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Building PowerNews

Announcing the 2020 Building Power Fellows

A green plant growing out of red ground

Photo by Sushobhan Badhai

Rockwood Leadership Institute is pleased to announce the 2020 Building Power fellows!

A partnership between Rockwood, The California Endowment, and InPartnership Consulting, the Building Power Fellowship focuses on supporting health equity leaders to skillfully and collaboratively shift the local and state health policy landscape.

A cohort of 24 diverse leaders were selected, representing organizations across two of California’s key regions: Sacramento and San Diego. The fellowship will provide unique capacities that health equity leaders need to build power, including: bringing a racial equity lens to their leadership; addressing racial equity in their organizations and communities; increased ability to lead, convene, and mobilize in networks and coalitions; strengthened ability to conduct power mapping at the local, regional, and state level; and a deepened understanding of how to hold community decision-makers and leaders accountable and incorporating strategies to do so.

Join us in congratulating this wonderful cohort!

Anastasia Brewster |  Strategic Partnerships Manager, City Heights Community Development Corporation

Anastasia is the strategic partnerships manager at City Heights Community Development Corporation, which works with local leaders to advance the community’s vision for a healthy, inclusive, and livable City Heights. Anastasia’s work starts with the people who call City Heights home⁠. She builds power among residents to advocate for health equity in areas like land-use, transportation, and housing.  She can be found around the neighborhood, supporting refugee gardeners, coaching up-and-coming leaders, painting murals, and helping create unlikely collaborations. She was the lead organizer on campaigns for critically needed sidewalks and a community-built gathering space.  Anastasia is involved in grant and donor development and is eager to introduce City Heights, the neighborhood she and her family have called home since 2006, to a wider audience of social justice-minded funders and donors. Prior to her work at City Heights CDC, Anastasia helped establish the first community land trust dedicated to affordable housing in San Diego. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Pomona College.


Anjleena Kour Sahni | Researcher and Policy Analyst, Center on Policy Initiatives

Anjleena works as a researcher and policy analyst at the Center on Policy Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to uplifting economic, social and racial justice at the local level, in the San Diego region. Her work centers around coalition building and community-based policy advocacy, which includes developing budget/policy demands that reflect community needs, identifying and producing research that can be useful to support and amplify messages, and working continuously to understand the city and county budget processes more deeply. She is committed to work that brings together community partners and uplifts community voices that have historically been excluded from policy-making.


April Michelle Jean | Cultural Responsiveness Program Director, Impact Foundry and Founder, Advocates for Action Consulting

April is the inspirational visionary and founder of Advocates for Action Consulting, a consulting effort focused on reimagining a comprehensive systems approach to improving outcomes for communities of color in the Sacramento region. Additionally, April holds a position as cultural responsive program director at Impact Foundry, Sacramento’s Nonprofit Resource Center.  With over 16 years of experience in nonprofit administration, mental health, foster care services, child & adult welfare, and community development she is deeply committed to creating equitable solutions in order to improve outcomes for historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities.  April’s educational accomplishments include a bachelor’s degree in child & family studies from Syracuse University where she was a scholarship women’s basketball player. She also earned a master’s degree in social work from California State University, Sacramento in 2009. April identifies as an African American women whose pronouns are she/her/hers.


Consuelo Martinez | Deputy Mayor, City of Escondido, and Leadership Development Specialist, Mid-City CAN

Consuelo is a southern California native and currently resides in Escondido where she grew up. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in political science – global concentration and women’s studies from California State University San Marcos. Consuelo is passionate about social justice and her community and has been organizing in the region for two decades.  A former commissioner for the City of Escondido’s Community Services Commission, Consuelo has also served in various leadership capacities for numerous nonprofit and political organizations throughout San Diego County.  Since the summer of 2015, Consuelo has worked as a leadership development specialist at Mid-City CAN where she works with residents to build power and develop their leadership skills. In November of 2018, Consuelo was elected as council member in her hometown of Escondido. Consuelo is invested in long-term social change in our region and ensuring our leaders are representative of the communities they serve.


Courtney Hanson | Organizer and Development, Decarcerate SAC, and Coordinating Committee, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Courtney is a grassroots abolitionist organizer who has been working to dismantle carceral systems across California since 2012. She is a development associate with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, a member of Decarcerate Sacramento and part of the Coordinating Committee for Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of over 80 organizations shifting state priorities toward #carenotcages. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with bachelors’ degrees in both art and feminist studies and now resides in her hometown of Sacramento, CA. As someone who grew up with an aunt in prison who was a survivor of domestic violence, Courtney’s work against the prison industrial complex has always been informed by a commitment to ending gender-based oppression.


Crystal Irving, MSW | Protective Services Worker, County of San Diego, Politics Chair/Member Political Organizer Chair and County Chapter Vice President, SEIU Local 221

Crystal was born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and African & African American studies. Upon graduation, she worked for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica and went on to earn a Master of social work degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and relocated to San Diego County to serve as a protective services worker for Child Welfare Services. Over the course of the last 6 years, Crystal has served as a children’s social worker in adoptions and is currently serving as a recruitment specialist. Her focus is the recruitment and retention of quality foster and adoptive parents to care for our most vulnerable children and youth.  While in this position, she became a member leader of her union, SEIU Local 221.  She has served on the bargaining team during contract negotiations and challenged their Board of Supervisors to truly invest in its employees and the communities they were elected to serve.  She was elected to serve her coworkers as politics chair and county chapter vice-president.  She has since worked alongside colleagues and community partners to pass the Full Voter Participation measure and is currently working to ensure that we elect new County Board of Supervisors who will have the people’s best interest at heart.  She also works with her union staff to present at New Employee Orientation to energize and activate new county employees around the work of SEIU Local 221.  Crystal was also appointed to the social worker seat on the child and family strengthening advisory board.  This advisory board focuses on strengthening families by identifying and addressing the needs of children and youth who are brought to the attention of the San Diego County Child Welfare Services to ensure the safety and well-being of children and families and Crystal brings forth the voice of social workers, who have never had a voice or a seat at this table.  With a strong hope and vision for progress, Crystal seeks to generate positive changes in San Diego County, the state, the country, and around the world.


Cynthia Lopez-Foltz | Program Director, Health Education Council 

Cynthia is the program director for the Health Education Council, where she provides overall direction to all of the HEC’s programs and community engagement efforts directed to the Latino community. These initiatives includes the “Ventanilla de Salud” program, at the Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento with the Mexican Government; HEC’s Mente Sana, Vida Sana a mental health prevention program in partnership with the Office of Health Equity, addressing mental health stigma and depression within Latino communities; the Ventanilla de Asesoría Financiera y Protección al Patrimonio, a free financial advice window providing financial coaching and navigation; Kaiser Permanente School’s Mental Health Stigma pilot program in Roseville; and directing the annual Latina Leadership Conference. Her passion for promoting healthy communities keeps her actively engaged in both local and statewide initiatives, as a liaison with health programs with Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento coordinating efforts and serving as a project advisor for Capitol Public Radio’s documentary series, The View from Here-Hidden Hunger, and providing input and recommendations to Sacramento County’s undocumented residents Healthy Partners primary medical care program.


DeAngelo Mack | Director of State Policy, Public Health Advocates

DeAngelo currently serves as the director of state policy for Public Health Advocates. He oversees state policy efforts focused on creating and/or changing laws centered around trauma and health disparities. He has also served as program manager of WellSpace Health’s acclaimed Sacramento Violence Intervention Program, a hospital-linked violence intervention program serving the most critically injured and traumatized youth. For almost two decades, DeAngelo has provided trauma-informed care to the underserved in marginalized neighborhoods across California. Using this knowledge and his expertise as an organizer, youth pastor and playwright, DeAngelo finds creative ways to teach and empower youth and community. DeAngelo sits on numerous committees locally and nationally focusing on the implantation of trauma informed practices and identifying social determinants of health, including the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and American College of Surgeons Committee of Trauma.


Dinora Reyna | Executive Director, San Diego Organizing Project

Dinora believes that unlocking the power of people can and will be the liberation of all people. She joined SDOP in 2014 as an organizer working with five churches across San Diego county. During that time, Dinora led SDOP’s voter engagement work and helped launch the San Diego Rapid Response Network in 2017 to protect undocumented immigrants from raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and U.S. Border Protection. Dinora is currently a steering committee member of the Rapid Response Network. She has prior experience with advocacy and nonprofit training organizations in San Diego and the Bay Area, and holds a masters’ in public affairs and applied politics from the University of San Francisco. Dinora led a volunteer effort to help pass The Safe Schools and Neighborhoods Act, which reduced poverty-related felonies to misdemeanors. For that campaign based in south San Diego, SDOP leaders knocked on more than 20,000 doors. In 2017, Dinora led 300 faith leaders to call for the effective implementation of Senate Bill 54 (the California Values Act), limiting local and state law enforcement from acting as deportation agents in San Diego County. Most recently, Dinora was selected as the new executive director of SDOP in July 2019.


Harjit Singh | Director of Personnel, Jakara Movement

Harjit is the director of personnel with Jakara Movement. Through his community-based organization, Harjit helps strengthen and build the capacity of youth leadership in Central California. Alongside his community, Harjit organizes around the issues of civic engagement, education, immigrant justice, language access, and mental health awareness. In his free time, Harjit enjoys frisbee, hiking, and learning how to declutter.


Jay Franco | Board of Directors, Youth Forward

Regional touring artist Jay, started his passion for community building in high school, clocking in hundreds of community service hours and making connections where ever he went. Over time he used his art to story-tell and ultimately lean into therapy. Today, he hopes to encourage youth to share their own narrative as a way of discovering self-identity. He is currently on the Board of Directors as a member of Youth Forward, an organization aimed to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth through policy advocacy, education, and community action. He is dedicated to providing a well-funded and safe environment for the youth in the community to explore, create, and learn about the space around them. With that type of goal, Jay found himself advocating in local government decisions such as budget cuts to police in schools, stopping the expansion of a county jail, and increased spending on youth programs. His most recent efforts were primarily focused with the Sacramento Kids First Coalition in which he has met a few current and past members of the Rockwood Leadership program.


Lee Lo | Community Organizer, Unaffiliated

Lee first began organizing as a youth advisory member to Hmong Women’s Heritage Association’s youth program, advocating and leading community events to address issues facing Hmong youth in Sacramento. In 2009, Lee served on the Sacramento County Mental Health Services Act – For Youth by Youth Community Educational Forum and contributed to the development of Sacramento County’s Prevention and Early Intervention Department. Most recently, Lee worked as the California health policy manager for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, developing multi-pronged policy strategies to advance health equity. Lee has dedicated the last 10 years to organizing systematic change for underrepresented and underserved communities through programmatic implementation and administrative and policy advocacy.


Lucia Acevedo Gonzales | Director, Social Advocates for Youth San Diego, and Director, Crawford Community Connection.

Lucia is a San Diego native that has been working within the fields of education, outreach, and advocacy for more than fifteen years.  She is committed to supporting the needs of underrepresented and underserved youth through helping them to achieve their academic and social emotional needs. Her passion for working with students, particularly adolescents stems from her work experience, specialized training, educational background and personal life experience. She has a Masters of Arts in education with a concentration in multicultural counseling from the San Diego State University (SDSU) Community-Based Block Program (CBB).  She has used her degree to provide direct counseling and advising services to students for the past ten years, starting with her position as an adjunct faculty at SDSU with the CBB program and into her employment with SAY San Diego where she has been working for over twelve years.  Currently, she holds a position as director of Crawford Community Connection, a school-based family resource center.  It is there that she has been integral in the success of the center’s growth and development, focusing on relationship building with community partners, and integrating services to best serve the needs of students and families in the City Heights community.


Lynn Berkley-Baskin | Founder, Sacramento Faces Race, and Executive Committee, Greater Sacramento NAACP

Lynn is a Juilliard trained opera singer, equity educator, community organizer and abolitionist. She bridge-builds at the intersections of academia, racial justice and community health to drive systemic change. Leadership positions include the Greater Sacramento NAACP, Jewish Community Relations Council and Healthy Sacramento Coalition. She co-founded Sacramento Faces Race and Justice2Jobs Coalition, and co-piloted Folsom Lake College’s Student Equity Advocates. While valuing her many years of higher education, Lynn reframes the education-to-job pipeline ideology, to instead practice lifelong education. A fan of TED Talks, Stanford, The Atlantic and nerdy about independent research, she also loves Trevor Noah, 5:00 a.m. dance class, and the stories of elders. As a teen volunteer with the African National Congress, Lynn’s inspiration for change grew after hearing Nelson Mandela’s, Apartheid is Doomed speech at Yankee Stadium. Lynn’s current focus is Jewish, African-American, Youth, Economic, and Criminal Justice Reform spaces. She is married, has two children and a bichoodle named Quincy Jones.


Matthew Bridges | Coordinator and Policy Advocate, Sacramento Food Policy Council

Matthew is an organizer, activist, and policy advocate dedicated to the fight for food sovereignty, environmental justice, and prison abolition. Since May 2019, he has served as the coordinator and policy advocate for the Sacramento Food Policy Council working to build diverse coalitions which promote power and decision making for communities on the frontlines of food insecurity. Matthew recognizes that a broken food system points to underlying structural inequities for communities of color and low income people, where those neighborhoods with the least affordable, healthy, or local food options face the highest rates of economic insecurity and health disparities. Since moving to Sacramento in 2018, Matthew has worked closely with grassroots coalitions. For over 18 months, he’s gathered signatures, canvassed, and strategized with the Sac Kids First Coalition, aiming to establish a dedicated fund for youth programs in the city of Sacramento. In addition, Matthew organizes with Decarcerate Sacramento, a grassroots coalition that is re-defining public safety to emphasize well resourced, equitable communities and community-based systems of care, not incarceration. In Matthew’s eyes, freedom has many sides – until all young people have opportunities and programs to thrive, low income families have healthy food to eat, and communities of color are free from criminalization, then none of us are free. Matthew invites moments of joy throughout the day, but especially when he is nourishing relationships, playing the movement art of Capoeira, spending time in nature, and convening with social movements throughout Latin America.


Melissa Campbell | Co-Partner, Garden Unidos and Organizer, North County Immigration Task Force

Melissa is one daughter of five children born to and raised by parents from Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. She is originally from Massachusetts, raised in MA and New York, and went to undergraduate in Ohio. She has had life-changing experiences abroad in India and Lesotho, earning that she wants to focus on holistic health equity and social justice, and is now settled in North County of San Diego. She is a foodie, with current passions allowing her to become more aligned with the Universe, her ancestors and her community through food as medicine, food access, and sustainability. She is the co-business partner for Garden Unidos, a BIPOC business with a conscience for community wellness through natural, pesticide-free foods and community cooperation with other local businesses.


Mykhou Vue | Hmong Innovating Politics, Hmong Innovating Politics

Mykhou (she/her) is the current Sacramento community organizer for Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP). She grew up in Marysville, CA, unceded Nisenan land, as a second generation Hmong American. Mykhou struggled with her identity as a Hmong American womxn until she found her home away from home at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She organized with a group on campus to educate the community about the Hmong by uplifting our stories as a way of navigating the intergenerational trauma and healing process. As an art student, Mykhou received the Irwin Project Grant for her installation on her parents’ journey as refugees during and after the Secret War. After dabbling as an educator in the K-12 system, Mykhou realized what she wanted was to make progressive systemic change for the marginalized and oppressed. Last year, she had a life changing experience as a 2019 Seeding Change Fellow. She’s currently working on dance and art as ways of healing and self-love and is looking forward to building with community members towards a more equitable future for all.


Nghia Nguyen | Community Advocacy and Mobilization Coordinator, Gender Health Center

Nghia (She/They) is a transgender community leader and organizer. Nghia was born in Ho Chi Minh City and comes from a long line of spirit mediums of the Đạo Mẫu traditions, a religion practice that worships the Quanyin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Nghia has committed to being an emblem of Đạo Mẫu’s teachings and practices this as an essential part of her life’s work. She does her daily work at the Gender Health Center helping to create a safe and inviting environment while also providing vital resources for trans and gender non-conforming folks. Nghia has dedicated her vision to the undoing and resisting of the unfortunate common white supremacist capitalist cis-heteronormative, dominionist, imperialist, patriarchal society. Nghia is one of the lead organizers of Still Here: Alliance for Trans Rights and is an essential part of our transgender community who fights for the breakage of barriers and for our most marginalized communities.


Oren Robinson | Tech Worker, Executive Board, San Diego County Democratic Party

Oren (he/they) is a tech organizer living on Kumeyaay land, San Diego, California, descending from English, Jewish, German, Scottish and Irish settlers and raised on Haudenosaunee land, Syracuse, New York. Blessed with a family of activists, musicians and artists, Oren studied computer science in college, where he was challenged by fellow students to confront patriarchy and racism, and participated in a formative community healing process. In 2008, he studied and worked in China, where he experienced life in a second language, and the privileges of being a white US citizen in another colonized place. Since returning to the US in 2010, Oren has developed technology practice informed by community organizing and transformative justice, participating in grassroots groups, open source, nonprofits, and political campaigns. He volunteers with SURJ, Jewish Voice for Peace, Tech Worker Coalition and serves as secretary of the San Diego County Democratic Party.


Pauline Burkey | Community Organizer, Sacramento ACT

Pauline is the daughter of South-Sudanese refugees and the oldest sister to 4 incredible siblings. She is the friend of many; those who look nothing like her, worship differently than she does, challenge her thoughts and views and remind her of the power in diversity.  As a professional in the non-profit sector, her vocational journey is rooted in the pillar of service.  She’s traveled around the world professionally, working in various capacities of program development and international aid.   With her current local focus as a community organizer at Sacramento ACT, Pauline builds people-centered networks to effectively identify and change conditions to create justice and equity. In her free time, she writes, travels with her husband and watches too much crime TV.


Ramah Awad | Community Organizer, Majdal Center

Ramah is a local community organizer with the Majdal Community Center working to empower all members of the Arab community in San Diego through programs, projects, and advocacy campaigns. She is also a national leader of the Palestinian Youth Movement, a grassroots, volunteer-driven organization of Arab and Palestinian youth organizers. Prior to working at the Majdal Community Center, Ramah worked with the American Friends Service Committee and Friends of Sabeel North America on economic activism campaigns. Ramah received a BA in history and anthropology at Stanford University in 2017, where she was a campus and national organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine. Her undergraduate studies focused on issues of forced migration, during which she completed an honors thesis on the plight of Palestinian-Syrian refugees resettling in Europe. Her advocacy has since been dedicated to rights, self-determination, and justice for refugee communities.


Taryell Simmons | Workforce Consultant, SAGE Business & Education

Taryell is a foodie, entrepreneur, community activist, workforce consultant, and HR trainer recognized as one of the most prominent voices for diversity and inclusion in the workforce. He is the co-founder of EvoGrant, a workforce development consultant at SAGE Business & Education and a founding member of the San Diego Tech Hub. For the past five years, Taryell has helped create and develop workforce programs like “CONNECT2Careers” to help young people in underserved communities get living-wage jobs. Taryell believes that successful careers come from being connected to one’s strengths, abilities, skills, and passion. He is also passionate about connecting with people and uplifting underserved communities. This is why he has dedicated himself to community development and helping people with opportunities that will help individuals find a path to a life and career they love. Taryell is a RISE Urban Leadership Institute graduate.


Trinh Le | Organizing Director, Mid-City Community Advocacy Network

Trinh is one of five children from a Vietnamese refugee family and grew up in a low-income, immigrant, single-parent household. She holds a dual bachelor’s degree in sociology and Asian American Studies from UCLA. She has organized in many diverse communities in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast before coming back to San Diego. She has worked for the Little Saigon Foundation, Pacific Arts Movement, ACLU, and the Center on Policy Initiatives before joining Mid-City CAN as the organizing director. Trinh has been on the board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum San Diego chapter, Mid-City CAN, and the San Diego Leadership Alliance. She is currently on the board of Asian Solidarity Collective and an active member of Viet Vote. She received “Most Valuable Organizer of the Year,” award in 2013 by the New Organizing Institute, a commendation by the City of San Diego Human Relations Commission in 2015, and was one of the eight recognized “Present Day San Diego Women Civil Rights Leaders” by Rise San Diego in 2017. She recently earned her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of San Diego. When she has free time, she is either spending it with her family and friends, at the dog beach, tending to her succulent garden, doing yoga, or catching Pokémon.


Wilda Wong | Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications, Mission Driven Finance

Wilda’s family left Hong Kong shortly after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests led to the massacre of demonstrators throughout China, leaving indelible images of people fighting for their rights. It was perhaps then she began to understand how media can highlight atrocities and voices of the oppressed. Wilda’s family arrived in San Diego, where she later joined her high school newspaper as an award-winning features editor before completing a film degree at UC Berkeley as a first-gen college student. She has since traveled to six continents and lived or worked in four—studying film in France and volunteering for extended terms in Cambodia and South Africa. Upon her return to San Diego, Wilda continues to learn about local issues. She is a communications professional specializing in social impact, having worked in the arts, reproductive health care, workforce development, and now impact investing with Mission Driven Finance.


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