaign. She earned degrees in Economics, Creative Writing, and Feminist Studies from Stanford and her juris doctorate from Santa Clara University.


Jonathan Jayes-Green | Director, UndocuBlack Network

Jonathan is the director and a co-founder of the UndocuBlack Network, a multigenerational network of Black undocumented immigrants organizing their own communities and building power. Jonathan believes racial, social, and economic justice is possible by organizing and centering the voices and leadership of those directly impacted. He is a queer undocumented Afro-Panamanian who loves salsa, merengue, and heartfelt hugs. Jonathan has been the recipient of the American Immigration Council’s Immigrant Youth Achievement Award, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Inspira Award, and the Frederick Douglass 200 List by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center. Jonathan received his associate degree from Montgomery College and his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Goucher College.


Judith LeBlanc | Director, Native Organizers Alliance

Judith is a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, and the director of the Native Workers Alliance (NOA). A national Native training and organizing network, NOA provides Native organizers, tribal governments, and nonprofits with trainings and support for strategic campaign planning and community engagement. The health and well-being of our communities can only be guaranteed with a growing grassroots, durable network of Native organizers who share a common theory of change rooted in traditional values and sacred practices. As is said in Indian Country, being a “good relative” means total awareness of the environment past and future, and acting in harmony with all in the natural world and humanity. Hawwih!


Cayden Mak | Executive Director, 18 Million Rising

Cayden is executive director at (18MR). He is a movement technologist interested in building trust, community, and independent power on the internet. As part of 18MR’s founding staff, he was an integral part of developing the organization’s vision, voice, analysis, and playbook. In his previous role as the chief technology officer, he was the driving force behind the community-centered design for civic tech project VoterVOX, a matching tool to help find personalized volunteer translation assistance for limited English proficient voters. He is a member of the Open Society Foundations New Executives Fund 2017 cohort, serves on the advisory board for the Kairos Fellowship, and was recently recognized in Everyday Feminism as an inspirational trans leader of color. Prior to 18MR, he completed coursework towards a Master of Fine Arts, taught intro media studies courses, organized marginalized academic labor, and contested corporate power at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. While in graduate school, he co-founded New York Students Rising, a network of student organizers working for justice and equity in public higher education in New York State. He also helped found Youngist, a young people-powered movement media network.


Andrea Marta | Executive Director, Faith In Action Fund

Andrea Marta is the executive director of the Faith In Action Fund (FIA Fund) formerly PICO Action Fund. Prior to her role leading FIA Fund, Andrea served as the Campaign Manager for LIVE FREE, an initiative of Faith In Action, formerly known as the PICO Nation Network. LIVE FREE focused on ending the criminalization of people of color by empowering those directly impacted by mass incarceration to lead in the local, state and national arenas. In 2016, Andrea led FIA Fund’s voter engagement campaign that helped unseat the incumbent prosecutor in Hillsborough County, Florida. Andrea began her organizing career at 14, when she joined a PICO-affiliated organization in San Francisco as a volunteer leader following a drive-by shooting at her church during a youth dance. In response, she helped to advocate for and design a $7 million youth center in her neighborhood.


Greisa Martinez Rosas | Deputy Executive Director, United We Dream

Greisa is the deputy executive director of United We Dream. With more than 400,000 members, it is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country. In this role, Greisa serves as strategist and implements UWD’s vision as the organization continues to build power throughout the country. In 2006, Greisa began organizing to help young Latinos register to vote, and has since become a fearless defender of her undocumented community and a staunch advocate for the rights of women. Originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, Greisa migrated to the U.S. with her parents at a young age and grew up in Texas. While studying Biology at Texas A&M University, she co-founded the first undocumented youth-led organization in the conservative university’s more than 100-year history. Greisa is a leading voice in the progressive movement and has been featured in CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BBC, Telemundo, and Univision, among others. Greisa is the living embodiment of the United We Dream spirit: transforming personal adversity into hope and personal power that has inspired thousands of others into action.

Joanne N. Smith | Executive Director, Girls for Gender Equity

Joanne is the founder and executive director of Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), working to move closer to GGE’s mission through strategic advocacy, development, and leadership cultivation. Joanne is a Haitian-American social worker born in NY. A staunch human rights advocate, Joanne co-chaired the nation’s first Young Women’s Initiative, a cross-sector Initiative coordinating government, philanthropic, and community efforts to create the conditions for cis and trans girls of color and gender nonconforming youth to thrive. Joanne’s leadership helped to facilitate a $20 million commitment from government and philanthropy to invest in community-driven recommendations. Joanne is a steering committee member of Black Girl Movement and a Movement Maker with Move to End Violence -a 10-year initiative designed to strengthen the collective capacity to end gender-based violence in the United States. Joanne is an alumna of Hunter Graduate School of Social Work and Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management. She co-authored Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets. GGE has partnered with the ‘me too.’ movement to interrupt sexual violence and support young people through their healing journey. Joanne resides in Brooklyn, NY.


Suman Raghunathan | Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together

Suman, SAALT’s executive director, joined the organization in February 2014. As executive director, Suman coordinates SAALT’s overall efforts to amplify diverse South Asian voices advocating for progressive change in the U.S. This includes developing, together with SAALT staff and board of directors, a vision for the organization, working closely with SAALT’s stakeholders, and expanding the resources necessary to implement that vision. Suman is a passionate and seasoned immigrant rights advocate with extensive experience on the range of issues addressed by SAALT, deep connections to South Asian communities, and relationships with key partners in the racial justice and immigrant rights movements. She has longstanding experience in leading nonprofit organizations, having first served as interim executive director and then as a long-time member of the board of directors of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, one of SAALT’s community partners. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Suman has a keen understanding of the issues affecting South Asian and other immigrants in the United States. Through her work at organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Progressive States Network, and the New York Immigration Coalition, Suman has developed expertise on policy issues, directed immigrant leadership development programs, launched newcomer civic engagement campaigns, and implemented capacity-building and advocacy campaigns.


Mariana Ruiz Firmat | Director, Kairos Fellowship

Mariana is the Kairos Fellowship director. Mariana has over 15 years of experience as a community organizer and digital campaigner. She helped co-found the Kairos Fellowship along with Jackie Mahendra and others while serving as managing director of She launched her digital campaigning career at where she was deputy field director and campaign director. Mariana is currently the board chair of Katal Center for Health and Justice. She also provides digital strategy support to criminal justice and immigrant rights organizations. Mariana has spent most of her career working on racial justice issues, immigrant rights, and ending violence against migrant women. She is also an essayist and poet and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


Sarah Shanley Hope | Executive Director, Solutions Project

Sarah is the founding executive director of the Solutions Project, a national organization with a vision of 100% clean energy for 100% of people and a track record of success moving that vision from the margins to the mainstream in just five years. The Solutions Project’s mission is to make the clean energy movement and narrative more inclusive, collaborative, and celebratory. To change these cultural conditions, we invest in community-driven solutions, inspire people with stories about every day (s)heroes, and build strategic relationships between unlikely allies. Sarah has held leadership roles at the Alliance for Climate Education, Green For All, Cargill, and Best Buy over her 15+ years of experience at the intersection of brand strategy and social change. She has raised and helped deploy more than $40 million in support of an equity and climate agenda over her tenure in the field. Sarah graduated with an MBA from the University of Minnesota and a BA in political science from Vassar College. She grew up in Buffalo, NY, now a leading example of community-driven climate solutions, and lives with her husband and daughters in Oakland, CA.


Sekou Siby | Executive Director, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

A French teacher in his native Africa (Ivory Coast), Sekou is a founding member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York ROC-NY, a nonprofit workers’ center that organizes restaurant workers for improved working conditions in the NYC restaurant industry. A former cook at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center, Sekou joined the ROC-NY staff in 2003 as a community organizer. While in this position, he spearheaded at least four campaigns, bringing hundreds of workers to victory against their employers and winning more than $10 million in back wages. He was one of the co-executive directors of ROC-NY from January 2008 to May 2012. Sekou joined ROC-United in 2012 as deputy director. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and has been the executive director of ROC-UNITED since September 2017.


Pheng Thao | Executive Director, ManForward

Pheng is the founder and director of ManForward, a local organization based out of the Twin Cities, MN, that works toward developing new practices of masculinity and manhood with men, boys and masculine identities to promote gender equity. He works at the intersections of building community, organizing community, and mental health, and is committed to creating new masculine and male practices that will not marginalize women, girls, LGBTQ/gender non-conforming folks, or limit boy’s and men’s full expression. He has done numerous trainings and technical assistance to several local, national, and international organizations on gender-based violence including domestic violence, sex trafficking, and sexual violence. Pheng also coordinates the Minnesota statewide engagement of the Men and Masculine Folks Network, a collaborative network of many community organizations and individuals. As a mental health practitioner, Pheng supports and works with: LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth; families and couples; men who have committed sexual violence; and founded a domestic violence Hmong men’s program called Txivneej Yawg. Lastly, he serves as a trustee on the MN Women’s Foundation and is a 2018 Bush Fellow.


Dr. Corey Wiggins | Executive Director, Mississippi NAACP

Corey completed his undergraduate studies at Alcorn State University and received his MS in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Policy and a PhD from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Corey has furthered his training through fellowships with the Kaiser Family Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Growing up in rural Mississippi, Corey was driven with a simple mission to serve the community. His diverse career experiences have focused on creating equitable opportunities through systems and public policy change. Previously, he served as director of the Hope Policy Institute where he focused his efforts on strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed parts of the Mid-South. He has served as a public policy professional both as a Barbara Jordan Health Policy Fellow in the United States Senate and as a policy analyst for the Mississippi State Legislature. Corey has long served as an advocate for equitable healthcare access. His work in health advocacy has focused on ensuring that communities have all the resources including quality housing, education, and infrastructure that supports healthy communities. For his work, Corey received the Dr. Montague Cobb Award for his outstanding achievements in health policy advocacy and social justice from the National NAACP.