Vanessa is our new Executive Director. Vanessa’s East Coast roots involved several years of leadership development and anti-oppression work with youth in Philadelphia. Once in the Bay Area, she became active with several community and political organizations, including as staff for Bay Area Police Watch, a project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and as a collective member with the Center for Political Education. She received a bachelors degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and was later trained as an organizer at the National School for Strategic Organizing with the Labor/Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles. Both before & during her work with CJJC, Vanessa also worked for 8 years with generationFIVE to help build and evolve transformative justice practices and collaboratives.
Dawn Phillips has been an organizer engaged in a range of social, economic and environmental justice organizations and fights in the Bay Area and nationally for over 20 years. He is currently the Co-Director of Programs at Causa Justa :: Just Cause, a Bay Area membership organization focused on community development, housing and immigrant justice issues. CJJC builds grassroots power and community leadership through rights-based services, policy campaigns, civic engagement, direct action and movement building. CJJC strives to improve conditions both in the neighborhoods we organize in and regionally, as well as to contribute to building the larger multi-racial, multi-generational movement needed for fundamental change. Dawn leads the local, regional and national policy campaign work for the organization and was lead author on CJJC’s report “Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area”. This was a study on the impacts of gentrification and displacement on working class communities of color, which included policy recommendations for addressing these issues. Dawn serves as Chair of the Steering Committee of the Right to the City Alliance, a formation of almost 40 community organizations based in 13 cities around the country. The alliance is dedicated to building a strong housing and urban justice movement nationally and internationally through an urban human rights framework and agenda. Causa Justa :: Just Cause is a founding member of the Right to the City Alliance.
Aspen joins Causa Justa as a part of the merger with POWER. She is a queer mama and artist who brings a wealth of knowledge to our organization. Her backstory: she joined POWER’s staff in January 2005. Her prior experience included fundraising, leadership development and grassroots organizing work with youth and community organizations around welfare rights in Atlanta, Georgia. Aspen has worked in Oaxaca, Mexico with EDUCA, a grassroots organization dedicated to sustainable community development and the struggle for self-determination in indigenous communities. She served as the Board Treasurer of the DataCenter for three years and is excited to help make CJJC financially strong for the long haul!
Kate holds decades of grassroots organizing experience. She has participated in national organizations that have directly impacted social change. She contributed base–building expertise to not-for-profit organizations like ACT UP Philadelphia, and Queer Nation LA. She helped to found the Philadelphia, Up Against the Law legal collective. Kate has worked as a lead organizer in several nurses unions and was the program director and grant writer for STOP AIDS Project in San Francisco. She raised funds for Health Initiatives for Youth as the Development Manager. Kate served with a Board of hot shot Directors that helped to pull Lyon-Martin Health Services clinic from the ashes like a beautiful Phoenix. Woo!
Before starting at CJJC, Lorraine studied Anthropology and Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz. After graduating Lorraine worked as Development Coordinator for the Coalition on Homelessness and South of Market Community Action Network in San Francisco. Lorraine believes grassroots fundraising can be a critical tool in sustaining radical social justice movements. Lorraine currently organizes with Babae SF, a grassroots and volunteer-based organization of Filipina women in San Francisco dedicated to supporting and empowering Pinays through critical education, leadership development, and community building.
With 25+ years of journalism experience from mainstream to community media. Rose has come on board to lead our organization’s communications work. She’s originally from Los Angeles and her work has been inspired by the many activists and civil rights leaders of our time. Her family roots are in El Paso, Texas and Northern Mexico. She is Chicana and Tarahumara.
As a Causa Justa member and a long-time St. Peter’s Housing Committee member before our merger, Araceli has showed up everywhere from our local city hall to the U.S. Social Forums do the work of the movement. Now as a staff at CJJC, she’s advising fellow tenants and supporting the tenant clinic’s work.
Mai-Stella has been a member of Causa Justa::Just Cause since 2008 (as part of Just Cause Oakland). She began volunteering for Just Cause Oakland at their 2007 annual event and immediately appreciated their political line. She liked their dedication to member and staff leadership development through high engagement and study; organizational discipline and warmth. Throughout the years Mai-Stella has participated not only as a member leader in the Steering Committee, but also as a volunteer, contractor, and Liberation Ink Program Assistance. She has recently joined the staff full-time as one of the Administrative Coordinators- focusing on Finance and HR- and is eager to contribute her decade plus of administrative experience to building a stronger, more effective and efficient organization and movement for social and economic justice.
I was born and raised in Oakland and identify with many of the issues residents are experiencing — everything from housing, to early education, to the public service systems. I’m a graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in Legal Studies and have known since high school that I wanted to help make a difference. The injustices and inequities I’ve witnessed and been a part of led me to want to see change in our community. It moved me into a life of advocacy and fighting for a quality and equitable life for impoverished communities. Currently I’m Board Chair for Parent Voices Oakland – a statewide grassroots organization that advocates for early childhood education and quality, accessible, and affordable education. I’m also Co-Chair of the Alameda County Early Childhood Policy Committee (ACECPC) – which address policies and systems within Alameda County impacting families with children up to 8 years old. I have used my own voice and testimony at events such as the Human Impact Budget Hearing held by the Alameda County Supervisors, testifying at legislative hearing in Sacramento and leading parent groups at legislative visits. I am a mother of two bi-racial girls — black and brown unity at its finest..! and I love spending time with my family. I’ve also traveled quite a bit and still enjoy when I have the opportunity.
Kitzia comes from a movement family and began their involvement in community organizing in San Francisco during high school. They were a youth organizer with PODER in their year-long Common Roots program. Latter they supported POWER’s women workers project as part of the SOUL summer school program. Kitzia also participated along with their mom in the “No papers No Fear Journey for Justice,” this past summer. They came back to the Bay Area in 2013 after attending college at UC Santa Barbara and spending two years doing multiracial organizing with the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union and Labor Community Strategy Center. Kitzia has spend the last several years building the member/ leadership development work of the Immigrant Rights campaign and providing space for people from the base to be part of building vibrant Immigrant Justice and Racial Justice coalitions in SF and Alameda County. They have been the Regional Lead organizer for the Immigrant Rights campaign at CJJC since July of 2016. Kitzia recently became the Co-director of the Community Rights campaign which aims to build Black and Blown unity along the issues of criminalization and state violence against Black and Latinx Bay Area residents.
Leticia Arce aka Lety, was born in Portland, Oregon but grew up in the Central Valley in Fresno, California where her parents were farmworkers. She says they always pushed her to get a higher education “so that you won’t work under the sun and the heat for pennies.” She attended San Francisco State University where she graduated in Raza Studies and Race & Resistance Studies. During that time she was introduced to various student and community organizations including MEChA, La Raza Centro Legal, and Clinica Martin-Baro. In her spare time she has volunteered at Clinica Martin-Baro, a free SFSU-UCSF student-run general health clinic which respectfully serves the most under-served population in the Mission district. It’s based on the Cuban medical health care perspective — a preventative health care model.
Diana Flores is the second born to a costeña. She is a Oaxaqueña undocuqueer artist, caregiver, tia and visionary abolitionist. Transplanted from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, she is a seasoned organizer, curator, and human rights life and love advocate with more than 15 years of base building and campaign development experience. Self proclaimed to be the Bayard Rustin of her movement circles, trained by gentle giants and rooted in transformative justice, she is guided by the spirit of strategic interventions and proactive intentions.
Diana Alonzo is the oldest of three sisters and grew up in West Oakland. She attended UC Berkeley where she continued her commitment to community work and public service. Diana is a Gates Millennium, IDEAL, and Cal Opportunity Scholar, as well as a UC Berkeley John Gardner Fellow. Through personal experience, Diana understands the value of investing in youth and providing creative outlets so she developed Youth Leadership Now, a program that engaged youth in critical dialogue about self and community. She continued youth program development at Attitudinal Healing International as the Youth Programs Coordinator. She managed and expanded the Power to Choose program in Cameroon, Colombia, Mongolia, and Hawaii, which equipped children & youth with an array of tools to enhance their decision making process, uplift their self-esteem, cultivate their leadership, and empower them to be agents of change. In 2013 Diana joined the CJJC team as an Outreach worker, which sparked her interest in policy, civic engagement, and community services. Diana’s interests in the movement for liberation continued to grow and her learning skyrocketed at SF Rising, where she served as Team Leader for numerous Civic Engagement Programs that work to build political power of working class families of color. Diana joined CJJC in 2015 as a Tenants Rights Counselor/Organizer.
Lucas Solorzano was born in Bogotá Colombia and raised in central New Jersey. His dedication to building community power in the face of state violence, neocolonialism and capitalism led him to CJJC. Lucas comes with experience organizing against police violence and for immigrant rights. He is excited to work towards community control of the land in a base-building capacity while providing real tangible support to folks in the clinic.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Molly first became politicized through queer, feminist and global justice organizing in the 1990s. While living in Philadelphia for five years, Molly supported immigrant rights and gender justice organizing, taught sex education in public high schools, and facilitated self-defense and anti-racism workshops. Since Hurricane Katrina, Molly has been doing Gulf Coast solidarity work in and out of New Orleans, and organizing around the struggle for a just reconstruction. In addition to working at CJJC, Molly works at the Catalyst Project doing anti-racism trainings.
Camilo is a first- generation immigrant and a proud Nicoya with roots in San Francisco where he was raised. He first began doing community work in the Mission District by providing direct service, performing outreach, and facilitating summer and after school programs for Latin@ immigrant youth. He co-founded a queer Latina youth support group, Aquellas L.O.C.A.S., and facilitated Latina immigrant support groups at Everett Middle School and International Studies Academy. Camilo started and coordinated a teen health program while at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. While doing this work he saw many youth and their families experience major housing problems that affected the youth tremendously in school and with their health. Armed with a spirit to fight for housing rights, Camilo joined Causa Justa :: Just Cause in 2009 to become a Housing Rights Counselor/Organizer and develop the organization’s first Tenant Rights Clinic in Oakland. In 2012, Camilo was appointed to the City of Oakland’s Building Services Advisory Task Force. He is a recent alumni of Urban Habitat’s Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute. Camilo currently resides in Oakland and works to defend low-income Oakland (and San Francisco) tenants against displacement.
Selene Chala is a queer woman of color passionate about social justice and identity politics. She was born in Quito, Ecuador but grew up in Los Angeles. Being an AB 540 student through community college pushed her to become active pushing the Dreamers act and learning more about human rights and equality. Once in UC Berkeley, Selene worked in multiple queer spaces including the Queer and Ally Resource Center, Queer womyn of Berkeley, and Gen Eq. After graduating, Selene merged her work in immigrant rights with gender equality through working with Immigrant women and families. Selene comes into Cause Justa:: Just Cause with case management, program coordination and project management experience.
Robbie, who is on sabbatical until July 2016, was born and raised in Oakland and brings a wealth of knowledge about the city’s residents and neighborhoods. Robbie became active in students’ rights organizing at UCLA and the affirmative action struggle that was being waged at the time. Robbie has been active in local political campaigns in Oakland such as the district campaign of Amie Allison and Ron Dellums’ mayoral campaign.
Sanyika Bryant is the oldest of his parents’ six children and was raised in the city of Los Angeles. Sanyika was trained by the Labor/Community Strategy Center where he worked on the Bus Riders Union and Frontlines Press projects. He is also a graduate of the Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing, class of 2003. Sanyika’s ideology is rooted in Pan-Africanism, anti-imperialism and internationalism. He is also an artist and an author, and currently spends any free time he has away from his organizing duties working on his novel.
Becki was introduced to organizing and social justice during an internship with Just Cause Oakland (now CJJC) in the summer of 2007. She continued to expand her understanding of the social justice movement by working with organizations in New York City and SOMCAN (South of Market Community Action Network) in San Francisco. Throughout her years working with other organizations, she has stayed connected with CJJC. After becoming a stronger, more confident organizer working with UNITE-HERE in New Haven, CT and Las Vegas, she retuned to CJJC. As the Outreach Coordinator, Becki is excited to be a part of reaching out to residents to let them know of their rights and how to get involved with our work.
Alma first joined Causa Justa as a member in 2008 where she continued her involvement as a volunteer throughout the years and becoming a staff member in 2011. Alma, who graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine, discovered that science did not feed her soul as much as working with community members in the fight for social justice. In her role as a housing rights organizer she advocates strongly for the rights of tenants who are learning to use their own voices, as well as building up the leadership of our member base. Alma has traveled to Tunsia with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance representing CJJC as a delegate at the World Social Forum. Says Alma, “I learned that no matter where you go in the world there are people fighting in their communities against injustices and for fundamental human rights — housing, food, land, clean air and water.” She adds, “This organization transformed me.”
Chery Mena joined the CJJC team in 2016 as the Youth In Power Youth Organizer. Originally from New York she began doing youth organizing as a youth member of Da Urban Butterflies, a young women’s development organization, soon joining FIERCE a lgbtq poc youth organizing organization working on creating safe space in the historical West Village. Hoping to expand her capacity she interned with CJJC in 2011 as part of SOUL Summer School program for young organizers. Since then Chery has worked with POWER( People Organized to Win Employment Rights) pre-merger as the Climate Justice Youth Organizer working on educating youth in San Francisco about Climate Change. The last two years Chery has worked in different capacities with youth all around the Bay Area empowering them to create the change they seek in their communities. She returns to CJJC, ready to build off the powerful work Youth In Power has done in the last decade.
Amber is an educator, writer and organizer. She was born and raised in Oakland and is committed to addressing the housing crisis. She is interested in non western methods of organizing, enjoys multicultural, alternative educational settings and facilitating workshops with youth. Amber’s work at Saint Mary’s College of California work has instilled a lifelong passion for creating responsive systems engaged in community building and seeks to provide practical tools to work against oppressive structures (without alienation, shame and fear). In her spare time she enjoys storytelling and reading comic books.
As a queer first generation inmigrante from San Salvador, El Salvador, Carmen is driven by their passion for intersectional social justice, grassroots organizing, and community empowerment. Raised by a single mother of three in Inglewood, CA, they learned the importance of resilience and perseverance rooted and driven by radical love and compassion. They attended UC Berkeley, where they earned a B.S. in Society and Environment and minors in Forestry and LGBT Studies, focusing on Environmental Justice and Racism. During their time in school, Carmen interned at the Multicultural Community Center where much of their energy was dedicated to curating art exhibits, hosting self-care healing circles and programs, and developing intentional skills to cater to the needs of underrepresented and under-served communities. Carmen was active in organizing for immigrant rights and against the marginalization of queer and trans students (of color) on campus, budget cuts and tuition hikes, and against the colluded privatization efforts affecting the California’s education system at large. After graduating, Carmen continued their organizing work joining the Bay Area Restaurant Workers’ Movement with multiple campaigns elevating the needs and voices of immigrant and indigenous workers or color facing labor violations. On their free time, Carmen spends their time exploring their roots in decolonial ancestral healing practices, creating woodburnt or widdled artwork, and imagining alternative magikal futures where their communities thrive.
Gloria Esteva was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and is the fifth child of a family of 12 children. She participated in the struggle for change since she was a teenager. In San Francisco, Gloria has been a leader in immigrant rights and feminist grassroots movements for more than a decade. She helped to build the Women Workers Project at POWER, and has played leadership roles in national mobilizations including the Undocubus during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, as well as several national actions with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
A native of Detroit, Jevon began organizing in high school fighting to defend affirmative action programs in Michigan’s public universities. After moving to the Bay Area in 2007, he became involved in the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant and the larger movement to root out police terror in black and brown communities. He attended UC-Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in Spanish and Portuguese and was active in the fight against the budget cuts and privatization efforts affecting public education in California. After college, Jevon joined the labor movement, as an organizer first with the Fight for 15 fast food worker unionization effort in Oakland and later, with the San Francisco hospitality workers’ union, Unite HERE Local 2. Aside from social justice organizing, Jevon is active in the Bay Area slam poetry community.