Interim Vice President of Programs, The California Wellness Foundation
Alex M. Johnson is interim vice-president of programs at The California Wellness Foundation. He previously served as program director where he managed a broad portfolio focused on environmental justice, community safety, gun violence prevention, and youth justice. Prior to Cal Wellness he served as managing director of Californians for Safety and Justice and as executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. Alex previously led education, youth development, and public safety efforts for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. He began his career in New York City advocating for domestic violence victims as an assistant district attorney in Bronx County and previously clerked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.
Alex serves on the boards of Southern California Grantmakers, Trust for Public Land-California Advisory Board, and the Wiley Center for Speech and Language Therapy. He previously served on the Los Angeles County Board of Education. A graduate of Morehouse College and American University, Washington College of Law, Alex’s writings have appeared in Huffington Post, The Guardian, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, California Health Report, and Sacramento Bee.
President, Insight Center
Anne E. Price is the first woman President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. She previously served as Director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at Insight. Anne was one of the first national thought leaders to both examine and push for narrative change in addressing race, gender and wealth inequality. She has worked in the public sector on a wide range of issues including child welfare, hunger, welfare reform, workforce development, community development and higher education. Anne’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The Nation, The Washington Post, The Mercury News, The Wall Street Journal, Citylab, O Magazine, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review and other publications. Anne holds a BA in Economics from Hampton University and a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the Milano School of Management and Urban Policy in New York City.
Director, Indigenous, DEI, and Artist Programs, Sundance Institute
Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 2001 he has guided the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American and Indigenous filmmakers while building a global Indigenous film community. Highly sought after for his expertise and knowledge, Runningwater has led workshops and been featured on panels ranging from the Sundance Film Festival's "From Oral Tradition to the Screen: Indigenous Screenwriting" to "A Conversation with Merata Mita'', the first Indigenous woman to solely direct a feature film, at the MessageSticks Film Festival held at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Runningwater currently serves on the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council, the Boards of Directors of First Peoples Fund, Illuminative, and the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund. And, he is a past member of the Board of Jurors for the George Foster Peabody Awards. He was named to Time Magazine’s 2019 Optimist Issue as one of “12 Leaders Who Are Shaping the Next Generation of Artists” and he is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Runningwater is currently serving as the Co-Executive Producer of the TV show “Sovereign” which is currently in development with NBC’s Peacock, Warner Brothers Television and Ava DuVernay’s Array Filmworks. He was recently appointed to serve on the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board.
Bridgit Antoinette Evans
CEO, Pop Culture Collab
Bridgit Antoinette Evans is widely recognized as one of the foremost thought leaders in the culture change strategy field. A professional artist and strategist, she has dedicated her career to the relentless investigation of the potential of artists to drive cultural change in society. Fifteen years of work at the intersection of pop culture storytelling and social change has evolved into a vision for a new, hybrid culture change field in which creative and social justice leaders work together to create and popularize stories that shape the narratives, values, beliefs and behaviors that define American culture. In 2016, Bridgit was a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, piloting Culture Changes Us, a coordinated learning system designed to accelerate the social justice sectors’ understanding and use of culture change strategy. For Unbound Philanthropy and Ford Foundation, she has led multi-year culture change research and strategy design projects aimed at unearthing breakthrough narrative and engagement strategies for the immigrant rights and gender justice movements.
In 2008, Bridgit founded Fuel | We Power Change, a culture change strategy studio in New York City, as the home for her collaborations with leading social change innovators. Through this work she designed long-term culture change strategies for social movements that used transportive story experiences, often in the pop culture realm, to shift the thoughts and feelings of mass audiences. Strategy design commissions include the NYCLU/ACLU Policing Project, Make It Work campaign, National Domestic Workers Alliance’s #BeTheHelp strategy featuring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Cicely Tyson, Amy Poehler and other artists; Breakthrough’s #ImHere for Immigrant Women strategy; GEMS’ Girls Are Not for Sale strategy featuring Beyonce, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Sinead O’Connor, Mary J Blige and more; and Save Darfur’s “Live for Darfur” campaign chaired by Don Cheadle and Djimon Hounsou. Drawing insights from these commissions, Bridgit has traveled by invitation to the UK, France, Austria, Croatia, Brazil, South Africa and throughout the U.S. to present talks, lectures and workshops for some of the world’s most innovative movement leaders and artists. She often points to her roots as a professional Off Broadway actor and devised theater producer as the source of her deep passion for culture change strategy. She received her MFA from Columbia University and BA from Stanford University.
Fifteen years of work at the intersection of pop culture storytelling and social change has evolved into a vision for a new, hybrid culture change field in which creative and social justice leaders work together to create and popularize stories that shape the narratives, values, beliefs and behaviors that define American culture.
President & CEO, Marguerite Casey Foundation
Dr. Carmen Rojas (she/her) is the president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Prior to joining Marguerite Casey Foundation, Dr. Carmen Rojas was the co-founder and former CEO of The Workers Lab, an innovation lab that invests in entrepreneurs, community organizers, and government leaders to create replicable and revenue-generating solutions that improve conditions for low-wage workers. For more than 20 years, Carmen has worked with foundations, financial institutions, and nonprofits to improve the lives of working people across the United States.
Prior to building The Workers Lab, Carmen was the Acting Director of Collective Impact at Living Cities. She supported 22 of the largest foundations and financial institutions in the world in order to improve economic opportunities for low-income people--supporting projects in the fields of economic and workforce development, energy efficiency, and asset building. From 2008 to 2011, Carmen was the Director of Strategic Programs at the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, where she oversaw the foundation’s Green Access and Civic Engagement programs. Alongside her work at the foundation, Carmen also taught in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to this, Carmen was the Coordinator of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s Task Force on African American Out-Migration to address African American displacement from the city.
Carmen currently sits on the boards of the General Service Foundation, Certification Associates, Blue Ridge Labs, Beyond12, Children’s Defense Fund, San Francisco Federal Reserve's Community Advisory Council and the AstraZeneca US Health Equity Advisory Council.
Carmen holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Fulbright Scholar in 2007.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Southern California Grantmakers
Christine Essel joined SCG as President and CEO on February 1, 2013. As president, she sets the strategic direction and priorities for the organization, overseeing programming, communications, member services and public policy. Prior to joining SCG, Essel held leadership roles in the government, corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, where she has shaped legislation and public and corporate policy. She brings a wealth of experience to SCG including a deep knowledge of the region and a passion for forging creative solutions to complex community challenges, along with extensive relationships and expertise in corporate philanthropy, finance, real estate development, government and community relations. For over three decades, she worked at Paramount Pictures, serving as Senior Vice President, Government and Community Affairs, a department she built from the ground up. In that role, she was responsible for the studio’s philanthropic efforts and for shaping Paramount’s civic presence while managing all political and legislative activity, corporate social responsibility and fundraising activities. During her tenure she was also responsible for overseeing in excess of $500 million in real estate development projects on the studio lot.
Most recently, she served as CEO for the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), with an annual budget exceeding $600 million, a staff of 260 employees and 32 project areas throughout the City of Los Angeles. In response to a statewide call by the legislature, Essel's leadership helped lay a critical foundation for the dissolution of the agency, leading to a successful redistribution of resources for schools and local governments, while ensuring the completion of many crucial affordable housing projects and other developments vitally important to the economic growth of the region.
She has been named to numerous Boards and Commissions over the years, serving as chair of the California Film Commission, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, the Hollywood Community Advisory Council, Alternative Living for the Aging and Central City Association. She also served as Vice‐Chair of the California Workforce Investment Board and FilmLA and was a member of the powerful Los Angeles World Airports Commission, Grand Avenue Project Joint Powers Authority and Los Angeles Development Fund. Essel has been honored by esteemed organizations such as City of Hope, National Women’s Political Committee, Alternative Living for the Aging, Weingart Center Partners, Central City Association and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, she received the Leader of the Year Award from the Southern California Leadership Network. She has been named to the Non‐Profit Times “Power and Influence Top 50” for the past two years (2016 and 2017).
D'Artagnan Scorza, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Racial Equity, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office
<p>Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza currently serves as the inaugural Executive Director of Racial Equity for Los Angeles County. In this capacity, he is tasked with championing the elimination of structural racism while also promoting efforts to deepen the County's work on diversity, equity and inclusion.<br />
Dr. Scorza’s life’s work is centered on building leaders who fight for equity in communities and schools. In his previous roles as the Executive Director of Social Justice Learning Institute, a UC Regent and the President of the Board of Education for the Inglewood Unified School District, he launched programs that helped youth of color become social justice leaders and college graduates. He also helped pass policies that prioritized $160 million for student services across UC campuses and secured $350 million to support school construction for k-12 schools.<br />
As a U.S. Navy Iraq-War Veteran and civic leader, he has received numerous awards and accolades, including being recognized as one of the 40 Emerging Civic Leaders under 40 in 2018 and received the UCLA Recent Graduate Achievement Award in 2016.<br />
Dr. Scorza has been quoted in multiple publications, such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine and several podcasts.</p>
President, The Ford Foundation
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $16 billion international social justice philanthropy. He is a member of the Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.
Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs. In the 1990s, he was COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization.
Darren co-chairs New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and has served on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and the UN International Labour Organization Global Commission on the Future of Work. He co-founded both the US Impact Investing Alliance and the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy and is a founding member of the Board Diversity Action Alliance. He serves on many boards, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the High Line, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. In the summer of 2020, he was appointed to the boards of Square and Ralph Lauren. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and is the recipient of 16 honorary degrees and university awards, including Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.
Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first Head Start class in 1965 and received BA, BS, and JD degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on numerous leadership lists: Time’s annual 100 Most Influential People, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Ebony’s Power 100, and Out magazine’s Power 50. Most recently, Darren was named Wall Street Journal’s 2020 Philanthropy Innovator.
Diane M. Manuel
Director of Foundation and Client Relationships, Adasina Social Capital
The space between philanthropy and capital markets creates an opportunity for social change. Diane supports this work by facilitating the investment process of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies alongside individualized philanthropic investments. Her current position as Director of Foundation and Client Relationships at Adasina Social Capital allows Diane to merge her philanthropic experiences from the California Endowment, the Getty Museum, and various boards and councils with her current background in financial services. Specifically, Diane supports foundations, nonprofits, corporate institutions, and individuals as they align their investment strategies with their day-to-day philanthropic missions using socially responsible investment strategies. Committed to social justice in her philanthropic work, Diane is the immediate past Board Chair of the Women’s Foundation of California. Additionally, she serves as a member of the Carter Center Philanthropy Council, was previously a member of the USC Board of Governors, and served in different capacities with organizations focused on supporting Women of Color and, specifically, Black communities.
Co-President, Community Change
A progressive scholar, organizer and media personality, Dorian Warren has worked to advance racial, economic and social justice for more than two decades. Like the organizations he leads, Warren is driven by the innate conviction that only social movements – led by the communities most affected by economic, gender and social injustice – can change their communities and public policies for the better.
At this historical and challenging moment, Dorian is uniquely positioned to lead the work of Community Change – organizing and mobilizing powerful, multi-racial alliances around social justice at a time when inequality, political apathy and exclusion are on the rise.
Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Dorian learned firsthand the power of unions to unleash economic opportunities. His great-grandparents were sharecroppers, his grandparents were janitors and his mother was a teacher in Chicago’s public schools for more than 40 years.
Guided by his intuitive understanding of inequality, Dorian has devoted his life to building the power and capacity of low-income people. As an alum of progressive organizations and universities, Dorian is an unparalleled force in progressive politics in America.
Associate Director, LA County Center for Strategic Partnerships
Elizabeth Cohen is Associate Director for the Center for Strategic Partnerships, a joint venture between Los Angeles County and philanthropy that works to help partners in both sectors achieve their shared goal of improving outcomes for children, youth and families using an equity lens. Lizzie leads the Center’s Youth Development and Empowerment work, as well as the Center’s faith-based recruitment efforts, working with partners to identify, build, and advance joint initiatives to better serve youth and families throughout the County. Lizzie has both private sector and political experience, formerly serving in the Office of Scheduling and Advance for President Barack Obama and working at Facing History and Ourselves, a major educational nonprofit organization. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Bates College.
President, The Center for Cultural Power
Favianna Rodriguez is the co-founder and President of The Center for Cultural Power, a national organization investing in artists and storytellers as agents of positive social change. She is an award-winning artist, cultural strategist, and social movement leader who has partnered with national organizations and progressive advocacy groups to design effective cultural campaigns. In addition to being the visionary behind the Migration Is Beautiful art and narrative, Favianna embodies the perspective of a first-generation American Latinx artist with Afro-Peruvian roots. Her art and praxis address migration, economic inequality, gender justice, and climate change, boldly reshaping the myths, ideas, and cultural practices of the present, while confronting the wounds of the past. A strategy advisor to artists of all genres, Favianna is regarded as one of the leading thinkers and personalities uniting art, culture, and social impact, collaborating deeply with social movements around the world.
Favianna also helps lead cultural strategy design and investment by helping to organize the philanthropic sector, with a focus on foundations addressing gender justice, racial justice, climate change and cultural equity. Favianna’s projects include creating art for Ben & Jerry's Pecan Resist, partnering with Joey Solloway to create 5050by2020, collaborating with #TimesUp Entertainment, and facilitating immersive artist delegations to the US Mexico border. She is a recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship for her work around immigration and mass incarceration, and an Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity for her work around racial justice and climate change.
Youth Leader, YMCA
Fernando "Fernie" Barrientos is a recent graduate from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and current student at East Los Angeles College. Commuting from Watts, Fernie often saw the struggles that his community underwent on a daily basis. These struggles ranged from families being unhoused, underfunded schools, and youth being criminalized. Fernie began to get involved with the YMCA in 9th grade through its Youth and Government program which allowed him to see how he can begin to change his community. Fernie's work with the Y led him to get involved with the Brother, Sons, Selves Coalition, which the YMCA is a part of. Through Fernie's engagement with the BSS Coalition, he has been able to understand what it means to be in community and the power community has to change material conditions. An example of this is the 2018 BSS survey that sought to capture how safety and justice is experienced by youth of color across multiple contexts. The themes that emerged from the survey formed BSS' campaign pillars and areas of focus based on youth voice and community input. As a BSS youth leader, Fernie is now working to use this data to host community forums and work on launching a Youth Bill of Rights for LA County.
Advocate, Author, Speaker, Heather McGhee
Heather C. McGhee joined Demos in 2002 and served as its president from 2014 through June, 2018. A recognized thought leader on the national stage, McGhee is now a Trustee Emeritus on the Demos Board.
McGhee's first book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, is available now.
She will host two original podcasts in 2020-21. She serves as a contributor to NBC News and frequently appears on shows such Meet the Press. Her opinions, writing and research have appeared in numerous outlets, including The Washington Post, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico and National Public Radio. She has received the United Auto Worker's Owen Beiber Social Change Award, New York University’s McSilver Award for Leaders in the Fight Against Poverty, and Citizen Action of New York’s Progressive Leadership Award.
Over the years, McGhee’s work has had a profound influence on public policy. Her efforts at Demos as both staff member and president have led to achievements that include: landmark consumer protections to rein in credit card abuses and save consumers over $50 billion in fees; critical contributions to policies that rewrote the rules for how financial institutions operate; billions in wage increases at large companies and for government contractors; four million low-income voters registered at DMVs and public agencies; and pro-democracy reforms, such as public campaign financing, same-day registration, and automatic voter registration, won in a dozen states and Washington, D.C.
As an executive, McGhee transformed the organization on multiple levels. She led a successful strategic planning and rebranding process. She designed a Racial Equity Organizational Transformation which more than doubled the staff's racial diversity, produced an original racial equity curriculum for staff professional development and led to a complete overhaul of the organization’s research, litigation and campaign strategies using a racial equity lens.
McGhee currently serves on the boards of Color of Change, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Foundations US Programs. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, and an Honorary Degree from Muhlenberg College. More information and the latest updates can be found at www.heathermcghee.com.
Wellness Coach/Sound Healer, Thriving with Heather
Heather is a certified life coach, sound healer, hypnotherapy practitioner, and a Reiki Level I and II healer. She has a B.A. in African American Studies from Smith College, and an M.A. of Educational Leadership, Policy and Advocacy from New York University. As a former professor and executive leader, she weaves her academic and organizational background with her work as a healer and coach to create transformational learning experiences for her clients on their journey towards healing from trauma in their work and personal lives through individual and group coaching.
She is currently compiling healing and well-being strategies for thriving at work in her first book, TheGrind Culture Detox which is written for working professionals who are seeking to heal from grind culture and toxic productivity through alternative healing modalities. This book will be released by Hierophant Publishing in June 2022. Please visit her website and Instagram page to connect with her and learn more.
Supervisor, Second District of Los Angeles County
On November 3, 2020, Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell was elected to serve the Second District of Los Angeles County. Throughout her career in public service, Supervisor Mitchell has always worked with the understanding – that creating a California where all residents can thrive – means investing in the communities, families, and children of LA County. Having authored and passed over 90 laws in the California Legislature, Supervisor Mitchell brings an extensive public policy record to the Board of Supervisors. Many of her bills have been at the forefront of expanding healthcare access, addressing systemic racism, and championing criminal justice reform.
Creator & President, TransLash
Imara, whose work has won Emmy and Peabody Awards, is the creator of TransLash Media, a cross-platform journalism, personal storytelling and narrative project, which produces content to shift the current culture of hostility towards transgender people in the US. As part of work at TransLash, Imara hosts the WEBBY-nominated, TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones. In 2020 Imara was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as part of its New American Revolution special edition. In 2019 she chaired the first-ever UN High Level Meeting on Gender Diversity with over 600 participants. Imara’s work as a host, on-air news analyst, and writer focuses on the full-range of social justice and equity issues. Imara was also the first Journalist-in-Residence at WNYC’s The Greene Space where she hosted the monthly program Lives At Stake.. Imara has been featured regularly in The Guardian, The Nation, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, Mic, Colorlines, and is a frequent guest host of the In The Thick podcast. Imara has held economic policy posts in the Clinton White House and communications positions at Viacom. Imara holds degrees from the London School of Economics and Columbia. Imara is a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow and on the board of the Anti-violence Project, GLSEN, and the LGBTQ+ Museum. She goes by the pronouns she/her.
Director of Housing Initiatives, United Way of Greater Los Angeles
Jason Riffe is the Director of Housing Initiatives for United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Jason focuses on opening access to affordable capital, supporting housing policy, and innovating methods to increase the availability of affordable housing. Previously, Jason led Community Partnerships for SoLA Impact Fund, the largest Section 8 landlord in Los Angeles County. He is committed to ensuring the most vulnerable people across Los Angeles can afford a place to call home in the community of their choice. Jason is an Avant-Garde patron and member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Legacy Circle. He graduated with honors from Morehouse College and received a Master of Social Ethics from Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University.
Executive Director, Advancement Project California
John Kim is the Executive Director of Advancement Project California. He has a long track record as a coalition-builder and facilitator of multi-stakeholder collaborations and has established a wide range of partnerships with community-based organizations, elected officials, governmental agencies, academic researchers, and foundations across the state. John most recently oversaw the strategic direction and development of RACE COUNTS, a first of its kind initiative that examines racial disparity, performance, and population impact in each of California’s 58 counties.
Kay Ulanday Barrett
Poet, Writer, Cultural Strategist, & A+ Napper, Kay Ulanday Barrett
KAY ULANDAY BARRETT aka @Brownroundboi is a poet, performer, and cultural strategist. Their second book, More Than Organs (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) received a 2021 Stonewall Honor Book Award by the American Library Association and is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. They are a 3x Pushcart Prize Nominee and 2x Best of the Net Nominee.Their contributions are found in The New York Times, Bitch Media, Colorlines, Asian American Literary Review, Al Jazeera English, NYLON, Vogue, The Rumpus, Frontier Poetry, and more. They have featured at The United Nations, Princeton, Harvard, The Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, and more. Currently, they remix their mamas recipes and live in Jersey City with their jowly dog. kaybarrett.net
Executive Director, InnerCity Struggle
Maria began her activism over twenty-five years ago as a high school student living along the U.S./Mexico border during a time when state legislation was proposed that criminalized immigrant families and youth. This hostile environment resulted in Maria and her fellow Latinx schoolmates being removed from their schools. Despite the discrimination she faced, she completed her studies and later earned degrees from UC Berkeley and Harvard University. The experience taught her the importance of lifting up her voice through collective action to ensure disadvantaged students have access to a quality education.
Maria has organized for educational justice through various campaigns and initiatives. Since 2002, as a leader of InnerCity Struggle, she has spearheaded an expansion of the influence of students and community residents in decision-making about Los Angeles' public schools, mobilizing thousands of Latinx parents and students in the Eastside of Los Angeles.
Maria's work with InnerCity Struggle has resulted in a wide range of improvements within Eastside schools as well as schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District. In the last few years, Maria's leadership has helped win several breakthrough victories; new schools for the Eastside, a district-wide policy focused on preparing all students for college, increased funds for high-need schools, smaller learning environments in Eastside high schools and an expansion of school-based health services. After years of demanding that all students be prepared for college, the tide is changing. Graduation rates in the Eastside are rising and more students are informed about what is needed to succeed.
Over the last decade, InnerCity Struggle has educated and mobilized thousands of Eastside voters ensuring greater civic participation and community action.
Maria's leadership also resulted in the construction of the organization's new permanent home now serving as a Youth and Community Center for the Eastside.
Since graduating from USC's Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine, Michaela is a PA-C in the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She has also practiced yoga for over 20 years, and is a registered yoga teacher, RYT200, completing teacher training through Core Power Yoga. She finds integrating the principles of yoga into daily life and sharing the practice with others to be deeply fulfilling.
Executive Director-Los Angeles, Ballmer Group
Nina Revoyr is the Executive Director of Ballmer Group’s philanthropic efforts in Los Angeles County and California, which are aimed at improving economic mobility for children and families disproportionately likely to remain in poverty.
Prior to joining Ballmer Group, Nina spent two decades in the fields of child and family services and education. Most recently, she was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Institute, Inc., which provides evidence-based mental health services, child welfare and enrichment programs, and early childhood education to over 25,000 children and families annually in Central and South Los Angeles who are affected by violence and poverty. She has also worked for SafeSpace in New York City; for Head Start in Los Angeles; and as chief of staff for the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.
Artist & Abolitionist, Abolitionist Entertainment
Patrisse Cullors is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, artist and abolitionist from Los Angeles, CA. Co-founder and former Executive Director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Patrisse has been on the frontlines of abolitionist organizing for 20 years. Since she began the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, it has expanded into a global foundation supporting Black-led movements in the US, UK and Canada and has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. TIME 100 also named Patrisse as one of the 100 most influential people in 2020. As an outspoken abolitionist and artist, Patrisse teamed up with Noé Olivas and Alexandre Dorriz to serve as a co-founder of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart, a reimagined art gallery and studio dedicated to shifting the trauma-induced conditions of poverty and economic injustice through the lens of Inglewood and its community. Patrisse is also the faculty director of Arizona’s Prescott College, a new Social and Environmental Arts Practice MFA program, which she developed nesting a curriculum focused on the intersection of art, social justice and community organizing that is first of its kind. In 2020, Patrisse signed an overall production deal with Warner Brothers, where she intends to continue to uplift Black stories, talent and creators that are transforming the world of art and culture.
Raye Zaragoza (she/her) is an award-winning singer-songwriter who NPR Music called “one of the most fresh and compelling voices in folk music today." Her sophomore album Woman In Color offers an intimate exploration of identity and belonging as a mixed race woman in America.
Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director, Liberation in a Generation
Solana Rice was raised by a Black, midwestern family that made tremendous emotional and physical sacrifices to get by. Dedicated autoworkers, food & retail workers, entrepreneurs; her family gifted Solana with a tremendous work ethic and a passion for making the world a better place for people of color. Solana is a dedicated advocate aiming to shape the most vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable economy this country has yet to see.
Prior to starting Liberation in a Generation, Solana was Director of State & Local Policy at Prosperity Now where, under her leadership, she built strong advocacy partnerships with organizations in the field and advanced dozens of policies in nearly half the states in the nation. Prior to joining Prosperity Now, Solana served as a director for financial security initiatives at PolicyLink. Solana has a Master’s in City Planning from MIT, where she researched the integration of individual development accounts into community development services. She holds a B.A. in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. Solana is also a Soros Equality Fellow.
Stacia West, PhD, MSSW
Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee
<p>Stacia West is an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and the co-Founder and Director of the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. West holds a B.A. in Women's Studies and Philosophy and a Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas. She is the co-PI of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, the first modern city-led guaranteed income experiment in the US. Her research focuses on universal basic income, unconditional cash transfers, women’s poverty and wealth inequality, and the affordable housing crisis. Her research portfolio includes numerous grants, state and non-profit evaluation contracts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Asset Funders Network. Her work has been published in leading social science journals including the Journal of Society for Social Work and Research, Social Science and Medicine, The Journal of Family and Economic Issues, and The Gerontologist, and is regularly featured in major national media outlets.</p>
Executive Director, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income
Sukhi Samra is the Executive Director of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and Director of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, the nation’s first mayor-led guaranteed income demonstration. She was previously a policy aide to Mayor Tubbs, playing a critical role in the launch of the Stockton Scholars, an ambitious college access initiative, and in publishing the inaugural Report on the Status of Women. Sukhi is originally from Fresno, CA and graduated from Stanford University as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Founder & Executive Director, Initiate Justice
Taina Angeli Vargas founded Initiate Justice in September 2016 with the intention of activating the political power of people directly impacted by mass incarceration. Prior to creating Initiate Justice, she worked in the organizing and policy advocacy field as the Statewide Advocacy Coordinator with Essie Justice Group, State Campaigner with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and as a Field Representative for the California State Assembly. She was impacted by mass incarceration while supporting a loved one who was incarcerated for 7 years.
Tia Wood is a recording artist from Saddle Lake Cree Nation Reserve, just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. From a young age, Tia and her family knew she was born to sing. She started performing with her family at powwows, and shortly thereafter, began to record Indigenous songs to stream online.
As her distinctively beautiful and powerful voice and image garnered more and more attention, she began to mix her Indigenous vocalizations and experiences as an Indigenous woman to craft and cover a mixture of genres; from traditional round dance, pow-wow, R&B, country, pop, soul, peyote, and family sweat-lodge songs.
As social media became rooted deeply into popular/youth culture, Tia exploded onto these platforms with early success as a content creator and singer, especially in the highly connected pan-indigenous social media communities.
Tia is a leader in the new wave of young, unafraid, and unabashed Indigenous artists surging on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Social media success has opened new doors for Tia into recording and songwriting of her very first original music. The industry has taken quick notice of her undeniable talent and her unique positioning, bridging the gap between traditional Indigenous song, culture, and experiences, mixed into a modern, pop-forward sensibility.
The world is primed for Tia’s rise, and there is a strong sense that this is only the beginning of a long and storied career for this 22 year old star-in-the-making.
Founder and Managing Partner, The 22 Fund
Tracy Gray is a leader in the movement towards equity and justice in the financial sector. Her primary focus is on solutions that move capital to women and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). She is the Founder and Managing Partner of The 22 Fund, an impact, early-growth firm that creates the clean, quality jobs of the future in low- and moderate-income communities by increasing the export capacity of tech-based manufacturing companies, intentionally targeting women- and BIPOC-owned businesses.
Ms. Gray serves on the board of Applife Digital Solutions, Inc, and as Treasurer/Secretary of the Investment Committee for the Cal State Dominguez Hills Foundation endowment. She is an advisory council member for PGIM Real Estate and Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures Women of Color. She is an Executive-in-Residence at the LA Cleantech Incubator and the first Social Impact Fellow at the UC Berkeley Haas Business School’s Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership.
Following her 2015 TEDx Talk, “Why It’s Time for Women to Be Sexist with Investment Capital,” Ms. Gray founded the nonprofit We Are Enough (WAE) that educates ALL women on how and why to invest in women-owned businesses. WAE recently released a study on the feasibility of a women-focused incubator in Los Angeles and was chosen by Variety magazine as a global 50 most impactful nonprofits.
Ms. Gray was named one of the 50 Women of Influence in business in Los Angeles and is featured in 200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World. She co-wrote the article “How Foundations Fail Diverse Fund Managers and How to Fix It” recently published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and co-created the Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment.
Ms. Gray was formerly senior advisor for international business to the LA Mayor, an investment professional at a venture capital fund and a systems engineer on the Space Shuttle program. Ms. Gray holds a B.S. in Mathematical Science with an aeronautics emphasis from UC Santa Barbara and dual MBAs from Columbia University and UC Berkeley.
Principal Consultant, Vivienne Lee
President & CEO, SLATE-Z
Zahirah Mann leads SLATE-Z, a place-based initiative and collective impact effort whose mission is to revitalize South Los Angeles by moving residents to economic opportunity. In this role, she leads a backbone team that coordinates the goals, principles, and activities of the South LA Promise Zone, which has over 70 local partners and is part of a 22-member Promise Zone Network that addresses systemic poverty in select urban, rural, and tribal communities across the nation.
Prior to joining SLATE-Z, Zahirah split her career between philanthropy and law. Most recently, Zahirah was a Senior Program Officer at The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation where she oversaw a diverse portfolio of grants that supported vulnerable children and families. Within that work, she helped launch and lead Foster Together Network, a collective impact effort aimed at addressing child welfare throughout LA County, engaging county departments, elected officials, foundations, nonprofits, faith communities, caregivers, and youth. Zahirah also held program staff positions at the Annenberg Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Before entering philanthropy, Zahirah worked as a public interest attorney, representing for-profit and nonprofit entities, coalitions, and governmental agencies on issues that impacted families, youth, and businesses.
In her broader civic life, Zahirah serves as a commissioner on the State Bar of California’s Legal Services Trust Fund Commission and as an alternate commissioner on the California Coastal Commission. She chairs the executive committee of the Black Equity Collective and serves on the board of the Center for Nonprofit Management.
Zahirah earned an A.B. in Political Science from Vassar College and a J.D. with a specialization in environmental law from Tulane University Law School. When not leading efforts in the nonprofit, philanthropic, legal, or broader civic community, Zahirah can be found exploring California or traveling throughout the world.