Learning Networks

Forum on Race and Democracy

Who We Are


Pablo Alvarado
National Coordinator, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) - Los Angeles, CA

As coordinator of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Alvarado knows firsthand the trials of those he helps. Forced to flee his native El Savador, he joined other refugees looking for odd jobs at low pay on street corners in L.A. Encouraging his coworkers to stand up for their rights, he’s credited with leading the campaign to overturn anti-day laborer ordinances around the country. At 16, Alvarado had used his communications skills to serve as a lay preacher. His teachings contained elements of Liberation Theology, applying the gospels to current socio-economic and political struggles. He earned a high-school teaching credential in 1989 from Universidad de El Salvador, but “just as many immigrants have done, I fled my country because of political and economic reasons.” Working as an undocumented immigrant in the United States, he toiled as a gardener, factory assembly line worker, driver and painter, and experienced the pain of isolation and discrimination.

Alvarado volunteered from 1991 to 1995 as program coordinator for the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), where he developed and implemented literacy programs for immigrants. Pablo is one of the only two founding member of IDEPSCA who remain in the organization. He also published a community newsletter, and began organizing day laborers in Pasadena. As a result of this work, a day-labor worker center eventually was established. From 1995 to 2002, he was lead coordinator for the Day Labor Project for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. He managed three hiring sites, where he helped create educational, recreational and cultural programs for workers and neighborhood residents.

In 2002, Alvarado became the national coordinator of the newly created National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), currently a collaboration of about three dozen community-based day laborer organizations. "Most of the issues immigrants face are not just local issues," Alvarado says. "They require broad-based strategizing and organizing. With NDLON, when day laborers are attacked, they are no longer on their own; there is a national community supporting them." Under his guidance, NDLON works with local governments to help establish worker centers to move job seekers into places of safety. There, they learn how to handle exploitation, improve skills and gain access to essential services. NDLON's strengthens and expands local worker groups, and builds immigrant leadership, by acting as a central resource for information. Regular telephone conferences and personal visits keep leaders informed.


Joe Alvarez

Joe Alvarez
Alvarez Porter Group

Joe Alvarez is a leadership and organization development consultant. Joe has over 30 years experience in the fields of labor relations, human resources, leadership development, strategic management, group facilitation, conflict management, managing diversity, and changing and developing organizational systems and structures.

Joe’s consulting practice is focused on helping union leaders build unions that are visionary, strategic and oriented towards dramatic growth; well led and well run; with competent and inspired staff who work together effectively; and with structures and systems that are aligned with their strategy and vision.

Prior to launching his private consulting practice, Joe served as the AFL-CIO’s Northeast Region Director and was responsible for implementing the AFL-CIO’s programs in a twelve state region (from Maine to West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico). In 2005, Joe designed and implemented a national program for the AFL-CIO to reorganize state and local councils.

Joe’s labor movement experience includes organizing, political campaigning, collective bargaining, and membership education and mobilization. He began his career in the labor movement with the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union (ACTWU – now UNITE-HERE) where he held a variety of elected and staff leadership positions. From 1993 to 1996 he served as the national Political Director for ACTWU and then UNITE.

In 2000, Joe helped to found the NY State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute. As an adjunct faculty member at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, he teaches leadership and management courses.

Joe holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Duke University and a Masters of Organization Development degree from American University and the National Labor College.


Angela Glover Blackwell

Angela Glover Blackwell
Founder and CEO, PolicyLink

Angela Glover Blackwell is founder and chief executive officer of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute that works collaboratively to develop and implement local, state, and federal policies to achieve economic and social equity. By Lifting Up What Works—using research to understand and demonstrate the possibilities for positive change—PolicyLink presents new and innovative solutions to old problems.

Since its inception, in January of 1999, PolicyLink has partnered with a cross-section of stakeholders to ensure that questions of equity receive the highest priority in addressing major policy issues, including: urban sprawl and smart growth, reinvestment in low-income communities, bridging the digital divide, eliminating racial health disparities, and developing leaders for policy change. PolicyLink is a leading advocate of equitable development, a comprehensive approach which includes the fair distribution of affordable housing throughout regions and equitable public investment. PolicyLink is also working to promote equitable rebuilding in Louisiana, and bring the voices of local and displaced residents into the post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction planning process.

Blackwell is a co-author of Searching for the Uncommon Common Ground: New Dimensions on Race in America (W.W. Norton, 2002). Written with Manuel Pastor and Stewart Kwoh, the book demonstrates the existence of continuing racial inequity and explores new policy framings to address the challenges that lie ahead. She also collaborated with Tavis Smiley to develop The Covenant with Black America—a New York Times best-selling book of community and policy strategies for economic and social empowerment—and the follow-up Covenant in Action. She is a frequent guest in the media and her appearances include ABC’s Nightline, NOW with Bill Moyers, and National Public Radio. She has been published in the opinion pages of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle; and has lectured widely on concentrated poverty and equitable development, appearing before audiences at the Chautauqua Institution and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Blackwell founded PolicyLink after serving as senior vice president for The Rockefeller Foundation for three-and-a-half years. She directed the Foundation’s domestic and cultural divisions and developed the Next Generation Leadership and Building Democracy programs, centered on issues of inclusion, race, and policy. In 1987 she founded the Urban Strategies Council in Oakland, California, and received national recognition for pioneering a community building approach to social change through in-depth understanding of local conditions, community-driven systems reform, and an insistence on accountability. For a decade, beginning in 1977, Blackwell served as a partner with Public Advocates, a nationally known public interest law firm representing the underrepresented. She successfully litigated class action suits and developed innovative non-litigation strategies in the areas of employment, education, health, and consumer affairs.

Blackwell earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She co-chairs a task force on poverty for Hope, Opportunity, and Mobility for Everyone (HOME): The National Initiative to End Poverty, a project of the Center for American Progress. She currently sits on the boards of the Children’s Defense Fund, Advancement Project, and the Corporation for Enterprise Development. In addition, Blackwell was one of the founders of the National Community Building Network.


Jose Zapata Calderon

Jose Zapata Calderon
Professor in Sociology and Chicano Studies at Pitzer College

In 2004-2006, Jose Zapata Calderon was the inaugural holder of the Michi and Walter Weglyn Chair in Multicultural Studies at Cal Poly University, Pomona. He received his B. A. from the University of Colorado in Communications and his MA and PhD from the University of California Los Angeles. He has had a long history of connecting his academic work with community organizing, student-based service learning, participatory action research, critical pedagogy, and multi-ethnic coalition building. He is the 2004 recipient of the Richard E. Cone Award for Excellence and Leadership in Cultivating Community Partnerships in Higher Education, presented by the California Campus Compact (CACC) to individuals who demonstrate building partnerships between communities and higher education. The United Farm Worker’s Union has honored him with their “Si Se Puede” award for his life-long contributions to the farm worker movement. As a participant ethnographer, he has published numerous articles and studies based on his community experiences and observations. Recent publications include: “Linking Critical Democratic Pedagogy, Multiculturalism, and Service Learning to a Project-Based Approach" in a book edited by the article author (Jose Calderon): Race, Poverty, and Social Justice: Multicdisciplinary Perspectives Through Service Learning, Stylus Publishing, 2007; Organizing Immigrant Workers: Action Research and Strategies in the Pomona Day Labor Center" (with Suzanne Foster and Silvia Rodriguez), in Latino Los Angeles, (edited by Enrique C. Ochoa and Gilda Laura Ochoa), 2006; Lessons From an Activist Intellectual: Participatory Research, Teaching, and Learning For Social Change," in Latin American Perspectives, January, 2004; “Partnership in Teaching and Learning: Combining the Practice of Critical Pedagogy With Civic Engagement and Diversity,” in Peer Review, American Association of Colleges and Universities, Spring 2003; and “Inclusion or Exclusion: One Immigrant’s Experience and Perspective of a Multicultural Society,” in Minority Voices, edited by John Meyers, Allyn and Bacon, 2004; "


Dayna L. Cunningham

Dayna Cunningham
Executive Director

Dayna has over 20 years of experience working in democratic engagement and social justice as an attorney, in philanthropy and in development. Dayna worked as a voting rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, litigating cases in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere in the South.

As an Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, she funded initiatives that examined the relationship between democracy and race, changing racial dynamics and new conceptions of race in the U.S., as well as innovation in civil rights legal work. She also worked as an officer for the New York City Program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. While associated with Public Interest Projects, a non-profit project management and philanthropic consulting firm based in New York City, she managed foundation collaboratives on social justice issues.

Most recently, Dayna directed the ELIAS Project, an MIT-based collaboration between business, NGOs and government that seeks to use processes of profound innovation to advance economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Dayna holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a juris doctor degree from New York University School of Law. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and Radcliff Colleges.


Douglas Foy

Douglas Foy
Founder and President of Serrafix

Douglas Foy is a founder and President of Serrafix, a strategic consulting firm focused on energy, transportation, and climate change. Prior to launching Serrafix in 2006, Mr. Foy served as the first Secretary of Commonwealth Development in the administration of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. In leading this “super-Secretariat”, Mr. Foy oversaw the agencies of Transportation, Housing, Environment, and Energy, with combined annual capital budgets of $5 billion, operating budgets of $500 million, and a total workforce of more than 11,000. Before his service in the Romney administration, Mr. Foy served for 25 years as the President of the Conservation Law Foundation, New England’s premier environmental advocacy organization, with offices in all six New England states.

Among other awards, Mr. Foy has received: the President’s Environmental and Conservation Challenge Award, the country’s highest conservation award; the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson Center, the national memorial to President Wilson; and the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from the Queen of England. Mr. Foy, a member of the 1968 USA Olympic Rowing Team and the 1969 USA National Rowing Team, graduated from Princeton University as a University Scholar in engineering and physics, attended Cambridge University in England as a Churchill Scholar in geophysics, and graduated from Harvard Law School.


Penda D. Hair

Penda D. Hair
Founder and Co-Director, Advancement Project

Penda D. Hair attended Harvard Law School, where she served as Supreme Court Note Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Subsequent to graduation, Hair clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. Immediately following her clerkship, she joined the faculty at Columbia University Law School; teaching in the areas of civil rights, women’s rights, and federal taxation. In 1982, Hair joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and served its New York and Washington, D.C. offices. In 1999, Hair founded and became Co-Director of the Advancement Project, a policy and legal action group that creates new strategies for achieving universal opportunity and a racially just democracy.

Throughout her career, Hair has concentrated her professional skills on civil rights issues. She has litigated cases in the areas of voting rights, employment discrimination, affirmative action and fair housing at all federal judicial levels, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Concurrently, she has been a vigorous public advocate of constructive civil rights policies in both legislative and administrative proceedings. Hair appears frequently on radio and television news programs, regularly makes print contributions to both the legal and popular press and is a trusted advisor to groups undertaking major civil rights initiatives. She has educated law students at Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown. In addition to co-founding the Advancement Project, she was instrumental in the establishment of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard and has been consulted by both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations for guidance in their democracy and justice program development. She is the author of Louder Than Words: Lawyers, Communities and the Struggle for Justice (2001), a Rockefeller Foundation report on innovative civil rights advocacy.

Developed in more than twenty years experience pursuing a just democracy in the courts and beyond, Hair’s vision now informs the innovative strategies of the Advancement Project. With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Advancement Project supports, and strengthens, the work of community organizations and lawyers engaged in projects to advance racial and social justice, and to broaden democratic participation. Advancement Project currently focuses on three areas: 1) opportunity to learn, 2) police accountability, and 3) power and democracy.


Gerald Hudson

Gerald Hudson
International Executive Vice President, Service Employees’ International Union

As one of the nation's leading labor leaders for the past 15 years, Gerald "Gerry" Hudson has had a wide-ranging impact on the fight to improve the lives of working families.

Since June 2004, he has served as Executive Vice President of SEIU. He leads the work of the union's Long Term Care Division, which represents nearly 500,000 nursing home and home care workers nationwide. Through new strategies, alliances, and campaigns, SEIU long term care workers are building a powerful workplace and political voice for themselves and for the elderly and disabled consumers they serve.

Hudson also is helping lead SEIU's efforts to win quality, affordable health care for all, immigration reform, and other major initiatives by strengthening the union's partnerships and alliances with community groups.

Hudson was working at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, N.Y., when he joined SEIU Local 144 in 1978. He went to work at then-District 1199 in 1986 as the union's education director; he was elected to the local's executive vice president position three years later. For more than a dozen years, he's supervised 1199 New York's political action, education, publications, and cultural affairs departments.

During his tenure with 1199NY, 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 Michaelson Education Fund.

Hudson also has had an extensive career in politics. He not only led the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson in New York and the successful New York City mayoral campaign of David Dinkins, he also served as deputy director of the Mario Cuomo for Governor campaign in 1994. While Cuomo himself was not re-elected governor, Gerry's leadership was instrumental in electing H. Carl McCall, the first African American controller in New York State. In 1996, Hudson served as political director of the New York state Democratic Party.

Hudson lives with his wife, Carol Joyner, and their two children, Camara and Amilcar, in Washington, DC.


Stewart Kwoh, ED

Stewart Kwoh, Esq.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles

Stewart Kwoh is the founding President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. Under Kwoh's leadership, Advancing Justice - LA has become the largest and most diverse legal assistance and civil rights organization targeting Asian Pacific American in the United States. He is also Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), which was co-founded by Advancing Justice - LA in 1991. AAJC is the country's first national pan Asian civil rights organization.

Stewart Kwoh earned his Bachelor of Arts at UCLA and his Juris Doctorate degree from the UCLA Law School. He was a grader for the California State Bar Exam and has been President of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association. He is also an instructor at UCLA for “Asian Americans and the Law”.

With Stewart’s leadership the Advancing Justice - LA has become the largest Asian American legal services and civil rights organization in the U.S. Advancing Justice - LA provides services for over 15,000 individuals per year including those who seek to become U.S. citizens and who seek relief from domestic violence or cutoffs from government benefits. APALC has represented victims of hate violence and exploitation from sweatshops including workers who were enslaved in El Monte, California. Advancing Justice - LA has pioneered the development of programs, coalitions and projects that build bridges with other racial groups. One of its programs, Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations, has been featured several times in the L.A. Times and other media outlets. Advancing Justice - LA has over 40 talented staff, 700 volunteers, and a dedicated board of directors and advisors. In 1999-2000, Advancing Justice - LA led a statewide coalition to focus on census outreach. And in 2001, Advancing Justice - LA led a similar statewide effort with the Coalition of Asian Pacificcans have proposed a statewide redistricting plan



Bill Lynch
Bill Lynch & Associates

Bill Lynch is President of Bill Lynch Associates, LLC, a political consulting firm. He is also a two-time mayoral campaign manager and was previously Deputy Mayor of New York City. As a former Vice Chair to the Democratic National Committee and a former Vice President for MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., Lynch has a track record of more than 30 years experience in local and national politics, government operation and public policy. In the international arena, he traveled to South Africa to participate in the first free election in South Africa, in the capacity of a key adviser to Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress.

J. Phillip Thompson, III

J. Phillip Thompson, III
Associate Professor of Urban Planning, MIT

Phil Thompson is an urban planner and political scientist. He received a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University in 1977, a M.U.P. from Hunter College in 1986, and a PhD. in Political Science from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1990. Phil worked as Deputy General Manager of the New York Housing Authority, and as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Coordination. Phil is a frequent advisor to trade unions in their efforts to work with immigrant and community groups across the United States. Phil’s most recent academic work includes a 2004 review of public health interventions in poor black communities (written with Arline Geronimus) published in the Du Bois Review entitled “To Denigrate, Ignore, or Disrupt: The Health Impact of Policy-induced Breakdown of Urban African American Communities of Support,” an article entitled “Judging Mayors” in the June, 2005 issue of Perspectives on Politics, and a recent book called Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities and the Struggle for Deep Democracy published in 2006 by Oxford University Press. Since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, Phil has worked with the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and with local community groups to create affordable housing and workforce development initiatives to help rebuild the city of New Orleans. He is also coordinating MIT sponsored projects in New Orleans including work on economic development, planning, and the design of an urban information system to help guide recovery efforts.


Kent Wong

Kent Wong
Director of the Center for Labor Research and Education at University fo California at Los Angeles

Kent Wong is Director of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UCLA, where he teaches Labor Studies and Asian American Studies. The UCLA Labor Center has been engaged in research, education, and policy to support labor and social change in Los Angeles.

Kent previously was staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union, representing Los Angeles County workers. He was also the first staff attorney for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California.

Kent served as the Founding President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, the first national organization of Asian union members and workers. He has also served as the President of the United Association for Labor Education, and the University and College Labor Education Association, national organizations of union and university labor educators. He is currently a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

Kent has published numerous books on labor unions, organizing, immigrant workers, and popular education. His most recent publications include: Underground Undergrads, UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out, Miguel Contreras: Legacy of a Labor Leader, and Organizing on Separate Shores: Vietnamese and Vietnamese American Union Organizers.

In Memoriam: Marilyn Gittell

As Director of the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center CUNY Graduate Center, Marilyn was a founding member of the Forum on Race and Democracy. Under her leadership, HSC’s mission was to advance and promote democracy by focusing on those areas of research and public policy that increase access and participation to the political process, and foster equity and quality of services for marginalized groups. Marilyn dedicated her life to training researchers and scholars, and in an effort to promote diversity in the social sciences, she focused on seeking out talented women and minority scholars interested in urban policy. She provided graduate students the opportunity to get hands-on experience doing original research in the field as well as writing and publishing reports and journal articles while supporting their attainment of a post graduate degree.

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