Staff & Leaders

Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls

photo(321) Anthony Thigpenn, a Los Angeles-based community organizer for more than 30 years, heads California Calls, a powerful alliance of 31 organizations in 12 counties around the state. The centerpiece of California Calls is to achieve progressive, long-term tax and fiscal policy reform by engaging underrepresented, low-income voters in state public policy decision-making.

Mr. Thigpenn is widely recognized as a leading expert in grassroots, civic engagement technology and programs. He ran successful field campaigns for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Congresswoman Karen Bass, State Senator Kevin de León, and former City Councilmember Martin Ludlow, among others.

Mr. Thigpenn is also the founder and president of Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), a grassroots organization formed in South Los Angeles shortly after the 1992 uprising in the city. It was formerly known as AGENDA.

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Mr. Thigpenn got his start in multi-racial coalition and movement-building as a high school student in the 1960s. Following high school, Mr. Thigpenn worked in Oakland organizing the Black community during the heyday of radical, social movement politics. He returned to Los Angeles and began working as a community organizer.

In the mid-1970s, he worked as a machinist by day and organized against police abuses by night. In the 1990s, he helped run city council races and then tried to create multiracial coalitions, especially when the state’s GOP pushed anti-immigrant measures.

Lydia Chavez’s 1998 book about that fight says even then, Mr. Thigpenn was urging “occasional” voters to vote, just as he was urging grassroots groups to create coalitions, because power only responds to power. But unlike the 1990s, Mr. Thigpenn realized that today there is a new majority of California voters—working, middle-class and low-income people from Latino, African-American and immigrant communities —who hold the state’s political future in their hands.

He is credited with developing a “Power Analysis” analytical tool in the 1990s, a process to be used by social justice organizations to build a strategy to win a campaign. The tool, which has been used by hundreds of organizations nationally, includes a systematic series of questions, investigative steps, information collection and knowledge of power players.

His areas of expertise include political, strategic and neighborhood organizing, economic justice and budget issues, building community organizations, engaging and shaping the electorate via civic engagement, public policy advocacy, Prop 13, new voter field technology, commercial property tax reform and California ballot initiatives and elections.

Prior to founding SCOPE, Mr. Thigpenn was executive director of Los Angeles’ Jobs with Peace and executive director of the Unity Workshop. He has received many honors, including a Charles Bannerman Fellowship Award, and was named one of five “Heroes for Hard Times” by Mother Jones magazine.

He enjoys cycling and nature photography in his spare time and is a big fan of the outdoors. If he is not at work strategizing, he could be found in the wilderness of the High Sierra’s or watching the Walking Dead.

Mr. Thigpenn lives in Los Angeles.

Sabrina Smith, Deputy Director

6916098306_a719e1c27b_zAs Deputy Director, Sabrina Smith oversees program development, staff management, technology, infrastructure, and strategic communications for California Calls. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization and stitches the program work together to enable the alliance to mobilize a base of 500,000 new and occasional voters.

Sabrina has worked with Anthony Thigpenn since 1997, leading alliance building, organizing, voter engagement and regional policy campaigns for AGENDA and SCOPE.

Prior to California Calls, Sabrina worked as SCOPE’s Organizing Director. She has trained hundreds of community organizers across the country in community organizing, power analysis, campaign development and work management.

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In 2005, she directed the West Side regional field program for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s campaign.

Sabrina grew up in Santa Clara, California and graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s and Labor Studies, although she spent most of her college days rabble-rousing instead of studying. After college, she was the Field Director for the UC Student Association, organizing students around affirmative action, fee increases and electoral battles such as Propositions 187 and 209.

Sabrina lives with two notoriously scary black cats in Los Angeles and has a fascinating collection of art, books, vinyl records and vintage knick-knacks.

Karla Zombro, Field Director

582115_414589445237377_119689474_n(1)Karla leads the statewide organizing, capacity-building and civic engagement work with the 31 organizations of California Calls. She is convinced that she has the coolest job in California, and probably the entire United States.

Since 1999, prior to becoming a full-time staffer for California Calls, Karla worked in a variety of roles at SCOPE (Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education) where she played a key role in recruiting and developing SCOPE’s membership base and community leadership as well as helping develop and win key policy campaigns. Karla’s work ranged from South LA Lead Organizer to Alliance Coordinator to Senior Trainer/Facilitator, where she was part of the early development of the California Alliance, now California Calls. In this role, Karla developed a curriculum on Civic Engagement organizing for community groups which has been used all over the country and still forms the core of California Calls’ training program.

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Karla also has taken time off here and there to work as Field Director on a variety of campaigns, including the 2001 and 2005 Los Angeles mayoral elections and a 2008 campaign which successfully elected a progressive to a pivotal assembly district in San Diego.

From 1994 to 1999, Karla was a union organizer with SEIU Local 1877 in Los Angeles where she helped lead several successful campaigns to organize nursing home workers, janitors, and airport security officers.

Karla graduated from UCLA in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies. She is forever grateful for the education she received at one of California’s greatest public universities.

She is an avid cook and terrible, yet persistent, knitter. Her greatest inspiration in life is her twin sister, Camille, who she considers to be her best friend and an example of the woman she hopes to be one day.

Veronica Carrizales, Policy and Campaign Development Director

photo(326)Veronica oversees the internal operations of California Calls, leads expansion into new regions of the state, shapes policy analysis, and maintains partnerships with key statewide allies.

Prior to joining California Calls, she worked as a labor specialist with the UC Berkeley Labor Center. She created and facilitated a number of the Center’s visionary programs including the Latino Leadership Training School, held in the Central Valley, and the California Lead Organizers Institute. In addition, her training skills were enhanced as program director with ENLACE (U.S. – Mexico), where she led capacity-building training and a workers’ rights program for Mexican maquiladora workers and U.S. worker centers.

Veronica got her start as an organizer working on advocacy campaigns for good jobs with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) on the Los Angeles Living Wage campaign and the Santa Monica Living Wage campaign.

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Veronica is a first generation Chicana who was raised in the Coachella Valley with nine siblings in a farmworker family. She is passionate about advancing the cause of social and economic justice. She graduated from UCLA in 1997.

She enjoys going on bike rides, hiking, and learning the art of self-defense.

Robyn Elliott, Director of Finance & Administration

RobynRobyn  works with the administrative team to provide operational support for California Calls’ organizing, civic engagement and alliance work.

Prior to joining California Calls, Robyn was responsible for finance and infrastructure at other Los Angeles area community organizations, including Community Coalition, a California Calls anchor.

She also previously was a consultant with Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and the ALLERT PAC (predecessor to California Calls Action Fund). Her experience encompasses accounting, tax preparation and human resources.

Robyn is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant by the State of California.  Her Bachelor of Science degree (Business Administration-Accounting) is from the University of Southern California.

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She enjoys embarrassing her teenage daughter by being overly enthusiastic at USC football games, LA Dodger games and Hello Kitty events.

Michele Prichard, Senior Advisor

photo(327)Michele serves as a Senior Advisor to California Calls, assisting with strategy, policy and fundraising development.

As Director of Common Agenda at the Liberty Hill Foundation in Los Angeles, Michele began her involvement with the foundation as a volunteer in 1982. As Liberty Hill’s Executive Director from 1989 to 1997, she helped create new grant programs addressing poverty, racial justice and environmental health.

Liberty Hill is now considered one of the most innovative public foundations in the country for its grantmaking, leadership training and alliance-building programs. Michele has served on the governing and advisory boards of many philanthropic efforts including the California Health and Environmental Funders Network, LA Urban Funders, the Southern California Association for Philanthropy, the Funding Exchange and the Working Group on Labor and Community.

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She also serves on the Board of Directors of Venice Community Housing and the steering committee of GREEN LA. Mayor Villaraigosa appointed Michele to the Board of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation in 2011, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the Port communities of Wilmington and San Pedro.

Michele has served as a Senior Fellow in the UCLA School of Public Affairs since 2007, where she earned her Master of Arts in Urban Planning in 1989. In 2012, Michele received the Distinguished Service Award from the Council on Foundations, the highest distinction awarded by the COF.

Even more than the joy she experiences from her many professional and volunteer activities, Michele savors time with her husband and two sons. She has spent many hours raising funds, transporting and cheering for her sons’ football and basketball teams.

Staff

Lydia Avila, Senior Organizing Coordinator

lydiaLydia Avila is the Senior Organizing Coordinator at California Calls where she works supporting Anchor organizations in the Central Valley and Central Coast with all aspects of their civic engagement programs.  Lydia also assists with staff management and Anchor training and capacity building.

Prior to joining California Calls, she was the Director of Community Organizing at Innercity Struggle, an educational justice organization working with youth and parents to improve the quality of education in Eastside schools.  She was also a Community Organizer for East LA Community Corporation, where she worked with Boyle Heights’ residents to fight gentrification by advocating for equitable land-use and planning policies.

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Lydia graduated with honors from Occidental College with a major in Urban and Environmental Policy.

She was born, raised and currently lives in Boyle Heights with her husband and two children.

Edgar Beltran, Policy and Research Associate

edgar beltranEdgar conducts research and policy analysis that informs projects and strategy. His expertise includes industry and corporate research, mapping, and public budgets and finance.

Before joining California Calls in August 2014, Edgar was a researcher with SEIU 32BJ in New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. With 32BJ he helped advance new organizing and fight back campaigns with public and private employers in the commercial cleaning and security industry. Noteworthy campaigns include fighting the closure of public schools in Philadelphia and advocating for responsible public procurement and tax abatement policies in various cities.

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In 2011 Edgar earned a masters degree in Urban Planning from UCLA.

He is a proud native and resident of South Central Los Angeles and an avid basketball player and enthusiast.

Kevin Cosney, Organizing Coordinator

photo(319)Kevin has been an Organizing Coordinator for California Calls since April 2012. He is currently working with five organizations in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, coordinating civic engagement programs and providing support and assistance.

Previously, he worked as an Academic Advisor and Youth Development Fellow at BLU Educational Foundation and has coordinated youth empowerment workshops and events as a Community Outreach Specialist for Youth Action Project.

In 2011, Kevin helped found “4e”, an organization focused on developing and strengthening communities through education, empowerment, civic engagement and entrepreneurship. He currently serves on their board.

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Kevin graduated from UC Riverside in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Ethnic Studies and Sociology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Marketing.

Kevin loves to travel, enjoys the outdoors, mountain hikes, beach trips and star gazing. He is an avid consumer and creator of arts and culture and can be found at various concerts of all genres, open mics and art walks.

Blanca Delgado, IT Field Coordinator

photo(354)Blanca is the Field/Technology Coordinator at California Calls responsible for managing our entire civic engagement infrastructure. She is developing, managing, and expanding the technology and infrastructure for the Alliance’s 16 get-out-the-vote centers and our database of 1.5 million voters. This infrastructure allows California Calls anchors to contact up to 30,000 voters a night.

Prior to California Calls, Blanca worked in the public and private sector as a network engineer and network administrator. She has also worked as an A+ certification instructor at a continuation high school in South Los Angeles.

Blanca has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from California State University, Los Angeles. She has earned certifications as a (CCNA) Cisco Certified Network Associate and (MCP) Microsoft Certified Professional.

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As an avid baseball fan, Blanca was an active participant of Women’s Initiative and Network (WIN), a community outreach effort sponsored by the Los Angeles Dodgers and designed to raise awareness and funds for women’s causes.

Monica Embrey, Organizing Coordinator

Monica Embrey headshotMonica Embrey is an Organizing Coordinator at California Calls where she works supporting organizations that are part of the Building Healthy Communities initiative with their civic engagement programs. The 6 organizations she supports are based across the state from San Diego to the Central Valley to Sacramento. She also works as the Public Education Coordinator for the Make It Fair campaign.

Previously, she was a Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, where she worked to successfully retire 8 of 14 coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. She also campaigned to keep electricity rates affordable and to expand access to clean energy for all communities. As part of the Moral Monday Movement, Monica organized to empower voters across North Carolina on a 12-issue platform for progressive change.

She is currently a member of the Manzanar Committee, a racial justice organization her grandmother founded 50 years ago to remember the unconstitutional incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during WWII.

Melinda Hilyard-Ealy, Development Manager

photo(318)Melinda joined the California Calls team in 2011 as the Operations Manager. She is the alliance’s home base – responsible for the infrastructure and systems to support both day-to-day operations and long term organizational goals.

Melinda has enjoyed a career filled with pioneering achievements and innovation. After attending Occidental College, Melinda worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with a non-profit organization that treats the victims of indirect violence utilizing art therapy in unique and healing ways.

She was then recruited by Warner Bros. as a Senior Financial Analyst to modernize and upgrade the international computer leasing program. She was recognized for her participation in developing a successful financial system for the beleaguered lease payment program at Warner Bros.

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In continuing with a pioneering spirit, Melinda has been constantly inspired by the work of California Calls, particularly during their victorious battle to pass Proposition 30 with amazing strategic diligence.

Any time away from work is spent with her remarkable children who are both future leaders in the making. Her son is a 2013 Posse Scholar (a renowned program which promotes college success and youth leadership), and her daughter is an avid athlete. They keep her motivated and inspired and serve as a constant reminder of why California Calls works so hard to make California the best state in the nation.

Marjon Kashani, Organizing Coordinator

IMG_0493Marjon has been an Organizing Coordinator with California Calls since May 2011. She works specifically with Bay Area anchor groups in Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco, supporting their staffs in all aspects of running civic engagement programs.

For the past 15 years, Marjon has worked in a variety of social justice and labor organizations in the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles including: the Center for Young Women’s Development (San Francisco) DRUM: Desis Rising UP and Moving (NYC), and UNITE HERE Local 11 (LA).

Marjon received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a focus on Middle Eastern and Muslim communities from San Francisco State University and a Masters in Social Work, specializing in community organizing, from the Hunter College School of Social Work in New York.

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She was born and raised in San Francisco to parents who immigrated from Japan and Iran. She loves music, dancing, movies, beaches and spending time with family and friends.

Jessica Pace, Strategic Communications Coordinator

photo(330)Jessica started as a Strategic Communications Coordinator at California Calls in 2013. She focuses on innovative ways to further our traditional grassroots organizing using email and social media.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Jessica cut her teeth as an activist in high school and has spent the last 12 years working for social justice in low-income, people of color & oppressed communities.

Previously Jessica worked at SEIU Local 721 as a Communications Specialist for LA County Workers in Health Services and the LA County Superior Court. Before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her own California Dream, Jessica worked as the Data & Communications Organizer for Missouri Jobs with Justice.

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Jessica has a Master’s in Public Policy Administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and was a member of the New Organizing Institute New Media Bootcamp 5.

Jessica lives in Los Angeles and spends most of her free time enjoying as much live music as she can and finding a new reason to love California every day.

Victor Suarez, Strategic Communications Coordinator

12565505_10207151977213116_7633378908469769235_n (1)Victor is a Strategic Communications Coordinator at California Calls where he leverages new media, storytelling and technology to help bridge online and offline engagement.

Before joining California Calls, Victor worked at NationBuilder as a Community Strategist. At NationBuilder he helped develop and execute digital organizing strategies for political campaigns and advocacy organizations throughout the U.S and Latin America. He began his work in advocacy working as a Paralegal in immigrant communities in Los Angeles before transitioning into a career in community organizing and technology.

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Victor graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. Victor is a proud East LA native and resident – he enjoys southwest road trips, writing, and all things electric guitar.

 

LaShawn White, Senior Finance & Logistics Manager

photo(355)LaShawn is the Finance and Logistics Manager and has been with California Calls since its inception. Prior to that, she worked at SCOPE for 13 years.

Her responsibilities include: office management, grants and financial management, scheduling, and administrative support to the organization’s president, Anthony Thigpenn. She also provides lead logistical support to all of California Calls statewide and regional meetings, sometimes involving hundreds of people from across the state.

Before coming to SCOPE and California Calls, LaShawn worked for SEIU Local 434B Homecare Workers union as an organizer to help with membership recruitment.

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LaShawn has an Associate of Arts Degree from Los Angeles Southwest College. She is also a frequent world traveler and has traveled to Cuba and Europe. She lives in Compton and is mom to Jamal, a community college student and photographer.

James Woodson, Organizing Coordinator

James has been an Organizing Coordinator for California Calls since January 2016. He works specifically on the African American Civic Engagement Project with groups around the state, coordinating civic engagement programs and providing support and assistance to the founding cohort. James is also assisting coordination of the Million Voters Project.

Previously, James served as the Director of Clubhouse and Athletic Programs for the Boys & Girls Club of Newark, NJ, where he managed youth development programs for over 300 children. James is also a licensed attorney in the states of New Jersey and New York and proud alum of the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ.

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Prior to entering law school, James served in a variety of capacities within the Democratic National Committee, the NJ Democratic State Committee, and Obama For America. James was a lead organizer for the NJ Health Care For America Now campaign and served as co-Counsel for the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission in 2012. In addition, James was the Founding Director of the Friendship Development Corporation, where he led the effort to create an outreach center that provides food, clothing, and other services to thousands of low-income families in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

James loves all things entertainment, and in his spare time, writes, produces, and directs all types of creative multimedia projects. He is the co-writer, director, and producer of the Off-Broadway stage play “Love’s Gonna Get You.”

James currently resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and two children.

 

Leaders

The California Calls Coordinating Committee is our highest decision-making body, made up of representatives from regional anchor groups, state anchor groups, and strategic partners. The Coordinating Committee meets once per quarter and oversees the Alliance’s goals, program plans, activities and budget.

 

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) – Statewide, LA, San Diego – Amy Schur, Maurice Weeks

Alliance San Diego – Andrea Guerrero, Christopher Wilson

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) – Statewide Ally – Betty Hung

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) – Statewide Ally – Amado Uno

California Federation of Teachers – Statewide Ally – Jessica Ulstad

Coastal Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy – Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties – Cameron Yee, Lucas Zucker

Community Coalition – Los Angeles –Joanne Kim, Alberto Retana

Communities for a New California – Statewide, Fresno and Coachella Valley – Venise Curry

Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) – Rev. Benjamin Briggs, Sam Casey

Courage Campaign – Statewide Ally – Eddie Kurtz

Dolores Huerta Foundation – Kern, Tulare Counties – Dolores Huerta, Camila Chavez

Knotts Family & Parenting Institute – Gwen Knotts, Ed McField

Inner City Struggle – Los Angeles –Henry Perez

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) – Statewide Ally – Patricia Castellanos

Oakland Rising – Oakland/Alameda County –  Jessamyn Sabbag

San Francisco Rising – San Francisco County – Alex Tom, Chinese Progressive Association; Vanessa Moses, Just Cause/Causa Justa

Strategic Concepts in Organizing Policy Education (SCOPE) – Los Angeles – Gloria Walton, Manisha Vaze

Working Partnerships USA – San Jose/Santa Clara County – Derecka Mehrens, Maria Fernandez