SoCal Grantmakers is proud to announce that Chrissie Castro (Vice-Chair of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission) and Jeanne Sakamoto (Chief of Staff & Planning at The James Irvine Foundation) recently joined SCG’s Board of Directors. We invite you to learn more about our new board members, Chrissie and Jeanne, below!
Chrissie Castro is the Vice-Chair of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, which promotes the development of programs and funding resources to serve urban American Indians and American Indian organizations. In that role, she has co-led various efforts, including the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city and county of Los Angeles, the removal of the Columbus Statue in Grand Park, and the overall work to Indigenize public spaces in Los Angeles. Chrissie serves as a board member of the Groundswell Action Fund, which supports women and transgender-led BIPOC leaders to build political power to transform culture, hold elected officials accountable, and win concrete policy changes. She is also the Network Weaver of the Native Voice Network, a national network of more than 40 Native-led organizations that mobilize through Indigenous cultural values.
Chrissie was born and raised in the traditional unceded territory of the Tongva people, is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, and is a lifelong resident of Northeast Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Chrissie has worked to further the leadership, self-determination, and political power of American Indian/Alaska Native communities. She co-launched two organizations to address the underlying roots of the underrepresentation of Native Americans in the political landscape and build Native community and political power – in her home state, the California Native Vote Project, and nationally, Advance Native Political Leadership. She is also the co-founder of Indigenous Women Rise, which organized the Indigenous women’s contingent of 1,000 Indigenous Women at the Women’s March in DC in January 2017.
As a member of SCG’s Board of Directors, Chrissie aims to offer her perspective as a member of the greater Los Angeles Native American community to strengthen the relationship between philanthropy and tribal communities. Chrissie notes that U.S. foundation support targeting Native Americans has made up less than .5% of overall foundation giving over the past two decades. However, she is hopeful that philanthropy’s recent commitments to racial justice will also translate into long-term support for Native-led organizations that have experienced chronic underinvestment and invisibilization. Chrissie hopes to continue building bridges between funders and Native communities to encourage the sector to become allies for tribal sovereignty and ensure that Native American communities matter and thrive.
Jeanne Sakamoto serves as Chief of Staff & Planning at The James Irvine Foundation. At Irvine, she leads the foundation’s executive and leadership teams and organization-wide planning efforts, serves on its grantmaking portfolio management team, and oversees its grants administration and impact assessment and learning departments. She joined Irvine seventeen years ago and has worked in various capacities, including Director of Program Operations and Senior Program Officer for the foundation’s former Arts program. After many years of supporting and building relationships with grantees, Irvine culminated its Arts funding, and Jeanne shifted her focus from external grantmaking to internal efforts.
From a young age, Jeanne was taught the importance of civic responsibility and giving back to her community. Her parents would often bring her to city council meetings and community-based organizations where they volunteered. These early experiences would inspire her to make community engagement a central focus of her career. Prior to Irvine, Jeanne worked for several years at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in Los Angeles, one of the country's largest ethnic arts and cultural centers. At JACCC, she discovered the potential of the arts to create shared experiences that connect people, build community, and foster cultural understanding and served in several roles, including as the Director of Special Initiatives. Jeanne continues to explore the intersection of community and the arts by serving as a founding board member of Taikoproject, a Japanese American performing arts nonprofit in Los Angeles that advances the art of taiko and hosts a premier ensemble of taiko drummers.
Jeanne has supported SCG’s mission and efforts for her entire career in philanthropy. She has participated in Fundamentals of Effective Grantmaking and the Senior Peer-to-Peer Network and attributes her grantmaking approach in part to the learning and relationships she has made through SCG. Now, as a member of SCG’s Board of Directors, Jeanne aims to contribute her perspective as both a long-time grantmaker and senior staff member at one of the largest foundations in California. She also hopes to continue elevating new opportunities for community engagement and connection on a local and statewide level.