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Announcing the 2020 CZI Movement Leaders Fellows

By September 22, 2020January 7th, 2021No Comments
Many rows of seedlings growing out of planter bags.

Photo by Christian Joudrey

Rockwood Leadership Institute is pleased to announce the inagural cohort of the Movement Leaders Fellowship!

A partnership between Rockwood and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, this fellowship focuses on building the leadership capacity of social change leaders working in the areas of criminal justice reform, housing justice, and immigration reform.

A cohort of 18 diverse leaders were selected, representing organizations all across the nation. The fellowship will provide these leaders with the support they need to build power; sustain themselves in their work; increase their own individual ability to lead, convene, and mobilize in networks and coalitions; and strengthen their own ability to support the leadership of others within their organizations.

Join us in congratulating these incredible fellows!

Yanira Arias | National Campaigns Manager, Alianza Americas

Yanira is the national campaigns manager for Alianza Americas. She was also part of the Latino Commission on AIDS in New York, as Director of Community Organizing for the Latinos in the Deep South. She is proud of the more than a decade of experience in the field of public health, with special expertise in community mobilization and participation, community organizing and capacity building to address health disparities and social justice issues, through her role in the Dennis deLeon Sustainable Leadership Institute for emerging leaders in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Through her collaboration with LGBTT communities in Puerto Rico, she built strong relationships with leaders across the island. Yanira was raised honoring her indigenous roots in El Salvador, she graduated from the University of El Salvador in 1996 with a degree in journalism. Since 2001, she is a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder.


Nila Bala | Associate Director of Criminal Justice Policy, R Street

Nila is the assistant director of criminal justice policy and a resident senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a center right think tank based in D.C. She helps lead criminal justice policy areas generally, and specifically develops policy to advance reforms in juvenile and economic justice. Nila previously served as an assistant public defender in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to handling more than 1,000 cases in her tenure, she also helped lead a bail reform project to address problems in the city’s money bail system. She also was a recipient of the Yale Public Interest Law Fellowship. As a part of that program, she assisted juveniles with sealing their records, particularly those with sex offenses, while serving the Public Defender Office of Santa Clara County, California. She lives with her husband and son in California.


Daniel Bowes | Director, North Carolina Justice Center

Daniel joined the Justice Center as an equal justice works fellow in 2011 and now serves as director of the Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project. He advocates on behalf of individuals, families, and communities isolated from opportunities to prosper by the collateral consequences of criminal records. Daniel previously served as an autry fellow at MDC, Inc., and supervising attorney of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Second Chance Employment and Housing Project. As the son of justice-involved parents, Daniel is a member of the NC Second Chance Alliance and proudly serves on the advisory board of Our Children’s Place, a nonprofit program committed to the well-being of the 30,000 children in North Carolina with an incarcerated parent.  Daniel is a native of Alamance County, N.C. He is a graduate of Duke University and the New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar.


Pedro Galvao | Policy Director, Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California

Pedro directs NPH’s legislative and regulatory advocacy, working closely with elected officials to make the Bay Area a more affordable place to live. In his first year, he successfully shepherded reform of California’s Surplus Land Act, through AB 1486 (Ting), to prioritize surplus public lands for affordable housing. Pedro also oversees NPH’s regional work having championed the incorporation of an affordable housing-focused Action Plan for the region’s 25-year Plan Bay Area. Before joining NPH, Pedro worked with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) documenting the region’s housing issues and trends and creating technical resources for local government. Previously, he worked as a policy advisor for two San Francisco supervisors and founded El Proyecto Voz Latina, a grassroots organization focused on Latino voting and representation.


Jamila Hodge | Director, The Vera Institute

Jamila “Jami” is the director of the Reshaping Prosecution program at the Vera Institute of Justice where she and her team work closely with prosecutors and their communities to transform the criminal legal system by centering racial equity in the efforts to end mass incarceration. After spending more than a decade working as a prosecutor, and seeing in her immediate family the harms of the criminal legal system for those who are accused and the failures for those who experience violent crime, Jami is committed to working toward a new vision of justice that centers dignity, accountability, and healing. Jami is a wife and mother of daughters Nylah (age 7) and Zaria (age 6). She earned her BA in psychology and sociology from the University of Michigan, not far from where she grew up in Detroit, and her law degree from Duke University.


Marlon Mitchell | Founder and Director, First Followers

Marlon is a long time resident of the Champaign-Urbana community. Marlon is passionate and committed to the work that advocates for access, opportunity, and resources for individuals who have been affected by the criminal justice system. His mission at FirstFollowers is simple and honest work, but embraces the “lift as you climb” philosophy.



Zenén Pérez | Director of Public Affairs, TX Civil Rights Project

Zenén is the director of advocacy & communications with the Texas Civil Rights Project— a community lawyering and organizing organization that fights in and out of the courts. A native Austinite, Zenén became heavily involved in social justice movements through his personal experience growing up in a mixed-status immigrant family and seeing firsthand the effects of the private prison system. Previously, he worked on advocacy and policy with United We Dream, the largest immigrant-youth run organization in the country, the Center for American Progress, and Advocates for Youth. Always passionate about demystifying policies and laws for his community, Zenén is a first-generation college graduate from Georgetown University and currently lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. His current mission is to make sure Texas organizers and advocates are uplifted and supported.


Ilona Prieto | Director of Organizing, Voice of the Experienced

Ilona is a mother, cancer survivor, juvenile defender, advocate for systemic reform in juvenile indigent defense, for children with disabilities, including her son, and believes that all people, regardless of the worst thing they have ever done, have the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and compassion. She is the membership coordinator for VOTE – Voice of the Experienced and works with people who are currently and formerly incarcerated and their loved ones across the state of Louisiana. She is a lawyer with over 23 years of experience in indigent defense and juvenile justice reform turned organizer. Ilona is honored to work at VOTE with its members and others to build a base of directly and indirectly impacted people who are unafraid to share their life experiences, traumas, and sometimes shame, and who are unapologetic in their fight for humanity.


Bruce Reilly | Deputy Director, Voice of the Experienced

Bruce is deputy director of both VOTE, and Voters Organized to Educate. He is a writer, and founding member of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM). Bruce provides expert analysis on discrimination in employment, housing, and voting rights. Originally born into foster care, he found his identity as a young jailhouse lawyer for 12 years before his parole, and during his 2-hour bus rides to a minimum wage job. Bruce put his knowledge to work by joining Direct Action for Rights & Equality in 2005, and played a vital role in passing significant criminal justice reforms, such as the restoration of voting rights, eliminating mandatory minimums, statewide Ban the Box, the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, unshackling incarcerated pregnant women, and probation violation reform. In 2011, Bruce moved to New Orleans, and enrolled in Tulane Law School, despite having no undergraduate degree, and graduated in 2014. Bruce co-founded Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF) with two friends who also entered prison at a young age, and earned law degrees after being released. He is the author of “Communities, Evictions, and Criminal Convictions,” a foundational report on public housing, and “The Racial History of Felon Disenfranchisement in Louisiana and serves on the board of several organizations including: All Square, a reentry/restaurant program in Minneapolis; and the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse Advisory Committee; Steering Committees for Unanimous Jury Coalition. Bruce is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation interdisciplinary research leader, and has also worked as an artist, lighting designer, DJ, and theater director.


Rodreshia Russaw | Co-Executive Director,  The Ordinary People’s Society (TOPS)

Rodreshia is the executive director of a national grassroots organization, The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), and is a vibrant inspiring activist. Raised in the city of Seattle, WA as a young black women who faced many disparities as a woman of color, she gained a passion for empowering youth and advocating on their behalf. At the age of 18, Rodreshia relocated to New York, NY where she fought for community change as a youth outreach worker for World Vision and became an emerging leader in Reproductive Justice in Alabama head spearing T.O.P.S. Voices of the Violated (VOV) Reproductive Justice Project alongside with Kenyetta Rich. Rodreshia believes that all change starts with policy reform. As vice-chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) 2nd Congressional District, she encourages all women to engage in voting and stand up for women’s rights. Rodreshia is a motivational speaker and Wiregrass known radio personal of 99.1 FM “Good-morning Ladies” Radio Broadcast, through T.O.P.S. non-commercial radio station. As a dedicated member of TOPS and a community liaison, she ensures that lives are being changed. As a co-executive director, she brings her cultural experience into everyday practices. She is a beacon for many and finds success in fighting for justice.


Astrid Silva | Executive Director, Dream Big Nevada

Astrid arrived in Nevada with her family at the age of 5 after emigrating from Mexico the year prior. In 2009, an encounter with an unlikely ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inspired her to get involved in the politics surrounding the DREAM Act and became the poster child for the legislation in her home state of Nevada. Astrid has received local and national acclaim for her work. She was named Youth Immigrant of the Year for the American Immigration Council in 2014, rising Civil Rights leader by the Los Angeles Times and delivered the first Spanish language Democratic response to President Trump’s first speech to Congress in 2017. Astrid is now the executive director of Dream Big Nevada, an organization she founded in 2017. She continues to raise her voice and empower others so that together they can achieve their goal – keeping families, like hers, together.


Evonne Silva | Senior Program Director, Code for America

Evonne is the senior program director of Criminal Justice at Code for America, where she leads a team that works at the intersection of technology, human-centered design, and policy to transform the way government delivers services to those impacted by the criminal legal system.  Most recently, Evonne held leadership positions with the ACLU of Northern California, as a legal advisor, building and leading teams, driving process improvement and systems changes, and managing complex, collaborative projects. She successfully designed and led policy advocacy campaigns across a range of issues with cross-sector stakeholders at several nonprofit advocacy and legal organizations. Evonne is a licensed attorney who holds a juris doctorate from UCLA School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in politics and economics from Saint Mary’s College of California. She serves as board member of CORO of Northern California and served as an adjunct professor of legal ethics at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.


Rebecca Shi | Executive Director, American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC)

As ABIC’s executive director, Rebecca works directly with a steering committee of over 350 CEOs, University presidents, chambers of commerce and immigrant advocates to support the passage of pro-immigrant policy at the state and federal levels. Rebecca has led the passage of driver’s licenses for all to train, test, license and insure 450,000 undocumented immigrant drivers in Illinois, strengthening road safety and generating over $30 million in new revenue to the state each year; passage of the Trust Act to minimize workforce disruption and protect immigrant workers; passage of the continuation of AllKids health coverage for all children regardless of their immigration status; and the defeat of the anti-business anti-immigrant measures in North Carolina. Rebecca’s work in Chicago’s Chinatown community has led to a new library, new field house, a new district and the election of the first Asian American representative in Illinois legislature. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Rebecca was named a “20 in Their 20s” by Crain’s Chicago Business. Rebecca emigrated from China when she was 10 years old, and is fluent in Chinese and conversational in Spanish.


JR Starrett | Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH)

A seasoned political consultant, JR has directed winning campaign programs across the country on the municipal, state, and federal levels. JR has worked with a number of progressive candidates to develop winning electoral strategies in an effort to better communities throughout the country. JR joined the NPH team in 2018 knowing the impact affordable housing has on the communities throughout the Bay Area. He brings his passion for movement building and social justice to this issue and enjoys working with the many community organizations, advocates, and NPH members to build upon the organization’s recent electoral success. Prior to joining NPH, JR served as the senior director of state Government Affairs for Common Sense Media, where he led state legislative and political advocacy efforts in policy areas that affect children’s access to digital literacy education. JR currently lives in San Francisco with his wife Morgan and his two children. JR is a frequent contributor to Campaigns and Elections Magazine, contributing to the Campaign Insider column.


Karen Tumlin | Executive Director, Justice Action Center

Karen is the founder and director of Justice Action Center, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for greater justice for immigrant communities by combining litigation and storytelling. Karen formerly served as the director of legal strategy and legal director for the National Immigration Law Center. She has successfully litigated numerous cases of national importance, including challenging President Trump’s Muslim Ban and his effort to end the DACA program as well as the constitutional challenge to Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant SB 1070 law. Karen also served as the campaign manager for the HomeIsHere campaign around the Supreme Court’s consideration of President Trump’s effort to end DACA and has testified before Congress. Before joining NILC in 2005, Karen clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Karen holds a juris doctor degree and a master of public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.


Lety Valencia | Director, Faith in the Valley

Lety is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She was born and raised in the small rural community of Winton, in Merced County.  After graduating from California State University, Long Beach, she returned to the Central Valley and is currently the co-director of Organizing for Faith in the Valley.  Lety believes in organizing with the most vulnerable and historically neglected communities to ensure they are at the forefront, to advocate for themselves and lead their own communities.  She is a fierce advocate for the Central Valley, her home. Lety played an instrumental role in building the momentum for the passage of the breakthrough Rental Housing Inspection Program in Fresno, which she has supported grassroots leaders in building out similar transformational campaigns in other areas of the Central Valley.  Lety has faith that policy changes shaped by grassroots leaders will bring about long-term and long-lasting healing for our communities.


Ellen Wu | Executive Director, Urban Habitat

Ellen is the executive director of Urban Habitat, a regional advocacy organization that advances equitable land use, housing, and transportation policies, and trains and supports low-income communities of color to become decision makers on boards and commissions. Previously, she was the executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), a statewide health advocacy organization. At CPEHN, she had the privilege of working on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She has served on numerous public committees and nonprofit boards, including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s CASA, Committee to House the Bay Area Steering Committee. She is currently the chair of the Oakland Affordable Housing and Infrastructure Bond Oversight Committee. She has dedicated her professional career to improving the lives of low-income communities of color, fighting for equity and justice to address structural racism.

Rockwood Community Call

Cecily Rose Engelhart

Master Certified Life Coach, Speaker, and Designer

September 28 | 12 PT / 3 ET