2020-2021 BCLI Alumni
I’m 44-year-old Native American women. I have been through so much in life with racism, prejudice and forgot about that today It has made me the strong women I am, that I am able to stand on the front lines and advocate for others who are experiencing the same or similar issues and feel like they have no voice. Well I do and I am going to used it. With guidance and willingness, I am well on my way. I have worked in the homeless field for at 10 years, I do volunteer work on my own time. I am also available to help when needed. I just want to give back.
D’Andre Gordon is a rising senior at Metropolitan State University, where he double majors in Criminal Justice and Psychology. In addition to attending university full-time, he also works full-time at Catholic Charities as the Public Policy Advocate. He is originally from Jamaica and is passionate about increasing diverse representation at all decision making tables and access. D’Andre is committed to developing a career in public policy and law. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, concerts, taking care of pets, reading, cooking, outdoor activities, and trying new restaurants.
Jose, a native of Los Angeles, has been a youth advocate, educator and mentor. He lived for the past six years in Portland, working as an educator who strengthened academic and career pathways for students of color in the STEM field and as a College Possible coach and now a Youth Specialist for Pillsbury United Communities. He graduated from Lewis & Clark college in Portland, and recently relocated to Minneapolis to pursue his Master in Public Health at the U of M-Twin Cities.
Ms. Jewelean Jackson
Jewelean Jackson is an Elder Community Servant, working toward the betterment of the universe beginning with her core family. Jackson is also a proponent of life-long learning, from cradle to grave, continues as a Very Involved Parent (VIP) to daughter, Thandisizwe and many other children of society. She is currently the Vegan Byy Nature Founding Project Director working to initiate the Inaugural Vegan Minnesota Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. Twin Cities Non Violence is an anti-violence endeavor that she embraces. Jackson recently had the honor of attending the 57th Anniversary March On Washington, as a member of the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy. She says, “I am the first Community University Health Care Center Black Chair, as I’ve chosen to put the bulk of my time and energy into changing health disparities toward BIPOC. My legacy lies in creating positive societal transformations”.
Rev. Carl Johnson moved to the Twin Cities in fall of 2016. He made connections in the neighborhood by volunteering in Dayton’s Bluff Elementary school and recruiting volunteers to serve Dayton’s Bluff Elementary and Recreation Center in various capacities such as organizing classrooms for teachers, Deep cleaning recreation center before school year cleaning and maintaining a peace garden. He also started a community garden at no cost to the rec center for teaching neighborhood kids how to grow vegetables. Reverend Johnson primary motivation was to end everyday hunger. Rev Johnson has held neighborhood specific block parties and seasonal events to uplift the neighborhood.
Carl has a mission to abolish food insecurity in major cities starting with St.paul believing that race and economic justice are tied to food. He is a pastor in the twin cities and formally appointed committee member in the City of St.Paul of Food and Nutrition. He is on the leadership team of Mission St.Paul a gathering of St.Paul pastors that promote unity in the city of St.Paul.
Carl’s extensive knowledge of black culture and structures of identities in the black community has propelled his work with racial injustice. Carl often engages in circles and individuals cross-culturally to see communities work in unity.
He built partnerships with the school and eventually Indigenous Roots Cultural Art Center. They began to partner when Rev. Johnson organization started their social good enterprise Storehouse Grocers. Storehouse Grocers is specific to Dayton’s Bluff and is placed on 7th Street East. If it is an affordable and accessible grocery store that has fair bargain prices under $5.00. The grocery store has become a neighborhood hub to feed and help families that are entrenched in food insecurity. They give out 1600 meals a month during covid.
Clara Jung is a Korean immigrant who calls Minneapolis home. She was fortunate enough to return to Seoul as an adult, where she volunteered with organizations like People for Successful Corean Reunification, Korean Unwed Mothers Families’ Association, and spent time with her long separated family. This experience reactivated her connection to her Korean identity and her desire to continue cultivating belonging and justice in her home community in Minneapolis. Clara is currently a fundraiser at the University of Minnesota Law School, where she works with major donors to match their passions with the financial needs of the school. She interrogates traditions that have upheld white supremacy while excluding others, and works to implement practices within the field of philanthropy that include BIPOC donors and help advance the BIPOC priorities. Clara earned her B.A. in Religion, Sociology and Anthropology from St. Olaf College as the first person in her family to attend university. In her school’s tradition, she is an experienced musician and you can find her playing clarinet or dancing to jazz in her free time. She also enjoys volunteering with local nonprofits in homelessness prevention and community health, helping folks get out the vote, and baking cupcakes for her friends.
Stephannie L. Lewis
Stephannie L. Lewis is the Associate Vice President of Community Impact for the Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW). At GTCUW, she drives the development and effective implementation of operations strategy, team performance and project management initiatives for the community impact team. Prior to joining the team at United Way, Stephannie as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Social Impact Strategies Group (SISG). During her tenure at SISG, she also served as a visiting assistant professor at Macalester College teaching Black entrepreneurship. She holds a bachelor of science degree in sociology from Hamline University and a master’s degree in public policy the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
As a member of the Forge North Collective, Inclusive Capital Collective, and a former member of the City of Lakes Commercial Land Trust Exploratory Advisory Committee, Stephannie works to advance equity and inclusion in the Twin Cities entrepreneur ecosystem.
Steven Nelson raised his son with severe mental health disorder while going to college for Addiction Counseling. Steven has worked with so many organizations such as RCMHC and Mofas, trainings conference role in movies. DHS family service, want to make a difference on a higher level.
Samantha Sencer-Mura grew up in Minneapolis and became passionate about closing the educational opportunity gap after her time as a student in the Minneapolis Public Schools, where she witnessed deep inequities within the system. She earned her B.A. in Critical Theory and Social Justice from Occidental College, and her Master’s in School Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Since 2017, she has been the Executive Director at 826 MSP, a youth writing, tutoring, and publishing center with a mission to empower the next generation of Twin Cities authors. During her tenure as Executive Director, Samantha has led the organization to build a satellite location at her alma mater, South High School in Minneapolis, and to join the 826 national network of youth writing centers. Samantha lives in the Corcoran neighborhood of South Minneapolis and enjoys cooking, reading and karaoke.
Nonkululeko (Nkuli) Shongwe
Nonkululeko Shongwe (Nkuli) was born and raised in South Africa and immigrated to the U.S. in High School. She is an organizer, facilitator, and cooperative enthusiast. For the past three years, she has had the privilege of working at Nexus Community Partners. Nkuli is the Community Wealth Building Program Manager. Her work focuses on elevating the organization’s community wealth building strategies and supporting Nexus’ cooperative fellowship programs. Nkuli is also is a second-year Master of Human Rights candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Her concentration focuses on economic, cultural, and social justice for historically marginalized communities. Nkuli graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in 2017.
With over a decade of experience, Alexandra has worked in the arts, corporate, non-profit and public sectors, and has found her true passion in arts philanthropy, leadership, and social justice. A cultural diplomacy enthusiast from Haiti, she has worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, South Arts, the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Creative Capital.
She has master’s degrees in Public Relations and International Relations from Syracuse University, and a bachelor’s degree in Political Communication from George Washington University. She has served on the Board of BURNAWAY, an Atlanta-based digital magazine of contemporary art and criticism from the American South.
When she is not working, Alex enjoys photography, graphic design, traveling, and drooling over her favorite magazine, the Monocle. Alexandra is a 2017 Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) Leadership Fellow.
Octavia (she/they) envisions a world where communities, especially those Black, under resourced, marginalized and historically oppressed, are autonomous in shaping their lives and delivering equitable policies for all. They believe deeply that in order to make space for such a world, old systems rooted in capitalism, white supremacy, anti-blackness and cultural genocide need to be abolished. Octavia is happiest when she is surround by community and her loved ones. She’s a foodie, bad dancer and while born and raised in the Bronx has come to call Minnesota home.
Shawn Sorrell is an experienced consultant with public and private entities in design and implementation of organizational change strategies and leadership development, dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. Currently serving as the Diversity and Equal Justice Manager for Hennepin County Minnesota Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as Disparities Reduction Justice Domain Lead. Formally studied chemical engineering at Drexel University, sociology and psychology at the University of Delaware and is a native of Baltimore, MD. Spent several years working with community groups and religious organizations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware cultivating violence prevention programs and mentoring youth from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. Community board participation with Avenues for Youth, Volunteer Lawyers Network, Woodbury YMCA and Woodbury Public Safety Multicultural Advisory Committee.
Mala was born in Vientiane, Laos to a Hmong father and Thai mother. She grew up in St. Paul’s East Side and currently lives in Frogtown. Mala has been in the philanthropic sector for 20 years working as a fundraiser for 10 years before being a philanthropic advisor to many families for the last 10 years. One of her passions is at the intersection of philanthropy and social justice. There she is working to help philanthropy move from a deficit-based funding to a more asset-based approach: seeing communities as experts to their issues and resolutions. Mala has a long history of serving on many boards and committees.
Angela G. Williams is a former graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Master’s degree in Training and Development. She also holds a Paralegal Certificate from Harry S. Truman College. She is a small business owner of Housing Resource Network, Inc., an agency that serves the community through Landlord/Tenant relations and also YNIIGI, LLC – You Need It, I Got It, an event planning/support organization. She currently serves on the Board for Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County.
Tsua Xiong completed his graduate program studies in Social Work from Augsburg University. He obtained a Master’s in Social Work degree and is currently working towards licensure as a LGSW (Licensed Graduate Social Worker). Tsua is in the role as a certified peer support specialist at Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in the SEA (Southeast Asian) Assertive Community Treatment model in adult mental health. Tsua strives to continue his peer work in becoming a national certified peer support specialist. He is deeply passionate in the field of mental health and is a person living with a mental illness. As a person with a lived experience, Tsua participates in advocacy and outreach in the community to raise awareness and address concerns in mental health. In his spare time, Tsua likes to hike outdoors in the wilderness and read different genres of books.
2018-2019 BCLI Alumni
Ying Lee is a Hmong American, mother, wife, daughter and community builder. Ying holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services Administration. Ying has over 10 years of experience in various roles focusing on advancing equity and empowering communities. Before finding her current home with Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, she worked for Anoka County on health equity. Prior to that, she was a Community Programs Director with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. There, she led youth programs to address the achievement and opportunity gaps. Ying has served on a few boards and initiatives, including Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. When she’s not in the community, she enjoys family time, movies, camping, writing, and cooking.
Vincent Henry studied at Augsburg University before serving through AmeriCorps at College Possible, where he helped low-income high school students get into college. Vincent then went ont o work at Simpson Housing Services as a Family Advocate in the Transitional Housing Program, where he currently works. This fall, Vincent is going back to school at Augsburg’s MBA program.
My name is Tenaya Crenshaw-Porter. I am recently married, my husband and I reside in St. Paul. I was born and raised in Minnesota. I have 4 adult sons and 3 granddaughters. I work in the public sector for the State of Minnesota. I am excited to be a part of the BCLI program. I have always been active in my community, and I look forward to becoming active on a different level by hopefully taking a seat on a board or commission in the near future. I have volunteered in my community for varies organizations. I recently joined the Village PTSA in hopes of helping the parents of minority children become more vocal/involved in their children’s education by providing them with the learning tools and support that they need to help their children be successful within the education system and community.
Sara was raised in Saint Paul. After graduating from Central High School, Sara went on to receive a B.A, then a Master’s, and eventually she obtained a J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law. As a result of her own educational triumphs and struggles, Sara has become an advocate for the education of young people and their families throughout the State of Minnesota. She currently works at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center and she enjoys being able to make an impact in the lives of the young people she encounters. She has a long history of volunteering and working with various organizations throughout the Twin Cities, including the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office, St. Paul Public Schools, and the Minnesota Justice Foundation. Sara hopes to use a combination of her education and experience to speak-up for the individuals who are often overlooked in the communities she has served throughout the State.
Roshawn Renfroe holds a seat as Executive Board member and Secretary for Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative. Roshawn is very passionate about the growth of her community. She participates with many community organizations. Roshawn is looking forward to serving her community in a role that makes change possible.
Oluwatobi “Tobi” Oluwagbemi
Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi is a political thinker and creative idea generator. She is passionate about writing, reading and teaching. She also want to gain leadership skills so that she can encourage more people to take on leadership roles in their communities. She is Interested in advocating for women, being an author and being a public speaker. She also wants to be a diplomat and professor in the future. Ultimately she want to make a difference in the world in education, women’s empowerment and global development just like Michelle Obama. She loves to meet good people and hopes to be part of a board or commission that will help people of color, marginalized communities and under represented communities. She is passionate about black people seeing their worth and shinning irrespective of what people say or don’t say about them. “Don’t let anyone dim your light simply because its shining in their eyes”
Jamaica DelMar is a mother, wife, and South Minneapolis resident who has worked in higher education for over 10 years. Passionate about education and its role in a just society, she has witnessed and experienced firsthand the positive impact education and skills training has on families and communities. In her current position as an academic advisor at Metro State University, she enjoys helping students navigate the higher education system, particularly underrepresented students that formal education tends to leave behind. Jamaica volunteers as an Empowerment Facilitator at Jeremiah Program, a local non-profit organization that helps mothers and their children move from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. She holds a BA with a focus in Urban Social Services, a MA in Educational Leadership, and is currently working on an EdD in Educational Leadership. Interests include education and housing equity, economic development, and criminal justice reform.
Kameron is a lifelong resident of Minneapolis. He grew up with a single mother and was the first in his family to go to college. He studied and tutored chemistry with an emphasis on green and sustainable methods. He has long been passionate about the environment, public health, and racial justice. He is currently serving as Co-Chair on the Minneapolis Racial Equity Community Advisory Committee.
Clara Ugarte Perrin is originally from Peru, she came to Minnesota in 2000 to pursue a Master Degree at Saint Mary´s University in Winona, MN. Clara has more than 20 years of professional experience working in public affairs and strategic communications with private, public, nonprofit, and international organizations, most of which has been in Latin America and the Caribbean region. She is passionate about creating positive change for low-income and disadvantage communities and working on empowering and advancing equity for new leaders of color and other underrepresented groups, as well as breaking down cultural barriers. She enjoys slow-food cooking, the outdoors, and spending time with her husband and two children in Minneapolis, while traveling and working remotely as an international consultant.
Christine Diindiisi McCleave, M.A., enrolled Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, is Executive Officer for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. McCleave is a generational boarding school survivor. Her grandfather attended Marty Catholic Indian Boarding School and Haskell Indian Boarding School. Her great grandfather attended Carlisle Industrial Indian School. Boarding school’s inter-generational impacts on her personal life and children’s lives led McCleave to complete her Master of Arts research on the spectrum of spiritual practices between traditional Native American spirituality and Christianity and the legacy of the boarding schools on spiritual activities today. McCleave also has a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Northwestern College and previously worked in Human Resources management at an HR Consulting Firm and in Communications and Marketing at Indian Land Tenure Foundation. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband, two children, and Siamese cat.
Carmeann Foster is a lawyer, licensed graduate social worker, and 2016 Bush Leadership Fellow with a commitment to juvenile justice system reform. After serving as the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) Coordinator in Dakota County, MN for several years, Carmeann branched out and founded Rebound, Inc. as a vehicle to create the solutions needed to combat the overrepresentation of Black youth in the juvenile justice system. Through this organization, Carmeann has established two group residential facilities in the underserved community of North Minneapolis, MN. Her programs specialize in serving youth who are transitioning out of the juvenile justice system, or who are at risk for juvenile justice system involvement due to mental & behavioral health concerns, or child protective services involvement. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Administration with an research focused in system reform and racial equity.
Bao Lee is a community organizer and advocate who focuses on creating community-centered solutions that uplifts the voices of marginalized communities. Born in a refugee camp and being the first of 14 children to attend college, she understands the importance of having access to opportunities and has dedicated herself to creating pathways for others to access opportunities. She is also passionate about creating gender equity in the Hmong community, values bringing the voices of the community to the table, and loves listening to Hmong music and Snapchatting with her baby Ruby.
Annie Chen is a queer second generation Chinese-American in Minneapolis. She is a youth worker focused on disparities in race, gender and education. As a college student, she served on the boards of MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group), The Queer Student Cultural Center, and was the chair of the Student Services Fees Appeals Committee. She looks forward to continuing to build community and serving on more boards in the future. Now she is a member of The Yarn Mission, a pro-Black pro-Community pro-Rebellion organization that knits for racial equity and other forms of social change. In her spare time she enjoys taking her dog, Ziggy Stardust, to the dog park; various fiber arts, including quilting and knitting; and trying as many new food experiences in the Twin Cities as possible. If she were a vending machine, she would vend fancy ramen where you could pick your own toppings.
Abdi Ali is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Multicultural Mediation. The Center provides conflict and dispute resolution services to youth and families with cultural roots in East Africa, as well as those who work with them as employers, teachers, neighbors and service providers. Abdi has 18 years of experience with social service organizations in Minnesota in the areas of employment and training, welfare-to-work, housing, youth homelessness, youth development, social justice and human rights, refugee resettlement, mediation, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. He has been mediating conflicts in Minnesota for the last 10 years and is a qualified mediator under Minnesota Rule 114. Abdi is also Licensed Graduate Social Worker and a mental health practitioner. He conducts diversity and cultural trainings statewide to service providers on working with African youth and families.
Aarica Coleman, born in St. Paul, MN, is a Senior Project Coordinator at City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) in housing policy and development and is a licensed real estate broker. She has over 17 years public and private real estate industry experience including private and corporate representation, public administration, affordable housing, multi-family and single family housing development and mortgage financing. Aarica currently volunteers as Board Chair of NAREB Twin Cities, the Black Real Estate Association. Aarica has a passion and strong commitment to help those who are marginalized and structurally disenfranchised improve the trajectory of their lives and their communities through ownership, economic and political education.
2017-2018 BCLI Alumni
Azeta is a lifelong resident of South Minneapolis and has several years of experience in community-based work in the Twin Cities at various organizations including Hope Community, Minneapolis Public Schools, and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota at the Eastside Financial Center. Azeta completed the Community Organizing training SPEAC at Hope Community and now serves as an advisor to the Equity & Outreach Committee for the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. Azeta earned her BA in Sociology & Comparative U.S. Race & Ethnicity at the University of Minnesota and recently earned her MBA at the University of St. Thomas – Opus College of Business. She currently works as a marketing and business development strategist at 3M.
Baraka is a native of Oromia, a land of Oromo people. Oromos have historically been subjected to political, social, and cultural injustice in Ethiopia. He currently lives in St. Paul with his wife and three children. Being a member of oppressed people, Baraka has always been interested in working with people who have been marginalized and disenfranchised. He has a B.A degree in Organizational Leadership from Bethel University and currently works with Hennepin County as a human service representative.He is passionate about poverty alleviation, specifically social business, entrepreneurship and educational disparities.
Overcoming her own personal and familial challenges, Danisa began working to recover her life of various aspects. She is a graduate of Metropolitan State University’s First College Program. Danisa has a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a focus in Communications and Community Service. She has worked in the Non-Profit sector serving a diverse range of populations. Danisa participated in groundbreaking work with the Department of Human Services and Minnesota State Supreme Court as a Parent Consultant with their Alcohol and Other Drug Project. Danisa works in the Basic Needs Departments helping to connect individuals and families to food resources and other essential supports to assist them. She founded a faith-based organization whose goal is to address recovery from drug, domestic violence and other social factors that affect families. She is dedicated to the process of Life-long Learning and believes that as she grows and shares what she has, it is an example and gives others inspiration to see and strive to reach their potential.
Esther Muturi is a dedicated member of the community who have worked tirelessly to supporting positive changes among individual and communities she serves for the last 9 yrs. Esther graduated with Masters in Social Work at the University of Wyoming, and currently works as mental health worker/ psychotherapist at Nystrom & Associates/ Family support Services Incorporated Inc in the twin cities. She was one of the leading organizer for a faith based African empowerment conference living in Minnesota. While in Wyoming she engaged in various community and advocacy program like Wyoming Geriatric Education Center. She is currently a member of MEGA Minnesota, Kenya Women living in Minnesota ( KWIM), and also volunteers at African Career & Education Resource, Inc ( ACER).
My name is Jay short for “Jasmond”. I changed my name back in college when I grew tired of people butchering it. I am ecstatic to be part of the BCLI program for many reasons and opportunities. I am a husband and a father of two girls, residing in Robbinsdale. I moved around quite a bit when I was younger and it s hard for to me to consider one place home. That being said, Minnesota is home for now and this is where I want to impact my community. My previous community work include AmeriCorps, MN Aids project and a few others, but I’m most excited about getting an opportunity to sit on a city or government board to try and affect change.
I am Katrina Mendoza. Pronouns: She, Her. I consider myself to be an enthusiastic and multifaceted reproductive justice advocate with over ten years of experience in the sexual health field. Currently I’m blessed to be working with the Latinx community in Richfield and with youth in middle and high schools in the metro area. I also present to treatment centers, Girl Scouts, prisons and community programs as an Education and Outreach Specialist for Planned Parenthood and through my work with Family Tree Clinic as a Clinic Assistant and Hotline Specialist I serve the LGBTQI community. I have experience working for the Homeless community through Catholic Charities, Emma Norton Services and The YWCA of St. Paul. I love presenting, supporting and learning from people. I am passionate about empowering young people and folks in marginalized communities by encouraging, supporting and helping people identify their own strengths within self and within community.
Kye Allums is a St. Paul-raised, graduate of George Washington University. He is a Black Queer Fluid Transgender person of color, who’s life has been primarily focused on LGBTQ activism through public speaking on gender inclusion in sports. Currently, Kye works as an Education Coordinator for Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition. His specific interests include gender justice, and health care access.
I am a 26 year old graduate from Augsburg college with a (BA) degree in Psychology and youth and family ministry. I have a six-year-old son and we are currently living in South Minneapolis. I am currently working in St. Paul as a case manager specifically in housing. I have an interest in working with under-served and under-represented populations. Identify with the community of African America Women and founded a women’s group in 2015.
Pa Kong Lee
Pa Kong Lee was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. Her family moved to the US in the early 90’s. As a volunteer, educator, and advocate, she spends over 10 years working on poverty alleviations for underrepresented communities.
Lee has experiences in youth development, gender mainstreaming, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, community organizing, and volunteers recruitment and management.
Lee was a participant of the 2017 Minneapolis Leaders Making Our Voices Effective for Equity Leadership Program lead by the Coalition of Asian American Leaders. She is alumnus of the U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer ’12 and AmeriCorps VISTA ‘09. She received the Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship in 2013 to further her studies in community and program development.
Pa Kong Lee holds a MA in Sustainable International Development from The Heller School of Social Policy and Management from Brandeis University, with a BA in Women’s Studies focuses on Gender and Education from Hamline University. Currently, Lee is a board member for the Southeast Asian Diaspora (SEAD) Project.
Sandra is a dedicated resident of Brooklyn Park. She is passionate about community, children and equality. She has worked at Metro Transit in finance for over 20 years.
Sandra is very active in her community. Her volunteerism includes: Teach yearly for Red Cross Prepare for Disaster Program and Organize yearly with Motorcycle Associates: Back to School / Toys for Tots & Turkey Drive in Northern Minnesota.
In addition, she may fill in as a Shuttle Bus Driver for Saint Paul Homeless Shelters
Sandra has two adult children, one granddaughter, and a yellow lab.
Motorcyclist / Ride a Three Wheel Trike / Rode Motorcycle 9,000 miles this summer
Say Yang (Ntxhais Yaj) has a background in community outreach and administrative coordination related to community and economic development that contributes to her role as the Program Coordinator at Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy. She has worked with residents, neighborhood organizations and government agencies supporting community development and civic participation in the Twin Cities. Her professional experiences include serving the Hennepin County Community Works programs and she was a past community advisory board member of KFAI, an independent radio station in Minneapolis. Say studied Community Development at Minneapolis Community & Technical College and a current student at Metropolitan State University in the Individualized Degree Program. She is devoted to addressing barriers, making connection and inspiring change.
Wayne Doe is an experienced leader, business coach, and organization strategist. He currently works at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, serves as Chief Editor at Voices Magazine, and runs DLinked Associates, a consultancy business he founded.
Wayne has served as a Wells Fargo Branch Manager, a Market Intelligence Representative, Executive Director of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, Chair of Wells Fargo Minnesota Diversity Council, Co-founded the Pan African Resource group and a member of the Contract Compliance Committee of the City of Brooklyn Park.
Wayne has received several commendations and awards, including Top Performing Branch Sales Recognition, Service Excellence Recognition, Volunteer Service Award, and Diversity Champion Award.
Wayne started his undergraduate studies at the University of Liberia and completed his Baccalaureate degree and a Master of Science degree from St. Petersburg Mining University. Wayne enjoys choral music, and helping individuals and organization succeed.
Yingya is a young Hmong woman who is passionate about community organizing. Yingya is currently an elected board member of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council. Yingya has also volunteered on three election cycles to encourage civic egagement and elect progressive minority community leaders. Currently, Yingya is working on Councilmember Dai Thao’s mayoral campaign, in hopes of connecting communities in Saint Paul and co-governing in City Hall. Yingya is also co-chair of Racial Equity on Johnson Parkway and Ames Avenue, which is an issue campaign that is fighting for racial equity and fair investment on the East Side of Saint Paul.
As a daughter of Hmong refugees, Yingya cares a lot about immigration reform, racial justice and taking down corporate greed. In Yingya’s free time, they like to hike, bike, swim, and watch political dramas/movies.
Yodit is a 1.5 generation Ethiopian-American immigrant who moved to Minnesota at a young age. She holds a Masters in International Development Practice—an interdisciplinary degree that draws from major disciplines such as education, public policy, public health, economic development and sociology from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Yodit brings over 5+ years of experience addressing the opportunity gap in education. In her current role, Yodit provides technical assistance and support for the Achievement and Integration (A&I) program at the Minnesota Department of Education assisting participating school districts to increase racial and economic integration and reduce academic disparities based on students’ racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. In her previous role, Yodit coordinated Collaborative Urban Educator’s East African Student to Teacher (EAST) program – a state-funded teacher pipeline program at Augsburg College that aims to diversify the K-12 teaching workforce.
2016-2017 BCLI Alumni
Nominated by: University of Minnesota Nursing School
Target Commission: Brooklyn Park Human Rights Commission and Citizen Long-Range Improvement Budget
Allysia Jenkins, MA, RN is the Clinical Nursing Director of the Family Birth Center at Park Nicollet, Methodist Hospital. In this role Mrs. Jenkins supports large labor and delivery, postpartum and special care nursery team. Mrs. Jenkins is also an active member of the Health Partners Diversity and Inclusion Network and serves as an Equitable Care Champion.
In addition to her professional responsibilities Mrs. Jenkins is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, where she is pursuing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree in Health Innovation and Leadership. The focus of her scholarship is equitable care and health care disparities for minority populations.
Nominated by: The Wesley Center for Spirituality, Service and Social Justice at Hamline University
Target Commission: Minneapolis Public Health Advisory and State Advisory Council on Mental Health
Ayan Hassan has a postgraduate degree of Family Nurse Practitioner and Masters degree in nursing. Her role is to provide family-centered healthcare to patients of all ages. Her scope of practice encompasses health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and management of common and complex health care problems. She has led many health and wellness programs for underserved communities and teaches weekly Yoga and nutrition classes for women and young girls to encourage healthier lifestyle.
Nominated by: Resources Health Center
Target Commission: Hennepin County Adult Mental Health Advocacy Board
Chakita Lewis is a Case Manager for Resource, Inc, the largest non profit in Minnesota. As a case manager, Chakita advocates on the behalf of all her participants to ensure they all have access to mental health services, chemical health, medical, social, financial, legal and housing services. Chakita currently sets on the Hennepin County Adult Mental Health Advocacy Board where she hopes to make a positive impact on mental health services and support on a macro level. Chakita holds a Bachelors of Science from in Public Health from St. Catherine University. She soon hopes to be working towards her master’s in Maternal and Infant Child Health.
Nominated by: BCLI Alumnus
Target Commission: American Indian Advisory Council, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
Hieu Nguyen is Hunkpapa Lakota, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Born and raised in Minneapolis, he is engaged in the Twin Cities Native community. He is eager to learn new skills and techniques to effectively help Native communities in the cities and on the reservations. He enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Hodan Hassan is a black/Muslim/immigrant/woman who is dedicated and passionate about community organizing and has spent the last 10+ years advocating for social and economic justice as well as human rights. Currently, Hodan serves as a chairwoman for Somali American Taskforce and works and works for Project Pride for Living as a social worker, prior to joining PPL, Hodan has worked at Hennepin County for many years. In this role, Hodan provided leadership as client advocate, public health educator, service planner, State contracted liaison, and mental health practitioner. Prior to joining Hennepin County, Hodan spent many years at serving marginalized communities of Minnesota providing advocacy and training especially trainings related to gender based-violence and cultural competence.
Hodan has a Master’s degree from Augsburg College of Minneapolis majoring social work with emphasis on policy development and policy advocacy and minor in psychology. She also has BS from Metropolitan State University and a minor in public health. Hodan is licensed in the state of MN as a social worker and is trained as Dialectal Behavior Therapy trainer.
Nominated by: Village PTSA
Target Commission: St. Paul Cultural STAR Board, State Workforce Development Council and Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage
Jacquelyn (Jacquie) Thomas is a native resident of St. Paul, where she also raised her daughter who is currently in high school. Jacquie learned early on that being black was not going to make it easy for being heard and/or being a part of decisions and policies that are made to govern the people, schools and communities in St. Paul. Jacquie grew up in a home with seven other siblings and sometimes other relatives; this taught her that family is key to your strength. While growing up she learned that she had rights not just as a black person, but universal Human Rights in a broader context. At the young age of 13, she took part in a protest in her junior high school that was not recognizing, valuing or celebrating black people during Black History month. She participated in planning in the protest, where students of all cultures and ethnicity took part. The protest was successful. Today Jacquie is known as a champion for children and families; advocating, volunteering and serving on committees, boards, work groups and panels to make sure that the parent voice is heard, and the voice of black people as a whole is not left out of the process.
Nominated by: BCLI Alumnus
Target Commission: Minneapolis Arts Commission and Neighborhood & Community Engagement Commission
Jocelyn Beard is a native of Saint Louis, MO. She currently lives in North Minneapolis with her husband. Jocelyn is a nonprofit professional who has worked in the field of adolescent sexual health and recently worked on behalf of building and growing relationships that support young families’ future success. Currently, her role as a Community Relations Manger focuses on supporting domestic violence work. She is an enthusiastic facilitator and trainer and truly enjoys helping people experience “Ah Ha Moments”. Jocelyn sees herself as a bridge for others. She is passionate about helping people move towards better future for themselves and their communities.
Nominated by: L.I.F.T to End Poverty
Target Commission: Minnesota Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage and Neighborhood & Community Engagement Commission
Jonathan Harris is a banker at Wells Fargo and an activist who is committed to providing real change to the people of his community. He has experience in rallying people together from all racial backgrounds to stand up and fight for equity.
Nominated by: BCLI Alumnus
Target Commission: Neighborhood & Community Engagement Commission (NCEC), Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
Manu Lewis was born in Minneapolis and raised in Atlanta, GA. He believes that organizing is the best tool available to bring people and cultures together. His firsthand experience of the criminal justice system makes him a powerful advocate in our police accountability, voting rights and corporate accountability campaigns. He volunteers for Restorative Justice and often goes back into Minnesota prisons and jails to provide resource and inspiration for those most in need. He’s a longtime community leader, organizer and staff person at the Neighborhood HUB and believes in organizing his community to be part of the solution.
Nominated by: Community Action Partnership – Duluth
Target Commission: local commissions dealing with planning and human rights
Salaam Witherspoon’s main focus and goal is to help people understand things at a level to impact change. She has a deep passion for community and equity. She currently serves as the chair of the youth chapter in the NAACP, Duluth Branch, and would like to see this branch develop more and flourish. She is on the steering committee of the Health in All Policies, which is a three year campaign that will directly impact policies for equity, for all races.
Her goal is to ensure that a future is paved out for her children, and ensure she leaves a road map for success for them to not to have to struggle the way she does now. She hopes that one day in some way be at the table with policy makers as well as making them.
Nominated by: Wilder Neighborhood Leadership Program
Target Commission: State Advisory Council on Mental Health, St. Paul Police Civilian Review Commission
Shaun Williams-Wyche is a research analyst at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and a professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University. A Texas native, He received his A.S in liberal sciences from El Centro College in Dallas Texas, his B.A in political science and anthropology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Williams-Wyche is the project lead on Minnesota’s legislatively-mandated goal to increase the state’s college education attainment rate to 70% by 2025, while simultaneously reducing attainment disparities by race. Recently, the Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota State Demographer’s Office co-authored “Educating for the Future: Baseline Estimates of Minnesota’s Educational Attainment,” giving the clearest snapshot ever of educational attainment in Minnesota. Dr. Williams-Wyche also works closely on financial aid and student loan debt in Minnesota.
Nominated by: Minnesota Homeownership Center
Target Commission: St. Paul Cultural STAR Board, St. Paul Human Rights Commission
Shannon Eckman lives in St. Paul with her husband and pets. Her social justice passion led her to affordable housing and works at the Minnesota Homeownership Center as a Program Manager. She currently sits on the Minnesota Association for Colored Counselors’ Advisory Committee. Shannon and her husband have started a small garden on a vacant lot in their neighborhood and relish in feeling connected to their neighbors. They enjoy traveling, trying new foods, playing board games, and spending time with family.
Nominated by: BCLI Alumni
Target Commission: Governor’s Workforce Development Council, St. Paul Human Rights Commission, and The Council on Minnesotans of African Heritage
Dr. Sheronda Orridge is Owner / Operator of Loving Spirit Life Coach Academy LLC. She is also a Holistic Life Coach, Holistic Life Coach Trainer, Community Organizer, Spoken Rap Artist, Writer, Motivational Speaker, Community Consultant, Certified Doula, Certified TOP Facilitator, Event Planner, Curriculum Developer, Cater, and Spiritual Ordain Minster.
Dr. Sheronda holds 2 Bachelor’s Degrees one in Metaphysical Theology and the other in Metaphysical Science, a Master’s Degree in Metaphysical Science and a PhD in Holistic Life Coaching from the University of Sedona and is currently working on her second Ph.D. in Relationship Dynamics. Dr. Sheronda was awarded the 2015 Community Educator Unsung Hero Award from Minnesota (Community Caring for children (MCCC), 2014 Honoring Sisters Award (Spokesman Recorder Newspaper), 2012 Adult Leadership Award (Leap Forward Collaborative), 2012 Parent Leadership Award (Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota), and the 2011Community Honor Roll Award (Frogtown Neighborhood Association).
Sindy Morales Garcia
Nominated by: The Wilder Foundation
Target Commission: Met Council’s Equity Advisory Committee and MN Council on Latino Affairs
Originally from Quetzaltenango Guatemala, Sindy comes from a family of community organizers. Her family’s narrative of struggle, resilience, and disruption led her on a personal and educational journey to deepening her understanding of liberation, healing, and social justice.
Driven by a commitmnt to equity and wholeness, Sindy works with the Wilder Foundation’s Community Initiatives team to catalyze the cultural shifts needed to co-create sustainable and transformational change towards racial equity. Her work is informed by a rich tapestry of experiences in higher-education advocacy, community collaborations, and faith-based activism in the Twin Cities and New York City. As a facilitator, Sindy enjoys cultivating spaces of meaningful reflection and dialogue that enable participants to strategically advance new thinking and action in their lives and work.
During her free time, Sindy loves to dwell in the life-giving energy of nature, laugh, eat delicious food, and work up a good sweat in kickboxing and karate.
Nominated by: Community Action Partnership – Duluth
Target Commission: local commissions dealing with planning and human rights
Susie has worked extensively with people from many cultures and races to do community engagement as a way to get involved and gain the tools necessary to get out of poverty. In essence, she encourages participants to find their voice in the systemic issues of race and poverty in order to beat the poverty trap and make change for the people. Through her work in nonprofits, she has gained foundational experience in community organizing, policy work and social asset building. Joining the Twin Cities BCLI is another step in her amazing journey to empower the people.
In her off time, she and her three wonderful children like to take road trips. She also enjoys walking swimming a good book or watching adventure movies.
Nominated by: Department of Labor & Industry – State of Minnesota
Target Commission: Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council and Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Committee
Born and raised in Boston, Thamyr Golafaie is the third oldest of seven children and the oldest of three girls. Thamyr attended Cornell University and spent a semester at The University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in both sociology and government, she subsequently became interested in both environmental protection and issues concerning equity. A recent transplant to Minneapolis, she has a strong interest in working at any level of government in either of these areas. She hopes to attend graduate school in the near future and is yet to decide on which area to study.
2015-2016 BCLI Alumni
Nominated by: Clara Haycraft, Office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Target Commission: Minneapolis Housing Board of Appeals
Cacje is a University of Minnesota graduate and 1st generation organizer. She was born and raised in South Minneapolis and is the oldest of seven children. She currently serves on the board for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and has a strong commitment to building power in low income communities of color. Her specific interests include housing equity and education. She currently works for the United States Senate as a Constituent Advocate.
Nominated by: Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Student, Family & Community Engagement Department,
Minneapolis Public Schools
Target Commission: Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee
Deqa works for Minneapolis Public Schools in the office of Student, Family and Community Engagement as the Family and School Advocate. Previously she worked for the University of Minnesota Community-University Health Care Center as a Behavioral Health Case Manager working with individuals diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illnesses. Deqa was born in Somalia but later relocated to Southern California with her family. She earned her BA in Psychology with a minor in Criminology; then completed an MA in Education with a concentration on Multi-cultural Counseling. Deqa is passionate about social justice, which she believes impacts every aspect of one’s life. She would like to expand her knowledge and gain tools to continue to actively work on decreasing disparities for disadvantaged communities. She enjoys reading and traveling.
Nominated by: Deb Loon, Avenues for Homeless Youth
Target Commission: Ramsey County Continuum of Care Governing Board
Hanna has been working with programs working with youth to overcome homelessness. Currently she works at Face to Face Health and Counseling in St Paul, as a Director of Programs overseeing the operations of a medical clinic, mental health clinic, Health Education and a Drop In Center for Homeless Youth. Hanna has many years of experience in Non-Profit Management serving various populations. She has also co-founded Resources for Enriching African Lives (REAL Inc.) a non-profit established to empower and support Africans.
Nominated by: Cathy Jones, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
I am a 3rd generation, grandson of an Alabama sharecropper and former slave, Friday Gibson. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, 5 years later my family moved to Gary, Indiana. I spent the most of my life in school or working in the trades. It wasn’t until 2004, when I moved to Minneapolis, MN and became a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, that I found my passion for labor and its fight for justice. I’ve held positions in Local 26 for 11 years as steward, 3 terms as an Executive Board member, Security delegate and Vice President. I am currently on SEIU National Executive Board of its African American Caucus (AFRAM) and president emeritus AFRAM Minnesota chapter. I am a strong believer that all labor has dignity and worth, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or skin color.
Nominated by: Kerry Antrim, District 6 Community Council & Heidi Heinzel, Ramsey County Community Human Services Citizen’s Advisory Council (Seated)
Target Commission: Ramsey County Community Human Services Citizen’s Advisory Council
Jeanette has been involved with community engagement of some sort for the past ten years. This involves working with Second Chance, Unlawful Detainer, Community Action Council, Survey for MNSTEP dealing with Ramsey County and Save the Rec at McDonough Townhomes and a host of other issues.
Nominated by: Jamez Staples, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Minneapolis Planning Commission
Joane’ currently works with the Minnesota Senate as the legislative assistant to Senator Bobby Joe Champion where she assists with communicating with a diverse district, tracking bills through the legislative process, understanding a wide variety of policies and routinely managing office tasks. Joane’ graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She is also a Global Shaper, which is a group for young professionals interested in changing the world around them through community based initiatives. Joane’ is passionate about communities of color and is committed to bridge building between different communities and sectors. When she isn’t busy during the legislative session, she enjoys traveling, dancing, biking, community engagement, and meeting new people.
LaCora Bradford Kesti
Nominated by: Betsy Sohn, Hope Community
Target Commission: Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council
Representing the South Side of Minneapolis, LaCora has over 18 years of experience living and working in the Twin Cities metro area. She is a Food Justice Leader and community member in the Phillips and Elliot Park neighborhoods. LaCora graduated from the College of St. Scholastica and completed two year of AmeriCorps completing over 3,400 service hours for her community. Currently she works for Public Allies, a program affiliated with Pillsbury United Communities. As the Program Manager she designs, facilitates and evaluates a leadership based curriculum for young adults. She personally mentors the participants in the program, research and collaborates with community experts on culturally specific and relevant topics. Beyond her education and personal experience, LaCora has a passion for serving all people and helping them discover their endless possibilities, as well as a belief that everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed and share their talents. This passion has been the driving factor behind her education and community organizing. LaCora intends for her life’s work to focus on community empowerment, community change and finding and promoting holistic social justice solutions to the inequities that exist today.
Nominated by: Cullen Smith, Neighborhood Justice Center
Target Commission: St Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Commission
Luis is an attorney for the Neighborhood Service Center (NJC). NJC is a non-profit criminal defense organization that helps low income community members receive criminal defense services. Luis graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in criminal justice and from the University of Minnesota law school.
Nominated by: Nasser Mussa, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission (NCEC)
Mustafa serves as Congressman Keith Ellison’s lead aide on foreign affairs, civil rights and liberties, public safety, and African issues in his district office. Previously, Mustafa worked for the Minnesota House of Representatives, Wilder Foundation, and the Immigration History Research Center. Mustafa advocates for progressive policy initiatives that address pressing human rights issues as well as other issues facing refugees. He’s a recipient of the 2011 Josie Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award at the University of Minnesota. Mustafa graduated from the University of Minnesota with bachelor degrees in African American and African studies and Sociology.
Nominated by: Paul Williams, Project for Pride in Living
Target Commission: Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
Nichol was born in Saint Paul Minnesota and spent her very early years in the Rondo Neighborhood and then as a teen and early adulthood in North Minneapolis. Growing up in these communities impacted Nichol to the beauty, issue and barrier facing these communities. It sparked a desire in her to advocate and empower others, but first she had to do it for herself as a single homeless teen parent, a client of welfare services and victim of discrimination. Nichol is employed as an MFP Family Stabilization Services Manager at Project for Pride in Living where she serves on the Diversity Committee. Her goal and focus is to empower families to overcome their barriers by access to financial literacy, stable housing, education, employment and competent health providers. Nichol earned her Associates Degree in Human Services from MCTC and is currently a senior at Metropolitan State University pursing her Bachelors in Human Services. Nichol enjoys spending time with her family, working out and traveling. Nichol’s vision and hope for communities is to see and live to their greater potential and realize their human equity and gifts so that the can leave a legacy and inheritance to future generations.
Tiphanie “PH” Copeland
Nominated by: Anita Patel, Bush Foundation
Target Commission: Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission (NCEC)
PH was born and raised in her beloved community of North Minneapolis. Her professional background involves in youth and community organizing surrounding racial equity and other social justice issues. Currently working at the YWCA of Minneapolis’ Racial Justice and Public Policy Department, she focuses on increasing the access of high-quality, affordable early childhood, afterschool and summertime care for Minnesota children and youth ages 0-18. She believes organizing, advocacy and storytelling are tools for developing a sustainable life, ending cycles of poverty and forms of oppression, creating healing spaces for growth. PH holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs from Wells College in Aurora, NY. Here, she began to connect her understanding of institutionalized oppression and racism to a deeper understanding of how government and politics function, impacting communities. PH has been trained by Toastmaster International—Roller Toaster Club 4216, Wilder Foundation—Community Equity Pipeline (C.E.P.), Tri-College NEW Leadership, Vote Run Lead, Wellstone Action, People’s Institute North For Survival and Beyond—Freedom School. PH is a Board Member of Minnesota Voice.
Ron Harris, Jr.
Nominated by: Paul Robinson, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
Target Commission: Minneapolis Capital Long-Range Improvement Commission
Ron is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth with degrees in Political Science and Economics. He is currently employed at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change leading their policy and coalition work. He is extremely passionate about electoral politics, community building, leadership development, and social responsible business. He also enjoys public speaking and has delivered numerous keynote speeches for multiple events. Ron also serves as the Treasurer for the Minnesota Democratic party where he works hard to advance Minnesota as a progressive state.
Nominated by: Andy Barnett, Frogtown Rondo Home Fund
Target Commission: Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board
Tonya grew up and currently lives in St Paul MN with her husband and 6 children. She is a project coordinator for Goodwill Easter Seals and also the current chair and executive director of L.I.F.T. to End Poverty (Leading Individuals and Families Together to End Poverty). Tonya is a fellow of the Aurora St Anthony Development Center- Power of One Plus One Resident Leader Training and Community Action of Ramsey and Washington Counties-Public Policy Class. During these training she found a passion in working to educate her community on policies that impact their lives and how to work together on changing some of these policies that often times don’t reflect her community or its values. She is a current board member for High School for Recording Arts and just joined their initiative, Home for HSRA, to find housing solutions for their students that are considered highly mobile or homeless.
Nominated by: Joe Hobot, American Indian OIC
Target Commission: Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission (NCEC)
Thorne is Sicangu Lakota and comes from Little Crow’s camp on the Rosebud Reservation located in South Dakota. He is an experienced youth worker in the Minneapolis Native American community, and is known for his human rights advocacy in the United Nations as a delegate of AIM-West. Thorne has a deep relationship with both communities on Rosebud Reservation and in Minneapolis and is committed to youth development. Through the advancement initiatives for the future protection and recognition of Indigenous people’s rights, he is dedicated to succeeding generations of empowered future thought leaders. Thorne believes in an Indigenized community building process that is designed by, for, and with the community. By engaging in community-centered approaches, he hopes to develop a more just and equitable society so that the effects of colonization can be overturned by an informed Indigenous worldview. Thorne carries within him a great responsibility – a vision, where through community building and self-determination, a collective activation of traditional knowledge will be translated to many forms of prosperity: socioeconomic, communal, and cultural.
Nominated by: Lannesse Baker, Native Youth Alliance of Minnesota
Target Commission: Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission (NCEC)
Wakinyan is Sicangu (Burnt Thigh) from the Lakota Oyate (Lakota Nation), and is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Throughout his life, Wakinyan has continuously worked as a community youth worker in indigenized experiential learning and education, advocate of indigenous peoples human rights, and as an Indigenous delegate of the American Indian Movement West to United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. As a student of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, Wakinyan strives to expand his skills for community building, and to one day step into positions of Indigenous Nation Building by advancing in academia, specifically, within Indigenous International law, and Federal Indian Law. Wakinyan’s vision in life is to help nourish the gifts, culture, language, traditional government, sustainability and worldviews of Indigenous peoples, in particular, that of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate of which he is a descendant. He notes, that in today’s times, the Indigenous world presents a powerful alternative for a more sustainable future.
In Wakinyan LaPointe’s words: the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute presents an extraordinary opportunity with which to achieve the capacities, skills, and know-how in working together with community in sectors of politics, economic development, and health for a better, more prosperous future.
Nominated by: Damon Shoholm, Neighborhood Leadership Program, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
Target Commission: Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Commission
Antrinita Wright has worked in her community on various projects and boards. Her aim is to empower, improve and enlighten the underrepresented and disenfranchised. She has worked with organizations such as Allina, PHA, Emma Norton, SHIP, You Be the Change, Neighborhood Leadership Program, and others to fight for the rights of others. For her, this is just the start of the journey. She has plans to continue to fight the good fight for others.
Nominated by: Karla Bachmann, Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES)
Target Commission: Community Health Services Advisory Committee
Carla Kohler, BA., is the manager of Community Health Worker Services (CHWS) at CLUES. Ms. Kohler directs all program activities scheduled and organized by the Urban and Rural Supervisors, and oversees all health promotion and prevention activities of community health workers. She also coordinates data entry, analysis, and reports, collaborates with external evaluators, contributes to fundraising opportunities including grant writing, and foster new partnerships to advance health equity for the Latino community in Minnesota. She graduated from Hamline University in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and Political Science. Currently, Mrs. Kohler participates in the MDH’s OMMH Advisory Committee as well as the Minnesota Community Health Workers Alliance and is part of the University of Minnesota’s CTSI Community Health Advisory Council. Ms. Kohler is a Leadership in Advocacy to Advance Minnesota’s Parity for Priority Populations (LAAMPP) Fellow, a Roy Wilkins Public Policy Fellow, and was recently awarded the 2014 Visionary Leader Award by the Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance.
Nominated by: Joo Hee Pomplun, Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA)
Target Commission: Planning Commission
Chamath Perera lives in the Lowertown arts district, advocates for arts and community, counsels nonprofits and coaches leaders, changemakers and philanthropists. His films have been broadcast on SPNN and on the web. Currently he is at work on a series of films on the creative process of several Minnesota artists. Chamath’s art, work and life is informed by Buddhist practice which he also teaches.
Nominated by: David Wiese, Wells Fargo Community Development Department
Target Commission: Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board (currently seated)
David Martinez is a community-focused leader whose objective is to build community power and hope. Leveraging his background as a financial services professional, David coaches and mentors youth and adults to help them achieve their life goals. Since the late 1990’s, David has served as a leader within the Latino community and has championed initiatives that positively impact Latinos living in the Twin Cities. Advancing a regional equity agenda in education, financial services and workforce development are David’s primary focus areas.
Nominated by: Dr. Sylvia Bartley, Mastery Charter Schools / Harvest Education Network
Target Commission: Planning Commission
David O. Milton, CPA, CM&AA is Vice President of Financial Services for MACC CommonWealth, a MN nonprofit, serving other nonprofits. Previously, he has served as interim-Chief Financial Officer for a number of established and startup companies in the green energy, environmental, manufacturing and service industries. He specializes in mergers and acquisitions, valuation, strategy, financial modeling, raising capital and corporate governance. He has more than 25 years of financial leadership experience with blue-chip companies such as Cargill, Johnson Controls and Amoco Corporation (now BP). He has established and negotiated all forms of startups, joint ventures, acquisitions, divestitures and strategic alliances across the Americas, Europe and Asia. He is an Associate Professor of Accounting, Finance and Economics in the University of Phoenix’s MBA program. David also serves as Board Treasurer for Mastery Charter Schools. Originally from Chicago, he holds a CPA certification from the State of Illinois, is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Executive (Johnson Controls and Villanova University), and is a Certified Mergers and Acquisition Advisor.
Nominated by: Marsha Cressy, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Commission
Donna M. Evans lives in Saint Paul and works for MNSTEP through Experience Works, a training program for older adults where she is a Program Director assisting MNSTEP’s members in its mission to end poverty and homelessness. Membership is organized by and for Low-Wealth Minnesotans to be both engaged and at the table in determining how those policies are implemented. Donna M. Evans is a community activist and former lobbyist in Minnesota. Donna is passionately committed to eliminating barriers and creating balance and equity in all communities in which social and economic injustice issues prevail. Donna currently serves on the Ramsey County Low Wealth Committee (CAC), Frogtown Rondo Action Network (FRAN), Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) Member of the US Human Rights Network Task Force on the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), The Poor Peoples Campaign and Saint Paul Equity In Place.
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos
Nominated by: Annie Levenson-Falk, Navigate MN
Target Commission: Human Rights Commission (currently seated)
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos is the Executive Director of Navigate MN, a nonprofit organization that serves young students in Minnesota facing financial, social and legal barriers to achieve their dreams of higher education. Emilia was born in Mexico City, and joined her father in Minnesota years after he left their home town looking for better job opportunities and a better future for his family. Family separation, border consciousness and transnational economy shaped Emilia’s life to become an immigration activist, feminist, and advocate for human rights. She is a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Richfield, and Board member of Joyce Preschool, a non-profit award winner dual immersion preschool in Minneapolis. Emilia has been trained by SEIU, Wellstone Action, OAP, TC Media Alliance, Women Winning, Emily’s List and Center for Community Change. Emilia lives in Richfield with her life partner Daniel, her 5 year old Miranda, and 16 year old Daniel Jr.
Nominated by: Hassen Hussein, Oromo Community of MN
Target Commission: Public Housing Authority Board
Falmata Bedasso lives in Minneapolis and works for Commonbond Communities, a nonprofit organization. Falmata serves on the board of the Oromo Community of MN, which serves over 40,000 Oromos that reside in Twin Cities. Falmata previously served as the Vice President of the International Oromo Youth Group.
Nominated by: Barbara Lightsy, Community Elder
Target Commission: Energy Vision Advisory Committee (currently seated)
Jamez Staples is a Minneapolis, Minnesota native. He is President and CEO of Renewable NRG Partners, a company with a mission of developing the green infrastructure and renewable energy market through the use of people that come from marginalized communities. Mr. Staples holds an Associate of Arts degree in Business from Normandale Community College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Management and Innovation from Concordia College. He is passionate about community economic development, work force enhancements, and environmental sustainability through various means. His hobbies include international travel, skiing, fishing, reading, and participating in community issues directly related to the metropolitan area of North Minneapolis.
Nominated by: Readus Fletcher, Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity Department, City of Saint Paul
Target Commission: Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Commission (currently seated)
Leila Paye-Baker is a first generation American. She was born and raised in Minnesota and grew up in a home with her parents and three siblings, all of whom are Liberian immigrants. She works as Community Connections Manager at St. Paul Youth Services where she advocates on behalf of juvenile justice and youth issues. She has done trainings with immigrant parents on cross-cultural parenting and the challenges of raising their children in the United States. Leila currently serves on the City of Saint Paul’s Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission. She is passionate about immigration, racial justice, and educational disparity issues. She regularly conducts donation drives for people in Liberia. Leila loves to travel, read and spend time with family. She resides in Shoreview with her husband and three children. Leila holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Hamline University.
Nominated by: Hassen Hussein, Oromo Community of MN
Target Commission: Neighborhood & Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) (currently seated)
Nasser Mussa is the volunteer service director and program assistant at the Cedar Riverside Adult Education School, which serves large number of East African immigrants in Minneapolis and works with various local agencies to address community issues. As the volunteer service director, Nasser works with several local organizations, universities, and colleges. He previously worked at the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minneapolis Public Schools. Nasser graduated from the University of Minnesota with B.A in Sociology of Law, B.A in Political Science and B.A in African American and African Studies. Currently he is a Policy Fellow at Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Nasser is fluent in Oromo, Somali and English and is very active in political campaign at local, state and federal level. He is an active member of Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) and currently nominated to the DFL Central Committee at-large and State Delegate. He is the board member of Oromo American Citizen Council (OACC), Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program (CRNRP), and Health Action Committee at the Brian Coyle Community Center.
Nominated by: Cherrenne Horazuk, AFSCME 3800
Target Commission: Workforce Council
Sonya Lewis currently works for the Minneapolis Public Schools in the Office of Equity and Diversity where she supports diversity partnerships, equity training efforts, funding oversight, and compliance across the district. Previously she was an active union member, working as a steward in order to empower others by helping them become aware of their voice. Being a mother to her three sons has defined and grounded her, and has challenged her to seek solutions that will not only benefit her children, but children and young people of color in the region. Sonya enjoys writing, reading, anything that has to do with aerobic activity, and spending time with her family.
Nominated by: Cynthia Campos, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Chicano Latino Affairs Council (currently seated); Transportation Advisory Board (currently seated)
Suyapa Miranda serves as Executive Director for the Saint Anthony Park Community Council where she works collaboratively with neighborhood residents, the board of directors, staff, business owners and local nonprofits to build a more visible, influential, and resilient community. Suyapa supports organizational success by providing ethical, operational and strategic guidance and governance that is consistent with the mission, values, and policies of SAPCC. Suyapa also serves on the board of directors for several other Minnesota non-profits and organizations. She is the vice chair for the Minnesota Women’s Consortium (MWC), and was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to be the Congressional District 4 Representative for the Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC), which she also vice chairs. In addition, she sits on the board for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, and chairs Partners for Women’s Equality. Prior to joining SAPCC, Suyapa worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 10 years. Most recently, she served as a development coordinator for the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI). In this role, she served as a connector between policy makers and the community, and worked to provide education to the community on environmental justice concerns that affect their lives. She is deeply committed to social justice and has a passion for affecting systemic change in the way public, private, and nonprofit sectors work together to support it. She is specifically skilled at working to build a more diverse community through alliances and partnerships so that communities and organizations have a voice in the issues that are most important to them. She has also worked for Merrick Community Services (MCS) and for the YWCA. Suyapa earned a BA in Modern and Classical Languages from University of St. Thomas.
Nominated by: Maleta (Queen) Kimmons, BCLI Alum
Target Commission: Civil Rights Commission
Tescil Mason-Kimmons is currently a part time student at Minneapolis Technical Community College studying liberal arts with an emphasis in political science. His long-term goal is to become a criminal defense attorney and eventually open up his own firm. Tescil has worked in various roles of diverse and multicultural staff, including the Law Offices of Larry E. Reed where he worked alongside now Representative Keith Ellison. Tescil has experience canvassing for Brett Buckner’s campaign for City Council, and is now vice executive director of an organization called The Urban Youth Conservation, an organization that provides resources for gang members who are looking to turn a new leaf in their lives. Additionally, Tescil has volunteered with organizations such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), Justice for All, One Family One Community and Second Chance, and was part of the Ban the Box movement. Tescil’s community-based experiences have impacted his work ethic, passion and enthusiasm in every aspect of his life and career path.
Nominated by: Antonia Wilcoxon, MN Department of Human Services
Target Commission: Public Housing Authority Board
Yolonde Adams-Lee is a native of Compton, California. She grew up between California and Logansport, LA. Yolonde grew up at the feet of grass roots and community justice family. Her grandmother was one of the original trustees of the Los Angeles, California NAACP and National Negro of Women organization. She was also exposed very early to marches and rallies that included labor and civil rights greats such as Caesar Chavez, Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and sat at the feet of her grandparents who hosted get out the vote for African Americans. She currently works very diligently to supporting mental health services forensically to civilly committed and criminal offenders. She works and volunteers in various capacities to continue to eradicate racial injustices in macro systems, housing and health systems. She is the mother of four daughters and a member of numerous organizations such as Black Social Workers, Black Psychologist, African American Aids Project and serves on the board of AIC advisory board.
Nominated by: Jamie Gulley, SEIU Minnesota
Target Commission: Public Housing Authority
Abdirahman Muse lives in Minneapolis and works in the office of Mayor Betsy Hodges as a Senior Policy Aide. Abdi previously worked for SEIU HCMN, where he was part of an organizing team working to accomplish the single largest unionization drive in Minnesota history by unionizing more than 18,000 home care workers. Abdirahman is also an East African community activist in Minnesota. He is passionate about worker’s rights, social and economic justice issues. He previously served on the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission.
Nominated by: Michael T. Zagaros, Branch 9 NALC
Target Commission: Civil Rights Commission
Cathy Jones has been working for the United States Postal Service since 2006. She immediately joined the NALC and now serves as an elected officer on Branch 9’s Executive Board (Trustee). Cathy is known as a champion for dignity and respect in the workplace. She currently facilitates a committee with local high ranking union/management counterparts within the USPS called the PEER process. This committee works to ensure a workplace free of bullying, harassment and other related workplace issues. Cathy has attended and graduated from the Midwest Women’s Labor School and continues to take courses through the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service program. She is a political activist, NAACP and National Action Network member. Cathy looks forward to doing her part to move the Equity Agenda forward. A native of the Twin Cities area, Cathy currently resides in south Minneapolis.
Nominated by: Mario Hernandez, Latino Economic Development Center
Target Commission: Chicano Latino Affairs Council (currently seated)
Cynthia Campos grew up in a bi-lingual/bi-cultural community on the west side of San Antonio, Texas. Prior to relocating to Minnesota, Cynthia worked in New York City for the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York, a public university staff union of 19,000 members. As the Coordinator of Contract Administration, Cynthia represented university professors and staff in disciplinary proceedings, including sexual harassment and workplace violence investigations. Cynthia has spent the past eight years working on behalf of labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers as an organizer, union representative and labor educator. A graduate of Carleton College and the Law School at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Cynthia’s legal training is in immigration, labor and public benefits law. Cynthia is an attorney in Minneapolis, a small business owner-member of the Latino Economic Development Center and was recently appointed by the Governor’s office to the Chicano Latino Affairs Council.
Nominated by: Habon Abdulle, Advancing Women’s Voices
Target Commission: Civil Rights Commission
Ilhan Omar sees political and social activism as driving forces in her life; in 2012 she helped establish a New Americans PAC, which has been instrumental in convening constituents with their representatives and in successfully organizing against the photo ID amendment. Since arriving from Somalia as a child, Ilhan has been a bridge-builder across communities. She hopes to be a strong civil servant for the most vulnerable around the world, influencing her work on educational policy, restorative justice, food access, youth homelessness, and equity. Inspired by civil rights advocates, she has been an advocate for political access and equality in the new American communities, and is a catalyst for advancing women’s voices. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Ilhan has a B.S. in Political Science and International Studies from North Dakota State University. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” Rev. MLK
Nominated by: Pamela Twiss, TakeAction Minnesota
Target Commission: Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission
Kandace Montgomery is a community organizer with the Justice 4 All program at TakeAction Minnesota and works to run campaigns to close Minnesota’s racial jobs gap. Currently, she is on a campaign to remove the barriers people with criminal backgrounds face when seeking employment. Kandace was introduced to organizing and community building through a course during college at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst where she studied public health and grassroots community organizing. Growing up with multiple marginalized identities, Kandace is dedicated to breaking down the systems which keep people down and from living full and healthy lives. She is committed to building power within communities of color and believes the most essential piece of that is developing individuals to be leaders in their community. Kandace is passionate about racial, class, and LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, ally) justice issues. She lives in South Minneapolis.
Nominated by: Jodi Bantley, MSU
Target Commission: Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Commission (previously seated)
Maggie Lorenz is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, with familial and cultural roots from Spirit Lake Nation. Currently, Maggie serves as the American Indian Student Services Specialist at Metropolitan State University. A resident of Saint Paul’s East Side, Maggie serves on the Saint Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunities Commission. Additionally, she sits on the boards for the American Indian OIC and Bii Gii Wiin Community Development Loan Fund, both organizations based in Minneapolis. Maggie holds a BA in Psychology from Metropolitan State University and is working towards her Masters in Organizational Leadership at Winona State University. She has three children and enjoys being a dance mom/soccer mom/Girl Scout cookie mom.
Maleta (Queen) Kimmons
Nominated by: Anthony Newby, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
Target Commission: Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (currently seated)
Maleta Kimmons, known as Queen, is a Minneapolis community leader and organizer who has been involved in the work of justice and housing for over two decades. She has Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul and a Masters’ Certification in Nonprofit Organizations from St. Thomas University. Queen has convened covenant tables for gang truce, partnered with the Occupy Homes Minnesota movement, and worked with at-risk youth to get them writing and talking about their life experiences through the Urban Civic Engagement Project. She has created supportive housing for ex-offenders in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Currently, Queen leads the non-partisan voter engagement work at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. Queen proudly calls North Minneapolis her home, where she lives with her daughter.
Nominated by: Rachel Orville, Minnesotans Standing Together to End Poverty (MNSTEP)
Target Commission: Continuum of Care Governing Board (currently seated)
Marsha Cressy is director and co-founder of MNSTEP, a grassroots organization of low-wealth Minnesotans working create change through public policy. She grew up in California, the youngest child of single mom. She lived in California when Reagan was test driving “Cadillac mama” image. Where seeds were planted to turn selfishness into a virtue; and fear and suspicion of your neighbor replaced neighbors watching out for each other. From a young age, Marsha has tirelessly advocated for economic, racial and social justice. Her proudest moments are her grandchildren’s accomplishments and watching her son graduate from the U of M. Marsha carries on her Jewish, Yurok traditions and as a spirit guide. Marsha holds post on Alliance Membership Board as SPACH representative, Chair of Ramsey County Low-Income CAC, on AMWOP State-Wide Organizing Committee, and is on the Board of Westside Clinic. She currently lives on the East Side of Saint Paul.
Nominated by: Pakou Hang, Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA)
Target Commission: Community Health Services Committee (currently seated)
Mee Cheng is a graduate research assistant at HAFA, where she is working on establishing alternative markets for immigrant farmers. She is currently a second-year graduate student at the University of Minnesota–School of Public Health, and her focus is on public health administration and policy. As a Kruse Scholar, she is working on an integrative cross-sector model to bring community leaders in various sectors to build healthy communities. She hopes to utilize her training to reduce health disparities and improve the health of underserved communities, especially elderly and immigrant groups. Prior to graduate school, she worked on various issues regarding education, energy conservation, and public transit/bicycling/pedestrian advocacy with various community-based nonprofits. Mee lives in the Hamline Midway neighborhood and is passionate about gardening, bicycling and traveling.
Naida Medicine Crow
Nominated by: Kelly Drummer, Tiwahe Foundation
Target Commission: Police Conduct Oversight Commission (previously seated)
Naida Medicine Crow/Takuye Ode Win lives and works in South Minneapolis at the American Indian OIC. Naida serves on the Native American Community Clinic Board of Directors (NACC), active with MN DHS with an Employment Services American Indian Advisory Group. She was nominated and selected to the Native American Community and Development Institute (NACDI’s) Inaugural Community Organizing Institute Fellowship 2010. Naida attended Minnesota State University-Mankato, Fond Du Lac Tribal/Community College, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Campus. Naida is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Hunkpati Dakota Nation. “WoopeOyate, Whatever you do in life do the very best you can with both your heart and mind. The power of the Universe will come to you, if your heart and mind are in unity. One must be responsible, because all of Creation is related. The hurt of one is the hurt of all -and the honor of one is the honor of all. Whatever we do affects everything in the Universe and our children.” Pte San Win~ White Buffalo Calf Women
Nominated by: DeAnna Cummings, Juxtaposition Arts
Target Commission: Public Health Advisory Committee; Citizens Environmental Advisory Commission (currently seated)
Roxxanne O’Brien is a mother of three amazing children. As a resident of North Minneapolis she is passionate about creating solutions to end disparities in under-resourced communities. Having experienced living in these communities she advocates and inspires as an organizer and activist. She is a 2013 Bush Fellow, a graduate of SPEAC with Hope Community and has partnered with several different organizations on housing, economic, environment and racial justice issues. She loves music, documentaries, books and spontaneous adventures.
Sammie Ardito Rivera
Nominated by: Diane Wilson, Dream of Wild Health
Target Commission: Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council (currently seated)
Sammie Ardito Rivera is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe with paternal ties to White Earth. She is the Climate Justice Organizer at the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, co-founder of Sin Fronteras Farm and Food and a newly trained birth worker with the Doula Access Project at Everyday Miracles. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Sammie spent most of her young adult life learning from diverse communities across the United States working on issues of economic justice, indigenous rights, environmental justice, education, and climate. She received her movement education in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Indigenous Studies with an emphasis in Traditional Knowledge at Northern Arizona University. She is passionate about creating resilient, sustainable, healthy, and just communities for her daughter and for all our future generations.