Meet our 2021 Fellows
To see a snapshot of our 2021 Emerging Organizers Fellowship participating organizations and fellows click on the link below or scroll down to read through our Fellows full biographies.
MAKHFIRA AHMED ABDULLAHI
Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans
San Diego, CA
Makhfira Abdullahi was born in Southeast San Diego and currently serves as a Fellow for Yo! Cali, as well as PANA SD's Organizing Fellow. Youth Organizing as a whole is something she cherishes deeply, as the goal is to work closely with community members, as a means of cultivating an environment of inclusivity and grassroots organizing, within Southeast/East San Diego. Makhfira is also a Political Science Student at the University of California, San Diego, and would like to prioritize education equity at the front of all organizing, as true change begins within our school/university systems. Moreover, she hopes to accomplish the goals of mastering facilitation and campaign initiation, and overall get the ball rolling when it comes to topics that affect our communities in San Diego, as a fellow for Yo! Cali. All in all, Makhfira looks forward to utilizing this new position to advocate for issues such as abolition, immigration justice, woman's rights and a plethora of other issues that destabilize our communities, in order for change to occur.
ARLEEN “YAZ’ ALONSO
My name is Arleen Alonso, I am a queer Chicanx poet from La Puente California. Through this fellowship, I hope to gain a sense of community that'll both inspire and help guide me on ways to sharpen and improve my base building and outreach skills. I believe youth organizing is important because by empowering the youth we can give them the tools necessary to reclaim their power and create their own safe and healing spaces. Youth organizing is important to me because it gave my voice and ideas a home, and is what introduced me to community.
San Diego, CA
My name is Ramah Awad, and I am a granddaughter of Palestinian refugees and a daughter of immigrants to the U.S. I grew up between the San Francisco-Bay Area and Palestine before moving to San Diego, where I currently work at the Majdal Center— a youth-led resource and community center building political power among Arab refugee and immigrant communities across San Diego County. I also serve on the national board of the Palestinian Youth Movement and organize through the local chapter. My work is dedicated to justice and self-determination for my community as part of broader movements for socioeconomic, racial, and gender justice.
Hello everyone! My name is Samuel Bass (but most people just call me Sam) and I use he/him pronouns. I am also a Youth Organizer working for Youth Alliance and I am from Morgan Hill (South Santa Clara County). I became interested in social justice very early on as I noticed how different the people within my multicultural family were treated by society and how differently I was treated in school due to having a disability. In this fellowship, I hope to learn new ways to teach and empower the youth to make the changes they want to see in their communities. Youth organizing is important to me becauseour I know how frustrating it can be to feel silenced but I also know how empowering it can feel to have your voice heard for once and I want to make sure that everyone is able to feel listened to.
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
San Francisco, CA
I currently work as the Youth Organizer for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in San Francisco. Through this fellowship, I hope to meaningfully connect with other emerging organizers and learn about their work and vision for justice. Youth organizing provides a space for youth to reflect on their individual and community's needs at a time when traditional education systems fail to do just that. From there, youth are empowered to fight first and foremost for a system that is accountable to their needs and to view themselves as active participants in decision-making processes/debates that challenge the social, political, and economic conditions of their lives.
Airam Coronado is a mother and advocate who works as the Program Leadership Assistant at MILPA Collective. In this role, she facilitates cultural healing groups of young women of color to engage in practices of decolonization. As someone who navigated both the juvenile justice system and the foster care system, Airam is a community leader who brings her lived experience as her expertise.Through this fellowship i am hoping to learn as many organizing skills to bring back to my community by building power, and create long-term transformation in marginalized communities. Youth organizing is important as they are the future.
MICHELLE ARANDA COSS
Los Angeles, CA
Michelle Aranda Coss was born in the State of Mexico and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. They received their Bachelor’s degree in 2019 from California State University, Northridge with a major in Chicanx Studies and minor in Communication Studies. Michelle believes in the transformative power of art to help bring social change and healing to people’s lives. Michelle’s work is guided by a principle from her ancestors in ixtli, in yollotl (face and heart) to have face and heart, is to give form to something, is to use one 's potential to give substance and meaning to one’s life. As the United Students Site Organizer at InnerCity Struggle working with James A. Garfield and Esteban E. Torres High School youth, Michelle hopes to empower youth by allowing them to step into their own potential and power.
MAYA DE LA TORRE
San Diego, CA
Maya De La Torre currently serves as a Commissioner on San Diego County’s Juvenile Justice Commission and organizes with Youth Will, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world where every young person has the resources to reach their full potential. She received a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Sociology from the University of San Diego. It was during her time as the president of Association of Chicanx Activists and the Speaker of student Senate at USD that she learned the importance of creating a more accessible and inclusive movement led by young people. In her free time, she enjoys reading and tending to her many houseplants. Through the Emerging Organizers Fellowship, Maya hopes to deepen her understanding of organizing theory, base building tactics, and campaign strategy.
California Native Vote Project
Los Angeles, CA
Hello, my name is Angelina Diaz and I am half Navajo and Guatemalan. I am a 21 year old student-athlete at San Bernardino Valley College. I am a youth organizer with the California Native Voting Project youth team. I am also an ambassador for the California Endowment- Presidents Youth Council. One thing that I hope to accomplish through this fellowship is branching out more to other youth organizers and learning more about different projects happening. Youth organizing is very important to me because growing up as a bilingual kid in california is very hard to distinguish and find who you are. Nevertheless, I want to give opportunities to other youth that have struggles like me.
Save California Salmon
My name is Danielle Rey Frank, I’ve been working as a youth intern for save California salmon since February. I’m a member of the Hoopa Tribe and hold my Native American ancestry very close to my heart, which is why I got involved in environmental activism. Through this fellowship I hope to continue fighting for what’s right for not only my people but also our land on a much broader scale.
Dolores Huerta Foundation
Kern County, CA
Hi everyone! My name is Ricardo (They/She), and I am Latinx Trans Non-Binary Youth Organizer with the Dolores Huerta Foundation. I have been working with DHF for over a year now, and I love working with our youth. I hope to create and share space with other folks doing the same work, and who have a passion for abolition and liberation. Outside of organizing, I am a doggy mom, enjoy playing video games, and love listening and dancing to music.
Khmer Girls in Action
Long Beach, CA
Hi, I’m Som(they/all)! I am a queer second generation Cambodian American. I am a project coordinator for the Young Men’s Empowerment Program in Khmer Girls in Action. I was born and raised in central Long Beach, the heart of Cambodia Town. For most of high school, I was a member of Khmer Girls in Action learning about social justice and organizing work. Now, I transitioned as a full-time staff. In my experience, I believe that youth have the power to create change and provide healing for our communities. As I continue to fight for gender, racial, and economic justice, I hope to see my community flourish and thrive.
Chinese Progressive Association
San Francisco, CA
I'm fei and I use they/she pronouns.This work is important to me because I believe in our power as everyday people to make the changes we need to have better living and working conditions and a world that honors our wholeness. A just future is so possible and young people constantly show that they have the power, knowledge and vision to build that future.
San Diego, CA
My name is Pebblz Luv, pronouns She/Her and currently living on Kumeyaay Land. I’m a Filipina and Okinawan artist, actress and youth organizer Who’s mission is to build solidarity with intersectionality, people of all generations and elevate the community through art and action towards collective liberation. I hope to gain new tools and knowledge, relationships and experiences on my organizing journey. It’s important to uplift youth voices, needs and ideas for we are the new leaders of the movement while acknowledging our history and ancestors.
Odette (they/elle) migrated to Oxnard with their family when they were 7 years old, to the same street where their family has migrated for generations to work in the fields. Throughout their life, they have continuously realized the amount of inequities within their community and recently found the power of owning their own narrative and making space for hope. Odette also recently commenced their journey as youth and young adult organizer with CAUSE in Oxnard, and there is nothing more that they want to do than continue to make space for hope within the hearts and realities of their community. Throughout the fellowship, Odette hopes to learn how to navigate challenging truths/spaces and incorporate creativity and healing in their work and with their community.
Alianza Coachella Valley
Coachella Valley, CA
My name is Diana Ramirez and I work with Alianza Coachella Valley as the Program Manager for our youth in the Youth Organizing Council (YO-C!). Through the Emerging Organizers Fellowship I hope I can acquire better strategies to engage young people in organizing. Youth organizing is important to me because through it, young people can become aware of their surroundings and have the tools they need to address issues in their communities and create change. When I'm not working, I enjoy watching anime, going to the movies, and listening to music/practicing my guitar skills.
AYPAL: Building API Community Power
My name is Brandon Rosenity Ros and I’m from Deep East Oakland, California. I hope to network with different folks and build on each other’s skills and leadership to bring back to our communities. I always felt it was important to empower and uplift the voices of our young folks, especially in Oakland. They are directly impacted by the decisions that we make and it’s important that we establish a partnership with them to create better sustainable healthy communities.
Central Valley Movement Builders
Manahuu (hello), my name is Anthony Utterback. I am a Tribal citizen of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California and I am the Native American community organizer with Central Valley Movement. I hope to build connections with and learn from fellow organizers throughout the fellowship. I also hope to develop the knowledge and skills to support my current education justice and wellness work for Native American students and their families in the Central Valley. The youth are our future, they are the next generation of leaders. Youth organizing is important because this is how we give young people the opportunity to learn and become strong, healthy leaders in their communities.
California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Central Valley, CA
Andrea is a queer migrant youth organizer who grew up in Fresno and pursued higher education in the Bay. They are passionate about abolitionist, anti-carceral frameworks. They hope to lean into more transformative justice-informed work. Practicing this in their personal life and the youth they work alongside. Youth organizing is necessary and will always lead to new pivotal changes.
Hmong Innovating Politics
Sacramento & Fresno, CA
Hi! I’m Maki and I use she/her pronouns. I am the Sacramento Community Organizer at Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP). I am a Hmong womxn, born and raised in Marysville, CA by Hmong refugee parents, and the youngest daughter in a family of 10 children. I love dancing, singing, making food, creating, and love to share love! Through this fellowship, I hope to grow my capacity as an organizer in order to better support the young folx in developing their leadership, to strengthen our programming for our young folx to feel empowered, and to continue growing to be the best, most authentic version of myself. I organize with young folx because not only are they the future, but they are the “now.” I want to create opportunities and different pathways for Hmong and Southeast Asian youth and young adults, for them to have autonomy over their lives and to choose freely, to do what our parents didn’t get the opportunity to do. I want them to be able to thrive in a world of love, abundance, and liberation.
Meet our 2021 BQTGNC Fellows
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Los Angeles, CA
I am Maraky Alemseged, BAJI’s Los Angeles Organizer. I'm a first-generation Ethiopian-American from Los Angeles, and identify as an organizer, sociological researcher, abolitionist, Pan-Africanist, womanist, and passionate social justice advocate. Through this fellowship, I hope to have developed and implemented abolition-centered and queer-affirming organizing tools that will help me engage and organize Black immigrant youth. I believe it is crucial that youth organizing be prioritized particularly where major identities (i.e. race, immigrant status, gender identity, sexual orientation, among others) intersect as they are often the most vulnerable yet most determined to make social change.
Californians for Justice
Long Beach, CA
I am a Long Beach, Ca resident that has been organizing since I was a high school student. It is important for me to impact youth the same way past organizers once did for me. Through this fellowship I hope to accomplish a better sense of myself while also utilizing this time to gain knowledge.
San Francisco Rising
San Francisco, CA
Natalya is a creative, passionate learner and artist who is eager to explore what it means to be an intersectional, abolitionist organizer and community member. She is thrilled to learn more about what transformative justice looks like in our daily lives, how we can uplift one another through healing practices and mutual aid, and how to cultivate Black joy. Through this fellowship, she hopes to become a more courageous organizer who is more connected with her community and evolve her queer identity. Youth organizing is essential to her as youth are the leaders of the future who possess the power to reshape our world into one that enables all oppressed peoples to thrive.
Young Women’s Freedom Center
San Francisco, CA
I am a queer black women from the bay that has so much more to explore. I want to shut down Juvenile Hall with the lead of system-impacted youth, without replacing it with another institution that we will have to shut down in the future. I want to make sure I make space for youth to be decision-makers that look like me and are discriminated against racist and oppressive systems.
Youth Organize California
Kern County, CA
Hey I’m 25 and I’m a Community Organizer with YO! Cali and the People’s Budget Bakersfield. I’m a Central Valley native who genuinely wants to see my home become a healthier place for all and not just the select few who have privilege. Growing up I always felt like an outsider due to always being the only one or one of few black people in spaces and I credit the latter toward my drive for legitimate diversity and inclusion. Too often we have been comfortable in our society being separated from our siblings in different groups and that has got to stop. I want my life’s work to facilitate space for communal healing throughout the Central Valley. Right now that looks like organizing toward defunding BPD as a step towards abolition, facilitating trauma sensitive yoga spaces that are inclusive to Black, Plus size, and queer bodies and working towards being a better earth steward. I pray my contributions to our movement honors my people before and after me.
Gender & Sexualities Alliance Network
My name is Larada Lee. I am 21 years old and organizing in the Bay Area with Gender and Sexualities Alliances Network. I came into this work as a 15 year old foster youth in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.Youth organizing provided me with the chance to see myself as powerful, capable, and deserving. My greatest wish is that all youth will be able to achieve the same. I am hoping to gain a deeper sense of radical community care and transformation through the fellowship.
Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement
Inland Empire, CA
Jewel Patterson is a Lead Organizer for Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (C.O.P.E.). Since joining, Jewel has designed and launched a grassroots organizing and leadership development program for Black youth, received her Master’s in Counseling, and was recognized by Assemblymember Eloise Gomez-Reyes’ office as a 30 Under 30 honoree for 2020. As a Black, queer feminist community organizer Jewel's work continues to focus on serving traditionally marginalized communities in the Inland Empire by using organizing and ARTivism.
ZION “Z” SOLOMON
Zion Solomon is the Youth and Community Liaison Coordinator. They grew up in San Diego, California and graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Religious Studies and History. Zion’s belief in the power in community organizing began when they attended labor strikes with their caregiver at the age of 7. Ever since, Zion has worked towards building community and strength through coalitions since. Their passion is supporting the joy and holistic wellness of themselves and others and liberation through self and community care.