Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls
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
As 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
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
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 lives in South Pasadena with her two children, Ixchel and Emiliano, and enjoys going on bike rides, hiking, and learning the art of self-defense.
Michele Prichard, Senior Advisor
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.
Ana Beatriz Cholo, Strategic Communications Coordinator
Ana has worked as a Strategic Communications Coordinator for California Calls since March 2012. Ana is implementing communications strategies to project California Calls’ brand and identity and is working to create a new center of debate around the value of government and progressive tax reform.
Ana is a former news journalist and has worked as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press and other media outlets. While at The Chicago Tribune, the education team she was a part of was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the No Child Left Behind Act. She was previously the Communications Manager at the Courage Campaign, an online progressive organization and at the Center for Urban Education, a research center at the University of Southern California.
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Ana served in the United States Navy for four years. She holds a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Print Journalism from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California.
She lives in Seal Beach and is a mom of three. She enjoys the outdoors and is a photographer, storyteller, triathlete and all-around adventurer. She is a member of Voces Latinas Toastmaster’s Club in LA and contributes to the Huffington Post.
Kevin Cosney, Organizing Coordinator
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
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.
Melinda Hilyard-Ealy, Operations Manager
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
Marjon 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
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.
Julia Plascencia, Organizing Coordinator
Julia has been an Organizing Coordinator for California Calls since August 2011. Her work is to support the Central Valley and Central Coast member organizations of California Calls.
She has been involved in community organizing for the past 13 years working on advancing social and economic justice. Julia has worked on a variety of campaigns to end poverty and homelessness, and to address labor and income inequality issues. She has organized communities as far away as Puebla, Mexico to improve working conditions in the Maquiladora industry and has worked most recently and locally in the communities of Pico-Union to help families achieve economic and academic success as a case manager at New Economics for Women.
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Julia received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations and Chicano/a Studies from UCLA. She is currently a member of Liberty Hill’s 2013 Fund for Change Community Funding Board.
In addition to her professional work she is also a wife and a mother of two. When Julia is not organizing for her passions, she enjoys spending quality time her husband and children. Julia also enjoys spending time with her group of tight-knit friends and the inspiration and support they provide. Julia enjoys reading and listening to music to relax.
Annetta Wells-Starks, Organizing Coordinator
Annetta joined California Calls as an Organizing Coordinator in January 2012. Her work is based in South Los Angeles where she grew up. She coordinates four social justice organizations in LA, and an additional two organizations in San Diego.
She was introduced to organizing as a teenager at Community Coalition, a California Calls’ anchor organization. Annetta served as both a youth organizer in the early 90s tackling heavy issues such as Three Strikes well before she could vote.
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She taught pre-school for several years, delighting in working with young children, but returned to her roots in organizing at Community Coalition as a parent organizer and civic engagement leader. Her passion for organizing is fueled by her desire to create a California that represents equality, access and justice for all.
Annetta attended Cal State University Northridge where she majored in Sociology and excelled as a star track and field athlete, obtaining a record 15 conference titles and USA qualifying mark for the 2000 Olympic Games.
She is currently studying communications as part of her graduate program with Ashford University. Her hobbies include make-up, good food and great people. Her most prized moments come from raising her daughter.
LaShawn White, Field & Logistics Manager
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.
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, Christina Livingston
Alliance San Diego – Andrea Guerrero, Christopher Wilson
California Federation of Teachers – Statewide Ally – Jessica Ulstad
Coastal Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy – Ventura County – Marcos Vargas, Diana Marin
Community Coalition – Los Angeles – Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Joanne Kim
Communities for a New California – Statewide, Fresno and Coachella Valley – Pablo Rodriguez, Sabina Gonzalez
Courage Campaign – Statewide Ally – Rick Jacobs, Sarah Callahan
Dolores Huerta Foundation – Kern, Tulare Counties – Dolores Huerta, Camilla Chavez
Inland Valley Coalition – San Bernardino County – Rev. Benjamin Briggs, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement; Gwen Knotts, Knotts Family & Parenting Institute; Mike Long, Warehouse Workers United
Inner City Struggle – Los Angeles – Henry Perez, Lydia Avila
Oakland Rising – Oakland/Alameda County – Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont, 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, Dawn Modkins
Working Partnerships USA – San Jose/Santa Clara County – Cindy Chavez, Derecka Mehrens