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Announcing the 2017 Strengthening Democracy Fellows

By April 18, 2017September 23rd, 20192 Comments

Rockwood is proud to announce the 2017 inaugural cohort of the Fellowship for Leaders Strengthening Democracy.

A partnership between Rockwood and the Piper Fund, this fellowship focuses on supporting new voices in democracy in order to reduce the influence of special interests on America’s political and judicial systems.

The 24 fellows are key influencers in organizations and networks that protect democratic systems from the influence of money, are positioned within their communities to help demonstrate new and better ways to lead and work together, and are working to engage the new American majority: women, people of color, LGBTQI communities, and young people. They will hone skills related to articulating vision, managing difficult conversations, and identifying personal leadership strengths and challenges while also connecting with each other to build a powerful network.

Please join us in congratulating the 2017 fellows:

Heather Arnett | Project Director, Justice Not Politics Alaska & Principal Advisor-Advocacy, North Star Group

Heather has been the project director of Justice Not Politics Alaska since 2014. JNPA is a statewide nonprofit formed to preserve Alaska’s merit-based judicial selection and retention system.  In addition to her work with JNPA, Heather serves as the principal advisor for advocacy for the North Star Group, a community engagement consulting firm. Heather is also a Sister on the Planet Ambassador with Oxfam America. She serves on the board of directors of the Anchorage Museum.

Adriana Barboza | Director of Movement Building, Wellstone Action

Adriana has over 15 years of experience in community organizing, training, and providing technical support to groups on the ground working on electoral efforts, and in the democracy field. She has a long history working with Wellstone in various roles over the past 11 years. Most recently, Adriana has focused on providing technical assistance to the frontline groups engaged in fighting for judicial independence, working to expand democracy and protect voting rights, or engaged in democracy issues like redistricting and money in politics. She has also played a key role in designing and delivering key partnership-based training and technical assistance programs for leading statewide organizations and coalitions.

Ashli Bolden | Civic Engagement Director, Missouri Jobs with Justice

Ashli has worked on a variety of campaigns in social justice movements over the course of her career.  She served as Civic Engagement Coordinator at Missouri Progressive Vote, registering over 30,000 Missourians. In 2016, Ashli led a team at Missouri Jobs with Justice Voter Action in its C4 civic engagement program to contact over 109,000 voters in Missouri around the issues of minimum wage and photo IDs. Ashli has recently been named Chair of the Organization for Black Struggle, and elected Vice President of the St. Louis Chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

Emmanuel Caicedo | Senior Campaign Strategist, Demos

Emmanuel serves as the Senior Campaign Strategist at Demos, where he leads state-level advocacy efforts. He came to Demos with over a decade’s worth of experience as an organizer, campaigner, and strategist for social and economic justice. Prior to Demos, he was Legislative Director at the Working Families Party where he built and led coalitions focused on democracy fights and economic justice campaigns, and helped elect progressives to office. Notably, Emmanuel was a key driver behind the NYC paid sick days victory in 2013. Previously, Emmanuel was a community organizer with groups in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, where everyday working people taught him the meaning of power.

Nimrod T. Chapel, Jr. | President, Missouri NAACP State Conference

Nimrod is the sole owner of The Chapel Law Group, where he primarily practices discrimination and business law. He is president of the Missouri NAACP State Conference, and the local chapter in Jefferson, MO. He is also active in several local community organizations, including Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Protect Your Right to Vote, Rotary Club, and Missouri Kids First.

Elizabeth Etta | Director, Washington Democracy Hub

Liz is an activist and nonprofit executive concerned with poverty elimination through electoral reform. Liz has worked in basic needs, foreign policy, housing, and democracy reform. She has a BA in African American Studies from Western Illinois University, and will finish her law degree from Seattle University School of Law in December 2017.

Esteban Garces | Florida State Director, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund

Esteban’s career was set in motion at a very early age when he and his family experienced housing injustices, as well as by his continued exposure to injustices in immigration, education, and race. These experiences taught him to believe that social justice isn’t given, it must be built. He joined Mi Familia Vota with extensive experience in immigration enforcement programs, community and political organizing, civic engagement, and leadership development. His social justice work experience spans from management of campaigns for affordable housing and against anti-immigrant policies, to securing key support for federal comprehensive immigration reform. Prior to joining Mi Familia Vota, he was the Political Organizer and Immigration Reform Campaign Director for SEIU Local 615/32BJ.

Emma Greenman | Director of Voting Rights and Democracy, Center For Popular Democracy

Emma directs the Center for Popular Democracy’s national Voting Rights and Democracy program, managing strategy, policy development, legal and strategic research, and campaigns on issues of voting rights and elections, money in politics, redistricting, and other pro-democracy reforms. Emma has over 15 years of experience working on democracy and election law issues as an attorney, policy expert, advocate, and organizer. Before joining CPD, Emma practiced law as a public defender, and as a civil litigator at Maslon LLP, where she served as pro bono counsel on voting rights litigation. She served as a member of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, and currently serves on the board of the American Constitution Society – Minneapolis-St. Paul Lawyer Chapter.

Kimi Lee | Director, Bay Rising

Kimi is the new Director of Bay Risin, and has over 25 years of organizing and alliance building experience. She 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 a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center, with a focus on building national strategic alliances and creating intersections for different social movements. While there, Kimi also staffed the Alliance for Educational Justice, a network of youth organizing groups. Most recently, she started a preschool cooperative in East Oakland called Rice and Beans, serving families of color who want to engage their young children in social justice issues.

Antonio Lima | Executive Director, Safeguarding American Values for Everyone

Tony is an external affairs professional with more than 19 years of experience in crafting and executing programs that combine advertising, social marketing, media relations, social media, corporate communications, fundraising, guerrilla and event marketing, public affairs, and community relations. Before assuming his current position, he was a longtime member of the organization’s Board of Directors. Under his leadership, SAVE successfully sued the state of Florida to legalize same-sex marriage in early 2015, and passed comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals at the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Amanda Manjarrez | Advocacy Director, Coalition of Communities of Color

Amanda is the Advocacy Director at the Coalition of Communities of Color based in Portland, OR. She came to the CCC after spending the last decade developing campaign strategies and advocating for progressive causes as the Chief Strategist for the New Mexico Civic Engagement Table. Amanda moved to Portland in 2013 to attend Lewis & Clark Law School, and is now an active member of the New Mexico State Bar.

David McDougal | South Florida Regional Director, New Florida Majority

David is the South Florida Regional Director at the New Florida Majority, an independent organization focused on increasing the voting power and political influence of Florida’s low income communities of color. In his role as South Florida Regional Director, David manages NewFM’s issue and neighborhood organizing, voter engagement, and GOTV campaigns in Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Prior to his current role, David ran field for three candidate races, served as South Florida Director for NextGen Climate Action and for the Human Rights Campaign, helped launch Engage Miami and the Miami Climate Alliance, and taught history and government at an NYC public high school.

Delvone Michael | Senior Political Strategist, National Working Families Party

Delvone is a Senior Political Strategist for the National Working Families Party.  He was the Founding Director of DC Working Families where he was the architect of the DC for $15 initiative, and headed groundbreaking civic engagement programs including Friends and Families and Talking Transition. Previously, Delvone worked for national labor, political, and nonprofit organizations, including SEIU, Mack Crounse, and USAction, where he worked on state, local, and federal candidate development, as well as political and public education programs focused on workers issues and corporate accountability.

Elena Nunez | Executive Director, Colorado Common Cause

Elena is the executive director of Colorado Common Cause, where she manages CCC’s programmatic and organizational priorities. Elena led Colorado Common Cause’s efforts to modernize Colorado elections and increase opportunities for civic participation by establishing same day voter registration, modernizing list maintenance processes, and creating more convenient options for voting. In addition to her work lobbying and building coalitions on government reform issues, Elena has significant experience working on ballot measures, including successful statewide campaigns for campaign finance and ethics reform. Prior to joining Common Cause, Elena worked with the Public Interest Network. Originally from Arizona, Elena graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Political Science and Gender Studies.

Melissa Price Kromm | Director, North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections

Melissa is the director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, North Carolina’s leading voice for returning power to citizens and lessening the corrosive influence of special interests in state politics. She serves as lobbyist and leader of a coalition with more than 35 member organizations. This coalition has successfully passed the now repealed “voter-owned” public financing for select judicial and Council of State races. Before joining North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, Melissa was part of a successful effort to pass same-day voter registration at early voting sites in North Carolina.

Emma Sandoval | Co-Executive Director, SouthWest Organizing Project

Emma serves as a Co-Executive Director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a mutli-generational community based organization, with a mission to empower disenfranchised communities of the Southwest to realize racial and gender equality, and social and economic justice. Emma is a proud Burquena, born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She has been working for over 10 years to seek healing and social justice in her community through organizing, advocacy, and civic engagement. She is a writer, artist, and mother whose passion has led her to author Cholas of the Round House, commission mural projects like “Re-Writing Our Story History” on the Center for Peace and Justice, and speak publicly at venues like TedXABQEducation and Crossroads Conference for Women.

Adam Smith | Communications Director, Every Voice

Adam is the Communications Director for Every Voice, where he manages the organization’s political accountability program, and oversees the press and digital teams. He has worked on money-in-politics advocacy for over a decade, and has managed or advised communications efforts on these issues for policy, ballot, and electoral campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels. In 2016, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the “16 Young Americans Shaping the 2016 Election” due to his work making campaign finance issues a bigger part of the presidential race. He lives in Washington, DC.

Larry Stafford, Jr. | Executive Director, Progressive Maryland

Larry currently serves as the Executive Director for Progressive Maryland, an advocacy organization that works towards building power for working class Marylanders. Larry began his career in community organizing at the age of 17 with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). While at ACORN, Larry fought against a proposal that would have closed down low-income apartment complexes in marginalized communities within Prince George’s County. After helping to defeat the proposal, Larry has since gone on to work on numerous electoral and issue campaigns throughout the country.

Margrete Strand Rangnes | Executive Vice President, Public Citizen

Margrete is Executive Vice President of Public Citizen. She’s been a campaigner, organizer, and activist since she first became involved in environmental and trade issues as a teenager in her native Norway. Prior to joining Public Citizen, she ran the Labor and Trade program at the Sierra Club, where she helped form the BlueGreen Alliance (a partnership of environmental and labor organizations), and served as its Deputy Director for several years. She has also worked extensively internationally, and, in the run-up to the Seattle WTO Ministerial in 1999,  helped form the Our World Is Not For Sale network, the premier international network of organizations and campaigners working on global trade issues.

Scott Swenson | Vice President for Communications, Common Cause

Scott oversees strategic communications and messaging for Common Cause’s national organization, and is working to integrate that with the work being done on the frontlines of democracy by its 35 state affiliates. Before joining Common Cause in 2015, Scott helped build and lead the Piper Fund’s Communications Collaborative at ReThink Media on Money in Politics, a network of more than 50 national organizations working to elevate the issues of money in politics on the national agenda.

Sara Totonchi | Executive Director, Southern Center for Human Rights

Sara is the Executive Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit law firm that is working in the Deep South to end mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the criminalization of poverty. Sara joined SCHR in 2001 as the Public Policy Director, and became Executive Director in 2010. Sara led coalition efforts and legislative advocacy to establish Georgia’s statewide public defender system, and enact criminal justice reforms. As Executive Director, Sara leads SCHR in carrying out its mission to dramatically transform the criminal justice system. Sara has been recognized for her work by several publications, including being named by Atlanta Magazine as one of “Five of the Future” leaders of Atlanta. Sara and her family immigrated to the United States when she was a child.

Catherine Turcer | Chief Policy Analyst, Common Cause Ohio

Catherine is the chief policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio, and coordinates the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition, which was initially organized to pass a successful state legislative redistricting reform ballot measure in 2015, and now promotes congressional redistricting reform.  Catherine is on the governing board of Ohio Coalition for Open Government, and serves on Move to Amend Ohio’s coordinating committee. In 2006, Catherine received the Spirit of Democracy Award from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Camille A. Wimbish | Election Administration Director, Ohio Voice

Camille is the election administration director for Ohio Voice, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering underrepresented communities. Among her chief duties, she lobbies the state legislature to protect voting rights, leads statewide election protection efforts, and organizes other democracy initiatives such as redistricting and judicial reform. Prior to working with Ohio Voice, Camille was a litigation associate with two large firms in Columbus and Cleveland.

Ryan Wright | Executive Director, Kansas Values Institute & Kansans for Fair Courts

Ryan leads the Kansas Values Institute, which brings together policy and opinion leaders to advocate and educate around issues, including the Kansans for Fair Courts initiative. The Institute also seeks responsible tax policy that does not disproportionally burden hardworking, low- and middle-income Kansans. Before launching KVI, Ryan worked for Kansas Action for Children, and led the Kansas Coalition for School Readiness, where he expanded access to high-quality early education programs, and helped shape policy on behalf of the 700,000 children of Kansas. Ryan has been engaged in aspects of electoral politics for nearly 20 years.


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