Community Change's communications fellows program has proven to be a visionary approach to building power and leaders among our communities – the power to be the ones to tell their truths and be heard. One of the key avenues to power that we articulate as an organization is that impacted communities must lead in the changes and policies that affect them and that they are the best people to develop and implement strategies and compel the support of the powerful to bring about real change. But it is not enough that we prioritize impacted people in our campaigns and programmatic work; they must be the key voices who speak in our communications work as well.
What better way to build power and leaders than by telling your story – or those of your community - in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN or any number of local and national media sites. What better way to build power and leaders than to share their stories, videos, graphics and podcasts on social media where tens of thousands of people engage with their stories. In 2018, our fellows (almost 40 in all) created more than 500 pieces of content.
Our fellows are single moms struggling to get by, immigrants raised in this country as undocumented children, parents struggling with child care and individuals battling generational poverty, among others. We raise the voices and experiences of impacted people - no matter the color of their skin, where they were born or how much money they make - to change the narrative of what it means to get by in this society. They are the authentic messengers who provide context to the news of the day and challenge policies and ideas that don't take into account the real lives of people.
Our goal ultimately is for America to live up to its founding values of a more progressive, inclusive world where everyone, and we mean everyone, can thrive and succeed.
Ayanna Albertson is a spoken word poet and writer from Durham, NC by way of Goldsboro, NC. Ayanna has always enjoyed the art of storytelling throughout her childhood. In 2015, Ayanna received her BA in broadcast journalism. Since 2016, Ayanna has participated in various national poetry slam competitions and has used her gift in order to impact, empower and inspire others. Ayanna is very passionate about social justice, human rights, and civil rights, and desires to be a voice for anyone who would allow her to be.
Agunda Okeyo is a Center for Community Change communications fellow based in New York City. She is a writer, producer, organizer, and activist born in Nairobi and raised between New York City and the Kenyan capital. Her work has been published in Salon, The Daily Beast, O Magazine , Okay Africa and NBC, among others. She has been featured as a rising producer and activist by The New Yorker, The New York Times, Essence, The Root, The Hollywood Reporter and NBC among others. She also hosts Sisters of Comedy shows in comedy venues in NYC, often to support social justice causes.
Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer/editor for The NY Times, Parade, Quartz, Playboy and others. She is also the author of more than a dozen nonfiction books on topics ranging from real estate investing to bipolar disorder. Much of her recent work has focused on issues related to poverty and income inequality, for which she often draws upon her own personal experiences. Her latest long-form project is an ebook for Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, entitled Degrees of Desperation: The Working-Class Struggle to Pay for College.
Bonnie Duffy Page is a 62 year old mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. Born and raised in Washington, D.C. She received her AA from DC Teachers College, Washington Saturday School. Over the years she's worked a variety of jobs but her most rewarding job was as a Youth Development Counselor with Covenant House Washington DC. She worked with homeless, at risk, runaway, and/or disadvantaged youth in the poorest most underserved wards (7+8) in DC. She was passionate about her job and felt she had so much to bring to the lives of this popularization of youth, but in reality they brought so much more to her life. She has retired since she became ill in 2013. In her leisure, she writes short stories and poetry. She also volunteers her time to work with young ladies, and their children, that aged out of the foster care system. Her daughter is always telling her to “slow down, you can't save the whole world”. Her response is “I be damned, I'll do it one person at a time”.
Catherine Bugayong is a Center for Community Change video communications fellow. Cat is a filmmaker, Trader Joe’s enthusiast and Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory student. She is no stranger to CCC, first joining the Center for Community Change Action in 2016 working as an organizer to get out the vote among Latinx voters. Then she joined the communications team working on multimedia. She is based in D.C.
Christen Hill is a multimedia journalist and video storyteller with a focus on issues of race, social justice and culture. Christen graduated with a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Tennessee and has worked in Washington, DC as a video producer and writer. She is currently a communications graduate student at Georgetown University.
David Vanadia is a multimedia storyteller who began his career by telling stories on city streets to anyone who would listen. He has since performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and China. His documentary, My 9/11: Video from the streets of Manhattan, has been hailed as “brilliant,” and, “wonderfully detailed and so very human.” He believes stories can save the world.
Debbie Weingarten is based in Tucson, Arizona and writes at the intersection of agriculture and social justice. Her work has been featured in Guernica, The Guardian, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Longreads, Vela, and many others. She was the nonfiction winner of the 2017 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest and a 2017 Best of the Net nonfiction winner. Her essays are included in the 2016 and 2017 Best of Food Writing anthologies. She has won several Arizona Press Club awards for her environmental, social issues, human interest, and profile writing, and Honorable Mention for the National Press Foundation’s 2017 Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting. She is an activist, a former vegetable farmer, and a writing partner for the Female Farmer Project, where she documents the rise of women in agriculture.
Darryl worked as a parking lot attendant in Savannah, Ga, before switching careers in his late 30’s. Since becoming a freelance writer, he has covered post-Katrina New Orleans, poverty exploitation in the plasma industry, and the Charleston massacre. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Click here to read some of Darryl’s work.
Elizabeth Fernandez is a communications fellow based in Miami with the Center for Community Change Action. She is a writer, communicator and activist.
In search for better opportunities, Elizabeth Nazarett moved from Venezuela to South Florida 1980. She was undocumented until 1986 when she benefited from the Immigration Reform and Control Act signed by President Ronald Reagan. Elizabeth is a Center for Community Change fellow.
Elizabeth Poulos is an intern at CCC and a rising senior studying American History at Williams College.
Eileen Sepulveda’s love for writing began when she was a teenager. Later, as a single mother of two boys, Isaiah and Isaac, and working full time, she chose to go back to school, and enrolled in Lehman College. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree as an English Honors student specializing in Creative Writing. She will be the first in her family to receive such an honor. She became was a contributor to the school newspaper, Meridian, writing articles that focused on the struggles and concerns of Lehman students and the larger Bronx community, including unfair policing, prison labor, and gentrification. In 2017, she became the Meridian’s Editor-in-Chief. Starting in Fall 2018, she will be pursuing a Master’s degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. In her spare time, Eileen writes poetry and short stories, and will continue work on a novel in progress.
Jeremiah Chapman is a North Carolina-based activist who focuses on raising the voices of people fighting for equality. Jeremiah honed his skills as a photographer, videographer and graphic designer while a staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives. His latest video project, Tundra, will focus on the lives of people in marginalized communities, immigrants and how protecting the safety net will help all families thrive.
Jody Ellis is a freelance writer, screenwriter and author. Her work includes regular publication in trade and regional magazines, online content, copywriting, award-winning screenplays and two published books. Born and raised in Alaska, she has lived all over the state, currently making her home in Anchorage. She is a single mom to two, pet mom to several, and an advocate of building a voice for marginalized communities in Alaska.
Jamal Meneide is a recent graduate from Williams College. He has worked on a number of creative projects, including short films and documentaries. He is excited to get to work with Community Change, telling stories that are not only authentic, but socially important as well.
Karl Catarata is a Filipino-American author and community organizer living in Las Vegas. He is a fellow with the Center for Community Change Action and an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas studying for his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a minor focus in Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Melissa Chadburn is the Communications Fellows Manager for community change Economic Justice team. She has written for The Los Angeles Times, NYT Book Review, Buzzfeed, Poets & Writers, NYRB, and dozens other places. Her essay, “The Human Cost of The Ghost Economy,” received notable mention in Best American Essays 2018. Her essay "Food of My Youth" was published in Best American Food Writing 2019. Her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Mikka Macdonald is a writer who focuses on social justice issues. She is a communications professional in Washington, D.C. who has worked on twelve state and local political campaigns. She recently published an academic article in the Princeton Journal of Asian American Studies (Unfound), in which she examined the personal consequences of American public policy on Japanese Americans during World War II through her family’s experiences. Her writing has also appeared on AspenInstitute.org and DCist.com.
Maris Medina is currently a multimedia journalism and public policy student at the University of Maryland. Along with producing monthly videos for Community Change, she produces videos for the university's School of Public Health and student-run newspaper The Diamondback. She's especially passionate about immigration, education policy, climate change, and women's rights. As a Filipina immigrant, she's driven to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals whom may otherwise not have their stories told. You can find her always lugging around a camera, going on a jog, or drinking some mango bubble tea.
Melissa Taveras is a Center for Community Change Action fellow based in Miami, Florida. She is a journalist, public relations and communications expert, with expertise in international relations, sustainability, social causes and in the music industry.
Nadia is a writer and editor whose work focuses on diversity, representation, and social issues. A graduate of the political science master's program at the University of Toronto, her interests lie in the intersection of public policy and social attitudes around immigration and related issues. Her academic work has been published in Anthropology of the Middle East, and her journalism in The Tempest, The Riveter, and Desert Companion, among others.
Nissa D. Tzun is a Center for Community Change communications fellow. She is media artist, educator, community organizer, and the founder of the Forced Trajectory Project, an award-winning, long-term documentary project illuminating the narratives of families impacted by police murder, established in 2009. In 2014 she assisted in forming Families United 4 Justice, a nationwide collective of families impacted by police murder, organizing for collective and political power. Currently, Nissa works for the Journalism & Media Studies Department at UNLV, and is pursuing her Master’s in Social Work.
Stephanie is mom to two beautiful girls and their shelter dog, Bodhi. She has worked as a house cleaner and landscaper to make ends meet and now works as a freelance writer whose work has been featured on The Guardian, Vox, DAME, Mamalode, Salon, Narrative.ly and Literary Mama. She lives in Missoula, Montana. Click here to read some of Stephanie’s work. Twitter: @stepville
Sharisse Tracey is a mother of four, educator and writer in upstate New York whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon and Essence. Her life story has been featured in an off-Broadway play, NOT SOMEONE LIKE ME, which chronicles five stories of sexual assault survivors. She’s is an activist focused on domestic violence, sexual assault, autism awareness, military families and equality in education. Click here to read some of Sharisse’s work. Twitter: @SharisseTracey
Born in Argentina, Thomas Kennedy came to the United States with his parents at the age of ten, first living in New Jersey before settling down in Miami. After living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade and seeing the daily struggles his parents overcame to have a better life, Thomas became involved in student activism and immigration reform advocacy. He graduated with an International Relations major from Florida International University and works with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. He is a fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.
Born and raised in Washington Heights, NYC and now resides in Hollywood, Florida. First-generation Dominican-American, author, community advocate, freelance writer and founder of Parenting Village Hollywood. Topacio's articles are focused on social justice issues, community involvement, conscious parenting, and cultural identity. Topacio is the author of "Awakening Poetry" being released in summer 2020. She is the founder of Parenting Village Hollywood 501 (c), which focuses on the personal development of parents and student achievement, through advocacy, social services, and community development. Topacio is the Chair of the City of Hollywood African American Advisory Council. She is a dedicated mother, wife and community member, who believes there is strength in community.
Tomicka Robinson earned her Bachelors of Applied Science Degree from Wayne State University, in 2007. She has a background in social media management, public relations, community building, researching, event planning and a host of other beneficial skills. She’s a graduate of the Mothering Justice Movement Fellowship Class of 2016. She also completed an extensive Digital Organizer Training with Wellstone Action. She’s an associate of the Family Values @ Work Communications Work Group and guest contributor for Huffington Post. Her interests include activism, grassroots organizing, freelance writing, design and volunteering. She resides in Warren with her husband and two children.
Vy Vu is from Hanoi, Vietnam. She just completed her degrees in English and Studio Art at The College of Wooster in May 2018. Vy is currently based in the DMV area and is working with The Sanctuaries on various social justice based art projects and The Young Women's Project on reproductive and sexual health. As a visual artist and poet, Vy explores the concepts of race, gender, sexuality and various social issues revolving around these identities. Her art is used both as a tool of raising awareness as well as spiritual healing. Besides her art and social work, Vy enjoys reading, playing music, spending weekends in the mountains and aimlessly walking around cities without maps.
Willie Dwayne Francois III serves as Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, New Jersey and as the President of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality. Francois' pastoral activism and literary witness take shape around racial equity, economic justice and criminal justice reform. Francois co-authored the book Christian Minister’s Manual: For the Pulpit and the Public Square for All Denomination—the most progressive and comprehensive clergy service resource for congregational and justice ministries. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion, holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Emory University.
Wandra Green served at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as Associate Director of Public Relations. Her greatest opportunities came while working with UMKC’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion where she assisted in creating its initial introductory purpose statements and messages, served as a founding member of the Women of Color Leaders and its annual Leadership Conference. Years of experience allowed Wandra to understand what a “story” needs to be, and how to tell it so it will be read; develop an astute sense of thoroughness, careful attention to detail and accuracy; and acquire the dedication and professionalism needed to impart individuals’ stories for the greatest impact.
Wendi C. Thomas is a social justice activist and award-winning journalist from Memphis, Tennessee.