Our Team

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Aaron Tanaka  (he/him)

Executive Director

Aaron is a Boston-based community organizer, economic development practitioner, philanthropic advisor, and impact investor. As the Director of CED, Aaron stewards funding and capacity building programs to social movement collaboratives that advance alternatives to capitalist economics in the US. Previously, Aaron served as the startup manager for the Boston Impact Initiative, Boston's first place-based impact fund investing in Boston’s working class communities of color. Until 2012, Aaron was co-founder and executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance, a grassroots organization nationally regarded for its statewide Ban the Box policy victory in 2010.

Aaron is a former fellow with BALLE, Echoing Green, Green For All, and Tufts Department of Urban Planning, and serves on the boards of the Foundation for Civic Leadership, Neighborhood Funders Group and the New Economy Coalition. He is a graduate of Harvard College.

Contact Aaron: aaron [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Amrita Wassan (they/them)
Director of Programs

Amrita is the Director of Education Programs at CED. As an educator, organizer and solidarity economy practitioner, they situate themself in the interstices between individual and collective liberation. This focus has led to projects as diverse as cultural campaigns promoting healthy relationships in LGBTQIA communities, collectivization of resources for hyper local grant making, building multiple cooperative businesses, working to support youth both inside and outside schools with their creative and political desires, and creating spaces and economic opportunities for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

 

As an educator and economic alternatives builder, they are constantly honing their craft with an ever expanding repertoire of tools as well as networks of learning communities. Amrita holds an Economics and International Relations degree from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA and a Masters in Community-based Education from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.  They enjoy biking, camping, poetry and porch sitting.

Contact Amrita: amrita [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Alex has lived in the Boston area 30+ years, organizing locally since high school. His areas of focus have ranged from political repression to immigrant rights to tenant organizing–with the common goal of addressing structural causes of injustice.  He has worked with grassroots community, environmental and labor groups statewide towards ‘energy democracy’, including community-controlled energy microgrids and an accessible green economy. 

 

As the Political Director at CED, he is helping coalesce a broad set of partners to develop collective strategy and build out infrastructure for a democratic and ecologically viable economy rooted in justice.

Contact Alex: alex [at] economicdemocracy.us

Alex Papali (he/him)

Director of Regional Economies

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Ariel is an educator and organization builder.  She loves messy problem solving, strategic thinking and DIY hacking whether she is upcycling cashmere baby clothes, or helping grow an organization through the bootstrapping phase. As the Director of Capacity and Operations for CED, Ariel partners in stewarding strategy, operations and culture for CED, and is the lead program manager for the Solidarity Economy Initiative, and the organization’s training and technical assistance work.

 

Prior to her time at CED, Ariel worked in social justice education, at the intersection of nonprofits and higher education, and supported local economic development work as a volunteer in Somerville, MA and Southeastern Vermont. Ariel practices solidarity economy in daily life through cooperative community gardening, collective child care, and experiments like “a year of no shopping.”

Contact Ariel: ariel [at] economicdemocracy.us

Ariel Brooks (she/her)

Director of Capacity and Operations

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Armani is determined to create the “better world” we dream of in the future, now. Armani is a third generation Bostonian.  He was born and raised in Boston between Bromley Heath, a housing development in Jamaica Plain, and Lower Roxbury.

 

Armani is a community organizer whose life's work has been about transforming the structures that cause inequity and injustice to create stronger communities, and supporting people in their development into critically conscious leaders. Armani currently serves as Director of Campaigns at the Center for Economic Democracy where he advances strategies to educate and further the movement for a just transition from extractive, harmful corporate, financial and government organization to a more democratically controlled, regenerative and sustainable planet.

Contact Armani: armani [at] economicdemocracy.us

Armani White (he/him)

Director of Municipal Democracy

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Libbie Zhang Cohn (she/her)

Director of Research and Design

Libbie develops narratives in support of community self-determination, racial and economic justice, and democratic governance. As a co-founder of the Boston Ujima Project, she researched and helped develop Ujima’s early neighborhood assemblies with a focus on designing for democratic accountability, transparency and accessibility.

 

Libbie is also an independent documentary filmmaker. Her first feature film, co-directed and produced with JP Sniadecki in Southwest China, has been screened around the world.  She previously worked as a researcher on the environmental impacts of real estate development in Southeast Asia, and as a paralegal providing bilingual legal support to Chinese immigrants facing housing and immigration issues. A music nerd and lover of plants and animals, Libbie was raised between Hong Kong, Beijing, and New England. She studied political philosophy and architecture at Yale University, regenerative ecological design at the Ecosa Institute, and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Contact Libbie: libbie [at] economicdemocracy.us

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María Christina Blanco is a Bolivian-American mother, organizer, and health worker who has engaged in human rights and social/economic justice activism over the past 20+ years in the Boston area. As CED's Administrative & Fiscal Sponsorship Manager, she provides administrative capacity to CED and its projects, in English and Spanish. She was a community organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana from 2011-2016, helping hundreds of her neighbors resist displacement due to predatory lending and evictions for the profit of corporate landlords.  For over a decade prior to entering the organizing field, she did maternal-child community health work. María Christina studied public health as an adult learner at UMass Boston. Her history of involvement in cooperatives dates back to her first job, stocking groceries at the Harvest Co-op.  She serves on the Governing Board of the Boston Community Leadership Academy high school and advised their Immigrant Youth Leaders chapter during a successful 2018 student deportation-defense campaign.

Contact Maria Christina: maria [at] economicdemocracy.us

Maria Christina Blanco (she/her)

Administrative &

Fiscal Sponsorship Manager

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Martin Familia (he/him)

Martin is the Director of Finance and Human Resources at CED. He has been working in finances in different capacities since graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. Originally born in the Dominican Republic, Martin came to Boston at the age of two where he has resided ever since. Martin demonstrates a commitment to community with his involvement at different organizations including his former school Codman Academy Charter Public School where he is an active member of Codman Academy's Board of Trustees. Martin also holds financial literacy seminars for different groups of high school students, including current students as they prepare for life after high school. After beginning his career in commercial banking, Martin was the Director of Finance and Administration at the College for Social Innovation, a startup where he played a major part in building systems around financial administration, compliance, internal controls, and human resources.

Contact Martin: martin [at] economicdemocracy.us

Director of Finance and Human Resources

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Aaron Tanaka  (he/him)

Executive Director

Aaron is a Boston-based community organizer, economic development practitioner, philanthropic advisor, and impact investor. As the Director of CED, Aaron stewards funding and capacity building programs to social movement collaboratives that advance alternatives to capitalist economics in the US. Previously, Aaron served as the startup manager for the Boston Impact Initiative, Boston's first place-based impact fund investing in Boston’s working class communities of color. Until 2012, Aaron was co-founder and executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance, a grassroots organization nationally regarded for its statewide Ban the Box policy victory in 2010.

Aaron is a former fellow with BALLE, Echoing Green, Green For All, and Tufts Department of Urban Planning, and serves on the boards of the Foundation for Civic Leadership, Neighborhood Funders Group and the New Economy Coalition. He is a graduate of Harvard College.

What are examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

The recuperated factories movement in Argentina in the early 2000's, where regular people took over their failing workplaces and began to run them cooperatively. In Japan, millions of seniors use a "timebank" to mutually volunteer their time to meet their daily physical and social needs. Susu's in West Africa, where people pool their money and lend to each other at 0% interest. And as an older movement millennial, the Zapatistas in Mexico and the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, which have remained beacons of resistance and creation in the face of armed neoliberalism.

What movitates you/excited you about our work?

There's a lot of pain and injustice in the world: "patriarchy + slavery + colonialism = racial capitalism = neo feudalism" has not been great for a lot of people or our planet. But as bad as things get, I also see the daily acts of courage, kindness and cooperation that so many of us practice. These ways are embedded in our bones, and have allowed us to survive and sometimes thrive until today. I think we're fighting between our lizard brains (fear, feed, fight, flight) and the human heart (love, care, compassion), which manifests societally as the fight between Capitalism vs. Democracy. At CED, I feel lucky to be doing heartful work on the side of the people (though no disrespect to lizards).

Tell us about an economic democracy/solidarity economy project you have participated in.

Boston Ujima Project, our pilot community assembly / investment day (Solidarity Summit) in August 2016!

Contact Aaron: aaron [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Alex Papali (he/him)

Director of Regional Economies

Alex has lived in the Boston area 30+ years, organizing locally since high school. His areas of focus have ranged from political repression to immigrant rights to tenant organizing–with the common goal of addressing structural causes of injustice.  He has worked with grassroots community, environmental and labor groups statewide towards ‘energy democracy’, including community-controlled energy microgrids and an accessible green economy. 

 

As the Director of Regional Economies at CED, he is helping coalesce a broad set of partners to develop collective strategy and build out infrastructure for a democratic and ecologically viable economy rooted in justice.

What are examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

The immense contributions of the Zapatista struggle in Indigenous Mayan communities, and more recently, the 'democratic confederalism' experiment in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Both emerged from highly oppressed communities, offering striking alternatives to the regressive politics enveloping them and convergence points for much of the global Left. Their inspiring eloquence, innovations with democratic decision-making and militant confrontation of illegitimate power are shining examples of what we can achieve collectively.

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

We are facing a tangled crisis of multiple failing systems, but arguably the most damaging of these has been the system whose logic governs the global political economy: capitalism. It's no exaggeration then that developing viable alternatives is an urgent goal for all concerned with the survival of human civilization. This will require a collective process of mental decolonizing, and strategic effort to build out the infrastructure for our democratically determined vision.

 

Tell us about an economic democracy/solidarity economy project you have participated in.

While critiquing the rapacious fossil fuel industry isn't hard, building out scalable alternatives is challenging in an economy oriented to profit and in communities unfamiliar with democratic governance of energy systems. This is why I'm so proud to be on the team developing the RUN-GJC community microgrid project, piloting clean energy networks that are controlled by local communities, respect workers and can be replicated and get us to scale quickly.

Contact Alex: alex [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Amrita Wassan (they/them)
Director of Programs

Amrita is the Director of Programs at CED. As an educator, organizer and solidarity economy practitioner, they situate themself in the interstices between individual and collective liberation. This focus has led to projects as diverse as cultural campaigns promoting healthy relationships in LGBTQIA communities, collectivization of resources for hyper local grant making, building multiple cooperative businesses, working to support youth both inside and outside schools with their creative and political desires, and creating spaces and economic opportunities for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

 

As an educator and economic alternatives builder, they are constantly honing their craft with an ever expanding repertoire of tools as well as networks of learning communities. Amrita holds an Economics and International Relations degree from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA and a Masters in Community-based Education from the George Washington University in Washington, DC. They enjoy biking, camping, poetry and porch sitting.

What are some examples of economic democracy that inspire you?:
I trace my curiosity about economic democracy to the Boycott of British goods and owning our own means of production as part of the South Asian freedom struggle against Colonialism. So many examples of attempting economic democracy inspire me from participatory budgeting in Brazil, trade and barter bazaar system in Equatorial Guinea, worker governance of corporate boards in Germany, sex worker cooperatives, public banking initiatives, time banking experiments, communal land ownership in Barbados, and the chore charts in collective activist homes that makes sure we take turns turning the compost.

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

Strengthening our collective muscle to show up for one another, build our power and embolden one another to attempt the unimaginable. 

Contact Amrita: amrita [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Armani is determined to create the “better world” we dream of in the future, now. Armani is a third generation Bostonian. He was born and raised in Boston between Bromley Heath, a housing development in Jamaica Plain, and Lower Roxbury.

 

Armani is a community organizer whose life's work has been about transforming the structures that cause inequity and injustice to create stronger communities, and supporting people in their development into critically conscious leaders. Armani currently serves as Director of Municipal Democracy at the Center for Economic Democracy where he advances strategies to educate and further the movement for a just transition from extractive, harmful corporate, financial and government organization to a more democratically controlled, regenerative and sustainable planet.

Contact Armani: armani [at] economicdemocracy.us

Armani White (he/him)

Director of Municipal Democracy

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Bruno Diaz (he/him)

Bruno comes from an immigrant family. Bruno was born in Boston but grew up in the Dominican Republic. As an adult, Bruno decided to return to the United States trying to find a new opportunity, like many immigrants who work hard to make their dreams come true. Bruno graduated from APEC University (Dominican Republic) with a degree in Business Administration. In this career, Bruno's found two things that he loves: numbers and supporting people.

 

What are some examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

Something that inspires me is the immigrant community that comes to this country trying to find new opportunities. It is incredible how they support each other by building cooperatives to help the community grow economically.

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

The work that CED is doing is helping many people in the Boston community to achieve economic independence. For me, being part of this team is something that makes me proud, our work is improving many lives.

Administrative and Finance Coordinator

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Jenny Gefrard (she/her)

Finance and Operations Specialist

Daughter of Haitian immigrant parents, eldest of three, and self-proclaimed planner/organization addict. Jenny is a serial entrepreneur, visionary, credit repair specialist, and money coach whose mission is to help individuals take the stress and shame out of managing their finances. A graduate of Curry College with a degree in Community Health & Wellness, her vision is to marry wellness and financial literacy, making complex concepts simple.

 

What are some examples of economic democracy that inspire you?
When I think of economic democracy that inspire me what immediately comes to mind are collaborative groups in Haiti created by women to support their entrepreneur endeavors and families.

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?
What excites me about our work is the possibilities for a better narrative and existence for marginalized people.

Contact Jenny: jenny [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Helen "Homefries" Matthews 
(no pronouns)

Communications Manager

Helen "Homefries" Matthews has been active in various justice and liberation struggles since high school, including many years in the ecofeminist movement as a writer and workshop facilitator. In 2010, Homefries joined with neighbors to organize against gentrification and displacement in parts of the Jamaica Plain neighborhood and has been involved in neighborhood-wide and city-wide housing justice organizing ever since, including many years on the staff of City Life/Vida Urbana and the Communications Committee of Right to The City Alliance. As a radio journalist many years ago, Homefries covered rallies and other events from social justice, animal liberation and environmental justice movements throughout Boston, which became a springboard into leveraging mass media in grassroots organizations. Homefries holds degrees in moral philosophy, feminist theory and social movements studies from New College of Florida and Goddard College.

What are examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

Growing up in Atlanta, there were anti-racist economic democracy projects, led by and for Black folks, all around - such as the Auburn Ave. business district or Sevananda cooperative grocery store. I'm also inspired by the neighborhood assemblies, based on the principle of horizontalidad, that grew in Argentina in the early 2000's after the IMF brought an economic crisis upon the people there.

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

I'm excited to support organized frontline residents in confronting and dismantling oppressive systems and building new liberatory and creative spaces.

 

Tell us about an economic democracy/solidarity economy project you have participated in.

In the Egleston Square area of Boston, a huge corporate landlord was trying to evict a Dominican restaurant that had been there for nearly 30 years. The neighborhood organized to not only stop the eviction but also to bring the property into community ownership for the construction of a new building that will house both low-income seniors and the restaurant for the long run.

Contact Homefries: homefries [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Maria Christina Blanco (she/her)

María Christina Blanco is a Bolivian-American mother, organizer, and health worker who has engaged in human rights and social/economic justice activism over the past 20+ years in the Boston area. As CED's Administrative & Fiscal Sponsorship Manager, she provides administrative capacity to CED and its projects, in English and Spanish. She was a community organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana from 2011-2016, helping hundreds of her neighbors resist displacement due to predatory lending and evictions for the profit of corporate landlords.  For over a decade prior to entering the organizing field, she did maternal-child community health work. María Christina studied public health as an adult learner at UMass Boston. Her history of involvement in cooperatives dates back to her first job, stocking groceries at the Harvest Co-op. She serves on the Governing Board of the Boston Community Leadership Academy high school and advised their Immigrant Youth Leaders chapter during a successful 2018 student deportation-defense campaign.

What motivates you/excited you about our work?

I will always be proud to be able to look back and say that when the Covid-19 pandemic began, I was helping get direct relief to the hardest-hit people, through CED’s Mass Redistribution Fund!

Tell us about an economic democracy/solidarity economy project you have participated in.

My history of involvement in cooperatives dates back to my first job, stocking groceries at the Harvest Co-op, a 40-year-long experiment in alternative economics and food justice. Read more about it here.

Contact Maria Christina: maria [at] economicdemocracy.us

Administrative & Fiscal Sponsorship
Manager

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Martin Familia (he/him)

Director of Finance and HR

Martin is the Director of Finance and Human Resources at CED. He has been working in finances in different capacities since graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. Originally born in the Dominican Republic, Martin came to Boston at the age of two where he has resided ever since. Martin demonstrates a commitment to community with his involvement at different organizations including his former school Codman Academy Charter Public School where he is an active member of Codman Academy's Board of Trustees. Martin also holds financial literacy seminars for different groups of high school students, including current students as they prepare for life after high school. After beginning his career in commercial banking, Martin was the Director of Finance and Administration at the College for Social Innovation, a startup where he played a major part in building systems around financial administration, compliance, internal controls, and human resources.

What are examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

My time growing up in Boston and the support we all have each other whether it is childcare or food or even healthcare was amazing to be a part of.

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

Working with different groups of people doing great work in the community.

Contact Martin: martin [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Sarah Assefa (she/her or they/them)

Worker Ownership Coalition Organizer

Sarah Assefa values participating in the decisions that affect her life, and likes creating spaces where others can too. 

 

In the early 2000s, Sarah was sustained by the cooperative ecosystem in Worcester Mass, which gave her housing, food, office space, transportation, and work. With Empower Energy Cooperative and Worcester Roots, she was involved in entrepreneurial initiatives that created cooperative community jobs for youth and ex-prisoners, generating revenue through delivery of environmental justice in the form of carbon neutral fuel and lead remediation services. 

 

One of the most pivotal experiences in her life was participating in EPOCA and the Massachusetts CORI reform campaign, in which ex-prisoners - and many allies - wrote the law, seeking to build a system that would make it easier for people with past criminal records to find positive work and close the revolving prison door. 

 

More recently she has been involved in the agroecology movement in Ethiopia, facilitating a national Agroecology Network and advocating with farmers, youth, and many other stakeholders for sustainable food systems and food sovereignty. Tangible collaborations included advocacy and awareness to strengthen local seed systems, support of government policies and strategies for healthy soil management, and re-organizing system actors to build local supply chains for soil amendments to regenerate degraded soils and offset imported fertility inputs. 

 

Great things are possible when we dare to be visionary and co-create! 

Contact Sarah Assefa: sarah.a [at] economicdemocracy.us

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Sarah Wang (she/her)

Content and Engagement Associate

Sarah is committed to building a world where everyone can lead meaningful and dignified lives, while being able to take care of themselves, their families, and their communities. She was born and raised in Boston's Chinatown, where she first explored what it means to be in community with others. In Chinatown, she developed youth & education programs, and organized residents and young people around housing and environmental justice issues. Her experience and passions are in youth organizing, popular education, research, and program development. She is a first-generation graduate of Harvard College, where studied Psychology and Educational Studies. 

 

What are examples of economic democracy that inspire you?

I am inspired by the work of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative in building "an equitable, sustainable, and democratic local economy that creates shared wealth and ownership for low-income people of color." Their model shows the beautiful possibilities when we center everyday people in decision-making about the development of their own local economies and communities. 

 

What motivates you/excites you about our work?

I am excited to educate and learn in community with others about how we can collectively build a more just and sustainable world that centers the well-being of low-income communities of color. I am especially excited to see how we can work with communities in Boston to design the municipal participatory budget process so that it is more inclusive, equitable, and responsive to residents' needs.

Contact Sarah Wang: sarah.w [at] economicdemocracy.us

Our Board

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Elena Letona 
she/her

Maria Elena is the Director of Philanthropy, Learning, and Evaluation at Episcopal City Mission, where she is responsible for leading ECM’s grantmaking strategy, developing the organization’s learning agenda, and building relationships with grassroots, philanthropic, and faith-rooted justice organizations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

 

María Elena has 30 years of experience working and serving the nonprofit sector as a volunteer, organizer, activist, teacher, director, and consultant.  Most recently, she was the Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor, a Massachusetts membership organization of working-class, low-income, people of color and immigrants dedicated to building power to achieve racial, economic, and environmental justice. From 1999-2008, she directed the Greater Boston area immigrant rights organization Centro Presente,, where she led a change process that transformed it from a direct service provider into a member-driven organization.

 

Born in El Salvador, María Elena attended Oberlin College-Conservatory where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance and music history, and the University of Massachusetts Boston where she earned a Ph.D. in public policy.  In 2005, she was selected to be part of the Barr Foundation’s inaugural class of Fellows.  Maria Elena is the author and co-author of numerous articles and reports on a variety of topics related to organizational and community capacity building.

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Khalida Smalls 
she/her

Khalida is the Organizing Director for the Right to the City (RTTC) Alliance, which encompasses over 90 community-based racial, economic, gender, and environmental justice organizations located in 26 states and 45 cities. Representing true grassroots power and leadership of the most impacted, RTTC’s member organizations weave together local on-the-ground organizing, policy, and advocacy campaigns to build a robust and unstoppable national movement for inclusive, healthy housing and community development.

Born, raised, and based in Boston, Khalida is a queer Black woman of African and Caribbean descent.  She's also mom to young adult activist, Ziquelle G Smalls who was active in the youth justice movement in Boston before moving to Miami Florida and joining Power U the Center for Social Change as their organizing director – organizing runs in the family!  Khalida began organizing in 1997 with the community-based environmental justice organization ACE in Roxbury, MA where she helped form Boston’s first public transit riders’ union.  She has experience in labor, having developed and coordinated the Community Support and Strategic Partnership Program at Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ New England District 615 in Boston, MA, and been Organizing Director for the 10,000 member strong Boston Teachers Union (BTU),and also served as the Director of Organizing at Community Labor United (CLU) in Boston.

 

Khalida attended Springfield College School of Human Services, (Boston Campus) completing a bachelor’s degree in science in Human Services.  She hopes to soon return to Tufts University’s Urban Environmental Policy and Planning program (UEP) to complete her master’s degree in public policy.

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Penn is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. From 1996 to 2009, he served in various roles, including Executive Director at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), a Roxbury-based environmental justice group. Before joining ACE, he was Research Associate at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California and a Research Analyst at the Tellus Institute for Resource and Environmental Strategies in Boston. 

 

He holds an M.S. in environmental science and policy from Energy and Resources Group of the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT. He has published broadly on environmental and social justice issues and is currently a trustee of the Hyams Foundation.

Penn Loh 
he/him

Our 2019-2021 Fellows

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Francisco Perez is a solidarity economy activist and has worked as an economic development professional with frontline communities in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Francisco is currently a PhD student in economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Executive Director of the Center for Popular Economics. His research focuses on international political economy. He holds a BA from Harvard College and an MPA from Princeton University.

Francisco Perez

he/him

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Gopal Dayaneni

he/him

Gopal has been involved in fighting for social, economic, environmental and racial justice through organizing & campaigning, teaching, writing, speaking and direct action since the late 1980’s. Gopal currently serves on the Planning Committee of Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, which brings a strategic understanding of ecological crisis and transition to racial and economic justice organizing. Gopal is also a trainer with the The Ruckus Society and serves on the boards of The Center for Story-based Strategy, The Working World, ETCgroup.org (The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Corporate Concentration), and Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. He is on the advisory board of the Catalyst Project and Adjunct Faculty for the Masters in Urban Sustainability program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, where he teaches Ecological Systems Thinking.

Gopal was an elementary and early childhood educator, working formerly as a teacher and as the co-director of the Tenderloin Childcare Center, a community based childcare center supporting children and families forced into homelessness. He has worked in teacher education and education organizing in the US and in India. Most importantly, Gopal is the father of Ila Sophia and Kavi Samaka Orion. He lives in Oakland in an intentional, multi-generational community of nine adults, eight children and a bunch of chickens.

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Jessica Norwood is founder of the Runway Project. She is also the executive director of the Emerging ChangeMakers Network, an organization dedicated to working with inspiring leaders and innovative ideas that end economic inequality. As a leading social entrepreneur in her region, she supports strengthening social enterprise and social investing as a way to build community resiliency. Jessica previously spent years in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere as a political fundraiser and consultant, raising millions of dollars for various campaigns. 

 

Jessica is a past member of the board of directors for the Highlander Research and Education Center, a former Emerging Leaders Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and the Political Power Fellow with the Hip Hop Archive at the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

Jessica Norwood

she/her

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Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.  Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.

Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples' Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.

Kali Akuno

he/him

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Nwamaka Agbo

she/her

Restorative Economics practitioner Nwamaka Agbo, brings a solutions-oriented approach to her project management consulting. With a background in organizing, electoral campaigns, policy and advocacy on racial, social and environmental justice issues, Nwamaka supports projects that build resilient, healthy and self-determined communities rooted in shared prosperity. In addition to her consulting practice, Nwamaka is also a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center and a 2017 Fellow for the RSF Integrated Capital Fellowship Program. Nwamaka previously served as the Director of Programs at EcoDistricts leading Target Cities—a program to support 11 neighborhood-scale sustainable urban regeneration projects across North American committed to equitable economic development.

She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member to Oakland Rising Action and a Board Member to Thousand Currents, Center for Third World Organizing and the Schumacher Center for New Economics. She graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies and holds a Master’s of Public Administration specializing in Financial Management from San Francisco State University. Nwamaka lives in Oakland with her husband, where she can be found geeking out on the latest sci-fi, Afrofuturism novels or cheering for the Golden State Warriors. She likes her bourbon neat and her sake chilled.