Erika Céspedes, YO! California Network Director
Erika is a first-generation Colombian artist, educator, and organizer deeply rooted in the Bay Area. Over the last five years, she worked at Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), centering youth-led action research and community organizing to drive policy change on racial, social and environmental justice issues. Prior to that, Erika was a dedicated teaching artist at various arts organizations including Precita Eyes Muralists, Brava! For Women in the Arts, and Youth Speaks. She has independently curated interdisciplinary arts events showcasing queer immigrant voices for sold out crowds at Mission Cultural Center, La Peña Cultural Center, and Eastside Arts Alliance. Erika has a master’s degree in Ethnic Studies, and her research focused on the intersections of critical pedagogy and Latinx educational pathways. In 2016, she joined the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University as an adjunct faculty lecturer. In her free time, Erika loves to indulge in live hip hop and cumbia shows, collect earring swag, kickbox, and speak Spanglish like a boss.
Ashley Uyeda, YO! California Fellowship Director
Ashley has over ten years of experience in the field of youth organizing for racial, economic, and gender justice. Her foundation in youth organizing comes from her work with SoCal for Youth in LA, a multi-racial network of youth organizations in Los Angeles that builds the capacity and power of youth organizing regionally across communities and issues. In 2007, she joined Khmer Girls in Action as an organizer with Cambodian American young women, and eventually served as their Organizing Director where she developed the strategic vision and direction of local and regional campaigns, led GOTV efforts, and focused campaign work on School Based Wellness Center, Anti-Deportation efforts, educational justice, young women’s health access and reproductive justice. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys hanging out with her niece, baking and playing Taiko drums with her Taiko troupe in Los Angeles.
Jeremy Lahoud, YO! California Project Director
Jeremy has worked for and with grassroots organizations focused on youth organizing for racial and social justice since 1994. In 2004, he joined Californians for Justice as Long Beach Lead Organizer and subsequently served as Organizing Co-Director in 2007-2008 and Executive Director from 2009-2012. Prior to moving to California, he spent a decade organizing for racial and educational justice with African American, Latinx, and Arab American youth at the Southwest Youth Collaborative in Chicago. Since 2013, Jeremy has also been a Senior Fellow with Movement Strategy Center focused on strategic support, transformative movement building, capacity building, and coaching with youth organizers across California. Jeremy lives in South Los Angeles with his partner, Maria, a high school instructional coach, and their three children, Adila, Tecún, and Amar. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking the traditional Lebanese food he grew up with, playing capoeira with his adopted Los Angeles family, the Omulu Capoeira group, and learning from his Rinzai Zen teachers, Norma Wong and Rosie Abriam.
Sabaa Zareena, Administrative and Operations Associate
Sabaa (they/them) has been providing administrative and operations support to arts and social justice projects since 2010. Their dedication to supporting arts and social justice initiatives stems from their own experiences of creating art inspired by historical and current social justice practices and theories. Some of the organizations they’ve worked with are Just Be, Qulture Collective and CultureStrike. In addition, they've worked with many projects centered in catalyzing change and building strong foundations of support for intergenerational Black, POC, migrant and LGBTQ communities.
When not working with YO! Cali they’re cultivating a healing justice project aimed at creating intentional spaces to support the mental and emotional health of GNC and Trans communities. They're also studying film making and photography in relation to performative interactive arts.
J. Ishida, Senior Strategy Director
J. brings 17 years of organizing experience working with youth of color to fight for racial justice in public education with Californians for Justice. They began as a volunteer and joined the staff in 2001, moving through the organization’s leadership pipeline from an organizer to senior strategy director. They bring expertise in staff and youth led campaign strategy, base-building, leadership development, staff development, narrative strategy, and fundraising. On the leadership team, J helped to guide the organization through leadership transitions, strategic planning, and organizational assessments to build an organization that was sustainable, effective, and accountable to its values and constituents. J is also an associate with Movement Strategy Center and has served on the boards of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the California Fund for Youth Organizing and as a founding member of Liberation Ink, a silk-screening collective whose profits support social justice organizations.
Grisanti Valencia, Site Support Coordinator
Grisanti Valencia is the Site Support Coordinator at YO! California, where she organizes to build community power throughout the Central Valley. Grisanti is a Queer Indigenous Zapotec migrant from Oaxaca who loves her adopted home Fresno. Grisanti writes poetry from personal experiences focused on her childhood and the Oaxaqueño culture. She began youth organizing in 2012 in immigrants rights and has grown to love the work in the valle. Grisanti is the site support coordinator for YO! Cali, prior to joining the YO! cali team she was the Organizing Coordinator at Californians for Justice. When not working, you can find her having family time and hanging around Fresno with her furbaby Flicka, attending poetry nights and building the Central Valley Healing Collective in Fresno.