At The Opportunity Agenda's Communications Institutes, rising leaders working on issues critical to opportunity develop their communication skills, including framing and narrative development, utilizing public opinion and media research, understanding digital communications and social networking, persuasive writing, and on-camera broadcast presentation. Upon completion, they become Communication Fellows, and get to work shaping the public dialogue in their home communities.

    Dante Barry

    Executive Director, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

    Dante Barry is a grassroots organizer, digital campaigner, and the Executive Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Previously, Dante ran campaigns, organizing, and leadership development programs for national progressive organizations including the Center for Media Justice, the Roosevelt Institute, School Based Health Alliance, and the Political Development Group, LLC.

    Get to know Dante

    Khalil Cumberbatch

    Policy Associate, Legal Action Center

    Khalil A. Cumberbatch is a formerly incarcerated advocate for social justice movements within the NYC area. He has worked within the re-entry community in NYC since 2010, when he was released after serving almost seven years in the NYS prison system. Since his release, Khalil has worked with various nonprofits as a service provider, policy analytist, advisor, board member, collaborator, and consultant.

    Get to know Khalil

    Soffiyah Elijah

    Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York

    Soffiyah Elijah is the Executive Director of the Correctional Association (CA) of New York. She is the first woman and the first person of color to lead this extraordinary organization in its mission to create a fairer and more humane criminal justice system. Under her leadership, the CA now celebrates its 170th anniversary.

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    Ricardo Favela

    Communications Director, Alliance San Diego

    Ricardo Favela is the son of migrant workers who settled in North San Diego County. Ricardo has been involved in social justice issues in his community since high school. He is currently the Communications Director of Alliance San Diego and provides strategic communications for the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

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    Kassandra Frederique

    Policy Manager, Drug Policy Alliance

    Kassandra Frederique is the New York Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. She works to build powerful coalitions in communities devastated by drug misuse and the war on drugs. Kassandra currently manages the Fairness and Equity campaign, which is working throughout New York state to end racially biased marijuana arrests and policing practices, as well as to create policy solutions to ameliorate the collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement.

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    Jamila Hammami

    Executive Director, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

    Jamila is a queer first-generation Tunisian- Arab woman of color community organizer and social worker from the South now based in New York. She is a Founder and Executive Director of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project.

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    Caroline Isaacs

    Program Director, American Friends Service Committee

    Caroline holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the College of Wooster and a Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University. She has authored several reports on the poor performance of for-profit incarceration in Arizona, including Private Prisons: The Public’s Problem (2011), which has been cited nationally as the most comprehensive state-based evaluation of prison privatization; and Death Yards: Continuing Problems with Arizona’s Correctional Health Care (2013).

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    Roberta Meyers

    Director, National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center

    Roberta became the Director of the National H.I.R.E. Network in 2007. Before this, she held other policy and direct service positions at the Legal Action Center. She has worked to improve criminal justice policies that directly affect employment and re-entry opportunities for people with criminal records; trained hundreds of workforce development and corrections staff on employment strategies that best serve job seekers with criminal histories; authored guidebooks and policy briefs on criminal record policies that impact employment; and testified before Congress, government agencies, and state legislators about effective re-entry policies.

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    Rev. Vivian Nixon

    Executive Director, College and Community Fellowship

    Vivian Nixon is Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization committed to removing individual and structural barriers to higher education for women with criminal record histories and their families. She is currently a Columbia University Community Scholar and has received multiple honors, including the John Jay Medal for Justice, the Ascend Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, the Soros Justice Fellowship, and the Petra Foundation Fellowship.

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    Zachary Norris

    Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

    Zachary Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, former director of our Books Not Bars campaign, a Harvard graduate, and NYU- educated attorney. Prior to rejoining the Ella Baker Center, Zachary founded and co- directed Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

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    Andrea Panjwani

    Co-Executive Director, Immigrant Defense Project

    Andrea serves as Co-Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project, an organization dedicated to protecting immigrants from deportation, detention, and separation from their families and communities through legislative and policy advocacy, impact litigation and training, and advising advocates and judges.

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    Jessica Peñaranda

    Special Projects Coordinator, Sex Workers Project/Urban Justice Center

    Jessica Peñaranda is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Sex Workers Project, providing direct services to sex workers and survivors of trafficking after arrest, documenting best practices, and conducting trainings with court personnel and service providers. Jessica has worked on issues relating to violence against marginalized communities for over eight years, including domestic violence and human trafficking survivors.

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    Johnny Perez

    Safe Reentry Advocate, Mental Health Project/Urban Justice Center

    Johnny Perez is a non-attorney mental health advocate for the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, a law firm providing pro-bono legal representation to underserved populations affected by social justice issues. When he is not advocating on behalf of New York’s most vulnerable populations, Johnny works to change the status quo of unjust policies and practices as a member of pro-social groups including the Jails Action Coalition, the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), and the New York Reentry Education Network. Johnny expects to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at St. Francis College.

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    Laurie Reynolds

    Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

    Laurie Jo was the organizer for Tamms Year Ten, a grassroots campaign to close the notorious supermax in Tamms, Illinois, shuttered in 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn. As a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, she advocated for best practices to stop sexual abuse and reduce recidivism. Recent exhibits and honors include: Citizen Culture, Santa Monica Museum of Art; A Proximity of Consciousness, Sullivan Galleries, Chicago; Creative Capital grant; Blade of Grass Fellowship; and the Lenore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change. Laurie Jo served on Governor Quinn’s re-election campaign, and is now Assistant Professor of Public Arts, Social Justice, and Culture at UIC.

    Get to know Laurie Jo

    Jo-Ann Wallace

    President and CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association

    Jo-Ann Wallace is the President and CEO of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). She was previously NLADA’s Senior Vice President for Programs, responsible for oversight of both the Civil Legal Aid and Indigent Defense Program agendas. From 1994–2000, Ms. Wallace served as Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS), widely regarded as the nation’s model defender agency. She began her work in the equal justice community as a special education advocate with Greater Boston Legal Services and is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

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    Elon James White

    CEO, This Week in Blackness Media LLC

    Elon James White is a writer, performer, radio host, and CEO of This Week in Blackness Media, LLC, which is the home of the award-winning web series This Week in Blackness and TWiB! Radio. Elon has been featured on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, Up With Chris (Now All In With Chris Hayes), The Rachel Maddow Show, BBC Radio, VH1's Greatest series, and more. Elon is also the media director of Netroots Nation, the largest progressive conference in the United States.

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    Gina Womack

    Executive Director, Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children

    Gina Womack is the Director and Co-Founder of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), a statewide membership-based organization dedicated to creating a better life for Louisiana's youth who are involved, or at risk of becoming involved, in the juvenile justice system. Working with allies in Louisiana, FLIC closed the notorious Tallulah Youth Prison and reduced the number of children locked in cages from over 2,000 to less than 400 today. FFLIC continues to ensure juvenile reform is implemented while working on a state campaign to interrupt the school-to- prison pipeline in Louisiana.

    Get to know Gina