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Meet the 2016 Oakland Fellows
Samantha Akwei, Employment Services Advocate, The Stride Center
Samantha Akwei also known as Brok'N Sylance (Broken Silence) is a native of Harlem, New York that shares a love for people, poetry and the planet. After winning the Knicks Poetry Slam in 2005 and the Urban Word Poetry Slam in 2007, Ms. Akwei became inspired to continue to use her voice as a catalyst for change and since has been an active member of several grassroots and national organization like the NAACP, Boston Workers Alliance, Green For All and Women’s Global Leadership Initiative. Having also engaged faith-based work through Life Together, Ms. Akwei is passionate about living a holistic life that challenges, exemplifies and uplifts her values. As an Employment Service Advocate at the Stride Center, a workforce development IT nonprofit, she advocates for nontraditional adults to gain employment in IT careers and provides job readiness training to ensure they are prepared to enter the digital economy. She earned a BA in English from Spelman College and most recently enrolled as a Masters in Public Administration Candidate at San Francisco State University. She is also a board member of California Poets in Schools and just published her first set of poems a part of “Best New African Poets 2015 Anthology”. Through NLC Oakland, Ms. Akwei is seeking to illuminate and transcend her ability to lead, learn and grow. She can be found around the Bay performing her spoken word with Art Alive Movement, worshipping at Market Street SDA Church or volunteering with Hands On Bay Area.
Akeem Brown, Programs Director, The Hidden Genius Project
Akeem O. Brown is the Programs Director of The Hidden Genius Project. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside, he studied Public Policy with emphasis on policy making institutions and administrative processes, particularly, K-12 and Higher Education policy; Akeem’s secondary major is in Religious Studies. As an undergraduate, Akeem conducted a case study on the Riverside Unified School District engaging and gathering input from displaced-at risk-students and their families guided by the following question, "Is the Public Policy Process a Precursor to Discrimination." He subsequently discovered that un-educated low-income people of color are primarily disadvantaged in respect to educational opportunities, because they do not engage in the political process in the same manner as those who are educated and are wealthy. As a result of his findings, new programs and services were implemented into the school sites which Akeem found a low level of parent engagement and disproportionate allocations of fiscal resources. Akeem also served as an elected undergraduate student representative which he created programs and services designed to increase the recruitment and retention of high school and community college students from low-income communities of color. Akeem has unrelenting fervor to create access and opportunities for historically underserved demographics, which stem from his own personal experiences growing up in Oakland, and experiences navigating the tech sector as an under capitalized black male business owner. While working for CT Corporation as a corporate paralegal for large companies like Google, Apple, and Tesla Motors, Akeem recognized that the same skills he used to help affluent business owners develop, protect, and generate more profits for their brands, could be leveraged to provide the same services for himself and other not so affluent individuals in his community. Thus, in the spring of 2009, at the age of 25, he launched a social networking platform that allowed sports fans and athletes to connect without the influence of mainstream media. The platform was the first of its kind in this space and the first to feature live broadcasts of professional athletes on the web. The brand was sold in the spring of 2013. Akeem is also a founding board member and board chair of The Lorenzo Alexander ACES foundation, youth minister at the Antioch Church in Oakland, CA, and a brand compliance and intellectual property consultant. His long term goals are to leverage technology to increase youth civic engagement, teach political science at the high school and community college level, and run for seat as trustee for the Peralta community college district.
As a first generation college graduate, Janee earned her Bachelor degrees in Sociology (emphasis on Law and Society) and African American Studies from the University of California, Davis in 2008. During her undergraduate years, she worked with Bay Area and Sacramento based high school students to increase college readiness rates and access to higher education as well as supported her peers with retention and persistence measures. Her work on campus and in the community shaped an understanding that the field of education required more attention at the systems and policy level. Upon graduating, Janee participated in UCLA's Travel Study Program at New York University and focused on the study of cities and culture. This program caused her to pivot her focus and combine her passions of education, regional policy, and city management. Upon returning to California, Janee began working with the City of Sacramento's, Neighborhood Services Department as an intern, and learned more about the city's approach to community development, policy implementation and the promotion of healthy and collaborative communities. Since 2010, Janee has worked for Youth Radio, based in Oakland, CA where she currently serves as the Director of Support Services. In this capacity, Janee focuses on youth workforce development, college readiness and access as well as additional postsecondary initiatives. In 2013, Janee earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco. Janee is a 2015 Pathways to Policy Fellow (California Center for Research on Women and Families), recent graduate of the Alameda County Citizenship Academy and an active member of the College Bound Brotherhood's, Oakland Team.
María Dominguez, Program Manager, People United for a Better Life in Oakland
María is a community advocate from East Oakland—on Ohlone Land—who has worked with youth, immigrants, and low-income communities of color for more than a decade. A proud alumna of Fremont High’s Media Academy, she first began organizing in her neighborhood alongside Oakland Community Organizations on issues of policing, educational equity, and immigrant rights while working for McKesson Corporation as a business analyst. After graduating from Mills College with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and minor in Public Policy, she helped establish Oakland’s municipal identification card program. María is also a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal. She has worked with the Alameda County Public Defender, La Raza Centro Legal, Public Counsel, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Currently, María is a program manager at People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO) in the Fruitvale, helping system-impacted youth from Oakland and throughout Alameda County access employment and educational opportunities. Shaped by her indigenous and immigrant raíces salvadoreñas-mexicanas, María is dedicated to fighting for intersectional social justice.
Ezekiel Gorrocino, Government Relations and Policy Associate, Center for Responsible Learning
Ezekiel Gorrocino is the Government Relations and Policy Associate at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), joining the team after working with the center's sister organization Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Oakland, CA. At Self-Help Ezekiel worked in the credit union's DACA/DAPA Lending Project, helping immigrants get loans for their immigration applications. In his role at CRL Ezekiel oversees the western states helping coordinate the nonprofit's efforts in fighting predatory loans such as payday, car title, and installment loans. Prior to joining CRL, Ezekiel was a CORO Fellow in Public Affairs with CORO of Northern California. As a Fellow, Ezekiel gained experience in different fields such as politics, government, business and nonprofits by working directly with candidates, appointed officials, as well as business and nonprofit executives. Ezekiel graduated from UC Berkeley in 2013 with a BA in Political Economy and a minor in Public Policy Berkeley, Ezekiel became a mentor for first-generation, minority, and low-income community college students whose goal was to transfer to Berkeley through the Starting Point Mentorship Program. During this program Ezekiel drew from his own experience as a re-entry, and formerly undocumented student to guide others through their college application process. His experience at Starting Point led him to intern at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, a non-profit organization that assists immigrants in the Bay Area. This involvement led Ezekiel to an immigration law firm in Berkeley where he helped LGBT and Indigenous asylum applicants with their cases. In his time off Ezekiel enjoys traveling, browsing bookstores, reading in coffee shops, trying new restaurants in the Bay Area, and volunteering in his community.
Amalia Greenberg Delgado, Global Legal Services Director, Asylum Access
A community developer, advocate and social entrepreneur, Amalia is dedicated to seeing the human rights of refugees respected. She leads Asylum Access’s Global Legal Services and Community Legal Empowerment programs. Amalia co-founded Asylum Access and served on its Board of Directors from 2005 until she joined the staff in 2013. Amalia offers bilingual strategic leadership and coaching to Asylum Access overseas staff, emerging organizations, and leaders. Amalia oversaw initial operations of Asylum Access’s first office in Ecuador and spearheaded the launch of Asylum Access Malaysia. An immigrant from Venezuela, Amalia strives to transform the landscape for refugees one or two borders from home. Through Fulbright and Soros scholarships, she worked closely with immigrant communities and their allies to advance local political and social change in countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and the U.S. Amalia has worked with organizations including Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) and Jesuit Refugee Services. Amalia is a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Washington College of Law and is a licensed lawyer in California. Amalia speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Matthew Griffith, Project Manager, Campus Climate Initiative, UC Berkeley
Matthew Griffith is the Project Manager for the Campus Climate Initiative in the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion at the University of California, Berkeley. In his role, Matthew leads the planning, development, and administration for the Campus Climate Initiative, the effort to create an environment where all UC Berkeley (UCB) faculty, students and staff feel respected, supported and valued. As a part of his role, Matthew sits on and manages several committees and work groups, including the Chancellor's Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion. Prior to his current appointment, Matthew served as a Resident Director at UC Berkeley in Residential and Housing Services-- advising and managing diversity and inclusion programs such as: African American Theme Program (AATP), UNITY House (LGBTQ ally theme program), and the Summer Bridge Program. Matthew was born and raised in the great city of Detroit and is a proud and sometimes overzealous alumnus of the Detroit Public Schools system and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. At Michigan, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Afroamerican Studies with a concentration in Community Action and Social Change and later received his Master of Arts in Higher Education.
Scott Hugo, Fellow, Oakland City Attorney - Neighborhood Law Corps
Scott is a proud Bay Area native. While studying History and Political Science at UCLA, he received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University and complete a Masters of Philosophy in International Relations. Afterwards, Scott earned a Juris Doctor and Master of Public Policy from Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. His studies at Harvard focused on access to justice, housing, consumer protection, and local government. Scott currently serves on the board of the Terrance Kelly Youth Foundation, whose mission is to build the self-confidence of young men and women, teach them conflict resolution skills, and help them rise above the violence. The foundation is in honor of Terrance Kelly, Scott’s De La Salle high school football teammate who was tragically murdered days before leaving for college. Scott has never forgotten that early lesson in injustice. Upon graduation, Scott received a public interest fellowship from Harvard to return home and serve in Oakland’s Neighborhood Law Corps. Modeled off of the Peace Corps’ call to service, Neighborhood Law Corps attorneys work with community members to tackle quality of life issues in Oakland. The attorneys endeavor to help local government be responsive to the needs of its citizens. Through the Neighborhood Law Corps, Scott hopes to advance the cause of justice and to fulfill the City Attorney’s motto: “law in service of the public.”
Jme McClean, Associate Director, PolicyLink
Jme Suannah McLean, MCP, MPH, is a social change strategist passionate about creating a sustainable and more inclusive society. With a reputation for bridging diverse perspectives and practices, Jme thrives when faced with complex challenges requiring creative solutions. She has extensive experience in strategic planning, policy development, training, and evaluation, with a focus on equity and justice. Her policy expertise spans across community development, transportation and land use planning, climate policy, public health, mental health, and issues affecting boys and men of color. Jme has worked directly in the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors, and has deep familiarity with both the philanthropic sector and grassroots communities from years of partnership and consultation. For over 15 years, Jme has focused on developing new ideas, strategies, and research to transform systems, communities, and perspectives. Nine of those years were at the national research and action institute PolicyLink, where she led the development of GEAR, an innovative tool helping grassroots organizations, funders, and agencies design and measure equitable advocacy campaigns. Jme also played a central role establishing and scaling up the Convergence Partnership, a longstanding effort of some of the nation’s largest foundations to collectively advance healthy people and places through policy and practice change. Her work also involved providing extensive technical support, policy guidance, coaching and facilitation to a range of government and nonprofit organizations. Previously, Jme worked in the fields of health and education, providing consultation on health impact assessment and evaluation, advancing research on traumatic stress, conducting monitoring and evaluation on HIV prevention interventions, and teaching science to low-income youth. Jme earned masters degrees in public health and urban planning from University of California, Berkeley (where she was a US Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies fellow in Mandarin Chinese), and a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Middlebury College. She grew up in Vermont to a mixed-race, multicultural family and has been living in the Bay Area, California for almost two decades. She brings to her work and relationships a strong commitment to the principles and practices of cultural humility.
Liana Molina, Organizer, California Reinvestment Coalition
Liana Molina is a social change advocate committed to advancing social, racial, and economic justice. Since 2008, she’s led the California Reinvestment Coalition’s campaign to end predatory payday lending, working at the federal, state and local level to change public policies and build the movement for financial justice and consumer protections. Prior to joining CRC, Liana worked with the Oakland-based East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, where she organized support for campaigns to lift low-wage workers out of poverty. Liana also staffed Oakland Rising, a multilingual, multiracial collaborative focused on building progressive political power in the east bay; and the Service Employees International Union Local 1877, organizing passenger services workers at the Oakland international airport. Liana holds a B.A. in Sociology from Santa Clara University. She enjoys art, music, hiking, bicycling, traveling and time with friends and family.
Leila Pedersen, Program Manager, Common Cause
Leila Pedersen is a social entrepreneur who leverages cross-sector solutions to some of the most intractable problems. Leila currently directs programs and campaigns for Common Cause California, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to increase civic participation and hold public officials accountable to the people they serve. She uses a powerful combination of strategic development, policy analysis and community organizing to build meaningful connections between citizens and their government. Her work has been featured in the LA Times, SF Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and a variety of online and radio outlets. Leila is driven by her fierce commitment to social equity, economic opportunity and justice for all. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, she fell in love with the Bay Area as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. As a student, she interned for social justice organizations like Green for All, PowerPAC, and the City of Chicago’s Department of Community Development. After graduation Leila moved to Washington, DC where she ran voter education programs at EMILY’s List, helping to elect the greatest number of women to ever serve in the United States Congress. Although she was not lucky enough to have been born in California, Leila is proud to call it home. She lives in Oakland, CA with her loving partner Kurston Cook and their adorable dog Bernie.
Rosalyn Reed, Founder/CEO, Uniting Youth Leaders
Rosalyn R. Reed is the founder and CEO of Uniting Youth Leaders, a mentoring program dedicated to the healing and revolutionary transformation of low-income and disenfranchised communities through health education, leadership cultivation, and mentorship of youth. Reed has worked in the non-profit community in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area since 2002. With well over 10 years of experience, she has also worked in non-profits across the country by promoting social justice and providing her expertise as a program developer, youth enrichment specialist, community organizer, mentoring coach, and leadership trainer. She also spent a year inside San Francisco's highest level of city government addressing city challenges through public service as a City Hall fellow. Reed, who was named “One of the 10 Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area,” completed her undergraduate studies in history and political science at Spelman College with a concentration in African and African American history. Reed earned a Master of Social Work at California State University, East Bay. She also completed studies abroad with the School for International Training (SIT) in West Africa, as well as a domestic exchange program at Stanford University during her undergraduate studies. Reed is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and vice president of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
Shreya Shah, Lead Trainer and Consultant, SALTWATER Social Justice Training & Consulting
Shreya D. Shah is a consultant, trainer, visual artist, and activist. She has over 10 years of experience providing trainings in anti-oppression, healthier communication, and supporting stronger teamwork and organizational development across the states. She works with SALTWATER Social Justice Consulting and Training. Shreya received her Masters Degree in Public Health at Columbia University. She is the co-coordinator for Training for Change's JCJ Fellowship Program which builds the leadership and skills of trainers of color; a member of the Funding Queerly Giving Circle, which mobilizes resources for community organizing by and for LGBTQI communities; and committed to a growing practice of somatic healing for self and others. Shreya’s art and design work spreads liberatory, healing messages across Oakland, the US, and internationally. She enjoys writing, playing with her nephews, dancing, and laughing loudly with loved ones.
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, Senior Policy and Government Affairs Manager,
Children's Defense Fund-California
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky is the Senior Policy and Government Affairs Manager in Children’s Defense Fund-California’s Oakland office. Michele leads CDF-CA's End Child Poverty campaign and advocates to ensure that every child has access to quality health care and that California children are protected in the state budget. Michele also manages and directs strategy for CDF-CA’s communications efforts. Michele is proud to have championed successful efforts to expand health coverage to 170,000 undocumented children in California and create a state Earned Income Tax Credit to help poor working families. Prior to joining the Children's Defense Fund, Michele worked on advocacy and communications for Preschool California, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to quality early learning for California’s children. Michele served as a Dukakis Fellow in Colorado Governor Bill’s Ritter’s office, where she worked closely on issues of homelessness and childhood hunger. Raised by community organizers in inner-city Denver, Michele is a lifelong social justice activist and an avid proponent of public schools. Michele has a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. During her time at Harvard, Michele co-founded the Massachusetts Cradle to Prison Pipeline Coalition, which brought together community and policy leaders to focus on challenges facing at-risk children and youth, starting with reforming school discipline policies.
Sasha Werblin, Economic Equity Director, The Greenlining Institute
Sasha Werblin is a proud Oakland native and wants to live in a world where love is abundant, ciestas are the status quo, and race is not a barrier to prosperity. As Economic Equity Director, she works to build wealth, assets, and financial sustainability in communities of color. She's been featured in Al Jazeera America, the American Banker, LA Times, and many other publications. Sasha started her career as Greenlining's Sustainable Development fellow in 2007-2008, then went on to run Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s successful 2008 reelection campaign. She has also worked in Mombasa, Kenya for Kituo Cha Sheria: Centre for Legal Empowerment ensuring that undeserved communities were at the vanguard of local development initiatives and helping local community-based organizations build fundraising capacity. She was assistant director at a progressive campaign consulting firm mobilizing activists, building membership and fundraising for organizations like Amnesty International and Equality California. Sasha graduated from Smith College in 2007 with a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology. When she's not fighting for financial equity, she loves to dance, sing, style her friends for special occasions, go garage and estate sale hopping and cuddle with her cat Charlie.
Orlando White, Business Leadership Program - Global Sales Associate, LinkedIn
Orlando White has devoted his life to helping transform the lives of young people, families and communities through the education, and the development of our most underserved and under-supported youth. Having served as a bridge between policy and programs, Orlando has seen firsthand the impact policy has on people’s lives – specifically in communities of color. Orlando currently works as a Business Leadership Program Associate at LinkedIn, where he is gaining the skills necessary to strategically and boldly advocate and push forth policies that will help “create economic opportunity for the entire global workforce.” In his role at LinkedIn, he project managed the first Diversity Recruiting Campus Strategy, a brand new, ill-defined program that required tight execution and strong collaboration with numerous stakeholders. The work Orlando lead resulted in LinkedIn touching over 100 diverse students across five university campuses. As a student at Howard University, Orlando interned with the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Department of Justice, two Congressional Offices, the Center for American Progress and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. While working in the Office of the Deputy Mayor, Orlando spearheaded the marketing strategy for the New Communities Initiative, a District government program designed to revitalize severely distressed subsidized housing and redevelop communities plagued with concentrated poverty, high crime, and economic segregation. He also assisted staff with press releases and talking points for community meetings and presentations to the City Council and other stakeholders. Orlando believes policy and legislation are only as good as the leaders who shape and enforce them. His goal is to be an informed, skilled strategic creator of policy and grassroots programs. Additionally, he aims to acquire the skills necessary to organize and empower others to advocate and advance policy. The New Leaders Council Institute provides a critical space of preparation to make effective changes a reality.