Each year, Rockwood selects a cohort of nationally recognized leaders to participate in a transformative yearlong fellowship. Since 2003, this executive leadership program has emerged as one of the nation’s leading learning laboratories for experienced social change leaders.
National LIO 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 building connections between leaders who are diverse in methodology, issue focus, geography, personal experience, and identity.
The 2024 National LIO Yearlong Fellows are:
Allyn Maxfield-Steele | Co-Executive Director, Highlander Research and Education Center
Rev. Allyn has been Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center since 2017. Raised in Texas, Germany, and North Carolina, he comes from people rooted in the southern Piedmont and southern Atlantic coast. Between 2002-2004, he had the opportunity to live with and learn alongside organizers and leaders from the people’s movements of Northeast Thailand. That experience transformed Allyn’s understanding of the power and purpose of education. Since then, his work has focused on connecting people and grassroots communities to one another through high school and college education, faith and spiritual leadership, and building social movement infrastructure on a range of front-lines throughout the US South and Appalachia. He is ordained clergy with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Allyn lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with his spouse, Erin, and their two children, Ursa and Ellis.
Analilia Mejia | Co-Executive Director, Center for Popular Democracy
Analilia is a seasoned political strategist and Afro-Latina grassroots organizer focused on helping Black and Latinx working families who previously served as the Deputy Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor under the Biden Administration. A daughter of immigrants, Analilia has dedicated her career to working toward a multiracial democracy and giving power to communities that have been historically excluded. Analilia previously worked as the national political director for the Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, helping to boost the campaign’s ground game and showing in key primary states through her oversight of a team of people leading individual state outreach and engagement campaigns. Following the end of the Sanders’ campaign, she joined the Biden Administration’s transition team focusing on connecting activism to governance. From 2014 to 2019, she was the state director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. During her tenure as Executive Director, Mejia led the organization to win significant victories establishing a state $15 minimum wage, comprehensive voting rights reform and securing earned sick days for hundreds of thousands of residents in Newark, Jersey City, and 11 other cities and towns before winning a statewide policy in 2019. In 2015, the Obama Administration honored Analilia as a “Champion for Change” in recognition for all her efforts in support of working families in New Jersey. Prior to joining Working Families, she spent about 10 years working with several unions, including as the assistant political director of SEIU Local 32BJ and the politics and programs director for the Property Services Division of SEIU international. She also served as the assistant political director for the Chicago Midwest Regional Joint Board of UNITE HERE! Analilia holds an undergraduate degree in comparative literature and two master’s degrees from Rutgers University, one in public policy from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the other in labor education from the School of Management and Labor Relations.
Andy Kang | National Director of Anti-Hate, The Asian American Foundation
Andy began at TAAF after serving as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. He has extensive experience working in the immigrant rights movement in Chicago. Andy was one of the lead negotiators and strategists for the Illinois TRUST Act, the VOICES Act, and Automatic Voter Registration. Andy has also advocated successfully to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance. On language access, Andy worked on improving Chicago’s language access ordinance, helped create the State of Illinois’ Language Access to Government Services Task Force, and oversaw a poll monitoring operation to protect the rights of limited English proficient voters as required under the federal Voting Rights Act. Regionally, Andy has participated in capacity building support to AAPI community organizing groups in Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota and was co-founder of Asian American Midwest Progressives. Andy initiated the launch of Advancing Justice-Chicago’s anti-hate bystander training project in response to the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents. Andy serves as the Board President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and has engaged in strategy formation and advocacy on federal immigration reform. He has previously served on the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations and the Committee on Equality, Equity, and Opportunity for Governor Pritzker’s transition team; and co-chaired the Good Governance Committee for Mayor Lightfoot’s transition team.
Avery Bizzell | Managing Director, Center for Third World Organizing Hub
Avery brings a wealth of community organizing skills and experience, from organizing cafeteria workers while a student at Morehouse College to working in labor at SEIU 32-BJ to organizing around criminal justice. For 6 years, Avery organized around reentry reform with the Community Service Society of New York where he worked to build the Clean Slate NY Campaign as well as supporting state campaigns at the Clean Slate Initiative. Avery is an organizer, facilitator and movement builder that is dedicated to equipping individuals with the necessary tools that envision, strategize for, and organize toward a more liberated world. For the past 9 years, Avery has had various roles with the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO) most recently as the Managing Director overseeing internal operations and CTWO’s Organizing Training Programs. Avery is a proud native of Queens NY. Outside of work, he is an avid foodie, enjoying all things food from watching Food Network, to cooking and traveling to food festivals.
Cinthia Illan Vazquez | Executive Director, The Washington Bus
Cinthia joins the Bus from her role as Community Engagement Manager at the Center for Education Results where she led and supported various community engagement efforts and strategies. Her drive to bring access and equity to our political and civic process solidified when she was a Fellow and, later, the Fellowship Coordinator at the Bus. Previously, Cinthia served as legislative assistant to current Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives Laurie Jinkins, and as a community organizer with the Washington Dream Coalition, an undocumented and youth-led advocacy organization. She believes in the importance of people-centered movements aimed at dismantling systems of oppression through policy. Cinthia is excited to leverage her skills to amplify the Bus’s mission. Away from the office, she enjoys outdoor activities that connect her to the indigenous lands we are occupying.
Dom Kelly | President and CEO, New Disabled South
Dom is the Co-Founder, President & CEO of New Disabled South, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and New Disabled South Rising, its 501(c)(4) arm. Until November 2022, he served as both the Georgia Fundraising Director and the Senior Advisor for Disability for Stacey Abrams’ campaign for governor of Georgia. Previously, he was Senior Fundraising Manager and a Strategic Advisor for Disability at Fair Fight Action, the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, where he also created and led the organization’s Disability Council composed of prominent disability advocates and policy experts from across the country. Dom is one of a set of triplets born with Cerebral Palsy and has been a disability advocate since he was four years old. He received a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice where he also received the Excellence in Social Impact award.
Eric Paulk | Chief of Staff, ProGeorgia
Eric is a lawyer, advocate, and organizer. He serves as Chief of Staff at ProGeorgia, Georgia’s progressive civic engagement table focused on ensuring that every Georgian is able to fully participate in our democracy. Prior to ProGeorgia, Eric served as Deputy Director at Georgia Equality, where he led the organization’s programmatic and advocacy work to protect and advance LGBTQ rights and the rights of communities of people living with HIV and vulnerable to HIV acquisition. As a recent Soros Justice Fellow, his work focused on building a network of Black lawyers to support Black communities impacted by HIV criminalization. Eric chairs the Equality Federation board, is vice-chair of the Georgia Harm Reduction Coalition’s board, and is a member of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. He is active with National Bar Association and the National LGBTQ Bar Association. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Pace University Law School.
Erica Clemmons Dean | Deputy Director, Family Values @ Work
Erica has been organizing for over a decade. She got into this line of work through the labor movement, organizing directly impacted communities to create better work environments, and lifting their voices for wanting better pay through establishing unions. Erica’s work in Georgia helped to amplify the voices of workers and voters in the south through integrated voter engagement efforts. Her current role as the Deputy Director at Family Values @ Work, She shares her skills and organizing tips across the country, working with multi-state organizations to build power with their members and help pass progressive paid leave and paid sick and safe day policies. Erica’s passion for organizing young people and building power in directly impacted communities don’t end with the workday. She is a devoted wife and mother, who truly enjoys watching her daughter grow and navigate this world through the lens of an organizer’s child.
Glynda Carr | President and CEO, Higher Heights Leadership Fund
Political strategist Glynda is the co-founder of Higher Heights for America and Higher Heights Leadership Fund, the leading national organizations dedicated to building Black women’s collective political power from the voting booth to elected office. She is the co-creator of the #BlackWomenLead movement which is creating the environment for Black women to vote, run and lead. Glynda is the former Executive Director of Education Voters of New York, a leading independent voice for school reform in the state. Prior to Education Voters, she was Chief of Staff to New York State Senator Kevin Parker (Brooklyn) where she also served as campaign manager for two of his successful re-election campaigns. Glynda has also held senior management positions with key national organizations including: the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. A sought-after speaker and trainer, she has also contributed to TheRoot.com, Ebony.com, and the Huffington Post. In 2018, she appeared on “Essence” magazine’s second annual Woke 100 list, saluting female changemakers.
Jaime Love | Director of Programs, People’s Climate Innovation Center
Jaime provides leadership, strategy, and support to People’s Climate Innovation Center programs that advance approaches to community-driven planning and movement building, while centering racial equity and whole-systems solutions. Jaime has over 20 years of experience in a variety of spaces including public health, philanthropy, and climate resilience, with a deep focus on racial justice and health equity. Her work in the public health sector cultivated opportunities for direct community organizing and advocacy work in communities with disproportionate health impacts and enhanced her leadership in philanthropy and the nonprofit sectors around racial equity and climate justice. Her expertise ranges from program development and leadership, equity, policy advocacy, to communications and outreach. Jaime is a 2016 PLACES Fellow and has participated in multiple local and national leadership programs. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in Health Promotion & Education and a BS from Central Michigan University.
Jamila Perritt | President & CEO, Physicians for Reproductive Health
Jamila is a fellowship trained, board-certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH), a physician led organization that mobilizes the medical community, educating and organizing providers, using medicine and science to advance access to reproductive health care for all people. She has a comprehensive background in family planning and has worked more than 20 years in the reproductive health, rights and justice spaces. She provides on the ground, community-based care focusing primarily on the intersection of sexual health, reproductive rights and social justice. In addition to her work as a clinical provider in the Washington, DC area, she has led PRH since 2020. Dr. Perritt’s work as a passionate advocate for reproductive health, rights and justice has allowed her to work closely with many organizations in support of access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Dr. Perritt serves via Mayoral appointment to Washington DC’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee. She is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and has served as Chair of ACOG’s Committee for the Health Care for Underserved Women. She is a member of the Society of Family Planning, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the Black Maternal Health Federal Policy Collective and a founding member of CERCL-FP (Centering Equity and Racial Literacy in Family Planning.)
Jennifer Knox | National Director of Organizing & Tech Innovation, Working Families Party
Jennifer has been organizing professionally for 20 years with experience at the local, state and national levels. Ms. Knox’s first dream was to pursue technology and become a coder, but she fell in love with organizing in her hometown of Madison, WI as a working class college student pushing for college affordability and access for low-income students and students of color. After spending a decade learning and honing the craft of person-to-person organizing Jknox’s, position at Working Families allows her to leverage her deep field and organizing expertise with an opportunity to pioneer tech strategies that meet real needs on the ground to power the movement. Jennifer supervised Working Families Party’s work which helped flip the state’s supreme court from republican control in 2023 opening up opportunities to end Wisconsin’s abortion ban, un-gerrymander the state, and overturn anti-democratic and anti-worker rulings. At WFP jknox is leading on developing WFP’s organizing model, tactical innovation, sharpening WFP’s tech stack, and launching Votivate, a tool that gets voter file access to all campaigns – no matter how big or small – to run effective grassroots campaigns. After 15 years living in Washington, DC, Jennifer recently relocated to Denver, CO. jknox enjoys all things outdoors including running, hiking, skiing, paddle boarding, and kayaking.
Jennifer Rodriguez | Director of Political and Field Mobilization, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Jennifer is a veteran of organizing and mobilizing for working families. Jennifer was the Campaigns Director for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for 15 years, and before that worked in the Texas Legislature and was a reporter in south central Texas. She began working for the AFL-CIO during the 2022 election cycle, as we launched our program focused on organizing. She will lead a program that meets the moment and is committed to the needs of unions around the table and the work of the state and local labor bodies who are crucial to amplifying united worker power. Her steadfast leadership demonstrated through Labor 2022 is assured to continue bringing real capacity building power at all levels of our movement.
Jeremie Greer | Co-Executive Directors, Liberation in a Generation
Jeremie has dedicated his life and career to the advancement of racial and economic justice. Growing up in the historically Black Rondo Neighborhood, in St. Paul, Minnesota, he has always been attuned to the intersection between race and economics. He began his career in the Columbia Heights and Shaw neighborhoods in Washington, DC, organizing youth and tenants to fight back against the economic forces rapidly gentrifying that community. Working at the national level in the federal government’s premier policy agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and at two national non-profits, the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and Prosperity Now (formerly CFED), he has become a national policy expert on the causes and the policy solutions to close the racial wealth gap. Jeremie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of St. Thomas, a Master’s in Public Policy from George Mason University, and an Executive Education Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from Harvard University’s Kennedy School. Jeremie is also a Soros Equality Fellow.
José Garcia | Program Director, Ford Foundation
José is the director of the Future of Work(ers) team at the Ford Foundation. Since 2017, he has served as a program officer and senior program officer leading Ford’s efforts to support organizations that are innovating new ways to build worker voice and influence. Prior to joining Ford, he served as program officer for Strong Local Economies at the Surdna Foundation, where he led the design and implementation of a $4 million grantmaking portfolio to spur business development and acceleration while focusing on quality job and wealth creation. His portfolio focused on double and triple bottom line local businesses and organizations assisting the growth of people of color, women, and immigrant-owned businesses. Additionally, he sourced and monitored program-related investment (PRI) deals that fit the foundation’s program strategy. Before his time at Surdna, José was a policy fellow at the National Council of La Raza’s Wealth Building Policy Project. During his tenure, he coauthored the book Foreclosure to Fair Lending: Advocacy, Organizing, Occupy, and the Pursuit of Equitable Credit and the policy report Making the Mortgage Market Work for America’s Families. Shortly before that, he deviated from his career path to assist his family’s small business during a period of transition—and was able to see firsthand how economic policies affect mom and pop shops. Earlier in his career, José served as associate director for the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, where he authored dozens of reports on household debt and coauthored the book Up to Our Eyeballs: How Shady Lenders and Failed Economic Policies are Drowning Americans in Debt.
Justine Lucas | Founder, Q15 Impact
Justine is the Founder of Q15 Impact, a social impact advisory and strategy practice and is currently a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations. For the previous 7 years, she was the Executive Director of Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation which focuses on climate resilience and climate justice, both in the Caribbean and United States. Prior to joining the Clara Lionel Foundation, Justine was the Global Director of Programs for Global Citizen where she oversaw the Global Citizen Festival, events, programs and strategic partnerships and was a Producer of the 2012 – 2015 Global Citizen Festivals in Central Park and the 2015 Global Citizen Earth Day event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Justine is an expert in campaign mobilization, strategic partnerships, and developing and leveraging creative campaigns around complex policy issues. Additionally, she has consulted for both international and domestic nonprofits and worked extensively on grassroots program development around human rights and access to justice issues. Before working on human rights issues in Cameroon, she began her career at Safe Horizon, the largest social service nonprofit of its kind in the U.S., providing advocacy and support for survivors of all forms of violence. Justine has a B.A. in History and Anthropology and an M.A. in Global Affairs and Nonprofit Management, both from New York University. She serves on the Board of Directors of One for Democracy, as a Strategic Advisor of 100Kin10 and on the Advisory Board of Future BARBADOS. Justine resides in New York City, is an avid traveler, runner, writer and connector of people.
María José Espinosa | Executive Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas
María José is the Executive Director at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. María José is an economist and foreign policy expert, bringing over fifteen years of expertise in policy research, advocacy, and international relations. As CDA’s Executive Director, she has effectively shaped advocacy, program, and communication strategies focusing on key regional issues such as U.S.-Cuba relations, migration, LGBTQ+, and women’s rights, as well as protections for refugees and migrants. Her commitment to fostering dialogue has led her to amplify voices from Latin America and the Caribbean in the U.S. policy sphere and spearhead over twenty high-level U.S. delegations on fact-finding trips to Central America, Cuba, and the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier in her trajectory, María José delved into the economic, political, and social facets of U.S. relations with Asia and Oceania and began her professional journey teaching at the University of Havana’s School of Economics. María José was recognized by New America as one of the 2020 Latino National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders. She holds an M.Sc. in Environmental Economics and Tourism from the Universitat de les Illes Balears in Spain; an M.Sc. in Economics from the University of Havana in Cuba; and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Havana.
Marisa Bono | CEO, Every Texan
Marisa is the CEO of Every Texan, the leading social justice think tank and public policy organization in Texas, where she oversees advocacy and programs targeted on accessible and equitable health care, education, quality jobs and financial security. A lifelong social justice advocate and thought leader, Marisa joined Every Texan as the first woman of color to serve as CEO in its 37-year history. Before coming to Every Texan, Marisa served as Chief of Policy to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and Chief Strategic Officer of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, where she successfully led an initiative to expand service for working families and low wage workers. Earlier in her career, Marisa served as the Southwest Regional Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s premier Latino civil rights law firm. At MALDEF Marisa was a leading civil rights litigator and directed MALDEF’s litigation and state policy agendas in the areas of education and funding, immigration, voting rights, political access and employment in the Southwest region. She was the first Latina to argue a school funding case in the Texas Supreme Court, and served as the lead attorney in Martinez v. New Mexico, a landmark school funding case where she represented over 50 low income and ELL students across the State in a nine-week trial. Marisa has presented testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Texas legislature, has advised state lawmakers through committee testimony and direct advocacy, lectured nationally at undergraduate universities and law schools, has published in national journals and regularly serves as an invited panelist at local, state, and national conferences. She has a law degree and master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Rice University. Marisa currently serves on the boards of the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute (MACRI), and MindshiftEd, and is the Former Chair of the San Antonio Ethics Review Board and mayoral appointee to the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women in San Antonio.
Marissa Guananja | Chief Programs Officer, Roosevelt Institute
As the Chief Programs Officer at the Roosevelt Institute, Marissa oversees the organization’s work in cultivating new ideas and new leaders to shift economic paradigms. She also supports long-term strategy development, fundraising, and organizational development. Marissa has over 15 years of progressive programmatic experience. Before coming to Roosevelt, she served as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where she managed a grantmaking portfolio that focused on job quality, worker power, and racial wealth inequality. Prior to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Marissa supported innovations in workforce development and housing and built coalitions and strategic partnerships to improve the lives of low-wage and immigrant workers. Marissa holds an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a graduate degree in public policy from The George Washington University. She also sits on the board of Carina, a home care and childcare platform that brings good jobs to care workers.
Nadia Belkin | Founding Executive Director, Asian American Power Network
Nadia is the founding Executive Director of the Asian American Power Network. She comes to this role with vast experience in the progressive political and infrastructure building spaces both nationally and at the state level. Prior to this role, Nadia served not only as the National Deputy Field Director but as the Colorado State Director at America Votes. As the first woman of color to hold both positions, she facilitated the development of electoral plans and long-term power building in the progressive issue advocacy arena. In her roles, she directly spearheaded the coordination and alignment of strategic planning efforts amongst funders, over fifty national partners, and fifty-two in-state (including national affiliates) partners. As National Deputy Field Director, she worked in various states — including Nevada, Michigan, and Georgia — providing on the ground infrastructure evaluation, hands-on skills training and technical assistance, as well as state-specific strategic planning guidance. Nadia grew up in Colorado and has invested in local and statewide civic engagement through her work on grassroots and hard side campaigns. As an Indian American Muslim woman, Nadia has worked to elevate the voices and profiles of people of color. In 2020, she was named in The National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs “40 Under 40” list for her work and commitment to building out AAPI voter engagement in key battleground states. She is also an alumna of the 2021 New Leaders Council cohort. She remains professionally focused on producing innovative and strategic ideas which will cultivate relationships within the progressive community across multiple audiences. She serves as a national board member for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) and in-state on the board of Progress Now Colorado. Nadia is a graduate of Smith College, where she earned her B.A. in Government and International Relations.
Nancy Okail | President and CEO, Center for International Policy
Nancy is a leading scholar, policy analyst, and advocate with more than 20 years of experience working on issues of human rights, democracy, and security in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2020, she was appointed as a visiting scholar at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University, focusing on accountability and the intersection of human rights and technology. Prior to joining Stanford, she served as Executive Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), which under her leadership became an internationally renowned policy research organization. Before coming to the United States, Nancy worked on, managed, and evaluated foreign aid programs for several international organizations, including the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. In her subsequent role as Director of Freedom House’s Egypt program, she was one of the 43 nongovernmental organization workers convicted and sentenced to prison in a widely publicized 2012 case for allegedly using foreign funds to foment unrest in Egypt. She was then exonerated by a court ruling in December of 2018. Okail holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in the UK. Her policy analysis and political commentary have been featured in top outlets including the Washington Post, New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and Lawfare. She has been interviewed or quoted by The Guardian, BBC World News, MSNBC, and Al Jazeera, and she regularly speaks on current affairs panels at world fora and academic institutions.
Nellie Sires | Executive Director, Everybody Votes Campaign
Nellie is a professional organizer, fierce advocate for small d democracy, amateur adventurer and lover of art, music, and all things Queer. Nellie is the Executive Director of the Everybody Votes Campaign, where she plays a key role in shaping c3 civic engagement efforts nationwide.
Sandra Tamari | Executive Director, Adalah Justice Project
Sandra is a Palestinian organizer and the Executive Director of Adalah Justice Project (AJP). She is a co-founder of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and was co-chair of the Steering Committee for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights from 2015-2018. Based in St. Louis, the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson in August 2014 greatly impacted Sandra’s work, and since then she has focused on building joint liberation efforts between Palestinians and Black communities. She was a lead organizer of the Palestinian contingent to Ferguson October in 2014.
Sara Moncada | CEO, The Cultural Conservancy
Sara (Yaqui) is a Native educator, dancer, filmmaker, author and cultural arts advocate. She is CEO of The Cultural Conservancy, a native-led non-profit working in Indigenous land, rights, and revitalization projects, is co-founder of Wise Women Circles, a women-owned media company, and is director of Sewam American Indian Dance, a Bay Area-based cultural arts/education organization. She presents internationally on traditional Native Foodways, arts and culture and is co-author of the book The Dance of Caring, a book exploring Native American Hoop Dance as a model for wellness. Sara currently teaches at San Francisco State University American Indian Studies and is producer of the internationally successful documentary film NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now. She is executive producer of The Cultural Conservancy’s The Native Seed Pod, a new podcast series that explores and celebrates traditional seeds, Native Foodways and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Shayna Strom | President and CEO, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
Shayna is the President and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a nonprofit research and grantmaking organization dedicated to advancing evidence-backed ideas and policies that promote strong, stable, and broad-based economic growth. Previously, Shayna served as the chief deputy national political director at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she helped launch a department focused on policy, issue campaigns, and grassroots organizing. Shayna has also had a significant government career, including serving on the Biden-Harris transition team, spending four years in President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, and working in the U.S. Senate. Shayna has been an adjunct faculty member at several universities, has testified in front of the U.S. Congress, and has worked with several prominent foundations. At the start of her career, Shayna spent several years as an organizer for community, political, and labor groups in Ohio, New York, and New Jersey.
Shelby Chestnut | Executive Director, Transgender Law Center
Shelby is the executive director of Transgender Law Center, the largest national trans-led organization advocating for a world in which all people are free to define themselves and their futures. Chestnut has over 20 years of community organizing, policy advocacy, and leadership experience in the LGBTQ and anti-violence movements. They previously served for five years as TLC’s Director of Policy and Programs. Chestnut has spearheaded leadership development and social change within and for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities throughout their career. While Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) Chestnut was a part of steering committees and coalitions working on the passage and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and landmark New York City police reform legislation, the Right to Know Act (RTKA). They are a graduate of Antioch College and currently the chair of the Board of Trustees. Chestnut will be the first Native trans executive director of TLC and one of the first Native trans leaders to head a national LGBT organization.
Geehyun Sussan Lee | Managing Director, United We Dream
Sussan is a proud first generation Korean American immigrant dedicated to movements working to achieve political voice and true sense of belonging for everyone in our communities, regardless of status or race. As the Managing Director of UWD, she ensures UWD’s health and sustainability, and partners with the Executive Director to drive organizational strategy. Sussan started her career as an immigration attorney at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, working with Asian immigrant communities in NYC. Then, she worked to mitigate the insidious intersection of our broken immigration and criminal legal systems at NYC public defender offices. Prior to joining UWD, she was the Senior Federal Policy Advisor at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Sussan has immense Jersey pride, but happily resides in Brooklyn with her son Minjun, partner Bill, and dog Bertie. She received her B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard College, M.A. in Migration Studies from Oxford University, and J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Tawana Petty | Executive Director, Petty Propolis
Tawana is a mother, organizer, poet and author. Her work focuses on racial justice, privacy, and consent. She is a Just Tech Fellow with the Social Science Research Council and Executive Director of Petty Propolis, an artist incubator. Petty serves on the Steering Committee for CS for Detroit, which focuses on creating equitable computer science opportunities for Detroit youth. She is an alumni fellow of the Digital Civil Society Lab, Detroit Equity Action Lab, and Art Matters, and has been convening the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition since 2016. Petty has been honored with several awards, including a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and Wayne State University’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies Peacemaker Award in 2018. In 2021, she was named one of 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics, and in 2023, Petty was honored with an AI Policy Leader Award by the Center for AI and Digital Policy.
Tefere Gebre | Chief Program Officer, Greenpeace USA
Tefere has over thirty years of experience in coalition building, activism, and organizing in the labor movement. His impressive track record demonstrates success in mobilizing and uniting everyone from faith leaders to labor activists to racial justice and immigration groups around the causes he’s worked on. As Chief Program Officer, Tefere oversees the long-term strategy for Greenpeace’s strategic campaign areas, including Climate, Democracy, Oceans, and Forests and his work amplifies the organization’s standing as one of the world’s most influential environmental groups. He guides our peaceful, non-violent actions, and deep, meaningful research that ultimately exposes global environmental problems and promotes essential solutions to a green and peaceful future. As part of the leadership team, Tefere drives all of the campaign work at Greenpeace USA, and is focused on building one of the strongest, most diverse, and broadest coalitions in our history.
Teofilo Reyes | Chief Program Officer, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Teófilo guides and supports efforts to build worker power through workplace justice, high road, and policy programs at ROC United. Prior to ROC, Teófilo served as co-director and staff writer at Labor Notes, director of tie-global in North America, helped build the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, helped found the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty, and was a community organizer with the United Farm Workers in Chicago. Dr. Reyes’ first job was at McDonald’s. Teófilo holds a BA in Economics and Russian from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago, where he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. He was a visiting scholar and lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. Teófilo was born in Carson City, Michigan, and raised in Mexico City.
Traci Blackmon | Associate General Minister & Vice President, United Church of Christ
Rev. Traci is the Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO. Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for 9 years, prior to becoming ordained in the United Church of Christ and installed as the first woman and 18th pastor in the 162-year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ. A registered nurse with more than 25 years of healthcare experience, Rev. Blackmon’s clinical focus was cardiac care and in later years her focus shifted to mobile healthcare in underserved communities with the greatest health disparities in her region. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham – Southern College (1985), and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary (2009). Regionally, Rev. Blackmon’s signature initiatives have included Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit, a mobile faith-based outreach program she designed to impact health outcomes in impoverished areas. Sacred Conversations on Solomon’s Porch, quarterly clergy in-services designed to equip local clergy to assess physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health concerns within congregational life, Sista SOS Summit, an intergenerational health symposium for women and girls, and Souls to the Polls STL, an ecumenical, multi-faith collaborative that was successful in providing over 2,800 additional rides to the polls during local and national elections. Rev. Blackmon currently resides in both St. Louis, MO and Cleveland, OH and was named 2017 Citizen of the Year by The St. Louis American and as one of St. Louis’ 100 most influential voices. Rev. Blackmon is the proud mother of three adult children: Kortni Devon, Harold II, and Tyler Wayne Blackmon.