ANTHONY THIGPENN – President, California Calls
Anthony Thigpenn, a Los Angeles-based community organizer for more than 40 years, is the founder and President of California Calls. His areas of expertise include political strategy, community organizing, voter engagement strategy and field technology, public policy, management and organizational development, and local and state electoral and ballot measure campaigns. 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. 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 has been used by hundreds of organizations nationally and includes a systematic series of questions, investigative steps, information collection and knowledge of power players.
Mr. Thigpenn is also the founder of Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), a grassroots organization formed in South Los Angeles shortly after the 1992 uprising. Under his leadership, SCOPE has instituted programs that train low-income African-American and Latino residents to participate in public policy formulation, established successful regional community-labor alliances, developed public/private partnerships training low-income residents for jobs in the entertainment, healthcare, and green jobs industries, and conducted capacity building training for environmental and economic justice organizations nationally.
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 joined the Black Panther Party and moved to Oakland. He returned to Los Angeles and began working as a community organizer. Prior to founding SCOPE, Mr. Thigpenn was executive director of Los Angeles’ Jobs with Peace and Executive Director of the Unity Workshop. In the mid-1970s, he worked as a machinist by day and organized against police abuses by night. Mr. Thigpenn has received several awards and honors, most recently the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in 2018.
PASTOR SAM CASEY – Executive Director, C.O.P.E. (Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement)
Pastor Samuel J. Casey is the Senior Pastor & Co-Founder of New Life Christian Church in Fontana with his wife Pastor Tamika Casey. The Lord led him along with his wife Pastor Tamika Casey to launch their ministry in October 2013. Pastor Samuel J. Casey began his ministry 25 years ago at Mt. Olive 2nd MBC in Watts, CA under the leadership of Pastor E. Winford Bell. Under the leadership of Pastor E. Winford Bell, Pastor Samuel J. Casey was licensed at Mt. Olive 2nd MBC in 1994 and ordained in 2002.
In 2001 the Lord relocated Pastor Casey and his family to Imani Christian Cathedral under Bishop Jelani F. Kafela, where he served as the Assistant Pastor to Bishop Kafela.
Pastor Casey also serves as the Executive Director of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE). COPE was founded in 2000, and has been dedicated to building effective leadership among clergy, community members and local parents through local, regional, and national training that builds the capacity of individuals to revitalize the communities in which they live, work, and worship. COPE has successfully led and organized outreach campaigns in support of key legislative policies including AB 743, San Bernardino City Unified School Districts Task Force for African American Student Achievement, Local Control Funding Formula, Prop 30, Prop 47, School Discipline Reform that will ultimately seeks to eradicate the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and Civic Engagement Campaigns that seeks to engage voters beyond election cycles. More recently he led the ReTHINK Public Safety SB Coalition in demanding that San Bernardino County Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
Pastor Casey has received numerous awards for his Social Justice/Prophetic Work in the community including the 2015 Assemblymember Cheryl Brown’s Men of Distinction Award,2014 Black Rose Award and the 2012 NAACP Advocacy and Justice Award. Additionally, Pastor Casey was appointed to the Fontana Parks and Recreation Commission in 2015 and served until 2016. 2018 Assemblymember Eloise Reyes’s Men of Distinction Award. 2019 California Wellness Foundation Sabbatical Grantee. Pastor Casey and his wife Tamika have three daughters. Samantha (25) who is a Registered Nurse in Atlanta, GA, Tamia (23) who is Biochemist living in Delaware, and their youngest child Kourtny (22) who just completed 4 years serving in the United States Navy.
CAMILLA CHAVEZ – Executive Director, Dolores Huerta Foundation
Ms. Chávez is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF). From the DHF headquarters in Bakersfield, Ms. Chávez oversees training for low-income community members in the areas of leadership and organizing skills specific to civic and electoral participation so that they can become catalysts for change in their own communities.
The ideals of non-violence, selfless motivation and personal responsibility were instilled in Camila by her parents Richard Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Camila grew up at the UFW Headquarters of La Paz where those same ideals were reinforced through the actions of people like her Uncle Cesar E. Chavez.
Under Camila’s leadership, the Dolores Huerta Foundation has accomplished some major victories including, but not limited to: the establishment of over 40 DHF grassroots community organizations in six communities in Kern and Tulare Counties which are working on neighborhood improvements and community projects, the development of a youth leadership program, a successful campaign for just wages which resulted in a wage increase for farm workers in Southern Central Valley in 2005, the Defeat of Propositions 73, 85 and 4 which would have amended the California Constitution to impede women’s reproductive rights, the defeat of an anti-immigrant resolution proposed in the Bakersfield City Council in September 2007, the establishment of the first micro-lending pilot project targeting farm workers in the Central Valley, and the implementation of a teen pregnancy prevention campaign.
DOLORES HUERTA – Director & Founder, Dolores Huerta Foundation
Dolores Huerta began her career as an employee of a Mexican-American self-help association called the Community Service Organization (CSO) where she lobbied California state legislators to enact such progressive legislation as old-age pensions for noncitizens.
In the late 1950s Huerta became interested in the conditions of farmworkers and met Cesar Chavez, a CSO official who shared that interest. Their attempts to focus the CSO’s attention on the inequities plaguing rural workers failed, and both eventually left that organization. By 1962 they had cofounded the National Farm Workers Association, forerunner of the United Farm Workers (UFW), an influential union whose grape boycott in the late 1960s forced grape producers to improve working conditions for migrant farmworkers. As coordinator of nationwide lettuce, grape, and Gallo wine boycotts in the 1970s, Huerta helped create the national climate that led to the passage in 1975 of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law recognizing the rights of California farmworkers to bargain collectively.
In the 1980s Huerta cofounded the UFW’s radio station and continued to speak and raise funds on behalf of a variety of causes, including immigration policy and farm laborer’s health. From 1988 to 1993, Huerta served on the U.S. Commission on Agricultural Workers, established by Congress to evaluate special worker provisions and labor markets in the agriculture industry. In 2002 she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which was involved in community organizing. Her numerous honors include induction (1993) into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Huerta was the subject of the documentary Dolores (2017). Huerta graduated from Stockton High School, and received an A.A. degree from Stockton College.
EMILY LEE – Director, San Francisco Rising
Emily Ja-Ming Lee (she/her) is the Director at San Francisco Rising. Emily leads the political strategy and organizational development of the alliance and our staff. In the last five years, Emily has served as Co-Chair and Political Director for the alliance, leading city-wide electoral campaigns with key partners. Emily is a recognized leader in electoral organizing with particular expertise in multiracial alliance-building, community-labor partnerships, volunteer engagement, multilingual field operations, and ethnic media. Emily previously spent ten years doing youth organizing and ultimately serving as the Political Director at the Chinese Progressive Association, a founding member of SF Rising. In 2017, Emily helped start Bay Resistance, a powerful new regional organization leading the fight against right-wing attacks on immigrants and communities of color. Outside of work, Emily enjoys hiking, being an auntie, and reading radical science fiction.
GLORIA MEDINA-Executive Director, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE)
SCOPE is a grassroots organization based in South Los Angeles with over 27 years of experience in building community power through organizing, leadership development, alliance building, and policy advocacy. Since joining SCOPE’s training program in 2007, Gloria has played a key role in the growth of SCOPE’s capacity building efforts with allies across the country, SCOPE’s organizing team, and South Los Angeles grassroots leaders. Gloria has provided training and technical assistance to a number of coalitions & networks through the implementation of innovative tools and methods designed to increase social justice impacts. She has provided support to a number of local and national equity initiatives as an adviser, trainer, and facilitator to help develop strategies for long-term systemic change in key areas including health equity, economic opportunities, and climate change impacts. Prior to stepping into the Executive Director role, Gloria served as SCOPE’s Deputy Director overseeing the daily operations and guiding the grassroots-led campaigns. Prior to joining SCOPE, Gloria developed and managed supportive service programs to reduce barriers to economic and social opportunities for youth and their families in low-income communities of color.
DERECKA MEHRENS – Executive Director, Working Partnerships USA
Derecka Mehrens brings 21 years of community organizing, civic engagement, and public policy experience working in communities of color and with low- and moderate-income families.
Under Derecka’s leadership, WPUSA has strengthened workers’ rights and wages through minimum wage and job protection campaigns in cities throughout Silicon Valley, including winning the groundbreaking Opportunity to Work initiative that helps part-time workers access more hours and benefits. In 2015, WPUSA co-founded Silicon Valley Rising, a coordinated regional campaign to inspire an inclusive tech-driven economy. So far, the SVR campaign has helped over 5,500 service workers in the tech industry organize for better wages and a voice at work.
As Working Partnerships USA’s organizing director from 2008 to 2013, she was instrumental in developing organizing and campaign strategies to win policies improving the lives of workers and their families, including the 2012 minimum wage increase in the City of San Jose. She led the organization’s non-partisan civic engagement programs building an organized base of more than 40,000 low-income communities of color in Silicon Valley, registering more than 14,000 voters and working to increase civic participation rates of voters of color and low-income voters in Santa Clara County.
Mehrens is the daughter of a union construction worker and a union community college teacher and is married with two young children. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, History and International Studies.
HENRY PEREZ – Associate Director, InnerCity Struggle
Henry earned his Master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Graduate School of Education and Information Studies where, as a student activist he worked to recruit undergraduate students of color. Henry previously worked as a community organizer in West Los Angeles organizing residents to be involved in shaping policy to improve community safety, affordable housing, and educational opportunities.
At InnerCity Struggle since 2005, Henry has developed a strong base of parents and has expertise in community, parent and civic engagement, including coalition building, campaign and strategy development. Henry works in partnership with key education and parent organizing leaders and has relationships with local leaders in the community. Henry also leads the civic engagement work for InnerCity Struggle. Henry is a community appointee of LAUSD’s Student Discipline and School Climate School Board committee. He is the proud dad of two young children attending an LAUSD school.
PABLO RODRIGUEZ – Founding Executive Director, Communities for a New California
Pablo Rodriguez is the founding Executive Director of Communities for a New California Education Fund, and directs 14 full-time staff, over 40 part-time year-round canvassers who implement ongoing non-partisan voter engagement efforts via CNC’s Sacramento, Merced, Fresno, Hanford and Coachella Valley offices.
Since 2011, CNC Education Fund’s Civic Engagement programs have engaged over 600,000 voters through phone banking and door-to-door canvassing. The implementation of CNC’s integrated leadership development and mass voter engagement strategy spans seventeen counties in the San Joaquin Valley, Coachella Valley and Sierra Foothills.
Prior to CNC, Pablo served as a Public Policy Consultant and Communications Director at a Sacramento political strategy and research firm. His responsibilities included the development and implementation of Federal political strategy, issue research, communications and national field programs with an emphasis on voters of color.
Pablo also previously served as Director of the Dolores Huerta Community Organizing Institute, where he developed trainings for base building, and directed political action campaigns for organizations throughout California. In addition, he developed service-learning programs with San Jose State University, the National Association of Social Workers, and Loyola Marymount University. In partnership with LMU, he initiated the development of the first micro-finance program focusing exclusively on farm workers in the United States.
HECTOR SANCHEZ – Deputy Director, Community Coalition
In 1997, Hector Sanchez stumbled upon Community Coalition to fulfill Manual Arts High School graduation requirement of completing 120 volunteer hours. He quickly immersed himself in the work to ensure schools in the area received their fair share of public funds to address the schools’ deteriorated conditions. As a member Community Coalition’s youth program, South Central Youth Empowered thru Action, he helped organize youth from seven South Los Angeles high schools to improve the physical structure of the schools, through the Proposition Better Building campaign. The campaign helped reallocate $153 million back to South LA schools to address much-needed repairs. While Hector did not always agree with the staff at Community Coalition, he continued to participate because the Coalition was a place that allowed youth to engage with adults around more significant political and social issues impacting communities of color.
In 1998, Hector was admitted to the University of Southern California, where he received a degree in Political Science and Chicano Studies and a minor in Law and Society. At the same time, at Community Coalition, Hector organized annual High School forums to ensure students from Manual Arts understood the eligibility requirements for students to attend a four-year university. Hector returned to Community Coalition in 1999 to help organize several successful campaigns that have improved the quality of life for South LA residents, including a campaign to improve the quality of food sold at the local Ralph’s stores. He also led a campaign to ensure South Los Angeles received its fair share of schools to address overcrowding in the schools and organized parents in support of the A-G campaign.
As the Deputy Director, Hector develops and guides CoCo’s electoral strategy and leads the Organizing and Civic Engagement Departments to effectuate policies that promote membership engagement and leadership development. He strategically integrates the electoral strategy within CoCo’s existing membership and civic engagement infrastructure, and the base building activities of the Organizing Department, to build a more robust outreach and leadership development plan. The goal of his work is to increase the political power of Black and Brown residents of South Los Angeles to shift power to the community and tackle the root causes of poverty, crime, and violence.
liz suk – Executive Director, Oakland Rising
liz suk grew up in the Bay Area with deep roots in Deep East Oakland. She has a 25+ year career in various non-profit and grassroots organizations in the Bay Area and currently sits in the board of REAL People’s Fund and California Calls. liz joined Oakland Rising as the Leadership Development Manager, transitioned to our Political Director in Fall of 2019, and now serves as our Executive Director. She is committed to social, racial, and environmental justice for Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities and passing on these values to her two children, whom you’ll often see by her side during meetings and during campaigns. She brings a micro to global lens in her coordination, strategy, and politics. She enjoys hiking, camping, creating and sharing herbal remedies, writing poetry, and photography. Most of all, as a connector and protector, liz enjoys cooking and feeding people while imaging a new world rooted in love, liberation, peace, and justice.
CHRISTOPHER R. WILSON – Associate Director, Alliance San Diego
Christopher received a bachelor’s degree in history and Ethnic Studies from the University of San Diego and is currently the Associate Director at Alliance San Diego. His work centers on empowering communities of color and low-income communities through building bridges, creating collaboration, and identifying common issues. He is a father, brother, uncle, husband, and global change activist, who has traveled and lived all over the world. Christopher’s life experiences, education, training, and work give him a deep understanding of the complexities involved with empowering people. He is inspired by family, artists, co-workers, and close friends, who keep him honest and hopeful.
LUCAS ZUCKER – Policy and Communications Director, C.A.U.S.E.
Lucas Zucker is Policy and Communications Director at CAUSE. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy. Lucas joined the CAUSE staff in 2012 as a youth organizer and researcher. At CAUSE he has worked on community organizing campaigns and policy advocacy around voting rights, healthy food access, public transit, environmental justice, education, immigrants’ rights, affordable housing, and workers’ rights. Lucas serves on the board of the national Partnership for Working Families, the Planning Commission of the City of Ventura, and the Community Advisory Committee for Clean Power Alliance.