Wilder's Community Equity Program Cohort

Meet the BIPOC Changemakers of Community Equity Program

Learn about CEP alumni leading public policy from community to capitol

It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to our Black, Indigenous and Leaders of Color who have embarked on their 9-month journey through Wilder's Community Equity Program, a public policy leadership experience program at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Since 2015, 89 BIPOC community leaders and change makers have participated in Community Equity Program. Want to support the journey of BIPOC leaders from community to capitol? Make a matched gift and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color!

2020-2021 CEP Cohort

Congratulations to our 2020-2021 Community Equity Program Cohort: 

Abdiaziz Ibrahim, Anika Bowie, Benjamin Yawakie, Callie Chamberlain, Charity Paye, Hassan Qais As-Sidiq, Herschel McPherson, Ibrahim Owolabi, Ikal Avila, Priscilla Villa-Watt, Reyna Ortega, Richard Gordon, Ruth Cardenas, Tsega Tamene, Yordanose Solomone

Meet the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in Wilder's Community Equity Program
Abdiaziz Ibrahim, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Abdiaziz Ibrahim (He/Him) is a Kenyan American who considers himself ‘a Houser,’ having worked in the affordable housing industry for the last 15 years. He is passionate about advocating for low-income families’ access safe, decent and affordable homes to rent. He has worked in Low Income Housing Tax Credit, project-based Section 8, Housing Choice Voucher program for private, non-profit and government agencies. As an Ombudsman for Metropolitan Council, he successfully housed 300 families in the last three years. Most of the program participants were new to Section 8 and had to undergo tenant education and financial literacy training. Abdiaziz has established a wide network of landlords who constantly call him for vacancies to fill.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Metropolitan State and a Master of Public Administration from Hamline University. He spends his time volunteering at his local mosque in Saint Paul when not at work.

He joined the fellowship to learn how state legislature works and steps involved in policy formulation, agenda setting, adoption, decision making, implementation and evaluation.

Anika Bowie, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Anika Bowie (She/Her) is a creative visionary and bold voice in the 21st century movement. As vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP, her inspiration comes from her lived experience navigating systems of institutionalized racism and inter-generational historical trauma as a Black Woman. Anika is a former Saint Paul City Council candidate and was coined “a daughter of Rondo” as she fought for representation in criminal justice reform, voting rights, women’s rights and reparations. Her grassroots-led candidacy propelled her career in electoral politics as a regional organizing director for presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. Currently, Anika is the creator and executive Director of Run Like Harriet, a coaching and consulting digital platform for activists seeking electoral justice as a means for political liberation. Hamline University, her alma mater, recognized her service leadership with the First Decade of Service Carrying the Torch of Justice awards. The Minnesota Women’s Press named her 2019 Change Maker and Rising Star. Anika is a proud 2019 Josie R. Johnson fellow, ACLU Smart Justice board member, and former educator in Saint Paul Public Schools. She specializes in nourishing seeds of trust between government and community through transformational storytelling and civic engagement.

Anika joined CEP because of the need for more Black and Woman representation of at the state level crafting and moving forward policy and practices that benefits our BIPOC community. She hopes to learn and deepen her knowledge and skills with a collective of change makers who are ready to create a better tomorrow for those living in systematic disparities. It is an honor for Anika to participate in a cohort that is highly recommended by its alumni and led by Black Women.

Benjamin Yawakie, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Benjamin Yawakie (He/Him) is a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Zuni and descendant from Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux, and White Bear First Nations. He lives in Brooklyn Park. Benjamin has a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, and statistics and is working towards obtaining his Master of Public Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Master of Public Policy at Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He is also the first Indigenous person appointed to Minnesota's Environmental Quality Board.

In his professional life, Ben has worked to advance tribal interests and self- determination in the areas of public health, environmental justice, telecommunications and broadband development, higher education, and food sovereignty. Ben hopes to continue developing relationships, skills and advocacy to work with other people and communities to improve the social determinants of health of BIPOC communities that currently makes Minnesota rank highest among states in the nation for racial inequality and disparities. In his free time, Ben enjoys playing soccer, basketball, and spending time with his Labrador, Sosa.

Calli Chamerlain, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Callie Chamberlain (She/Her) is committed to health, health care and well-being for all. She is currently responsible for advancing health equity across Optum, a global health services organization.

A strong commitment to intercultural and interreligious dialogue, Callie has filmed an award-winning documentary highlighting the role of women in the refugee crisis, co-founded a microwork application connecting refugees to income opportunities, contributed to the implementation of Youth 2030: the UN Youth Strategy, and developed grassroots strategies with the UN to prevent violent extremism across the Middle East and North Africa.

A deep believer in the power of community, she founded New Leaders Council-Twin Cities, a progressive leadership and development program building a network of millennials working across sectors to advance equity in the region. 

Callie is on the board of directors for StartingBloc, the Loomis Innovation Council, and the MN HEAL Commission.

She is a practicing Reiki master, a doula, and aspiring DJ. She joined the Community Equity Program to better understand how to navigate the legislative process and build a deeper community of like-minded peers.

Charity Paye, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Charity “Purple Queen” Paye (She/Her) is a rap artist, clothing designer, motivator, and beacon of positivity in her community. She is the owner of Zen Is In, a multifaceted movement combining clothing, culture, and hip hop. She was born and raised in North Minneapolis. Her mom was southern-raised in Louisiana and her dad was from Liberia, Africa. Charity’s experiences taught her how to be a proud queer black woman that speaks her truth, illuminate growth areas, and motivate change. 

Charity spent many years working in organizations that sought to bring the community together, yet their methods excluded and ostracized BIPOC individuals. Her proximity to privilege ignited a desire to work with both sides to recognize and repair these barriers. She aims to amplify BIPOC voices and promote anti-racism policies in the community. 

Charity is excited to participate in CEP to better hone her skills and learn policy making from the inside out. She believes grassroots, community-led, systemic reprogramming is what will heal the deepest wounds in society and move us forward.  

Hassan Qais As-Sidiq, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Hassan Qais As-Sidiq (He/Him) is a second-generation welfare recipient and is serious about bringing socio-economic liberation to Descendants of Enslaved Americans. Hassan is a Minnesotan born and raised in the Willard Hay community of North Minneapolis who is a Black Muslim American man and identifies in some aspects with the LGBTQ Community.

He owns and coordinates workshops for Black and Indigenous young adults to #BridgetheIntergenerationalLeadershipGaps within Black and Indigenous communities. Hassan is a former lab assistant at Juxtaposition Arts Fashion Lab and was a part of the Tactical Urbanism Lab. The “Social Service Run Around,” a project Hassan worked on to educate privileged persons with the experience of lower income and less accessible persons, later became a mandated city training. 

When Hassan is not working, he is building  relationships, partnerships, self. 

Hassan applied for CEP to cultivate his awareness of policy schedules and to learn more in-depth insight on the operations of the Minnesota policy drafting process. He will use this knowledge to empower the communities he comes from with the goal of strategic advances in our democracy.

Herschel McPherson, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Herschel McPherson (He/Him) is a Minneapolis-based art director specializing in authentic storytelling, fashion and lifestyle work. Having begun his professional modeling and acting career at the age of 14, Herschel traveled the country appearing in ad campaigns for clients including Apple, Macy’s, Xbox and MTV.

In 2012 the eclectic artist transitioned to the other side of the camera producing and directing. Herschel believes “having diversity on a team responsible for creating content, whether it’s still or motion, is absolutely paramount. Diversity of thought, race, gender, and sexual orientation are attributes that contribute to a persons lived experience. That experience helps shape the work or story, that we as creatives are trying to tell.” Herschel just finished directing a commercial for the Minneapolis-based, Black-owned company, The Donut Trap. Herschel holds a Bachelor of Science in international business and communications from the University of Minnesota.

Herschel joined the Community Equity Program to build upon his knowledge of public policy while continuing to grow his network of other BIPOC that are actively engaged in their communities.

Ibrahim Owolabi, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Ibrahim Owolabi (He/Him) is a very passionate person working in the areas of community development, education by zip code and wage disparity against Black and communities of color in Minnesota. He is a grassroots fighter and organizer with efforts in the localization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focusing on quality education for all SDG4 and reduced inequalities SDG11. Ibrahim founded Involve Africa, a nonprofit movement working in the promotion of young people's involvement in the democratic governance process and social progress with inventions in the western region of Africa.

Ibrahim holds a bachelor's degree from Lagos State University, Nigeria and a public policy certificate from the Leadership Institute, Arlington, Virginia. He is a one-time world's youngest Distinguished Toastmaster, which is the highest educational recognition a member of Toastmasters International can earn. Professionally, he is a human resources practitioner and Labour Defense enthusiast. Ibrahim holds the prestigious certification of Global Human Resources Professional-GPHR issued by Human Resource Certification Institute.

Based on the dictum that there is something good in everyone and it is the foundation upon which other great values are built, he lives with an ancient African mantra that says; a child is born by one person but raised by the community.

Ibrahim joined the CEP to learn best practices in local activism and community organizing; and a deep understanding of the Minnesota legislative process to drive social and economic justice for Black and People of color, and an inclusive democratic governance process for all.

Ikal Avila, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Ikal Avila (pronounced E-Call; She/Her) is a transgender Latina woman, who is from Guatemala and was raised in Los Angeles, CA. She moved to Minnesota in 1999 and currently lives in Brooklyn Center. In 2017, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in both psychology and Chicanx-Latinx Studies. She works at El Colegio Charter High School as an educator partner, and it is her third year as an educator. 

Ms. Avila is featured in a recent documentary called Patient No More and she was awarded the Community Excellence Award in 2018 for her participation in the planning team for the Queer and Trans Indigenous People and People of Color Conference. 

Ms. Avila joined the CEP to participate, network, and learn about the legislation process. She hopes that a universal healthcare for transgender can be passed and allow other affirmation/confirmation surgeries to be covered in Minnesota healthcare. Her dream is to start a nonprofit organization that centers on transgender needs and using that space for healing practices, counseling, and educational workshops for transgender non-comforming folxs.

Priscilla Villa-Watt, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Priscilla Villa-Watt (She/Her) is a fourth- generation Mexican-American, born and raised in South Texas. Together with her husband, she’s been living in Saint Paul for the past year with plans to make it her home away from home. She has a master’s degree in applied anthropology with a focus on environmental health. She’s interested in the connections between plastic, climate change and social injustices. 

Priscilla is the policy and advocacy manager at Eureka Recycling. She works on engagement and policy development that promotes zero-waste strategies focused on community-based solutions. Before moving to Minnesota, she was a community organizer in South Texas working with people impacted by fracking and plastic production. 

She was drawn to CEP because of the first-hand learning experiences of the legislative process alongside leaders from the BIPOC community. She’s looking forward to learning and sharing alongside a cohort she hopes to support and lean on during and after the program year. 

For fun, Priscilla loves to do Zumba, explore parks in Minnesota with her husband and two dogs, and crochet small yarn creatures.

Reyna Weber, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Reyna Ortega (She/Her) is a nurse who has helped organize the caregivers team for the Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement, formerly known as the Sheraton Sanctuary, since the beginning of the uprising. Her background in healthcare and her Honduran upbringing has always guided where her activism was directed, which has been mainly focused on housing reforms, healthcare initiatives, and domestic violence prevention for BIPOC folx. In her free time, she loves learning about tea-making processes, baking, and spending time with her family in shady forests. 

Reyna applied to the CEP cohort to expand the scope of her activism and learn the ins and outs of policy-making so that she can better support the BIPOC causes she's engaged in.

Richard Gordon, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Richard Gordon (He/They) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated high school non-traditionally with a GED at the age of 17 while residing at a boy’s group home as a ward of the state of California. Richard emancipated at the age of 18 with a small scholarship to attend community college that he won in an essay contest.

Studying horticulture at El Camino Community College in Torrance, California, Richard saw the inequities that existed between his community and that of the affluent, and it was those inequities that inspired him to begin to challenge the status quo. Richard left California in search of a new perspective. After a brief stint in Virginia, Richard connected with his distant cousin Debra, a professor at Saint Cloud State University, who invited Richard to live with her.

While attending SCSU Richard became politicized on the issue of transportation and began organizing on campus as well as in the community to address the issue. This organizing experience gave Richard his first glimpse of what it means to build real power. Since that experience, Richard has gone onto organize in successful political campaigns and is currently working to help The Nature Conservancy develop a lens of justice to guide their approach to conservation in Minnesota.  

Richard hopes CEP will help him continue to advocate for the sort of change that benefits us all.

Ruth Cardenas, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Ruth Cardenas (She/Her) is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. She is passionate about racial equity, social justice, and student access and success in higher education. Ruth holds a Bachelor of Science in child, adult and family services from Iowa State University and a Master of Arts in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri. In her current role as a TRIO student support services academic advisor at the University of Minnesota, she continues to work with students and advocates for equitable student access and higher education success.

Ruth is a 2020 alumna of the New Leaders Council and now serves on the New Leaders Council-Twin Cities Board of Directors. Since moving to the Twin Cities, her passion for community and civic engagement has been reignited. Ruth also has been working with local political campaigns to elect and support progressive leaders. She is excited to collectively learn in CEP how to leverage policy solutions to remove systemic barriers for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Tsega Tamene, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Tsega Tamene (She/Her) is a sister, daughter, friend, and more. Born to Ethiopian immigrants in Germany then raised in East Saint Paul and the north suburbs, Tsega calls many places and people home. She has lived, worked, learned, and played in Massachusetts, Ethiopia, India, Vietnam, South Africa, Tanzania, and more. Her commitment to healing and justice is global and local, centering communities most impacted, and requiring her own healing and liberation.

As the senior director of population health at Pillsbury United Communities, Tsega leads strategic program development, implementation, and evaluation in order to uproot health inequities. Her team focuses on food systems, health, safety, and accessibility. Her work also explores deeper transformative collaboration between healthcare and community, amplifying the unique role of community health workers, among other strategies.

She is passionate about community leadership, intersectionality, self-study, Black art, faith, and food. As a public health researcher and advocate, she has previously worked with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Suffolk County Jail. She also currently consults at Decolonize Design, a global community development consulting firm. Tsega graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history, global health policy, and premedicine.

Tsega joined CEP to unlock her power and embolden her voice in the public policy process. She is excited to nerd out, reflect, and build alongside community leaders from different Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. She hopes to gain the knowledge, skills, affirmation, and relationships to affect policy at Minnesota’s Capitol. Her goal is to bring learnings from CEP to both her personal and professional circles.

Tsega can be reached at TsegaT@pillsburyunited.org.

Yordanose Solomone, Wilder Community Equity Program participant 2020-2021

Yordanose Solomone (She/They) is a Minneapolis transplant from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is the Director of Equitable Engagement and works at Metro Blooms on stormwater management and facilitating engagement of Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in water and climate change efforts. She has been facilitating anti-racist centered community organization since she was 16 years old. She is currently serving on the Heart of the Beast’s MayDay Council in Minneapolis and is also a freelance artist that equitably serves Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) businesses and artists in the metro area. She is really passionate about how to meaningfully understand the multiple benefits and opportunities that environmental and art initiatives provide when equity, empowerment, and/or social justice lens is used to meaningfully involve vulnerable and underserved populations in our city. Yordi grew up in a multinational low-income immigrant household and uses she/they pronouns.

Yordi is interested in strengthening her policy education and to create a better pathway for sharing the knowledge she will be getting from the program to the communities she serves in who may feel inadequate in accessing policy education.

2019-2020 CEP Cohort

Wilders Community Equity Program Cohort of 2019-2020
Abdirisaq Moallin, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Abdirisaq Moallin was born and raised in Somalia and currently lives in Plymouth, MN. In 2015, he earned a Bachelor of Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and is now working on a Masters of Business Administration at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He is also a Director at East African Development Agency, a Twin Cities based non-profit focused on financial literacy training and building financially stable communities throughout Minnesota.

Abdirisaq is a social entrepreneur and non-profit inventor. Many years ago, it was very difficult for immigrants and their families to make local and long distance calls without breaking their bank. MCI, AT&T and CenturyLink were the major companies that provided local and long distance services to consumers and charging higher fees that most couldn’t afford. In 2017, Abdirisaq launched a telecommunications company that is affordable and easy to use for consumers, eliminating the deceptively expensive international calls.

Abdirisaq joined the CEP to meet legislators and pass bills that would fund and allow immigrant communities to learn financial literacy so they can wisely manage their financial systems in order to become entrepreneurs and homeowners.

Ade Salami, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Ade Salami is a Nigerian American woman who was raised in the heart of Minneapolis - the Central community. She still proudly resides in South Minneapolis, and this has fueled her deep passion across a multitude of areas that have impacted her community, including but not limited to access to education, safe & affordable housing, anti-displacement strategies to combat & mitigate gentrification, and immigration reform. 

Ade has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre for Social Change, which has given her an incredibly unique perspective on community outreach, facilitation, and collaboration.

She is a founding member and Content Director for the Resistance Manual, an online resource she launched under Aditi Juneja in partnership with StayWoke that was designed to make policy areas that would likely impact vulnerable communities easy to understand.

Ade currently works as the Senior Policy Aide for Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, who represents the 4th Ward on the Minneapolis City Council.

Ade is excited to learn, experience, and engage with legislation at the state level and hopes CEP will provide an opportunity to learn how to successfully advocate for better or new legislation that will improve the quality of life for BIIPOC (Black, Immigrant & Indigenous People of Color) that have long been a significant presence in Minnesota, despite not being largely represented in, or by the state legislature.

Arviance Bryant, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Arviance Bryant is a Black Mother based in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, MN. Her daughters, Zahara and Zacariel, serve as the center of inspiration through which she grows her other identities - a community sister to her peers, a community auntie to the children of her peers, a parent advocate, a community educator, and an organizer.

Arviance helps others recognize their voice and leadership in the areas of healing, housing, and self-determination. She helps parents in her neighborhood connect to the state legislative process

After 4 years of parent advocacy, Arviance has joined the CEP cohort to take the time to learn the language that matches her experience.

Chelsea Williams, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Chelsea Williams is a biracial woman and Minnesota native. She is passionate about ensuring equitable health services for all people and committed to reducing barriers that deter marginalized communities from seeking care. Chelsea graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Public Health. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who served in Belize. As a rural community health educator in the Peace Corps, Chelsea collaborated with community members to promote maternal and child health initiatives and prevent non-communicable diseases.

In her professional life, Chelsea works as an Extension Educator for the University of Minnesota Extension in Health and Nutrition. Her role allows her to explore the relationship between nutrition, physical activity, and mental wellness. Chelsea works to support the mental well-being of both Health and Nutrition staff and SNAP-Ed eligible communities.

As a part of the 2019-2020 Community Equity Program cohort, Chelsea looks forward to learning more about policy and legislation at the state level. With this knowledge, she aims to strengthen sustainable health programs for black and brown communities and make space for IPOC community voices in policy and legislative processes.

Claudia Daml, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Dr. Claudia Daml’s cultural background includes identification as a biracial woman of color who is 3rd generation Mexican-American and 1st generation Filipina. She is the descendent of hard-working Mexican immigrants who migrated North during the 1800’s building railroads. Her parents met during her father’s military service during the Vietnam War and settled in the Midwest. Dr. Daml’s favorite personal attributes include being a creative, curious, and compassionate person. Her passions include her work as a psychologist, community activist, rower, and being a mother to two fabulous teenagers.

She has been a licensed clinical psychologist in the State of Minnesota since 2010. She currently serves as the Assistant Supervisor of the Outpatient program at Washburn Center for Children, a nonprofit community mental health clinic that serves a diverse population of children, adults, and families in the Minneapolis metropolitan area. Her work at Washburn has included outpatient therapy, psychological/cognitive testing, supervision, training, and crisis intervention services in collaboration with the Minneapolis police department and the University of Minnesota. She places a high value in culturally responsive mental health treatment and is currently working to develop a clinical consultation group for clinicians of color as well as a supervisors of color group within Washburn. She completed the Equity and Diversity certificate program through the University of Minnesota this spring and is now furthering her training through their advanced Equity and Diversity certificate program.

Since 2017, Dr. Daml has been increasingly involved in politics. She serves as a precinct Co-Chair for Senate District 45 as well as Outreach and Inclusion Director. She is an active member of Women’s March Minnesota and serves on the Legislative Action Team, which advances the education, amplification, and activation of progressive issues within the state of Minnesota. Dr. Daml is interested in developing skills to enhance her ability to promote change at the local, state, national, and global levels. All of these areas are inherently shaped by politics and CEP presents as a great opportunity to connect with other change makers and to develop skills that help her engage with others in ways that drive change.

Francesca Pagan, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Born and raised in New York City, Francesca Pagan earned a Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a focus on Juvenile Recidivism and Gender Studies. She simultaneously did her Master’s in Education & Special Education at Pace University, and was a certified Special Education teacher for the NYC public school system. While in NY, Francesca completed two internships with a US congresswoman and State Lieutenant Governor.

Prior to Minnesota, Francesca lived in Maryland, where she was active in her local civic association, engaged with several human & civil rights groups, was a community organizer, and led an early childhood education program. Francesca currently resides in the West Metro suburbs with her loving husband of 16 years and their three amazing children. 

Francesca chose to participate in the Community Equity Program to learn more about the Minnesota Legislature and lobbying processes. She will use her background as a teacher, education related to juvenile criminal justice, and motivation as a parent of mixed race children to address Minnesota's high prevalence of race-based inequity in the public school system. 

Hollies Winston, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Hollies Winston was born in Chicago and at a young age moved to the Twin Cities, an area he hasn’t left since. He is a husband and proud father of three beautiful children. Hollies has a longstanding commitment to providing political and economic opportunity to those who are often overlooked or simply forgotten and has a strong belief that entrepreneurship is a key component to providing much of that access.

He currently is the Chief Executive of Guaranteed America, a company dedicated to connecting minority businesses with their share of municipal, state, and federal contracts. His current focus is working to create a minority business agenda across various business groups in Minnesota. In addition to Guaranteed America, Hollies plays a leadership role in a variety of nonprofits and startups dedicated to creating healthy families and relationships in the Twin Cities African American Community.

Hollies is participating in the Community Equity Program to gain more insight into the policy making arena and to meet folks just as passionate about positive change as he is. His long term goal is to create a coalition that is able to create a vibrant minority business community that can help lead the United States in the dawn of the 21st century.

Isela Xitlali Gómez R., 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Isela Xitlali Gómez R. is an East LA/Inland Empire transplant, artist, and community organizer. She moved to Minnesota ten years ago and now considers Minneapolis home. She was born and raised by music-loving activists from the Chicano Movement. She is Mexican, Chicana, Tarahumara, Apache, urban East LA, agricultural Inland Empire, and everything in between.

Currently at the Office of Civil Rights at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), Isela administers affirmative action programs in the construction industry. She focuses on developing and implementing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) strategies and contracting initiatives with communities of color and indigenous communities.

Having worked with and within government, Isela knows the difference when those with decision making power prioritize community and when they trivialize or tokenize community. For her, all big decisions –and laws, you might say – must come from peoples’ stories. Isela is drawn to CEP because it offers the opportunity to immerse herself in what she has been craving; in-depth knowledge about the legislative process and how to carry our stories into that space.

Oh, and she’s a writer. She likes tacos and makes use of humor as a defense mechanism & tool for healing, depending on the day.

Janet Nguyen, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Janet Ngyuen (pronounced Juh-Nette) is a queer, first generation Vietnamese American. The child of Vietnamese refugees and a navigator of the diaspora, they're passionate about the intersections of Asian American identities and queerness. They're fortunate enough to be able to explore these intersections through their work and the many connections they've made with the thriving queer, Asian, and queer Asian community in the Twin Cities. Janet is a recent college grad (go Auggies!) and when they're not busy doing organizing work, they enjoy (re)discovering traditional Vietnamese cuisine dish by dish.

Janet is the Gender Justice Organizer with Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP). Their work revolves around reproductive justice, gender justice, advocacy for queer issues, and more, all in relation to the Asian community in MN. 

They're excited to further develop their legislative skills and gain more political advocacy experiences, especially in the realm of gender justice. Janet believes that community organizing is an effective way to amplify marginalized and oppressed peoples’ voices and would like to use legislation and policy to aid their work.

Jenesis Hope Fonder, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Jenesis Hope Fonder was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. Jenesis is now a senior at Carleton College majoring in Political Science. Specifically, she is interested in Tribal Sovereignty, Indigenous self-determination, the federal government, and the many ways in which these concepts interact. She has also done research around sustainable and affordable inner-city housing and is passionate about exploring ways to make this work for both urban- and rural-Indigenous communities. 

Jenesis was a 2019 Urban Scholar at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Davis Center where she worked as an Outreach and Engagement Specialist. During the school year, she will again be working with MPS through Connecting Parents to Educational Opportunities (CPEO), an educational curriculum for minority and underserved parents/guardians of MPS students. She will be finishing her Senior Composition, which explores the illegitimacy and fallacy of Tribal Sovereignty as it is depicted by the United States government.

In joining CEP, Jenesis hopes to expand her knowledge of ways to enact systemic and political change in community and institutional spaces alike. She plans to use this introduction into the legislative system to serve her community in her future public sector career.

John Thompson, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

John Thompson is a community activist, public speaker, and founder of Fight for Justice LLC. John has a gift for facilitating courageous conversations that bring people together to better understand race, equity, and the difficult issues faced by men and women in communities of color. Minnesota Acts Now recently recognized John’s tireless efforts with a Compassion, Courage, and Dedication Award for Community Service.

John presents to organizations, non-profits, schools and universities. He has worked with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Dispute Resolution Institute, the Bureau of Mediation Services Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution, and recently served on a panel at St. Catherine University entitled Criminality, Profiling, and Systemic Racism sponsored by the Sociology Department’s Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity organization.

Karla Arredondo-Payan, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Karla Arredondo-Payan is a first generation Mexican Latina who was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was only 2 years old. She was born in Mexico, but raised in North Minneapolis. Karla believes that community and building relationships is an important part of the work. Karla credits her father with raising her to be a caring person around the needs of not only her family but the broader community. Having grown up in an area that has a bad reputation inspired Karla to work hard to bring a true perspective of the richness, diversity and many opportunities in North Minneapolis.  

Karla works as a community organizer for the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association in South Minneapolis. In her three years as an organizer, she has learned how powerful and rewarding it is to work with communities to build power and make change within the neighborhood. 

Karla believes that in order to make change one must listen and work together to build power as one collective force through conversations and meaningful relationships. Karla chose to join CEP because she believes she is ready to build upon community organizer experience and create or advocate for policy that will benefit her community around food access, education, programming, crime and safety or housing. 

Marea Perry, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Pastor Marea Perry, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, is Co-Pastor at Above Every Name Ministries – a young, cutting edge congregation in the Twin Cities that prides itself on being a “Church for the People.”  She is a devoted mother with a passion and dedication to youth development, and is also committed to community change through her work as a social, criminal and racial justice activist.

Pastor Perry has worked with a multitude of agencies, organizations and businesses across sectors to help improve and strengthen community relationships. In recent years, Pastor Perry has fought for positive change on issues such as bias testing in our schools, mass school suspensions, and mass incarceration, working to restore the right of citizens to vote upon returning to the community after incarceration. Her dedication to health and wellness services rooted in yoga, cosmetology, esthiology, prophetic meditation, mindfulness and other services help to provide aide in the calming of the mind, body and soul, teaching communities of color healthy, proactive, preventative and restorative self-sustaining wellness skills.

Life experiences, love and passion for community, justice, and youth - relating to people of color – fueled Pastor Perry’s interest in CEP, so important work can continue.

Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi, aka “the Michelle Obama of Minnesota,” is a woman with an extensive educational background. She earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University with a focus in international relations, political science, women and gender studies. Oluwatobi has experience in teaching younger students, campaign work, retail marketing, writing, research, government, and communications. Currently, she is passionate about criminal justice, social justice, writing, people's equality and the representation of women in politics, Black Lives Matter, advocacy, governments, community building and leadership development.

Oluwatobi has a deep love for learning about people’s cultures and wants to change the world with her words, superpowers, ideas, and skills. In her personal life, she is a self-care and self-love enthusiast. She loves people just as they are, believes that all people are good, and they are working towards being more knowledgeable and wants to build herself so that she can help others shine. She is an asset and contribution to whatever space she finds herself.

Ultimately, Oluwatobi wants to create safer spaces to welcome everyone no matter their race, ethnicity, skin color, nationality, gender identity, sexuality, religion, ability, or age. She joined Community Equity Program to continue building networks and learn more about changing policies and processes to impact systems and institutions, making life better for marginalized people.

Richard Gordon, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Richard Gordon was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated high-school non-traditionally with a GED at the age of 17 while residing at a boys group home as a ward of the state of California. Richard emancipated at the age of 18 with a small scholarship to attend community college that he won in an essay contest.

Studying horticulture at El Camino Community College in Torrance, California, Richard saw the inequities that existed between his community and that of the affluent, and it was those inequities that inspired him to begin to challenge the status quo. Richard left California in search of a new perspective. After a brief stint in Virginia, Richard connected with his distant cousin Debra, a professor at Saint Cloud State University, who invited Richard to live with her.

While attending SCSU Richard became politicized on the issue of transportation and began organizing on campus as well as in the community to address the issue. This organizing experience gave Richard his first glimpse of what it means to build real power. Since that experience, Richard identified himself as a community organizer, most recently working as a Field Organizer with DFL Coordinated Campaign, a role which highlighted and honeed some of his best qualities as an organizer.

Richard hopes CEP will help him continue to advocate for the sort of change that benefits us all.

Triasia Givens is an alumna Wilder's Community Equity Program alumna.

Triasia (Asia) Givens is a family advocate who specializes in special education and racial disparities in the educational system. She is a student in the Master’s of Advocacy and Political Leadership program at Metropolitan State University and currently serves as the co-chair of Black Parents Advisory Council of Minneapolis Public Schools. 

Vachel Hudson, 2019-2020 Alumni of Wilder's Community Equity Program

Vachel Hudson is a natural leader who was heavily sought after for his work in his hometown of Louisville, KY, with the Vision Russell Neighborhood Development and Revitalization Project where he was a key component in the city winning a Housing and Urban Development grant worth more than $32 million for his neighborhood’s economic development plan. In his role with this project, Vachel mobilized the community and used his position to speak for more than 1,100 residents and sat on the board of the newly created Russell Neighborhood Association.

Vachel currently does community building and engagement work for Aeon, an affordable housing developer based in the Twin Cities. In his role he identifies residents who are at risk of losing their home, intervenes, mediates, and supports positive changes to prevent eviction while also helping to stabilize the homes of individuals and families with the greatest barriers by connecting them to community resources such as mental health or chemical dependency treatment, job training, financial literacy and homeownership. Vachel is the Vice President of the Minneapolis Urban League Young Professionals, where he also does consultation work as a housing counselor and serves on other neighborhood boards and committees.

Vachel chose to participate in the Community Equity Program to use his voice to advocate for recommendations on housing policies that address disparities in hopes to allow more access to housing for those disproportionately affected by systemic barriers.  He hopes to gain the skills necessary to build an even more powerful and influential voice in public policy decision making  to make access to housing and wealth accumulation a possibility for everyone. He is also excited to connect with other leaders of color to promote commonality within other sectors, build relationships, coalitions, and movements.

2018-2019 CEP Cohort

Abiola Abu-Bakr

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Abiola Abu-Bakr

Biiftuu Ibrahim Adam

Community Equity Pipeline participant Biiftuu Ibrahim Adam is an Oromo American woman and is passionate about equity and works to address disparities in the criminal justice system, racial and social justice.

Aarica Coleman

Community Equity Pipeline participant Aarica Coleman, a native of the Twin Cities, has a passion and commitment to improve the lifestyle, environment, and access to opportunities for those who are marginalized and structurally disenfranchised through economic and political education and advocacy.

Comfort Dondo

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Comfort Dondo

Rico Durán

Community Equity Pipeline participant Rico Durán practices in the areas of Community Organizing and Youth Leadership Development. He is currently developing programs with COPAL (Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acción Latina), a new organization with a mission of uniting Latinos in Minnesota.

Jokho Farah

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Jokho Farah

Ricardo Caballero Perez Gonzalez

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Ricardo Caballero Perez Gonzalez

Estefania Navarro Hernandez

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Estefania Navarro Hernandez

Linda Garrett-Johnson

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Linda Garrett Johnson

Fatu Magassouba

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Fatu Magassouba

Bukola Oriola

Community Equity Pipeline participant Bukola Oriola is an international public and motivational speaker, international bestselling author, mentor, advocate, entrepreneur, consultant, and member, U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Maria Isa Pérez-Hedges

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Maria Isa Perez Hedges

Samantha Sencer-Mura

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Bukola Oriola

Cherita Tenhoff

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Cherita Tenhof

Erica Valliant

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Erica Valliant

Maya Washington-Zeigler

Community Equity Pipeline 2018-2019 cohort participant Maya Washington-Zeigler

2017-2018 CEP Cohort

  • Ethrrophic Burnett
  • Victor Cedeno
  • Abshir Colad
  • Antonio Elias
  • Willie Pearl  Evans
  • Nicholas French
  • Darius Gray
  • Ruthie Johnson
  • Khalid Mohamed
  • Tolulope Ola
  • Gaonou Vang
  • Joshua Vang
  • Robin  Wonsley
  • Kalia Xiong
  • Lauren Yates

2016-2017 CEP Cohort

  • Brett Grant
  • Cacje Henderson
  • Monica Hurtado
  • Amanda  Koonjbeharry
  • Bao Lee
  • May Esperanza Losloso
  • Awale  Osman
  • Sheku Samba
  • Clara Sharp/Akbar-Bey
  • Chuayi Thao
  • Kabo Yang
  • Cynthia Zapata

2015-2016 Founding CEP Cohort

  • PH Copeland
  • Phillipe Cunningham
  • Kizzy Downie
  • Ron Harris
  • Nicole Hernandez
  • Chong Lee
  • Rebecca Lucero
  • MK Nguyen
  • Theresa Nix
  • Donna Oda
  • Chalonne Wilson
  • Daniel Yang
  • Metric Giles
  • Fartun Weli