|Ford Public Voices Fellowship|
MEET THE 2017 FELLOWS
We are pleased to announce the 2017 cohort of The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship in partnership with The Ford Foundation. The 18 new Fellows are senior leaders working across social justice sectors, including women's rights, economic justice, housing policy, racial justice, LGBTQ, organizing, labor rights, HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and rights, and immigrant rights. The 2017 fellows come from across the United States and were selected based on exceptional knowledge and expertise, as well as on the impact they have had in the US and globally.
UROOJ ARSHAD is the associate director of International Youth Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth, where she manages a project of the International Division that builds the capacity of youth-driven organizations working on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including LGBT rights, in the global south. She has designed a project that seeks to address the reproductive and sexual health needs of Muslim-identified youth. She is the co-founder and current steering committee member of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD), which addresses the intersectional impact of Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. Urooj is a sought-after speaker, presenting at the International HIV/AIDS Conferences; the European Science Foundation’s conference on Religion, Gender and Human Rights; the White House LGBT Pride and Heritage Event; the National Press Club, Capitol Hill, the State Department, and at national convenings of Muslim thought-leaders. Urooj has been a member of the Center for American Progress’ Women’s Health Leadership Network and its Faith and Reproductive Justice Institute. Urooj was the first out queer person to be accepted as a fellow with the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She is currently on the Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Global Advisory Board and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice’s Board. Urooj is the recipient of several awards including the Latino GLBT History Project’s annual Mujeres en el Movimiento award; National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance’s Community Catalyst Award; and the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition’s We Speak award. Urooj served on the U.S delegation to the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
JENNIFER BAILEY, named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, is an ordained minister, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a new interfaith community equipping emerging faith leaders to challenge structural inequality in their communities. Faith Matters Network trains, supports, and amplifies the leadership, and stories of faith-rooted change-makers – especially those at the margins of faith communities: people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, the poor, and other marginalized identities. Leaders at the margins are key, not because of a need to be “helped,” but in their acute, indispensable, and unique ability to both (1) offer solutions to social justice issues in the American South from a place of power and experience, (2) provide real, human examples that usher faith communities toward a 21st century social justice agenda, and (3) embed new leadership structures with distributed, collective power structures. An Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, and Truman Scholar, Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. She writes for a number of publications including On Being, Sojourners and the Huffington Post. Her first book, tentatively titled Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister, is under contract with Chalice Press. Rev. Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
MARYA BANGEE is passionate about helping build communities. She started her journey as a community organizer in the Muslim-American community, including leading the national advocacy campaign for the “Irvine 11,” a case on the protection of political speech. Through her organizing, she has often represented the Muslim-American voice in national media like the New York Times and NPR. After completing her baccalaureate degrees in English and Sociology at UC Irvine, she served as a Project Director at UCLA, working to increase access to higher education in impoverished areas of the city. Seeing the need for communal solutions to the challenges posed by poverty, she completed a six-month residency with the Industrial Areas Foundation. There, Marya studied the works of Saul Alinsky and Marshall Ganz while helping organize a mayoral town hall with a thousand Angelenos and carrying out a series of mobile enrollment clinics for the Affordable Care Act with low-income communities. Marya was selected for the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, where she worked on a national senate campaign, staffed California's Speaker of the Assembly, and helped develop part of the ten-year strategic plan for the California Community Foundation. Marya graduated as a Dean’s Merit Scholar from the University of Southern California (USC) with her Masters in Public Administration in 2015, specializing in nonprofit management and public policy. While in graduate school, she worked for a boutique consulting firm that specialized in strategic planning, where she worked with the leadership team at LAUSD to invest $50 million in school-based health clinics and helped develop a five-year strategic plan for a federally-qualified health center. Since graduation, Marya has started her own practice, SILA Consulting, which helps connect leaders in philanthropy, government and the entertainment industry to grassroots leaders and nonprofits in order to increase social impact.
KERON BLAIR is the National Director of the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS). AROS is an unprecedented national alliance of organizations that represent educators, students and parents. The Alliance works together to save public education and to ensure that all children have access to high quality schools that prepare them to participate fully in society. Before AROS, Keron was the membership director for United Worker Families in Chicago. While there, he built infrastructure to train candidates for office and build local political organizations to support those candidates. He was also the Field Director for Raise Illinois (a statewide campaign to raise Illinois' minimum wage) and Illinois Unites for Marriage (the campaign that secured the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples people in Illinois). Keron has experience running campaigns at the city state and national levels and was for a number of years a trainer at Midwest Academy, the leading training institute for social change organizers. As a trainer and campaign strategist at Midwest Academy, Keron worked to design and implement strategic issue campaigns on a wide set of issues. An immigrant from Jamaica, Keron sees the next decade as filled with possibilities for how we claim the promise of a democratic society, where every day people can have autonomy over their lives and communities.
JITU BROWN, married and father of one child, is the National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance, a network of 30 grassroots community-based organizations in 24 cities, organizing for community-driven school improvement. He was formerly the education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). Born and raised in the Rosemoor neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago, Jitu attended Wendell Smith Elementary School and Kenwood Academy High School. Jitu studied at Eastern Arizona College and Northeastern Illinois University, majoring in communications with a minor in Spanish. Jitu’s journey to organizing has been interesting. Believe it or not, he was lead vocalist in Chicago’s first hip hop group to sign to a major record label in 1991 and has performed with some of Hip Hop’s legends, such as Public Enemy, X-Clan and Afrika Bambaataa. Jitu started volunteering with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) in 1991, became a board member in 1993 and for a number of years served as the organization’s board president. He joined the staff as education organizer in 2006. He has organized in the Kenwood Oakland neighborhood for over 22 years bringing community voices to the table on school issues. He helped develop the Mid-South Education Association, a grassroots advocacy group made up of administrators, parents, teachers, young people and local school council (LSC) members to meet the needs of schools in the area. They were the first group to certify parents as LSC facilitators, which has become a model being replicated across the city of Chicago. In addition, they successfully organized to stop several school closings in the area and secured resources for neglected neighborhood schools. The KOCO has served as a resource for organizations nationwide, dealing with school closings and the elimination of community voice from the decision-making process. Jitu also teaches African-American history at St. Leonard’s Adult High School, the only accredited high school in that nation that exclusively serves people who have been formerly incarcerated. A believer in working locally and thinking globally, Jitu has taken youth leaders from KOCO to the United Nations, to the Passamaquoddy Native American reservation in Maine and to the UN Conference on Racism in South Africa. He has been published in the national education magazine Rethinking Schools, appeared in Ebony magazine and on several talk shows, including MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and The Ed Show, Al Jazeera America, WBEZ’s Community Voices, Democracy Now and CLTV’s Gerard McClendon Live.
DR. NINA DUDNIK is the founder and CEO of Seeding Labs, a nonprofit organization investing in talented scientists in the developing world with limited resources, but limitless potential. Seeding Labs provides reduced-cost lab equipment and training and fosters professional networks that support vital research, enhance the impact of higher education, and create a more connected global scientific community. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Brown University, Dr. Dudnik worked in international agricultural development with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research in Italy and in Cote d’Ivoire where she was a Fulbright scholar. During this time she worked in labs on three continents with scientists from every part of the world and returned to the US with a renewed commitment to support this global community of researchers. After completing her PhD in molecular biology at Harvard University she founded Seeding Labs to pursue that mission. Seeding Labs has provided over to $4.3M in equipment to scientists in 27 countries. The laboratories that have received equipment are conducting research projects across the areas of infectious and non-communicable diseases, crop and livestock improvement, environmental protection and waste treatment and renewable energy. Collectively they are training over 17,000 undergraduate, Masters and PhD students each year. For her work with Seeding Labs, Nina has been named a 2010 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, a 2010 TED Fellow, received a 2012 Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40 award and the 2014 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award. Seeding Labs has been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and in publications as diverse as the Boston Globe, The Kenyan Standard, the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Elle Magazine and Chemical & Engineering News.
CASHAUNA HILL is Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. At GNO Fair Housing, Cashauna is responsible for ensuring that the programmatic work furthers the organization’s mission of eradicating housing discrimination and residential segregation. Specifically, Cashauna directs the senior leadership team; engages funders; creates and maintains critical relationships; and serves as the main point of contact for external communications. Cashauna has been active in social justice movements for over two decades. As a student at Spelman College, she and several classmates founded the first Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance chapter on a historically black campus. Cashauna currently serves on the advisory board of Women Engaged, an Atlanta-based non-profit that advances the civic leadership of women and young people of color. A graduate of Tulane Law School, Cashauna is a civil rights attorney whose practice has included years of providing legal representation to victims of housing discrimination. At the 10-year mark of the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, Cashauna’s piece “Katrina Didn’t Wash Away Housing Discrimination” was published by the online media outlet Next City. Cashauna is a frequent guest of local radio and media, and has been featured on several NPR programs.
RAFIQ R. KALAM ID-DIN II, ESQ., is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Teaching Firms of America Charter Schools (TFOA), and Ember Charter Schools for Mindful Education, Innovation and Transformation. A social entrepreneur, activist, teacher, lawyer and nonprofit leader with over 20 years experience, Rafiq grew up in severe poverty in inner city Philadelphia during the height of the crack epidemic and violence of the 1980s and early 1990s. A two-time graduate of the University of Virginia (Bachelors in English and African-American Studies, and a Master of Teaching-English Education), Rafiq received his JD from NYU School of Law as a Thurgood Marshall Scholar, becoming an Editor of the Law Review and President of the Student Bar Association. Rafiq practiced law with Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York and Hong Kong, before serving as Executive Director of the AnBryce Foundation in the Washington, DC area. Rafiq received the 2007 Echoing Green Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs for his innovative “Teaching Firm”, a unique model for fully teacher-led schools managed like law firms, the first of which launched in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in 2011. In 2015, TFOA merged with another Echoing Green project, “The Anew School”, to form Ember, the first ‘K-12 university’ public school model, pioneering a pedagogical approach that shifts the focus of schooling away from information acquisition to holistic human development. A member of the Board of Echoing Green, the Brooklyn Crescents (Lacrosse), and President of the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association (LACA), Rafiq is also co-founder of the NYC Coalition of Community Charter Schools, and founder of the #BlackLedSchoolsMatter initiative. Rafiq maintains a small private legal practice, providing pro bono services to indigent clients in the community, and serving as General Counsel for Karen’s Body Beautiful, the only Brooklyn-based, Black-woman led natural hair and beauty manufacturer.
NAINA KHANNA is a national speaker, trainer, leader, and advocate. She has worked in the HIV field since 2005, following her HIV diagnosis in 2002. Her passion is building leadership and power among communities of color and people living with HIV. Naina currently serves on the Board of Directors for AIDS United, the National Steering Committee for the US People Living with HIV Caucus, as a member of the Women’s HIV Research Initiative, and served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) from 2010 – 2014. Prior to working in HIV, Naina co-founded and served as National Field Director for the League of Pissed Off Voters, a progressive national organization working to expand participation of young people and communities of color in electoral politics. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Medical Sociology at the University of California – San Francisco.
ANN MACDOUGALL is President of Encore.org, which promotes second chapter careers for the greater good through thought leadership, programming and movement building. Encore.org is headquartered in San Francisco and operates throughout the US. She sits on the board of Opiant, Inc. (a specialty pharmaceutical company), the board of Global Citizen Year (a US education non-profit), the Audit Committee of the Lycée Français de New York and the Advisory Board of Equality Now. In 2013, Ms. MacDougall was a fellow at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, a yearlong program to prepare experienced executives to take on new challenges in the social sector. Ms. MacDougall is the former Chief Operating Officer of Acumen Fund, a global impact investment fund focused on goods and services for low-income customers. Acumen has equity and debt investments in East and West Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. Before joining Acumen, Ms. MacDougall had a long career as a manager/lawyer. She was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers where she rose through the ranks to become General Counsel of PwC-US and the first woman member of that firm’s Management Committee. She later moved to Paris to become PwC’s Global Deputy General Counsel. Ms. MacDougall holds a B.A. cum laude from Tufts University and a J.D. cum laude from Brooklyn Law School. She lives in New York City, has travelled extensively in both professional and personal capacities and is very comfortable working across cultures. She speaks fluent French, is an avid theatre and opera-goer and also enjoys hiking, cycling, rafting and cross-country skiing.
VIVIAN NIXON is Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization committed to removing individual and structural barriers to higher education for women with criminal record histories and their families. As a formerly incarcerated woman and prior CCF program participant, Rev. Nixon is uniquely positioned to lead the charge to help justice-involved women and their families have a better future. While incarcerated, Rev. Nixon spent time as a peer educator for the adult basic education program at Albion State Correctional Facility in New York. Following her release, she was ordained by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) and currently serves as an associate minister at Mt. Zion AMEC in New York City. She is a Columbia University Community Scholar and a recipient of the John Jay Medal for Justice, the Ascend Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, the Soros Justice Fellowship, and the Petra Foundation Fellowship. She is a co-founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), a collaborative effort to increase access to higher education for justice-involved students and serves on the advisory board of JustLeadershipUSA. Rev. Nixon holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York Empire College.
ATIMA OMARA is political strategist, writer, and women’s rights advocate. With over a decade of experience, as a political strategist, Atima has worked for a Governor and as staff on over 8 federal, state, and local political campaigns across the country. As a daughter of immigrants, she understands that politics and activism must intersect in a democracy, and has done cross-movement organizing work in labor unions, women’s rights, youth and civil organizations. In 2015, Atima served as Vice President of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a research-based advocacy organization that focused on advocacy and education on the full range of women’s reproductive options. Prior to RHTP, Atima was elected the first African American and fifth woman President of the Young Democrats of America (YDA) in its 83-year history in 2013. YDA is the nation’s largest partisan youth organization and a youth arm of the Democratic Party that represents young people age 14-36. She served as President until 2015, and worked to engage young people in the political process across the country marking her tenure with membership growth, and national programs dedicated to increasing youth political participation. A women’s rights activist, Atima serves as Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund she is also a co-founder and board member of a state PAC that endorses and helps elect pro-choice progressive women. Atima has received many recognitions for her work, including Ebony Magazine’s 2013 “Power 100,” Jet Magazine’s 2013 “40 under 40,” and being featured in Essence Magazine in their November 2013 list of “Ten Things We’re Talking About.” Atima graduated with a B.A from the University of Virginia in 2003 and has a Master of Public Administration from George Mason University.
CHRISHELLE PALAY serves as the Co-Director of Texas Low Income Housing Information Service in Houston where she is recognized as an effective housing policy advocate. In addition to advocating to ensure that affordable, safe and decent housing is accessible to low income Texans, she also leads efforts to provide local and state housing policy research and strategy to local community organizing groups. She became involved in this work as a result of 2008’s Hurricane Ike, when she worked closely with advocates, grassroots organizers and community leaders to address housing issues for historically underserved communities. Chrishelle organized a Fair Housing Summit for the Houston/Galveston area after recognizing the need for cross-silo collaboration, creating an authentic and ongoing dialogue between government agencies, nonprofits, community leaders, residents, civil rights attorneys, developers and more. Chrishelle continues to works closely with various partners decoding fair housing and highlighting its importance and role in community led comprehensive planning efforts. Because of this unique approach she, along with other fair housing practitioners across the country, have been convened by Open Society Foundation to participate in a peer networking collaborative to seek solutions associated with longstanding fair housing advocacy and enforcement challenges. Chrishelle also participates in the National Community of Practice collaborative, jointly led by Abt Associates and The Furman Center at New York University. Their focus is to develop comprehensive and effective local housing strategies specifically tailored for high cost cities. Most recently Chrishelle was selected as a Next City 2016 Vanguard and also served on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Housing Transition Committee. Prior to coming aboard at TxLIHIS, she led a successful career in architecture, specializing in high rise multifamily design. She has a Bachelors of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and serves on the board of directors for The Rhodes School.
MALIKA REDMOND is guiding the mission of Women Engaged to empower women and youth of color to become high-impact leaders, key decision-makers and effective agents for social change. A feminist researcher and reproductive justice and human rights advocate, she has worked for more than a decade developing and managing projects that focus on reproductive justice and LGBT rights for communities of color, both nationally and internationally. Malika was one of the youngest national field organizers for the 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., an event that brought nearly 1 million participants to the national Mall. In 2012, she completed a two-term leadership position as a board member of the National Women’s Health Network and is the current board president of the ProGeorgia Civic Engagement C3 Table. Her writings have been featured in Rewire, Truthout, The Women’s Health Activist, and AlterNet. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University in Women’s Studies.
MAYA RUPERT is Senior Director, Policy & Managing Director, D.C. Office at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In this position, Maya oversees the Center's federal, state, and local policy work in the U.S., and is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing the Center's multi-faceted reproductive rights policy initiatives and strategies across multiple branches of government. In this dual-hatted role, Maya also leads and oversees the Center’s Washington, D.C. office and focuses on deepening the Center’s efforts, maximizing impact, and forging new partnerships and opportunities. Prior to joining the Center, Maya served the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary Julián Castro and earlier, as Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel in the Office of General Counsel. Prior to HUD, Maya was Policy Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In that role, she led the organization’s policy and legislative work and advocated on behalf of the LGBT community in areas including housing, employment, relationship recognition, and immigration. Maya has also been a regular contributing writer to a number of media outlets—including O Magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Huffington Post—where she frequently addresses the intersection of politics, race, and gender. She has been recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists for her writing and by national outlets like Ebony Magazine and The Root for her leadership in the black community. In 2007, Maya clerked for the Honorable Eric L. Clay of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and from 2007-2010 was an Associate at Sidley Austin LLP. Maya received her B.A. from U.C. Santa Barbara and her J.D. from U.C. Berkeley.
TRABIAN SHORTERS is co-author of New York Times bestseller “REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding” and founding Chief Executive Officer of BMe Community, a national network of all races and genders committed to a 21st-century narrative about America, it’s values, and Black men’s roles in them. Both REACH and BMe Community are based on data showing a fundamental shift in demographics and a concurrent battle of perceptions taking place below the radar in America. Traditional framings of Black men date back 50 years to the civil rights era and reinforce messages that they represent problems and threats and may want unearned opportunities and privileges. Shorters demonstrates that updating that narrative to recognize Black men’s impressive contributions and leadership is the key to modernizing positive community engagement in matters of race, cities and America’s future. He uses a specific approach called ‘Asset-Framing’ which is fact-based, optimistic and refreshes the dialogue in ways that enlighten and create new opportunities for a prosperous future together. Trabian developed Asset-Framing and BMe Community while serving for six years as Vice President of the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation where he directed a $300-million portfolio of grants and endowments in 26 regions including Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami and Silicon Valley. When he spun the entity off from the Knight Foundation in July 2013, he received backing from Knight, Open Society Foundations and The Heinz Endowments. In 2015 he was named to Ashoka’s global fellowship of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. BMe Community has operations in Akron, Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and is expanding nationally. The network already includes 35,000+ ‘Community Builders’ of all races and genders and nearly 200 Black male BMe Leaders who provide youth development, human rights, and economic opportunities to over 500,000+ of their neighbors each year. Trabian is a Fellow of the 14th class of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
DAFINA WARD is an attorney by training, who left legal practice to pursue a non-profit career focused on addressing health disparities in the South. Over the past decade, Dafina has developed and implemented organizational trainings, community-focused interventions, and capacity-building efforts for local and regional organizations. From 2012-2015, Dafina served as Chief Prevention Officer at AIDS Alabama, the largest AIDS-Service Organization in Alabama, where she managed all of the agency’s community-focused educational programs and initiatives, including HIV testing and linkage to care. This work allowed her to serve groups facing great health disparities, including women of color, transgender women, and persons living with HIV/AIDS. She also led coalition-building efforts and forged relationships among healthcare and social service organizations that had not previously existed, leading to the coordination of HIV care and services in the state.
ERICA WOODLAND is a black queer/gender queer trainer, movement leader and healing practitioner born and raised in Baltimore. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker committed to working at the intersections of movements for racial, gender, economic, trans and queer justice and liberation. For the past 13 years, Erica has worked as a community organizer, case manager, therapist, life coach, facilitator, trainer, social worker, program director, researcher and clinical supervisor with youth, people of color and LGBTQ people from Baltimore to Oakland, CA where she currently resides. She has done extensive work in prisons, jails, group homes, psychiatric facilities, schools, non-profit organizations, community-based clinics and with grassroots groups giving her a wide range of experience to draw from in her practice. From 2012-2016, Erica served as the Field Building Director for the Brown Boi Project, a national gender justice organization transforming the way communities of color experience gender. She is the founder of the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, a new project focused on advancing healing justice for queer and trans people of color by increasing access to mental health resources for “QTPoC by QTPoC”. Erica also provides clinical supervision to counselors and therapists at two youth organizations in the Bay Area: the CRUSH Project at the Downtown Youth Clinic in Oakland, and the RYSE Center in Richmond, CA.