Meet the 2017 Cohort of Women Organizers
The Women's Organizing Network runs a five-month program for a group of sixteen women organizers at social justice organizing groups and unions across New York City: The Cohort of Women Organizers. In the cohort, participants build relationships of mutual support with each other, in order to advance their own leadership, support the leadership of women members, and take action to work to bring a gender lens into their work.
Adelaide Alexander is a community organizer from Charlottesville, Virginia, who’s been organizing in Fredericksburg with Virginia Organizing for the last 4 years. She moved to New York this fall, and is learning so much from the variety and scope of organizing activities in the city! Her main passion as an organizer is to work with people who are directly affected by issues of injustice to build power and raise their voices for change. She believes that stories are powerful, and telling and understanding each other’s stories is the only way to build community and create a new story for our time. She is the Lead Housing Organizer with Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.
Talia Arif is a Lead Gender Justice Organizer at DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), working on a new initiative, Eckshate: Together for Gender Justice - the young women’s gender justice program. Eckshate means “together” in Bangla; it is representative of the need for a united front of South Asian women in the face of gender-based oppression. Currently, Talia is also supporting the expansion of Eckshate for men and elder women at DRUM. Talia joined DRUM in 2010 as a student seeking community service credits but her experiences as an undocumented Muslim young women played a key role in shaping her leadership development at DRUM. As a member and leader Talia has represented DRUM’s work particularly in immigration, police accountability and educational justice.
Viviana is currently the Campaigns and Outreach Assistant at Demos, a national public policy organization working to create an America where everyone has an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. At Demos, she tracks state-based campaigns around key issue areas, supports capacity-building efforts with partners in key states, and manages campaigns team organizational systems. Prior to Demos, she worked as the Program Assistant at Building Movement Project. Previous positions also include working as Program Assistant for the Women’s & Gender Studies Program at Montclair State University, and as an intern for the international NGO, The Feminist Task Force, where she was given the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at AWID’s (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) 2012 forum in Istanbul, Turkey. Viviana has also volunteered with a Jersey City-based community organization, Action 21, where she led their gender equity programming. She received her B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies with minors in Latin-American & Latino Studies and Sociology from Montclair State University
Athena Bernkopf is a mixed-race, mixed-class, gender-queer woman of color. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and have also lived in other countries either for family, study or work. As a Paralegal Case Handler in the Tenant Rights Coalition at the Legal Aid Society, and as a member of Harlem Cop Watch, she works in the intersections of housing systems, legal systems, government programs, public safety, and community organizationsn to cultivate cultures of self-determination and community control. She has a background in youth empowerment, service learning and leadership education. She is also currently a graduate student in CUNY-Hunter College’s Urban Planning program, and the Professional Development Coordinator for the Diversity Committee of the APA NY Metro Chapter.
Basma Eid is a first generation Arab-American born to Egyptian immigrants and raised in Rochester, NY. She currently works at Enlace where she organizes on the recently launched #FreedomCities campaign, and organizes on the Prison Divestment campaign. She is also a lead trainer in Enlace’s Delfino Leadership Institute through the New York Worker Center Federation. She previously organized alongside New York’s diverse street vendor community where she worked on ending the decriminalization of street vending. Basma is also involved in the LEAP Program (Learning for the Empowerment and Advancement of Palestinians), where she helps coordinate a summer youth empowerment program in the Palestinian refugee camps of South Lebanon.
Helen Guzman is first generation Mexican American from the Bronx, NYC. She attended public school throughout high school and studied Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies as a recipient of the Posse Scholar Leadership Award at Trinity College. Helen became a community organizing apprentice through the Center for Neighborhood Leadership. She is the Lead Organizer at the New Settlement Parent Action Committee (PAC), an organization that is led by parents with campaigns to improve the quality of public schools in District 9 and to transform the discipline practices in the Bronx. Helen loves to build community and strategize ways to improve ways to get free.
Tiffany is the Director of Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia. She started working on social justice issues through the Chaplain’s Office at College of the Holy Cross where she traveled on an Immersion Experience to Mexico, participated in Pax Christi, and interned at Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx and Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services. She then served with International Partners in Mission (IPM), coordinating the Immersion Experience Program, learning from grassroots women-led community development groups in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Kenya, Tanzania and a Native American Reservation in Wyoming. Wanting to learn more about community development, she studied International Development and Social Change at Clark University, interning in the Dominican Republic, working with the Social Ministry Committee of San Pedro Apostol parish. She now works in Northern Manhattan organizing Social Justice Ministry Teams at local parishes and working with other community-based organizations and coalitions to put faith into action, promoting social justice on local community issues.
Nova Lucero is a community organizer at Metropolitan Council on Housing. She started there after working as a Eviction Prevention Case Manager and Housing Specialist in the South Bronx, with families facing eviction or currently living in the shelter system. Previous to that, she worked as an Interpreter and Legal Program Coordinator in White Plains, NY with The Pace Community Law Practice of Pace Law School; and later as an Interpreter and Legal Assistant at the Law Office of Craig Relles, working with low-income families and individuals facing deportation. Nova graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in Political Science. She spent a year in Bolivia working with women and children survivors of violence and learning about organizing for legal reform on domestic violence issues.
Eliana Machefsky organizes with the New Settlement Parent Action Committe to help parents in the Bronx reduce suspensions, arrests, and court summonses in public schools by advocating for restorative discipline practices. Eliana became passionate about organizing as a method for change during college, when she organized in solidarity with dining hall staff on her campus as they fought for higher wages, paid sick leave, and eventually—a union. When she's not organizing, Eliana is likely either praying with community at her synagogue, on a hike, or watching very excellent teen t.v. dramas. She is very excited and grateful to be part of this sisterhood of rad women organizers!
Marilyn Reyes-Scales, raised in the Bronx (Bronxdale Projects) is a mother, a grandmother, an activist, a public health worker, and so much more. Fueled by her experiences and her desire to improve job prospects for people coming home from incarceration, Marilyn joined VOCAL-NY, working on campaigns and bringing new members into the organization, canvassing at parole offices and court houses, and educating people. Marilyn also became a core leader in VOCAL-NY's efforts to pass The Fair Chance Act, city legislation that prevents employers from asking about conviction histories until after a conditional job offer. Marilyn has served as Peer Educator with New York Harm Reduction Educators for the last 4 years. She is also Co-Chair for the Peer Network of New York. Marilyn's advocacy uplifts her own experiences but also the experiences of so many women who have had their lives upended by the failed drug war and mass incarceration.
Marilyn fights for the rights of drug users, former drug users, people living with HIV, Hep C, homelessness,and so much more by humanizing the issues with Harm Reduction Principles. She recently became a member of the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Anisah A. Sabur is a fifty-seven year old African American Muslim woman; has worked in advocacy and organizing since 2004. She also worked in Reentry to help families and individuals impacted by the Criminal Legal system in NYC and NYS returning to their communities. She currently organizes the Coalition for Woman Prisoners, as well as conducts prison monitoring visits, to ensure the Department of Correction and Community Supervision makes the conditions more humane and fair to all who are currently incarcerated. She currently works at the Correctional Association of NY Women in Prison Project.
Ojiugo Uzoma is African Communities Together’s Program Manager. Ojiugo is an organizer with 12 years of experience building power in disenfranchised communities. She began her activism as a student at Washington University, where in addition to leading anti-war efforts, she co-founded the Student-Worker Alliance. Since then, she has worked on campaigns with the Communications Workers of America, the Working Families Party, and SEIU Local 32BJ. In addition, Ojiugo has organized parents around education issues with the Industrial Areas Foundation. Ojiugo is active in grassroots organizations in her community and has led political education for the New York City chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Ojiugo is a Nigerian immigrant, and is passionate about developing political power among African immigrants.
My name is Stephanie Eleboria Veras, born and raised in New York City in the diverse borough of Queens. I was raised in a vibrant Colombian and Dominican household. I am very passionate about dance and music, and believe music builds community. With the support of family, friends, and peers I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations at the City College of New York. I developed an interest in organizing when I started canvassing for Riders Alliance, an organization that advocates for better public transit in NYC. I enjoyed talking to bus riders and learning more about New York City and State Politics and its intersectionality with public transit. Today, I work as a community organizer, organizing bus riders and advocating for reliable and affordable public transit, at The Riders Alliance.