Members of the first cohort of the Community Activists Fellowship are:

From Indianapolis:

Eugenia Murry - Eugenia will focus her fellowship on supporting an advocacy organization she launched called Urban Resource and Outreach Connections (UROC) where she partners with schools, community centers, and other organizations to increase parent to school connections and decrease barriers to parent involvement in schools. “Oftentimes poverty & education deficiencies go hand-and-hand & considerable education reform & awareness is needed in Indiana where 42 of 64 schools in Indianapolis Public School District (Indiana’s largest) are D/F graded. All children deserve access to a quality education & currently that is not an option for the majority of IPS students in their district. This is unacceptable. Bring awareness to the cycle of poverty & its intergenerational spread is of great significance to me.”

Nathlie Harris

Nathlie believes in parental accountability, engagement, and empowerment in their children’s education. Therefore, she will be creating a resident-involved community survey focused on the level of parental involvement in their children’s education while attending trainings to become a better advocate herself. She will also conduct parent trainings on how to best engage with schools and other parents. “Unfortunately, intergenerational poverty in my neighborhood, and target low income neighborhoods, has a huge impact on us when we become adults. Right now, there are young single parents, some who have multiple children, struggling to make ends meet. It’s hard for them to focus on ensuring their children are receiving good educations, but that doesn’t mean we count them out. It means we have to try a little harder to reach and teach them. That’s what I’m here to do.”

Tatjana Rebelle

Tatjana understood the power of advocacy when she started a grassroots group called I AM BROAD RIPPLE in response to a neighborhood shooting. She hosted community events to engage members of the neighborhood. Tatjana plans on creating weekly workshops with youth focused on using various art mediums including written, verbal, and dance, as forms of activism. There will be a monthly showcase highlighting the work of the students. “My program will allow us to centralize the voices of young people and give them the platform to speak about issues that are affecting them the most. I find too often people work on finding solutions to problems that they are no longer personally affected by. I believe the youth are the ones most affected by most of today’s issues and we should be listening to them.”

Ashley Virden

Ashley understands the power of storytelling in advocacy. She will use her fellowship to focus on increasing her personal capacity as a community activist through attending trainings and workshops. Ashley will also use this opportunity to create a community website and vlog (video blog) as mechanisms to inform and engage community members around the most pertinent issues for them. “I am a single mother of three children making every sacrifice that I can to ensure my children won’t have to continue to live in poverty their entire lives and they will not have to struggle like I have when they become adults and have children of their own. Intergenerational poverty, education, and challenging the systems that are supposed to serve us is very real to me. I am dedicated to finding resources to bring to my community to make it better. I want to show my neighbors that we too deserve a chance to attain the American Dream just as much as anyone else.”

Angela Moss

Angela’s focus is to organize parents in schools within her district by hosting parent cafes, family sessions, and community meetings. As a parent advocate, Angela understands the value of trainings for parents and how much they can help families navigate the often pitfalls of systems designed to keep communities marginalized. “Many of the parents in my community are very young and still require a significant amount of parenting themselves. More than 95% of the children who attend my neighborhood school are eligible for free and reduced meals. Parents find it challenging to provide the most basic school uniform. However, despite it all, parents continue to press the school board and city officials for quality schools and a curriculum that is challenging and will allow their children to compete on a global stage. That’s activism and that’s what I’m here to promote, inform, and uplift through my fellowship.”

From Los Angeles:

Marina Perez

Marina will use her fellowship to focus on utilizing digital storytelling as a tool of resistance, community empowerment, and radical healing while addressing factors of community, gender and youth violence. She will create digital illustrations to build awareness around social justice issues including developing a free bi-monthly digital zine series promoting self-love/care and healing. “As a formerly incarcerated teen, I understand the challenges young people face in re-entering school and community. I have experienced juvenile hall, house arrest and youth probation; and I was further institutionalized without being provided adequate wellness services. The schools in my community, alongside social institutions have developed policing practices that reinforce disciplinary actions. I envision education and welfare reform as a radical act of community love and justice that prioritizes the needs of our young people.”   

Ashley Hansack

Ashley’s focus is environmental justice. She will utilize her fellowship working on the collective ownership of land for communities of color. Ashley plans to launch a community-led land trust in Watts, CA to formalize the community’s connection to the land as stewards. “Becoming as self sufficient as possible is a goal I strive to achieve in my life and in the work I do. When we are dependent on systems to survive, we become subjugated to following rules that may oppress us or move us to comply. Young mothers are encouraged to keep having babies to continue receiving government aid, families on Section 8 are subjected to invasive unit inspections, young children are funneled from classrooms into jails--the list goes on. Embracing education and ensuring that public goods are allocated to the people and those most in need is critical to our freedom as working-class folks and a healthy community.”

Ashleigh Carter

Asheigh is focused on youth development, specifically focused on young women who may be at risk for entering the juvenile justice system. She will utilize her fellowship to host a summit for young people focused on these issues and more. “I applied for this fellowship because I have heard many people say that the system is broken and I disagree. I believe that the system is operating exactly as it was intended to - to keep people unhealthy, uneducated, depressed and oppressed. I strongly believe that we cannot look to this same system for the solution. It is up to those of us that are aware to dismantle these systems and erect our own - for the people, by the people.”

Fevi Sanchez

Fevi will focus on affordable housing for residents in her community by becoming an advocate for an increase in public funding sources so developers will have to build homes at deeper levels of affordability. “I have learned through my own experiences and challenges with finding a place to live for my family, that there is an extreme shortage of affordable housing in Los Angeles. That has to change. I believe, we can rise up as a community and demand developers respect our situations enough that they make more strategic and responsible decisions about building homes that we can all afford.”

Selena Lopez

Selena wants to use her fellowship to continue to advocate for housing policies that reflect the needs of low-income residents. She also wants to continue to invest in a group whose purpose is to build community power by creating a safe space where residents can discuss issues associated with housing insecurities, as well as other issues faced by disenfranchised groups. “Many of the people in my community who are struggling with housing insecurity and homelessness are women with children. The welfare system continues to keep many of these women and their children in poverty due to the low amount of cash aid each of these women receive. A woman earning minimum wage will have to pay over 50% of their income for rent. My goal is to help these women become advocates for themselves and others like them. I know this fellowship will help me do exactly that.

Keshara Shaw

Keshara currently works at the local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Center where she works directly with families in public assistance and social services programs. It is through this work that Keshara has been able to devise a plan to help families towards self-sufficiency. She ultimately wants to create a nonprofit to specifically help families who need assistance. “Having once been homeless, I know what these families need and I want to be able to bring awareness and advocacy around this issue. I want to be able to bridge the gap between service providers and families and ensure that policy isn't the reason families fall through the cracks.”

Kenia Torres-Alcocer

Kenia currently chairs the Political Education and Organizing Working Group of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She is also an organizer around immigration who helps tenants learn how to self advocate for their rights, fight against gentrification, and displacement in their community by helping to inform the community about what they can do to help pass legislation that reflects the needs of the community. “Through my current organizing work, we are planning `Poverty Tours’ across California as well as teach-ins on the history of the first Poor People’s Campaign and the parallels to today’s movement. My community has been targeted by Border Patrol and ICE. Eight community members have been detained and three deported. Part of the work that I want to do with my fellowship is create a Rapid Response network where we can inform and support our community members when we are attacked by ICE.”

Estafani Alarcon

Estafani started Dear Southside, a newspaper that brings awareness to the true stories of the community where she lives. “I was tired of people always getting our stories wrong. I was tired of people who did not look like us having the jobs of telling our stories, our truths. We needed an outlet where we could speak for ourselves. That’s what this newspaper is.” Estafani will utilize her fellowship to invest more in herself and Dear Southside so she can continue to tell the stories of the harsh realities of life for those in her community. “As an immigrant and a first generation college graduate, it is my duty to ensure that we have a voice.”

Tonga Fakalata

Tonga’s focus of her fellowship will be to increase her own activism through brand storytelling and communications specifically within the Pacific Islander Community in Los Angeles. “Creating pathways to college that extends into professional careers has been my focus of service to my community within the past four years. The educational disparities that Pacific Islander students face, starting from early childhood education and into college, are rooted in the high rates of poverty, unemployment and the overwhelming experience of being first-generation immigrants in a country whose rhetoric is oftentimes anti-immigrant and anti-poverty. This fellowship will help me fight those injustices and teach others how to do the same through telling their own stories.”