2015 Human Rights Institute Participants
Aleta Alston-Toure' is a homeschooling mother of two that bears witness as a vessel for social change through community organizing and activism. Her energies through the strategic movement building grassroots business New Jim Crow Movement empowers communities of color, especially mothers of color and their children. Free Marissa Now (FMN) is one of their major projects through her local Jacksonville organizing work since Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Marissa Alexander and Jacksonville 19. She uses the methodology of popular education and liberation education in community development through the arts.
Through her visionary leadership she has come up with the slogan "I am Troy Davis!" which is one of the most movement mobilizing initiatives nationwide. She is a organizer in Jacksonville for Black Lives Matter through Ferguson Actions. She worked on six Blackside Documentary Films including Eyes On The Prize (WGBH/PBS-TV.) She was also a Ford Fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Community Fellows Program.
Lenka Belkova is a Policy Associate at Women’s Intercultural Network, a non-governmental organization in a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She received her BA in Sociology and Master’s in Humanities from San Francisco State University and her second Master’s in International Cultural Policy from University of Warwick, UK. After studies and prepared to work in the civic sector, she gained her first experience in community organizing while interning at San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, a non-profit public policy think tank. There she assisted Transportation Policy Director with community outreach and policy advocacy for improved public transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. As a long time resident of San Francisco, Lenka’s meaningful community engagement continued with her involvement in a neighborhood economic revitalization initiative. She dedicated her time and enthusiasm to support a public arts programing in one of local underserved neighborhoods. With the same verve, Lenka keeps working toward the realization of gender equality and justice in our communities using human rights tools in policy development. Lenka regularly writes and publishes in varied magazines and newspapers in Czech as well as in English on topics including grassroots arts and civic engagement, arts and social change, and gender justice. She was born in the Czech Republic and lives in the USA since 2000.
Natalie A. Collier
Natalie A. Collier is the director of youth initiatives for the Children's Defense Fund - Southern Regional Office and the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Social and Economic Justice., where she is responsible for all the office’s youth activities and programs. She is dedicated to seeing young people learn life lessons quicker than she did, as she looks to help them recognize their strengths and lead with them while growing from their weaknesses.
Before working in the world of non-profits, Collier made her living for several years as a writer, editor and stylist. When she chose to leave that world, it was a shift in focus but not passion. She wanted to spend less time reporting about people who were making a difference and join them.
Rather professionally or personally, her true fervor is always obvious: serving people. She is a Millsaps College alumna, has studied at Reformed Theological Seminary and Poynter University, and has had fellowships at Northwestern University and with the National Juvenile Justice Network, among other board appointments and guest lectureships.
Amanda Lucía Garcés
Amanda Lucía Garcés began working in organizing and immigrant rights in New Jersey, where she lived for more than a decade after immigrating from Colombia, and where she organized day laborers to fight anti-immigrant initiatives and wage theft.
Prior to becoming a mother and consultant in Tucson, Arizona, Amanda worked as the campaign coordinator for Enlace's Prison Divestment Campaign and spent six years with the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA) in Los Angeles as an organizer and administrator. At IDEPSCA, Amanda co-founded the Mobile Voices Project, or VozMob, a digital storytelling platform by and for immigrant and low-wage workers to create and disseminate stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones. Mobile Voices was recipient of the 2010 World Summit Award Mobile Content in the category M-Inclusion and Empowerment.
Brittany Gray is a 29 year old scholar activist. While completing her Doctorate of Political Science, she still finds time to continue to fight for social justice. Brittany currently works on issues such as labor, politics, race, education, economic justice, criminal justice, mass incarceration, hunger, and poverty along with anything that aligns itself within the scope of human rights. Brittany is a Regional Organizer for Bread for the World, servicing Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. She does not hesitate to offer her skill set to the community in which she lives as is evident in her committed community involvement. Participating in various organizations and programs, working full-time and focusing on studies has always intensified her attitude towards hard work and desire for excellence.
Upon moving to Jackson, MS and becoming a member of Cooperation Jackson, Brittany has done advocacy work in Georgia, New York, Ohio, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee; along with missionary work in Haiti and Morocco. After moving to Jackson, Brittany has hit the ground running. She is heavily involved with the Human Rights Institute of the City of Jackson, Moral MS Movement, and AFSC in which she recently returned from a Global Peace Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa. Brittany has served on the executive committee of Atlanta’s Jobs with Justice, is a member of Atlanta’s Women’s 9 to 5, and the organizing committee of Moral Monday Georgia to name a few.
Brittany advocates for people of all races, genders, ethnicities, and social classes through research and practice. Brittany’s mission to draw on continuing spiritual insights, and working with people of many backgrounds, as they nurture into seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems strongly correlates with her personal values.
Born and raised in Corona Queens, New York, Cory Greene is a scholar-activist with a passion for both theory and practice. Cory Greene is Community Relations/Training Manager with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS), an independent research, training and advocacy Human Justice think tank, formerly at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York, founded and developed by academic professionals with prior experience within the criminal punishment system. It is the first of its kind in the country.
Cory served seven years in prison, from age 21-28. During that time he was part of a collective who shared and examined their collective experiences as youth in inner city communities in an effort to better understand those experiences and to develop a viable theory of social change based upon them. The work of the collective culminated in “How Our Lives Linked Altogether” (H.O.L.L.A!), a youth leadership and development program for urban youth in NYC. Cory serves as the Director of H.O.L.L.A!.
Cory has earned his Associate degree in Liberal Arts Deaf Studies from LaGuardia Community College, Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Psychology from New York University and currently is a second year doctoral candidate in Critical Social Personality Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Cory currently serves as research associate on numerous participatory action research (PAR) projects with Michelle Fine and the Public Science Project at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
Michael is an “accidental” human rights practitioner in the sense that he did not set out on a career focused on human rights. Michael considers himself a student of human rights, equity and justice issues—not an expert and recognizes his privilege and the opportunities it has provided him. He knows he can never truly understand the experience of all those in community he serves but believes he can be an effective ally in their struggle.
A number of key experiences have fostered an interest in supporting marginalized people and working towards a more just world. Growing up in the south, Michael became well versed in racist attitudes, some of which were reflected in his own family. He volunteered in some of the poorest communities in north Florida where living conditions and infant mortality rivaled those in the “developing” world. He worked in coastal fishing communities alongside fisherman in a dying industry with few economic alternatives. These experiences put a face on poverty and impacted him profoundly.
Sumbal Mahmud is a member of The Collation on Racial and Ethnic Justice (COREJ), a Presidential committee of the American Bar Association (ABA). Previous to that, she was a liaison to The Council for Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline -- also a committee of the ABA. Ms. Mahmud was Vice President of Membership of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) from 2010-2012. Prior to holding this position, she was NAPABA’s Central Regional Governor. In total she has served on the NAPABA Board of Directors for five years. Ms. Mahmud began her involvement with NAPABA on the local affiliate level. She was a law student member of NAPABA-Minnesota, served for five years on the Board of NAPABA-MN, and eventually led the organization as President. Ms. Mahmud has made over 2,000 public appearances on issues relating to Muslim-Americans. She is a CLE presenter on Islamic law and has been spokesperson for the rights of Muslims in America post-9/11. Ms. Mahmud has taught as an adjunct visiting professor of law in The Netherlands and in Pakistan. Ms. Mahmud has worked as Associate Corporate Council of Best Buy, Inc.; as the Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago; as a staff member at the Minnesota Senate; and as an Associate at the law firm of Heins, Mills and Olsen. She is fluent in English and conversational in Urdu and Punjabi. She lives in San Diego, CA, and is co-owner of Talent Portal LLC.
Adofo Minka is an attorney, human rights activist, and a founding member of Cooperation Jackson, an emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and other democratically owned interprised based in Jackson, MS. He is one of the lead organizers of Cooperation Jackson's Human Rights Institute, a coalition of allied organizations in Jackson that are pushing to have the city of Jackson establish a Human Rights Charter and Commission to recognize, respect, and protect the human rights of the residents of Jackson. Minka is also a criminal defense attorney in Mississippi with a practice based in Jackson the represents indigent defendants charged with various crimes. He is a native of St. Louis, MO where he graduated law school from Saint Louis University.
Chris Nunes grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2005. His family is from Goa, India, a Portuguese colony, but his parents both grew up in different parts of Africa. This provided a diverse cultural background and upbringing, and also resulted in social obstacles in the still segregated school system in the South. When Chris moved to Oregon, he learned the racial dynamics are different here due to the state’s history with Exclusion laws. Chris is a driven professional managing the Loan Center at Oregon Community Credit Union, but he also holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Film from Georgia State University, and is still very passionate about the representation of minority and female characters in mainstream film and media. Chris is the loving father of two daughters and currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Eugene Human Rights Commission, an advisory body to the Eugene City Council which also sponsors various community events focused on diversity and social justice. As Vice Chair of the HRC, Chris meets quarterly with the Mayor and City Manager to ensure City policies and decisions are in alignment with a self-proclaimed Human Rights City.
Laura J. Ramírez
Laura J. Ramírez is a Educational Policy Studies Doctoral Candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-founder of Justice in Ayotzinapa Chicago Committee. She has been involved in the fight to preserve public education in Chicago since 2004, including the 2011 43 day sit-in to save the Whittier Fieldhouse, known as “La Casita”. She has also taught in several high schools in Chicago as well as taught critical education courses at universities in the Chicagoland area. Additionally, she participated in Chicago’s city council ordinance ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2009. She has also organized urban youth of color around issues of human rights in schools. Currently her work focuses on documenting human rights abuses in Mexico by working directly with people, particularly women and students who are directly affected by state violence and repression. Her ultimate goal is to create a transnational solidarity movement for peace and people-driven justice in the United States and in Mexico by forging supportive and transformative collaborations.
Gina Bennett Womack
Gina Womack is the director and co-founder of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), a statewide membership-based organization dedicated to creating a better life for all of Louisiana's youth, especially those who are involved, or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. Ms. Womack worked with allies and parents to close the country’s most notorious youth prison the “Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth” and ushered in juvenile justice reform in Louisiana. Since then FFLIC has worked to pass additional legislation and reforms that enhances the lives of children in Louisiana and we continue to fight for justice for all children and derail the school to prison pipeline.
Ms. Womack has worked on children issues for over 25 years in Louisiana and her efforts have been featured in both national and local print media, radio, and reports. She has appeared on many panels speaking on issues around Juvenile Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, and the need for real Family and Community Involvement.
Radhika Balakrishnan, Faculty Director, Center for Women's Global Leadership, and Professor, Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, has a Ph.D. in Economics from Rutgers University. Previously, she was Professor of Economics and International Studies at Marymount Manhattan College. She has worked at the Ford Foundation as a program officer in the Asia Regional Program. She is currently on the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights and was the Chair of the Board of the US Human Rights Network from 2008 to 2012. She is the co-editor with Diane Elson of Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Account (Zed Books, 2011). She is the author of Why MES with Human Rights: Integrating Macro Economic Strategies with Human Rights (Marymount Manhattan College, 2005). She edited The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy (Kumarian Press, 2001), co-edited Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World's Religions, with Patricia Jung and Mary Hunt (Rutgers University Press, 2000), and also authored numerous articles that have appeared in books and journals. Professor Balakrishnan's work focuses on gender and development, gender and the global economy, human rights and economic and social rights. Her research and advocacy work has sought to change the lens through which macroeconomic policy is interpreted and critiqued by applying international human rights norms to assess macroeconomic policy.
Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele is the Senior Community Organizer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He is a community organizer and educator from Central Brooklyn. From 1994 – 1998 Lumumba served as programming coordinator at the Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCC). During his tenure at CCC, he also co-found Azabache, an organizers training conference and workshop series for young activists. All the while as a Black Studies Major at City College of NY/CUNY, he went on to receive his Masters in Human Service from Lincoln University in 1998. As a member and organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Mr. Akinwole-Bandele helped establish its campaign to counter police abuse and misconduct. He also co-founded the world renowned Black August Hip Hop Project. Black August raises awareness and support for political prisoners in the United States. From 2002 to 2007 Lumumba served as a counselor and lecturer at Medgar Evers College/CUNY. Lumumba currently serves as an adjunct lecturer teaching Community Organizing at Lehman College/CUNY.
Krishanti Dharmaraj is the Founder of Dignity Index, a human rights measurement tool utilized to ensure equity and inclusion to reduce discrimination and violence. She is also the lead staff for the International Action Network for Gender Equity and Law. Previously, Krishanti was the Western Regional Spokesperson for Amnesty International USA.
With Krishanti’s leadership San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to pass legislation implementing an international human rights treaty (the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]) to eliminate discrimination against women. She also coordinated and led a 35 member international delegation to the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination Xenophobia and related intolerance (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa. She represented the United States at the UN Expert Group Meeting on Race and Gender-based Discrimination, held in Zagreb, Croatia, and the International Expert Group Meeting on CEDAW, held in Bellagio, Italy.
She is also the co-founder of the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, (WILD for Human Rights) at the Berkley Law @ University of California, Berkley, the Sri Lanka Children’s fund, and initiated the U.S. Human Rights Network with a current membership of over 500 organizations and individuals across the nation.
Krishanti has received numerous awards and lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad. She has co-authored "Making Connections – Human Rights in the U.S." and "Making Rights Real – Implementing Human Rights Standards in the United States".
Krishanti has served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, Women, Law and Development and Center for Asian Pacific Women. Currently she is a Trustee of the North East Women’s Network in Sri Lanka and is on the Advisory Boards of South Asia Democracy Watch and Machik, an organization enhancing the wellbeing of those living in Tibet.
Ejim Dike is Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network. Ms. Dike has worked on social policy issues for over fifteen years and in the domestic human rights arena for the past ten years. Her human rights work focuses on addressing poverty and discrimination using a human rights framework. Previously, she was Director of the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center. Under her leadership, the Human Rights Project launched an annual report card on the human rights record of New York City Council members; coordinated a shadow report on racial discrimination with 30 local groups for submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); organized a New York City visit by the UN Special Expert on Racism; and developed a toolkit on and coordinated participation for social justice activists in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
She has been cited in articles appearing in Harper’s Magazine (by Naomi Klein), The Daily News, Gotham Gazette, and City Limits. Ejim has contributed to articles published by the Center for American Progress and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. She has co-chaired the CERD Taskforce, a joint project of the US Human Rights Network and the Human Rights at Home Campaign. Ms. Dike worked for several years on programs aimed at increasing access to employment in low-income neighborhoods. She received her undergraduate degree from Berea College and a Masters of Urban Planning from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.
Ebony Noelle Golden
Creativity is conjuring, is root work, is making a way out of no way, is the practice of radical expressiveness that incites, inspires, and instigates, liberation, NOW! Ebony Noelle Golden, a native Houstonian, is a performance artist, public practitioner, and strategist who works at the intersection of art, culture and public education with individuals and organizations seeking to initiate community-powered creative strategy, performance, and liberatory learning experiences for progressive social change.
Golden is known and respected for her ability to blend cultural strategy, creative innovation and community-centered design to address the most pressing quality-of-life issues including: environmental justice, youth development, women’s empowerment, education equity, and the holistic sustainability of families and neighborhoods.
Working nationally, Ebony is the CEO of the cultural arts direct action group, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, LLC. Through BDAC, Ebony has built and sustained cultural initiatives in partnership with the City of New York, The Laundromat Project, Highlander Center for Research and Education, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, Alternate Roots, The National Black Theater, and Brooklyn Museum, among others.
BDAC's current public practice initiatives include: an intensive arts-in-action internship apprenticeship, GrowGreen, a climate justice and cultural activism project; Freedom in Time of Ferguson, a youth incarceration project; and, 125th and Freedom, a street performance and public practice project that re-imagines 125th street as Tubman's Underground Railroad to freedom.
Ebony Golden earned a B.A. in Literature and Creative Writing from Texas A & M University, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing-Poetry from American University, and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. www.bettysdaughterarts.com.
Shani Jamila is an artist, cultural worker and human rights advocate. Her career and studies have taken her to thirty five countries over five continents.
Throughout her travels, Shani has spoken about African American culture and history at global gatherings like the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Switzerland, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development in Turkey and the World Social Forum in India. Her international experiences deeply inform her work as a collagist, fiber artist and creative writer. She has exhibited or performed her work at institutions including the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, the Phillips Gallery, Rush Arts’ Corridor Gallery, Le Poisson Rouge, Busboys & Poets, Bohemian Caverns and the City College of New York.
Shani is the Director of the Urban Justice Center’s Human Rights Project. Previously, she designed and directed an arts based mentorship program to support the education and empowerment of incarcerated teens. She also led a seminar series at Howard University that utilized cultural work to examine domestic social justice issues in an international human rights frame.
A proud graduate of Spelman College and UCLA, she has been awarded multiple grants for post-graduate study at institutions including Cornell University and the University of the West Indies, where she spent a year as a Fulbright fellow. Her work has received international recognition in publications such as the Trinidad Guardian and Express newspapers, the London based literary magazine Sable, and ESSENCE – as "One of the 35 Most Remarkable Women in the World."
Stephanie V. McKee
A performer, choreographer, educator and facilitator Ms. McKee has traveled, performed and taught in various cities in the U.S. and abroad.
Ms. McKee is the Artistic Director of Junebug Productions Inc., the organizational successor to the Free Southern Theater (FST), which was formed in 1963 to be a cultural arm of the Civil Rights Movement and was a major influence in the Black Theater Movement. She is also the Co-Director of the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans. Ms. Mckee is a member of Alternate Roots and a former member of the steering committee for HOME, New Orleans? a community-based, arts-focused network of organizations merging art-making, education and community work.
In 2007, she was awarded The Academy of Educational Development/ New Voices Fellowship an award for emerging leaders.
Stephanie is former founding Director of the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center, a part of Neighborhood Housing Services which seeks to revitalize communities by increasing the number of homeowners and transforming vacant or substandard properties into sustainable homeownership as well as improving quality of life of residents through targeted community and leadership development, education, and collaboration. As director, Ms. McKee managed the community center and developed new programs. She also worked to identify and promote community-based leadership to improve economic and social conditions and build relationships and networks with a variety of stakeholders.
As an artist, Stephanie believes that art is for everyone and is deeply committed to creating art that substantively reflects disparate conditions, as a powerful tool for change.
Angelo R. Pinto is Campaign Manager for the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York. Angelo oversees the CA’s Raise the Age Campaign, which seeks to increase New York State’s age of criminal responsibility, end the practice of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and ensure that children in the justice system receive appropriate rehabilitative services.
Prior to joining the CA, Angelo served as Program Manager at the Arthur Ashe Institute where he designed and implemented community interventions in barbershops and beauty salons for formerly incarcerated men and community members to access re-entry information and services. He also served as a Legal Coordinator on Riker’s Island where he taught a legal research course to incarcerated adolescents and adults. In addition, he facilitated a leadership training program for youth on Rikers as part of the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project. He received a J.D. from the City University of New York Law School and a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Clark Atlanta University.
"We must cause strategic disruption that changes society’s moral compass around trafficking, sexual assault, violence against girls, women and gender nonconforming people of color. This commitment to ending gender based violence and the devaluing of human rights is lifelong and I'm honored to fight with survivors, allies, and friends as we say NO MORE.”
Joanne N. Smith, founder and executive director is responsible for moving Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) closer to its mission through strategic planning, development, and leadership cultivation. Ms. Smith is a Haitian-American social worker born in New York City. She founded GGE in 2001 with the support of the Open Society Foundation to end gender-based violence and promote gender, race and class equality.
Joanne completed post-graduate training at Ackerman Institute for the Family, providing therapy to families, supporting the family/school collaborative and linking families to community resources. Joanne is an alumna of Hunter Graduate School of Social Work and Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management. She has co-authored her first book published by Feminist Press, Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets, 2011. Girls for Gender Equity's work to combat sexual harassment in schools is featured in the 2014 documentary about Anita: Speak Truth to Power.
A staunch human rights advocate Smith has been honored by a number of prestigious organizations, including the Choice USA, Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Union Square Award in recognition of her leadership and dedication to reproductive, LGBTQ, civil rights and ending gender based violence. She is part of the first Move to End Violence cohort—a 10-year initiative designed by NoVo Foundation to strengthen the collective capacity to end violence against girls and women in the United States. Currently Smith is a Young Leader of the French-American Foundation and is a 2014 OpEd Project/Ford Public Voices fellow. She resides in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn.
Cynthia Soohoo is the Director of the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law School. Prior to coming to CUNY, she was the Director of the U.S. Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In addition to managing U.S. litigation and state advocacy work, she spearheaded and supervised the development of the Center's U.S. human rights advocacy and fact-finding work and the growth of its Law School Initiative.
From 2001-2007, Ms. Soohoo was the Director of the Bringing Human Rights Home Project, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School, and a supervising attorney for the law school's Human Rights Clinic. She has worked on U.S. human rights issues before U.N. human rights bodies, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and in domestic courts.
Ms. Soohoo practiced law at the firm Covington & Burling for six years and was co-counsel in the landmark Alien Tort Statute case, Doe v. Karadzic. She was a founding board member for the U.S. Human Rights Network and served as co-chair of the American Constitutional Society's Working Group on International Law and the Constitution. She is the author of several articles on human rights advocacy in the United States and co-editor and contributor to BRINGING HUMAN RIGHTS HOME, a three-volume book on human rights in the United States, which received the 2008 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award.
Ms. Soohoo is a cum laude graduate of Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. She is a former law clerk to the Hon. Gerard L. Goettel, U.S.D.J., S.D.N.Y.
Ishita Srivastava is the Multimedia Producer at Breakthrough, an innovative global human rights organization using the power of pop culture, media and community mobilization to transform public attitudes and advance dignity, equality and justice. Ishita led Breakthrough’s Restore Fairness campaign and then their campaign for immigrant women’s rights, #ImHere. She has also directed and produced numerous videos for those campaigns and other Breakthrough projects. She recently produced, directed and edited two short films, Mansimran and Checkpoint Nation? Building Community Across Borders for Restore Fairness and produced a fiction short film, #ImHere: THE CALL.
As a documentary filmmaker, Ishita is interested in harnessing the power of non-fiction storytelling to raise awareness about political and cultural issues. Her first documentary film, Desigirls, examines the intersection of gender, sexuality and immigrant culture through the experiences of two queer Indian women in New York City.
Ishita grew up in New Delhi, India, and completed a BA in English Literature at St. Stephens College in Delhi. She also completed a BA in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College (London) and a Masters degree in Cinema Studies and Culture and Media at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Sam Streed is the Research and Policy Coordinator for the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center. At HRP, he analyzes local policies and coordinates the New York City Council Human Rights Report Card, the Project’s annual assessment of the city’s progress in advancing human rights. Sam also conducts trainings for groups and other organizations about using the Report Card model to make local government more transparent and accountable to human rights.
Sam has worked in the New York City nonprofit sector since 2002. Prior to joining the Human Rights Project, he worked as the Associate Director of Development at the Correctional Association of New York, a non-profit prison reform organization based in Harlem. In that capacity, he managed the organization’s institutional funder portfolio, worked with senior staff to plan and build research and advocacy initiatives, and supported communications efforts. Sam has also held development and communications positions at the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment and AIDS Service Center NYC.
Sam earned a Masters in Urban Affairs from Hunter College in New York City, where he focused on urban policy and social science research. While at Hunter College, he also worked as research analyst for grant-funded study on health issues affecting immigrant communities in U.S. cities and as a teaching assistant for a graduate-level statistics course in the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.
JoAnn Kamuf Ward
JoAnn Kamuf Ward is the Associate Director of the Human Rights in the U.S. project at Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute and a teacher in the Law School's Human Rights Clinic. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, where she now lives with her husband and two daughters. Ms. Ward focuses on promoting the use of a human rights standards and strategies to address inequality and social injustice within US borders. Her work aims to strengthen awareness of human rights and to build domestic mechanisms to monitor, promote, and implement human rights. This includes research and writing, as well as advocacy to improve access to basic rights in New York City, at the federal level, and at the United Nations, in coalition with a broad range of advocates.
Ms. Ward also engages in strategic litigation in domestic courts and at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). She is currently co-counsel in an IACHR case a challenging juvenile life without parole and previously worked to implement the landmark Jessica Lenahan (Gonzalez) decision, focused on U.S. government obligations to protect women and girls from domestic violence. JoAnn worked in the general litigation group at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, as well as an attorney at MFY Legal Services, Inc. Ms. Ward graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 2006.
Yolande M.S. Tomlinson
Yolande M. S. Tomlinson, Ph.D., is a black feminist scholar and writer, human rights activist, radical mom of two feminists-in-training, and gardener. Dr. Tomlinson is currently in the process of launching two projects, the non-profit Organization for Human Rights and Democracy, which engages in multi-issue, grassroots, radical, intersectional organizing to transform communities and the world using Metro-Atlanta as the model. She is also developing a cooperative school rooted in a human rights, community-centered model of radical education. She has worked with a variety of organizations on human rights issues related to race, gender, sexuality, environmental & climate justice, immigration, and community organizing.
Most recently, Dr. Tomlinson served as the national education coordinator for the US Human Rights Network. In that role, she supported USHRN members and partners in building and strengthening their capacity in human rights education, organizing, and advocacy. Before that she was the project coordinator and community liaison for the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference’s national Working Group on the Civil Rights and Black LGBT Rights Movements.
For her extensive work in mentorship and community building at Emory University, Dr. Tomlinson was recognized by the university with its Community Builders’ award and the Transforming Community Project Champions’ award. Dr. Tomlinson sits on the board of directors for the Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions and serves as the human rights advisor for the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. She also writes and publishes as an independent scholar on issues of gender, race, violence, culture and human rights. Her most recent essay on re-imagining black women’s role in community transformation can be found in the edited anthology, Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry’s Productions (2014). She also co-authored the report Invisible Betrayal: Police Violence and the Rapes of Black Women in the United States, which was submitted to as part of the 2014 United Nations' review of the U.S. Government's compliance with the International Convention Against Torture treaty. Dr. Tomlinson holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in American Studies and certificate in Women’s Studies from Emory University.