Mel King Community Fellows
Class of 2013
Executive Director, National Day Laborers Organizing Network
Since his arrival in the U.S. following political and economic turmoil in his home country of El Salvador, Pablo Alvarado has become one of the most prominent, respected and visionary leaders of the immigrant rights movement. He has been referred to as the “Cesar Chavez” of jornaleros, day laborers seeking temporary employment — usually involving hard physical labor — to support their families.
As co-founder of the Institute of Popular Education for Southern California (IDEPSCA) Pablo created a movement of organizing day laborers in Pasadena, CA. As Lead Organizer for CHIRLA’s Day Laborer Program, Pablo transformed the City of Los Angeles Day Laborer Program into a worker center model that would be replicated in major cities throughout the country.
For the past 11 years, Pablo has served as the executive director of NDLON, currently a collaboration of 42 community-based day laborer organizations. Under his guidance, NDLON has worked with local governments to establish safe worker centers, provide information to workers to help them handle exploitation, improve skills and gain access to essential services, strengthen local worker groups, and build immigrant leadership.
Pablo holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from the National University of El Salvador and lives with his wife and two children in Pasadena, California.
Laphonza Butler is the President of SEIU ULTCW – the United Long Term Care Workers’ Union, which represents 180,000 in-home caregivers and nursing home workers across California.
Butler’s passion for advocating and leading on behalf of workers and those they serve is grounded in her own personal journey. Growing up in a household where her mom had multiple jobs as a security guard, a home care provider, and mother of three providing for her family on multiple low wage jobs, she experienced first-hand the challenges faced by workers and their families who did not have a voice on the job or the power of a union to improve their conditions. Early on, Butler sought a path that would ensure she contributed to bringing back the values of dignity and respect for workers and to be an architect of the changes needed to promote social and economic justice for all workers.
Over the years, Butler has served in numerous leadership roles on behalf of workers whether organizing thousands of healthcare workers at John’s Hopkins Hospital in Maryland; organizing multi-national corporations and collective bargaining agreements for tens of thousands of security officers and janitors as SEIU’s Property Services division director or uniting 25,000 foodservice workers in her role as Secretary Treasurer of Service Workers United. Most recently, she has been elected to serve as a Vice President of the SEIU international executive board.
A proud native of the south, Butler is a graduate of Jackson State University, in Jackson, MS.
Denise G. Fairchild, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Emerald Cities Collaborative
Denise Fairchild is the inaugural President of Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC), a national non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. with affiliates in major urban centers across the United States. Dr. Fairchild was recruited in 2010 to launch ECC, a coalition of labor, business and community-based organizations organized to accelerate the growth and distributive benefits of the emerging green economy.
Dr. Fairchild has dedicated over 30 years to strengthening housing, jobs, businesses and economic opportunities for low-income residents and communities of color domestically and internationally. In 1995 she founded and directed the Community and Economic Development (CED) Department at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, as well as an affiliated non-profit community development research and technical assistance organization, CDTech. She helped launch the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI), an initiative of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to provide inner city residents with career and technical education for high growth/high demand jobs in the L.A. region, with a focus on the green economy. From 1989-1994, Dr. Fairchild directed the L.A. office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and is credited with raising over $100 million in equity, grants, and loans for community-based housing and commercial development projects and, generally, with building the non-profit housing and community development industry in the L.A. region.
Her civic and political appointments have included the California Commission on Regionalism, the California Economic Strategy Panel, the California Local Economic Development Association, the Urban Land Institute National Inner City Advisor, the Coalition for Women's Economic Development and the Los Angeles Environmental Quality Board. She also served as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's special advisor for South L.A. Investments.
Executive Director, National People’s Action
George Goehl has been a community organizer, strategist and trainer for nearly 20 years. His efforts have helped to craft city, state, and federal campaigns on issues that range from outlawing predatory lending, advancing immigration reform and preventing foreclosures. Since 2007, he has been the Executive Director of National People’s Action, a network of metropolitan and statewide membership organizations dedicated to advancing economic and racial justice in all aspects of society. The organization was founded nearly 40 years ago, and its work has helped to gain equity in work, housing, health, education, finance, and other systems central to the well-being of less advantaged American citizens.
Goehl began his career as the founding president of the Coalition of Low-Income and Homeless Citizens. In 1996, he began working with the National People’s Action, and designed a national campaign to pressure HUD to address fraud and abuse within the FHA home loan program. As a result of three years of work on the issue, the Credit Watch Program was established to hold lenders accountable for excessive defaults on FHA-insured mortgages. Goehl then became an organizing director and supervised an effort that forced statewide anti-predatory lending regulations and legislation in Illinois. Goehl began working as a strategist and field organizer with the Center for Community Change in 2004. His work there included the launch of a national summit of immigrant and allied organizations from more than 30 states, and resulted in establishing the national “Stop the Raids” movement, in response to a wave of immigration raids that separated young children from their parents.
Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
Sarita Gupta is the Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ), a national network of 46 local coalitions in 24 states that bring together more than 1,300 labor unions, faith groups, community organizations, and student activists to fight for working people. JwJ educates working people about the connection between workers’ rights and strong communities, and explores innovative community-based organizing for economic justice. Much of her work has focused on defending and expanding the right to organize and collectively bargain; develop a movement building approach to Jobs with Justice; and innovate new initiatives that speak to the mission of Jobs with Justice at the global, national, and local levels.
Sarita is also the co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign – a campaign dedicated to changing the way we care in this nation. The campaign brings together millions of care workers, people with disabilities, older adults, and their families with the goals of improving the quality and accessibility of care for everyone, by creating new, quality jobs in home care; expanding workplace protections; ensuring affordable, quality care and support for individuals; and stabilizing the workforce.
Sarita currently serves on the following boards: International Labor Rights Forum, American Rights at Work, the National Planning Committee of the U.S. Social Forum, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Inter-Alliance Dialogue/UNITY, Other Worlds is Possible Giving Circle, the Institute for Policy Studies, and The Discount Foundation Board of Trustees.
International Executive Vice President, SEIU
Gerry Hudson has served as Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union since June 2004, leads the union's political program--ensuring that SEIU members and all workers have a strong voice to hold politicians accountable and elect candidates at all levels who stand with working families. His outstanding commitment to labor, confronting the realities of long term care, and environmental justice spans decades. Recently honored by Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for his extraordinary leadership, Hudson continues to have wide-ranging impact on the fight to improve the lives of working families and their communities.
Gerry’s dedication to addressing urban sprawl and the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation on low-income and minority communities informed his participation in the first-ever U.S. labor delegation to the United Nations' climate change meeting in Bali in 2007. He has served on the advisory board of the Apollo Alliance, a labor-based organization that advocates for high-quality job creation in a clean energy economy. He's also served on the board for Redefining Progress, the nation's leading public policy think tank dedicated to developing innovative public policies that balance economic well-being, environmental preservation, and social justice.
Elected as executive vice president for the former-District 1199 in 1989, Hudson coordinated the merger of the 30,000-member Local 144 into SEIU/1199. He also founded the 1199 School for Social Change - a former alternative school in the Bronx - and served as a trustee of the Local 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund, Home Care Workers Benefit Fund, and Michelson Education Fund.
Vilma Linares –Vaughn
Chief of Staff, SEIU Local 1199 Healthcare Workers East
Vilma Linares Vaughn is currently the Chief of Staff at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. Before joining 1199SEIU, she was the National Director of the Office of Audits and Affiliate Support at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC. She was at SEIU from 2005 to 2012 and held various positions within that organization. Prior to that, Vilma held the position of Operations Manager for Retec, Inc., a national environmental engineering consulting firm and a subsidiary of Thermo Scientific. She was responsible for directing and managing four (4) offices, two in Texas, one in Louisiana, and one in Kansas. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Wisconsin, completed Graduate work at Southwest Texas University in Accounting, and has completed all coursework to sit for the CPA exam. She has over 30 years of experience in organizational and operations management.
Vilma has served on various non-profit boards of directors in various capacities. Currently, in addition to serving on the board of directors of My Family Votes/Mi Familia Vota, she is on the Southwest School of Arts Fiesta Art Fair Volunteers Committee and is a member of Las Comadres Para Las America. Vilma is originally from the Dominican Republic, arrived in the United States at the age of eight and grew up in New York City. She has lived in Texas for the last 15 years, and now resides in New York City. Her hobbies include the visual and performing arts, hiking and camping, reading and cooking. She is married to Ronald Vaughn, and between them have two daughters and three grandchildren.
An immigrant from Morocco with more than 17 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Mamdouh worked at some of New York’s finest restaurants, and was finally lead Shop Steward for H.E.R.E. Local 100 at Windows on the World. After September 11th, he worked with five other displaced workers to create the Immigrant Workers’ Assistance Alliance (IWAA), a Rockefeller Foundation-funded project to provide support to displaced workers and families of victims.
In order to provide ongoing services to the hundreds of displaced workers and the families of the victims, Mamdouh formed ROC-NY in 2002. In 2008, he co-founded ROC-United, the country’s first national restaurant worker organization.
A Columbia Revson Fellow, Mamdouh co-authored a book about his life, The Accidental American, together with the Executive Director of the Applied Research Center, Rinku Sen. A movie is now being made about the book.
Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Ai-jen Poo is the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the leading organization working to build power, respect, and fair labor standards for the 2.5 million nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers in the U.S. She began organizing immigrant women workers in 1996 as the Women Workers Project organizer at CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities in New York City. In 2000, she co-founded Domestic Workers United (DWU), a city-wide, multiracial organization of domestic workers. DWU led the way to the passage of the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010, historic legislation that extends basic labor protections to over 200,000 domestic workers in New York state. DWU helped to organize the first national meeting of domestic worker organizations at the US Social Forum in 2007, which resulted in the formation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She has been NDWA’s director since April 2010. Ai-jen serves on the Board of Directors of Social Justice Leadership, the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation, the Labor Advisory Board at Cornell ILR School, Momsrising, National Jobs with Justice, Working America, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and the National Council on Aging.
Executive Director, Hyde Square Task Force
Claudio has served as the Executive Director of The Hyde Square Task Force, an organization that builds the skills of inner-city youth through innovative arts and cultural, leadership, lifelong learning, economic development and community organizing initiatives. Under his leadership, the Hyde Square Task Force has received considerable recognition, including the Coming Up Taller award, the nation's highest honor for out of school arts and humanities programs given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Best Practice Award in Teen Programming for Youth Leadership and Achievement by Boston’s After School for All Partnership and the Innovations in Education City Excellence Award. Claudio has over 20 years of managerial experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors and has served as advisor to several governmental, non-profit and transnational initiatives including Boston Housing Authority’s Monitoring Committee, Boston University Institute of Nonprofit Management and Leadership and the Boston-Haifa NGO Learning Exchange. As a community organizer, neighborhood activist and parent, Claudio has been involved in Boston school reform efforts for the last 20 years. He served for many years as co-chair of the Boston Parent Organizing Network and a board member of the Latino After School Initiative and the Boston Schoolyard Initiative. He also sits on the Board of Directors of The Boston Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and Boston After School and Beyond. He is a member of the inaugural class of the Barr Foundation Fellows Program. In 2008, he was appointed by Mayor Menino to the Boston School Committee.
President, SEIU Local 26
Javier Morillo-Alicea is the president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, which unites more than 5,000 property service workers in the Twin Cities metro area. As president, he leads the organizing, legislative and political activities of the local union representing Minnesota’s union janitors and private security guards.
Since Morillo was elected president, SEIU Local 26 has grown by roughly 1,200 members, including over 700 private security officers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Local 26 is focused on negotiating member contracts, uniting new members, and developing new leaders. In the past two years, as a result of two public contract campaigns, Local 26 won affordable healthcare for janitors and security officers, along with dramatic wage increases. In addition, the local has participated in national campaigns, including traveling to Houston to support 5,000 newly united janitors. In Houston, Morillo was arrested with SEIU members and leaders and spent 37 hours in jail after engaging in an act of civil disobedience that the Houston police met with violence but which ultimately led to a first janitorial contract in Houston.
SEIU Local 26 has also led on legislative and political action on the issues of quality, affordable health care and immigration reform. As a leader in the immigrant rights movement, Morillo has stood up to Republican attacks on immigrants in the state, publishing an Opinion Page editorial in the statewide newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, criticizing Senator Norm Coleman’s failure to support comprehensive immigration reform and another exposing the Minutemen extremists surrounding the congressional campaign of Republican candidate State Senator Dick Day.
Morillo was previously a historian and anthropologist, teaching courses in Latin American History, Comparative Colonial Cultures, and Globalization at Carleton and Macalester College. He is a Fulbright Scholar and has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Yale University. He lives on the West Side of St. Paul with his partner of thirteen years
Laine Romero Alston
Program Officer, Promoting the Next Generation Workforce Strategies
Laine Romero-Alston manages the Promoting the Next Generation Workforce Strategies portfolio, an initiative of the Quality Employment unit. She focused on building the capacity of worker centers to provide leadership, education and training opportunities for the substantially low-wage and immigrant workforce, primarily in four specific sectors: healthcare, day labor and construction, restaurant work, and domestic work.
Before joining the foundation in 2011, Laine was the Economic Justice program officer at the Solidago Foundation, where she supported efforts to help marginalized, particularly low-wage immigrants and workers of color, actively engage in strategies that foster their own economic well-being and to promote broader systemic economic and social change. In addition, Laine oversaw a Media Justice and Strategic Communications program for the Frances Fund to develop and integrate strategic communications into economic and social justice movement efforts.
Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU
Monica Russo is executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – the largest local union in the country representing more than 350,000 healthcare workers in five states and more than 23,000 healthcare workers in Florida. She led the most successful private sector healthcare union organizing campaign in the southeastern United States, beginning with a small group of nursing home workers and ultimately launching an organizing campaign that founded the Florida branch of 1199SEIU UHE. Under her leadership, 1199SEIU Florida has grown to represent more than 30,000 healthcare workers and retirees in more than 100 hospitals and nursing homes across the state - becoming the largest union of healthcare workers in Florida and the southern United States.
Monica also serves as international vice president of the Service Employees International Union and as president of the SEIU Florida State Council, where she politically unites more than 55,000 active and retired SEIU members from bus drivers and janitors to healthcare workers.
She serves on the South Florida Workforce Investment Board, Florida International University’s Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy, Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz’s Healthcare Working Group, Progress Florida and founded Konbit for Haiti (earthquake relief).
Executive Director, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
Saket Soni is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Workersʹ Center for Racial Justice. The Center is dedicated to organizing African American and immigrant workers for a just reconstruction of post‐Katrina New Orleans. Saket has worked as an organizer in Chicago at the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois, a city‐wide immigrant rights coalition, and at the Organization of the North East. Saket was born and raised in New Delhi, India.
Saket joined the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice to take the first staff position in 2006. Since then he has steered the organization's growth. Saket co-authored “And Injustice For All: Workers’ Lives In the Reconstruction,” the most comprehensive report on race in the Reconstruction of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, and “Never Again: Lessons of the Gustav Evacuation,” an account of the treatment of African Americans in the sheltering process. Saket has testified before Congress on racial justice and labor rights issues. He has crafted strategic campaigns with direct organizing, litigation, communications, and research components to advance the human rights of guestworkers.
Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU
In June 2010, Veronica Turner was elected to the top leadership position of 1199SEIU in Massachusetts. Turner is the first African-American woman to head a major labor union in Massachusetts. A resident of Brockton, MA, Turner was born in Dorchester and began her career at Boston Medical Center in the dietary department. Turner emerged as a natural leader of her peers during the historic merger of Boston City Hospital and Boston University Medical Center in the nineties – a time fraught with uncertainty for caregivers at both hospitals. Turner seeks to make her election the start of a more balanced representation for women and people of color amongst labor’s top leaders in the Bay State. Turner hopes to continue the track record of success that 1199SEIU has established since its inception in 2005.
Director, Center for Labor Research and Education
University of California, Los Angeles
Kent Wong is director of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UCLA, where he teaches Labor Studies and Ethnic Studies.
Kent was previously staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union, representing Los Angeles County Workers, and the first staff attorney for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. His beginnings with the labor movement were as a boycott organizer for the United Farm Workers of America. Kent served as the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, and has also served as the national president of the United Association for Labor Education, and the University and College Labor Education Association. He is a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers, a co-chair of the California Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Labor College.
Class of 2012
Rob Bennet (Oregon)
Executive Director, Portland Sustainability Institute
Rob’s work focuses at the intersection of city planning, real estate development, economic development and environmental policy. At PSI, Rob has helped shape green building and infrastructure strategies for catalytic development projects including the Brewery Blocks (Portland, OR), South Waterfront (Portland, OR), and 2010 Olympic Village (Vancouver, BC); creating the EcoDistricts Initiative, and leading the development of a clean economy roadmap (Climate Prosperity Greenprint) for the Portland metro. Previous work with the Clinton Climate Initiative included developing a Residential Energy Efficiency Pilot project and a Municipal Green Building Policy Capacity Building Framework.
As a Mel King Fellow, Rob looks forward to connecting to a group of practitioners and researchers with complementary expertise to flesh out concepts to deploy in the EcoDistrict pilot projects in Portland in the short term, and nationwide in the long term if the model can prove to be scaled.
Portland Sustainability Institute (Portland, Oregon) engages representatives from the business, higher education, non-profit and municipal sectors to drive initiatives for urban sustainability in the Portland area.
Keith Bisson (Maine)
Director Northern Heritage Development Fund, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)
Keith is interested in Triple Bottom Line investing that supports projects that have economic value, social benefits or equity, and are compatible with the environment. He is particularly interested in how rural communities interact with urban communities and how community economic development organizations can more effectively integrate environmental sustainability and social equity into the economic development field. In his current position, Keith is responsible for development and management of the $11 million Northern Heritage Development Fund and developing CEI’s expertise and impact on forestry and forest-based job-creating businesses including nature-based tourism, renewable energy and sustainable materials (e.g. housing). Previous experience included policy work with Rapoza Associates in Washington DC, research with Coastal Enterprises in Maine and independent consulting.
As a Mel King Fellow, Keith looks forward to the opportunity to interact with other practitioners who struggle with similar challenges, and from the students and faculty at MIT, who can share their practical, analytical and theoretical insights and experience, since in the day-to-day work of community economic development, it is rare to have such time to stop, think and share.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) (Wiscasset, Maine) is a private, nonprofit Community Development Corporation and Community Development Financial Institution that provides financing and support for job-creating small businesses, natural resources industries, community facilities, and affordable housing.
Adam Freed (New York)
Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, City of New York
Adam is interested in exploring the economic development potential of climate resilience activities. In his current work with the City of New York, Adam led the process to update PlaNYC, the City’s long-term sustainability plan, and manages internal staff in the sustainability office and oversees outside consulting teams on a variety of issues, including solid waste, freight mobility, and resilience. Prior to holding his current position, Adam was the Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Change Adaptation for the City of New York. His other experience included work with the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and positions with political campaigns and the Chief of Staff position for New York State Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman.
As a Mel King Fellow, Adam wants to deepen his understanding of the economic development potential of climate resilience activities. Specifically by measuring the benefits associated with utilizing green and grey infrastructure for storm water management, and identifying the skills and knowledge needed to create and maintain resilience in our communities, infrastructure, and buildings.
Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (New York, NY) is responsible for guiding the environmental agenda for the City of New York. Goals include; improving the quality of the city’s air and water, creating more affordable housing, providing better access to open space, increasing transit capacity, cleaning up the city’s contaminated land, improving and maintaining the city transportation network, upgrading the city’s energy infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Bob Gough (South Dakota)
Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP)
Bob’s interests with COUP are to realize a tribal community economic development strategy based upon utility and community scale, on- or off-grid renewables (wind, solar and geothermal) and create a housing strategy that is sustainable, affordable, future-proof and energy efficiency. With COUP, the goal is to work on the development of a scalable renewable energy generator/ storage unit that may involve a variety of cost-effective storage systems. As a lawyer, Bob’s previous experience included work as a public defenders, a tribal attorney, and a consultant, in additional to numerous affiliations with organizations and academic institutions.
As a Mel King Fellow, Bob wants to continue working towards the Council’s goal of developing a scalable renewable energy generator/ storage unit.
Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (Ft. Pierre, SD) has representatives from ten Tribes from South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska and provides policy analysis and recommendations about utility issues, as well hosts workshops about telecommunications and climate change.
Andrew Kellar (New Hampshire)
Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), The Green Launching Pad
Andrew is an entrepreneur and “early adopter” of renewable energy in the business world, which speaks to his passion to build businesses with socially and environmentally responsible aspects. In his current position with the Green Launching Pad, he is responsible for connecting start-up companies with this public-private collaboration, while mentoring entrepreneurs to ensure that they meet or exceed their goals. He also directs efforts to install large scale solar energy systems around New England at Revolution Energy and previously started the first all biofuels company on the East Coast.
As a Mel King Fellow, Andrew seeks to tackle specific issues such as the impact of current incentives (federal, state & utility) on the entrepreneurial community, and questioning how streamlining this “path to transition” can unite the business, academic and public entities.
The Green Launching Pad (New Hampshire) is a public and private sector initiative, between UNH, NH OEP & US Department of Energy that enables local start-ups to bring green solutions to market.
Eric Nakajima (Massachusetts)
Senior Innovation Advisor, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Eric addresses issues of the knowledge economy and associated development through his work as a policy advisor and project leader on economic development projects in regions and cities that have high poverty. In his current state government role, Eric is responsible for developing and managing projects such as the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, an advanced manufacturing initiative, state policies for innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. Eric has held previous position in economic development and policy research with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts and a private consulting firm.
As a Mel King Fellow, Eric hopes to gain insight into how to integrate policies that combine the often compartmentalized areas of community development, ecological thinking and economic development, and apply this knowledge to develop and implement policy with a greater transformational impact on the communities.
Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) has the primary mission to create homes and jobs in the Commonwealth.
Yorman Nunez (New York)
Yorman is interested in playing a role in lifting people out of poverty through redesigning the economic system that is our economy. His commitment to designing systems to address the causes of poverty emerged out of his work as a community organizer with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), where he organized young people around issues of sustainable economic development, education, and voter education. It was during this time that Yorman co-founded the Urban Youth Collaborative, a city-wide youth organization working on education reform. He moved on from NWBCCC to lead a career in electoral organizing, where he managed many political campaigns. He currently coordinates the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative, a local effort in the Bronx that seeks to leverage local assets to drive economic development strategies targeted at building wealth and ownership among low-income residents. Yorman, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, has taught both community organizing and spoken word at the high school level.
Sara Dillon Pennington (Kentucky)
New Power Campaign Organizer, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Sara believes the key to transition in Appalachia lies in the idea (and goal) of New Power—the necessity for new economic power, new clean energy power, and new political power. She views such change as key to transitioning this high poverty region into one with a prosperous and sustainable future. In her current position she organizes grassroots campaigns to halt the use of coal-fired power, she runs multiple electric cooperative board campaigns, and organizes co-op members to demand clean, affordable energy and good governance practices. Sara has previously worked as a freelance writer, researcher, web designer and Managing Editor at The Southeast Review.
As a Mel King Fellow, Sara wants to learn about various forms of community economic development with the goal of bringing the unique perspective of economic transition in extractive regions.
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (Berea, Kentucky) is a statewide citizens organization working for a new balance of power and a just society, and finding solutions to address real world problems. Membership is open to anyone committed to equality, democracy and non-violent change.
Andre Pettigrew (Washington DC)
Executive Director, Climate Prosperity Project, Inc.
Andre is a proven organizational leader and manager having extensive experience managing complex organizations and projects which have significant impact on public policy and economic development. In his current position with this nonprofit, Andre works to support regional communities in transforming their economies through “green” innovation, energy efficiency, capital formation, business growth and job creation. Previously, as the Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development for the City and County of Denver, Andrew launched the city’s “Greener Denver” economic development strategy in support of Denver’s climate action program under Mayor John Hickenlooper (now Governor of Colorado).
As a Mel King Fellow, Andre is interested in updating the definition of sustainable economic development and expanding its application in low-income, distressed communities where economic opportunity and job creation are the priorities. Generally he seeks to understand how policy changes at the state and federal levels can generate energy savings, economic opportunities and job creation within distressed low-income communities.
Climate Prosperity Project, Inc. (Washington DC) is a network of regions and business partners that believe that climate change represents an environmental imperative and an extraordinary economic development opportunity.
Cathy Polasky (Minnesota)
Director of Economic Policy and Development, City of Minneapolis
Cathy draws on experience in law and housing finance to inform in her current efforts to foster economic development, energy efficiency and growth of Minneapolis’ cleantech sector. In her current position, she is responsible for the City’s Business Finance, Business Development, and Youth and Adult Employment and Training Divisions. Cathy has worked to create a marketing program for the City, develop a new finance and business attraction tools, participate as a member of Mayor’s ARRA steering committee and represent the Mayor on various regional economic task forces.
As a Mel King Fellow, Cathy intends to take the time to more rigorously analyze the preliminary results of a variety of green policies and programs, and to use those findings to evaluate and redirect theories of green economic development.
The Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (Minneapolis, Minnesota) works to grow a sustainable city.
Shanna Ratner (Vermont)
Principal, Yellow Wood Associates, Inc.
Shanna’s is interested in a profoundly different paradigm of development that requires significant re-thinking of how to internalize externalities, discover synergistic solutions based on shared self interest, and avoid exploitation that leads to depreciation of resources over time. With Yellow Wood Associates, she works with clients on community economic development projects that recognize, preserve and grow community wealth in all forms: human, financial, social, ecological, and physical (infrastructure). And, as the managing grantee for the Ford Foundation’s Wealth Creation in Rural Communities initiative, Shana has been engaged in developing and testing hypotheses regarding how to create seven forms of wealth that stick in poor rural regions through intentional exploration and construction of inclusive value chains that improve livelihoods.
As a Mel King Fellow, Shana intends to further her thinking and practice with respect to wealth creation and livelihood development that benefits rural areas through regional economic linkages.
Yellow Wood Associates, Inc. (St. Albans, Vermont) is a consulting firm specializing in rural community economic development, each word means something special. Our interest in rural comes from a deeply held belief in the necessity of supporting people who work with and live close with the land, and empowering communities that live closest to our natural resources to be effective stewards of our shared resource heritage.
Wilnelia Rivera (Massachusetts)
Policy and Political Director, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts
Wilnelia’s is interested in alternative strategies and critical thinking capacity to continue building a progressive political infrastructure in historically disenfranchised communities. In her current position with Neighbor to Neighbor, Wilnelia oversees the strategic development and implementation of the statewide issue and electoral agenda for this community-based environmental and economic justice organization. Previously, Wilnelia has worked as a staff union organizer.
As a Mel King Fellow, Wilnelia seeks to develop alternative strategies and deepen her knowledge and skills to implement social and economic change in the lives of low-income and working families.
Neighbor to Neighbor (Massachusetts) is a membership led community based environmental and economic justice organization that functions under the assumption that sustainable change is long term and effective.
Desiree Sideroff (Washington)
Vice President, Consumer Lending Products, Craft3, formerly Enterprise Cascadia
Desiree is interested in triple bottom line funding mechanisms at the household/small business level to simultaneously drive environmental and economic development. In her current position, she develops and implements triple-bottom-line lending products and programs to improve water quality, energy efficiency and create jobs in the residential and small business sectors. Additionally, Desiree convenes cross-disciplinary teams and works in close partnership with public and private sectors. Her previous work includes, independent consulting and grant making with Bay Area Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
As a Mel King Fellow, Desiree hopes to explore the future potential and effectiveness of triple bottom line funding mechanisms, specifically related to issues of scalability and impact in low-income communities.
Craft3, formerly Enterprise Cascadia, is a non-profit community development financial institution with a mission to strengthen economic, ecological and family resilience in Pacific Northwest communities. They achieve this mission by providing loans and assistance to entrepreneurs, non-profits, individuals, and others, including those who don't normally have access to financing.
Elizabeth Thorstensen (Washington DC)
Vice President, Knowledge Management & Economic Development Practice, International Economic Development Council
Elizabeth’s work focuses on the intersection of sustainability and economic development in the U.S., including writing three major reports to educate the economic development profession on this important topic. In her current position, Elizabeth works on a wide variety of economic development technical assistance and research projects and serves as the project manager of IEDC’s Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) Program, a means of recognizing professional excellence in economic development organizations. Elizabeth brings a diverse experience in research, consulting and project management related to sustainable economic development and a passion for social-economic justice to the Mel King Fellows Program.
As a Mel King Fellow, Elizabeth looks forward to learning from peers in new and different ways, and is interested in collaborating to learn how economic development systems can change and adapt as sustainability becomes a more paramount goal for communities.
International Economic Development Council (Washington DC): is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping economic developers do their job more effectively and raising the profile of the profession. It supports its members to create more high-quality jobs, develop more vibrant communities, and generally improve the quality of life in their regions.
Class of 2011
Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II
Reverend Dr. Barber serves as Pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church and Chairperson of the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation. He is also the President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and serves as National Board Member of the NAACP and Board Member of the NC Justice Center.
As President of the NC NAACP, Dr. Barber fought and helped to secure over 200 million new dollars for low wealth and disadvantaged students. He also joined with the Center for Civil Rights filing an amicus brief to the NC Supreme court and the US legislative district and helped to win a minimum wage raise.
As Chairperson of “Rebuilding Broken Places,” Dr. Barber has helped to develop homes for flood victims, first time homebuyers, led the effort to secure a low moderate-income senior citizen’s complex, and the construction of a Community Development Resource Center.
Dr. Barber graduated --cum laude from North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., receiving a B.A. in Political Science. Received a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University-- was a Benjamin Mays Fellow and a Dean scholar. Dr. Barber has a Doctoral degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, with a concentration in Public Policy and Pastoral Care.
Scott Douglas, III, a native of Nashville, TN, attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he co-founded the UT Black Students Union. Residing in Birmingham since 1976, he served as executive director of the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice from 1984-1989. He was southern regional representative of the Partnership for Democracy Foundation from 1989-1992. After a stint as Environmental Justice Grassroots Organizer for the Sierra Club/Southeast, Scott became executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. GBM is an ecumenical, multi-faith, multi-constituency, and multi-racial organization that provides emergency services to families in economic crisis while assisting low-income neighborhoods empower themselves to reclaim their communities on a basis of participatory, transparent, and democratically accountable inclusiveness.
Scott serves as Secretary of the Birmingham Center for Affordable Housing and is a board member of Democracy South, the Alabama Poverty Project, the Progressive Technology Project, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, AIDS Alabama, and Equality Alabama. Scott also serves as a member of the advisory council of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health and the steering committees of the Alabama Organizing Project, the Deep South Leadership Network and the PushBack Network. Scott is an alumnus of Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Alabama and is a founding board member of the Nonprofit Resource Center of Alabama.
An aggressive racial justice advocate with 20 years of civil rights experience, Penda Hair has a stellar record of victories both in and out of court. A leader in the national struggle to protect affirmative action, Hair developed crucial Fair Housing Act amendments, argued major civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won the most extensive redistricting remedy ever imposed in a litigated voting rights suit. She is the author of the Rockefeller Foundation's report on innovative civil rights strategies, Louder Than Words: Lawyers, Communities, and the Struggle for Justice (2001) and former Washington, DC office director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. A 1978 Harvard Law School graduate, Hair also served as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Wilfred Feinberg and former Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. In 1998, The American Lawyer named Hair one of the top public interest attorneys under age 45. Hair is admitted in Washington, D.C.
Derrick Johnson is State President of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. Elected in 2004, he is the youngest State President in the country. He earned his Jurist Doctorate Degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS. He served as a Fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, DC, while working in the office of Congressman Bennie G. Thompson and as a Fellow with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management Minority Fellowship Program. In the aftermath of Katrina, Mr. Johnson served as Vice-Chair of the Governor’s Commission for Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal. Mr. Johnson also serves on the boards of the Mississippi ACLU, Hope Community Credit Union, and on the Advisory Council of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. In February 2008, he was elected to the NAACP National Board of Directors by the Association’s board members. Additionally, Mr. Johnson was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court as a Commissioner to the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission.
A former university professor and transportation research director, Joyce is currently Director of the Jubilee Institute, a community-based leadership development and training entity. Joyce assisted the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro (BCC) in developing the Jubilee Institute to provide institutional support, social and political analysis, training, and leadership development for the broad-based progressive movement in that city. Joyce also serves on the North Carolina NAACP State Executive Board, the Guilford Education Alliance Board, the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, and the Faith Community Church Council.
Reverend Nelson Johnson
Nelson Johnson has been active in the movement for social and economic justice since high school in the late 1950’s. He served as a local and national student leader including Vice President of the SGA at A&T State University, in Greensboro, NC in 1970. Between high school and college Rev. Johnson served four years in the United States Air Force. He continues to work for social and economic justice in Greensboro as Pastor of Faith Community Church and Executive Director of The Beloved Community Center of Greensboro.
Though involved in a myriad of initiatives, Rev. Johnson centers his efforts on facilitating a process of comprehensive community building, which include a convergence of racial and ethnic diversity, social and economic justice, and genuine participatory democracy. At the Beloved Community Center, he and his colleagues attempt to bring together the homeless, the imprisoned, impoverished neighborhoods, and other disenfranchised groups in the spirit of mutual support and community.
Rev. Johnson is a native of Halifax County, NC. He received a baccalaureate degree in political science from North Carolina A&T State University and a Master of Divinity Degree from the School of Theology at Virginia Union University.
Dr. Jacquie Kay
Dr. Jacquie L. Kay, President of WPI, Inc., an international trade and development firm, (www.wupi.com) has for over the past 35 years, spent both her professional and personal life engaged in community economic development, planning and leadership training. She is a strategic planner, – able to provide vision and implementation, analysis and action at all levels of business, government and society. Her work spans workforce and business development to financing sustainability; corporate social responsibility for businesses to policy reform for countries; assisting communities in planning and execution of development projects and building leaders. She has worked directly with community leaders, and as one, has sought to access resources for the community. She has established extraordinary connections in government and business throughout the world, and, advised and organized workshops and seminars on planning and execution in both the private and public sector. She co-founded and was the founding President of the Asian Community Development Corporation and serves on numerous boards, covering finance and business, education, arts and culture, and the environment.
Her academic background includes a doctorate from Harvard University, an M.A. from New York University; and an executive MBA and B.A. from the University of Washington.
Burt Lauderdale is the Executive Director of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. KFTC is a statewide, membership-based social justice organization that uses community organizing and grassroots leadership development to address a wide range of public policy issues. For over 28 years, KFTC members and chapters have organized winning campaigns around natural resources, water protection, fair housing, voting righs, tax policy, mine safety, and more. KFTC’s current campaigns include ending mountaintop removal, new energy policy, rural electric coop reform, comprehensive state tax reform, restoration of voting rights for former felons, and economic transition in Appalachia.
Lauderdale grew up in Alabama and is a graduate of Auburn University. He and is wife Jenny have two teenage sons. He lives and works in rural Laurel County, Kentucky and has worked for KFTC as a chapter organizer, staff coordinator, and executive director. Burt serves or has served on various national network and organization boards or steering committees related to community organizing and progressive change, including the Pushback Network, the Alliance For Appalachia, the Progressive Technology Project, Southern Organizing Cooperative, and the New World Foundation.
Malia's work is focused on exploring the opportunities for deepening democratic practice among youth through the development of an experimental Urban Lab. Specifically she is developing the Urban Lab by exploring effective models to reach urban youth using social media and networks to build communities and create critical citizens. The goal is to understand how this demographic interacts with social media and how social media platforms can be used by social justice organizations to build a network of urban youth that helps to support their meaningful participation in civic conversation and develop agency in shaping their future. America's current president and his stimulus package affords an opportunity to build bridges from the academy to main street and include young people of color in all levels of democratic dialogue. Malia is exploring how technology can allow such efforts to reach a large number of unengaged youth and track their network building and policy outcomes.
Juan Leyton has devoted his career to economic justice and building power in low-income communities. He was an activist in his native Chile, before moving to the Boston area where he worked as a community organizer for eight years at the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council. Juan served as the Executive Director of City Life/Vida Urbana for six years. He expanded City Life from a single-issue organization based in Jamaica Plain to a city-wide organization with a multi-issue focus and multi-ethnic constituency. He most recently served as a program officer for the Solidago Foundation, a national foundation invested in developing a progressive movement through funding strategies. Juan has worked with organizations around the country on issues like worker and immigrant rights, tax reform, corporate accountability and gentrification.
Penn Loh is Professor of the 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 since 1999, at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), a Roxbury-based environmental justice group. 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. 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 has published broadly on environmental and social justice issues. He has served on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council's Health and Research Subcommittee, the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, and on the boards of the Environmental Support Center, the Environmental Leadership Program, and Community Labor United. He is currently a board member of the New World Foundation and the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board.