|Anniryn Armstrong||Art Director and Administrator for VRIC, Valley Ranch Islamic Center|
|Ranjana Bhandari||Founder and Chair, Liveable Arlington|
|Yvette Blair–Lavallais||Reverend, Her Sisters Situation Ministry|
|Sandra Bowie||Engagement Manager, City of Dallas|
|Lorin R. Carter||Founder & Chief Strategist, C-Suite Consulting|
|Stephanie Drenka||Founder, VISIBLE Magazine|
|Robbie Esteban||Principle at IF Institute|
|HaeSung Han||Co-Founder and CEO, POETIC|
|Sandra Godina||Director of Programs and Organizing, Leadership for Educational Equity|
|Alejandra Ramos Gomez||Artivist, Dual Language Educator, Curriculum Writer, Freelance, Dallas ISD|
|Sameena Karmally||Attorney and Board Member, ACLU of Texas|
|Nancy Kasten||Rabbi, Faith Commons|
|Michelle Kinder||Author, Speaker, Director of Social Change Leadership Program, Michelle Kinder LLC|
|Bemnet Meshesha||Manager, Community Relations & Strategic Development, State Fair of Texas|
|Aceil Rashid||Director of Transitional Housing, Mosaic Family Services|
|Joli Robinson||Manager of Community Engagement, Dallas Police Department|
|Rija Siddiqui||Pediatrician, Children’s Health|
|Roselle Tenorio||Grants and Programs Coordinator, Texas Women’s Foundation|
|Severina Ware||Community Engagement Manager, Wesley-Rankin Community Center|
|Veronica Ray Whitehead||Reproductive Justice and Health Equity Advocate, North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (Ntarupt)|
Dallas Public Voices Fellows – 2020
Anniryn Armstrong is Art Director and Administrator for VRIC, Valley Ranch Islamic Center. I’ve always loved art and connecting with people. It wasn’t until I figured out how to combine both that I finally felt fulfilled. For the last 3 years, I’ve worked as an Art Director, Social Media and Onsite Manager for Valley Ranch Islamic Center. I manage multiple committees, outside vendors, and production schedules. I’ve managed project ranging from high concept abstract pieces down to ads, flyers, and social media campaigns. I’ve worked with companies like The Walt Disney Company, Bayyinah Institute, AT&T, and Best Buy. In my free time, I manage a podcast, a freelance photography and graphic design/animation company, and run a moderately successful YouTube channel and social media network. I design and direct all aspects of Valley Ranch Islamic Center. I also work on facilitating interfaith dialogue and community building opportunities.
Ranjana Bhandari is Founder and Chair, Liveable Arlington. Liveable Arlington is an environmental non-profit that organizes against the incursion of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in Arlington neighborhoods right next to homes, schools and parks. I led the Save Lake Arlington campaign in 2017 that helped stop the permitting of a wastewater injection well on the shore of Lake Arlington. The campaign mobilized three thousand Arlington residents. Liveable Arlington was honored with the GreenSource DFW Sustainable Leadership Award. I was given the Community Sentinel Award by the Fracktracker Alliance and other national groups, and honored by the Texas Sierra Club with a Special Service Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship and Activism for leading the effort. Since then we have led campaigns to stop drilling close to Arlington homes which has led to revisions in Arlington’s gas well ordinance. I served on the Board of Directors of the Dallas environmental group Downwinders at Risk from 2016-19. I serve on the City of Arlington’s Citizen’s Environmental Commission. I have received grant funding from Lush Charity Pot and the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. A graduate of the University of Madras in India, I earned a Master’s degree in Economics from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. After further graduate work at Purdue University, I taught Economics at Albion College in Michigan, and later at SMU. I was a stay at home mother when urban drilling came to Arlington, which led to my work in environmental organizing.
REV YVETTE BLAIR-LAVALLAIS was seven-years-old, sitting in the pew at Lee Chapel AME Church in Dallas, when she sensed that God was calling her to preach. By the age of 10, she became involved in children’s Sunday School and afterschool Bible studies. God continued to shape her for ministry as she took on leadership roles within the church and the community throughout her teen and young adult years. She is a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry in Land, Food and Faith Formation at Memphis Theological Seminary. Her work focuses on the intersection of food insecurity, famines, displacement and gentrification of black, brown and indigenous peoples. As a 2019 Public Voices fellow, Yvette’s published articles on food injustice received attention from scholars in the field. As a result, she was interviewed for podcasts and invited to share her work at the Political Theology Network Conference at Union Theological Seminary in New York last fall. Rev. Blair-Lavallais is a 2018-2020 academic fellow of Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative cohort, a 2017 academic fellow of Princeton Theological Seminary’s prestigious Black Theology and Leadership Institute. She is also a 2013 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Perkins School of Theology at SMU.As a pastor, Yvette serves in ministry, teaching and preaching the Gospel at numerous churches and faith-based organizations. Through her social justice ministry, “Her Sisters Situation,” she empowers women to lift their voices with a resounding battle cry in Holy Spirit-led radical ways that dismantle the walls of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. She is featured in the critically-acclaimed, award winning 2019 WOW Films documentary, “Shatter the Silence,” where she sounds the alarm on her #churchtoo experience. She is a native of Dallas, Texas, holds a BA in Journalism from the University of North Texas, and has more than 25 years of experience in media, corporate communications, public relations and non-profit, including receiving a congressional appointment to serve as the Public Relations Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. She is a writing coach, professional editor, pastor and food justice activist. PEER COACH – DALLAS PUBLIC VOICES FELLOWSHIP 2019
Sandra Bowie is a lifelong advocate for equality, whose career has spanned two decades in a variety of roles making missions come true. She believes in leaving places and people better than she found them. Relocations have given opportunities to hone her talents in the Midwest (Indiana), South (Mississippi) and Southwest (Texas). She has held titles such as executive director, vice-president, consultant, manager and compliance officer in the non-profit, higher education, government, and private sectors. Sandra currently leads neighborhood engagement for the City of Dallas Planning and Urban Design Department. Her team is actively engaged in building neighborhood organizations, administering grassroots grants, and overseeing an AmeriCorps VISTA program. She is a strategic executioner with a low tolerance for pontificating. Sandra has a Masters in Public Administration from Indiana University Northwest and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Northeastern University in Boston.
Lorin R. Carter is passionate about facilitating healthy, vibrant communities and equipping others to be independent determinants of their destiny. Through her education and practice in civil engineering, law, public policy and urban planning, Dr. Carter has honed her skills in community engagement & education, collegiate instruction, strategy development, research, speaking, facilitation, equity initiatives, project management, administrative procedure, and legal practice. Dr. Carter started her career with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality serving as an Engineer, Legislative Liaison, and Senior Attorney. She also managed a solo legal civil practice and recently served as the Project Manager for the JPMorgan Chase PRO Neighborhood grant with The Real Estate Council Community Fund in Dallas, TX, supporting neighborhood-focused revitalization efforts in Dallas communities. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Government at Tarrant County College District, and was a Lead Researcher for the North Texas Regional Housing Assessment, Team Lead & Researcher for the Institute of Urban Studies evaluating location and access to Dallas city public & open spaces, and for several other funded research projects. With over a decade of experience, Dr. Carter is now Founder & Chief Strategist at C-Suite Consulting, where she works to facilitate thriving equity ecosystems to make urban spaces more equitable places. Dr. Carter brings c-suite level expertise to community development and social change initiatives using comprehensive and innovative approaches to create solutions that holistically improve quality of life, increase access to opportunities, and ensure diversity and inclusion in decision making.
STEPHANIE DRENKA is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of VISIBLE Magazine, an online publication committed to making storytelling accessible and inclusive. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from DePaul University, with minors in Asian American Studies and Women’s Studies. Stephanie’s photography and writing have been featured in Washington Post, Huffington Post, USA Today, and ABC News. Previously serving as Senior Communications Manager at Big Thought, an education non-profit organization in Dallas, she was inspired by the work happening in the community and decided to form her own consulting company focused on authentic, constituent-first, and ethical storytelling. Clients include Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, POETIC, Wesley-Rankin Community Center and Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. In 2019 – drawing from her experience as a Dallas Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project – she launched VISIBLE Magazine to continue uplifting voices from underrepresented communities and create narrative change. PEER COACH – DALLAS PUBLIC VOICES FELLOWSHIP 2019
Robbie Esteban, Principle at IF Institute, IF Institute Originally from New York, Robbie has been living and working in Dallas for more than a decade. Her work focuses on eliminating the structures as well as the symptoms of systemic racism from poverty to environmental injustice primarily through education. Robbie is a co-founder of Young Leaders, Strong City (YLSC) a racial justice and equity youth summit in its sixth year of programming which recruits public private and charter school students from across the Dallas- Ft. Worth area to discuss local histories of race and racism in Dallas. The success of YLSC and demand from both students and adults necessitated that YLSC move from a single annual event, to the recent establishment of the Imagining Freedom (IF) Institute where she is a principle. Robbie is a former YoungPeopleFor fellow and Phi Theta Kappa alumni and the mother of Bella and Bryian. She has a background in Montessori education holds degrees in both History and Philosophy at University of North Texas and a Graduate Marketing Certificate from Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Robbie serves with Leadership for Educational Equity as Manager of Campaign Communication and Digital Strategy Support.
Dr. HaeSung Han is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist and a Board Certified, Nationally Registered Art Therapist. She is the Co-Founder and CEO of POETIC, an in-community intensive aftercare program for girls ages 12-18 with a history of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in Dallas, Texas. POETIC addresses the systems not just the symptoms of exploitation and trafficking and puts a school, trauma therapy center, creative arts therapy and paid internships all under one roof. Dr. Han received her master’s and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from George Washington University and also received a master’s degree in art therapy from New York University. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship in forensic psychology at Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, Hackensack University Medical Center in the field of child maltreatment. She completed two post-graduate certificate programs: one in international trauma studies from Columbia University and the other in civil and criminal forensic psychology from Montclair State University. Dr. Han trains nationally on various topics related to the assessment, intervention and prevention of commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC) and domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). She also provides consultation to anti-trafficking agencies on developing and implementing trauma-informed systems of care, programming and culture.
Sandra Godina currently serves as the Director of Program and Organizing with Leadership for Educational Equity. She is leadership development professional who partners with teachers and community members in a persistent pursuit of educational equity. As a Teach for America alumna, Sandra knows that every child is capable of learning and excelling. Through her experience as a 5th grade teacher, Sandra contextualized her understanding of the impact of systemic racism on communities and ultimately on individuals. In an attempt to magnify her impact, Sandra joined the Education Opens Doors team where she co-led the redesign of their middle school curriculum, emphasizing student autonomy and the needs of the most marginalized students. During her free time, Sandra engaged in political field volunteering including time as a Canvassing Director on the successful campaign team of a Dallas ISD school board trustee. She has facilitated racial equity workshops for over 200 teachers and working professionals in local and national settings since 2016. Sandra holds degrees in History and Social Studies Education from the University of Georgia.
Alejandra Ramos Gomez is an artivist and dual-language educator born and raised in Juarez, Mexico. She is currently a two-way dual language gifted and talented teacher with Dallas ISD and collaborates as a curriculum writer with LEEP Dual Language Academy. Internationally, she is a lead teacher trainer with Galapagos Conservancy in their Education for Sustainability program. Alejandra earned her BA in Political Science and Linguistics from the University of Texas at El Paso and her Masters in Bilingual Education from Southern Methodist University. She is a Teach for America 2014 DFW alumna and was named the 2019 Miller Family Alumni Leadership award winner. She received her mindfulness certification from the Dallas Yoga Center and served as a strategy group member for UNT’s thirdspace in 2019. She was recognized as 2019 Walnut Hill Elementary Teacher of the Year and 2018 Millennial to Watch on the Dallas Weekly. Alejandra delivered a TEDx talk about how poetry influenced her approach to education at TEDxKids@SMU in 2017. As a poet, her work is found in anthologies with the Writers’ Association in Juarez, Rotary International, a chapter book with Voces Writers, and the Chachalaca Review. Alejandra has led writing and social justice workshops in collaboration with Oak Cliff Coalition for the Arts, Cara Mia Theatre Co, and Journeyman Ink. She was recently part of an audiovisual exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art and a featuring artist in the AT&T’ Performing Arts Center Elevator’s Project, Sanadora by Teatro Flor Candela.
Sameena Karmally is an advocate for social justice with a focus on racial equity, religious inclusion, and the rights of women and children. Raised by immigrant parents from India, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Dallas, a Master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Texas, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law. Prior to opening a solo law practice, she was an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP specializing in investment funds and private equity law. She currently serves on the boards of the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas. She is a past Board Member of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, and is the past president and founder of the DFW Muslim Bar Association. She is an alumnus of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute housed at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. In 2014, she ran for state representative, earning endorsements from the Dallas Morning News and Democracy for America. She continues to be active in politics in Northeast Texas.
Rabbi Nancy Kasten is Chief Relationship Officer for Faith Commons, a multi-faith organization providing leadership, resources and support to strengthen faith communities and communities through faith. Ordained by the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion in 1990, she served as Hillel Director, Associate Chaplain, and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Hebrew at SMU, Associate Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Southwest Council, and Campus Rabbi and Head of Jewish Studies at the Wise Academy, a Reform Jewish Day School. She is a community educator, volunteer and activist, as well as a certified Jewish Mindfulness Mediation Teacher. Rabbi Kasten has served on the governing boards of many nonprofit organizations, including the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, the Greenhill School, and the National Council of Jewish Women Dallas Section. Currently she serves on the boards of the Israel-based Polyphony Foundation and the Ackermann Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas. In addition to Polyphony, Rabbi Kasten is involved with many organizations that support coexistence between Jews and Arabs and lay the necessary groundwork for peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is married to Rabbi David Stern and they have three children.
MICHELLE KINDER is a nationally recognized social emotional health expert, author and keynote speaker. She co-authored WHOLE: What Teachers Need to Help Students Thrive. She is the former executive director of Momentous Institute and has worked in children’s mental health for more than two decades as a Licensed Professional Counselor. At Stagen Leadership Academy, she is the Director of the Social Change Leadership Program. Michelle graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and the University of Texas with a master’s degree in Educational Psychology. Under Michelle’s leadership, Momentous Institute was named one of the top 100 Best Workplaces for Women and one of the 50 Best Workplaces in Texas by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work. Michelle is a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project and has articles featured in more than a dozen publications including TIME and Washington Post. In addition to her opinion pieces, Michelle is a published poet. In 2015, Michelle was honored as CEO of the Year by CNM Connect. In 2018, Michelle was honored as one of the Faces of Hope by the Grant Haliburton Foundation and as Dallas-Fort Worth Teach for America’s Honorary Alum. Michelle was honored as Juliette Fowlers’ 2019 Visionary Woman and was selected by the Dallas Historical Society to receive an Award in Excellence in Education. Michelle grew up in Guatemala and is fluent in Spanish. She lives in Dallas with her husband-Patrick, daughters- Maya and Sophia, and their beloved rescue pups. PEER COACH – DALLAS PUBLIC VOICES FELLOWSHIP 2016 & 2019
Memnet Meshesha is currently the Manager of Community Relations & Strategic Development at the State Fair of Texas, the largest fair in the country where she oversees programming and philanthropy for populations in need. Bemnet builds capacity for non-profits through trainings, manages large-scale projects and events and distributes funds through grants and sponsorships. She’s worked extensively in both micro and macro settings with complex and nuanced realities that have deepened her understanding of transformational change. She earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology with minors in Management and Spanish from DBU and her Master’s in Social Work from UTA. Her work centers social justice causes around race, access for upward mobility and criminal justice reform. Her thesis work explored Black immigrant’s perspectives on such to pics and has been presented at national conferences and in academic peer-reviewed sources. As President, Bemnet leads the the Dallas Fort-Worth Urban League Young Professionals, a civil rights organization training its members for leadership opportunities through service. Bemnet also serves on the advisory board of Miles of Freedom, an organization committed to criminal justice reform and serving re-entry populations. She is a founding member of Heritage Giving Circle, the first giving circle in Dallas dedicated to cultivating philanthropy among Black women. Bemnet graduated from the Dana Juett Residency and is a Partner at Social Venture Partners, an international organization focused on philanthropy, strengthening non-profits and investing in innovative solutions. A Dallas local, although originally from Ethiopia, Bemnet is passionate about community development globally that is both equitable and sustainable
Aceil Rashid is a Dallas native and alumna of University of Texas at Dallas where she graduated with a dual Bachelors of Arts in Biology and Psychology. From a court liaison to a client advocate and now the Transitional Housing Coordinator at Mosaic Family Services, Aceil has worked alongside families and survivors of trauma in their efforts to heal and recover. In addition to her work, she dedicates her time to outreach, educating professionals and communities about gender based social justice and cultural competency. While she is not known to have a superpower if she did it would be teleportation and the ability to be in two places at once. For everything else she wears a cape.
JOLI ANGEL ROBINSON is the Manager for The Office of Community Affairs and the Youth Outreach Unit at the Dallas Police Department. Her desire for service in the community led her to take a leap of faith from the private sector to join the Dallas Police Department in 2013. She manages a team of Police Officers and Non-Sworn Outreach Representatives. Along with her team, she has been an integral part of furthering the mission of the Dallas Police Department by seeking to establish a proactive, continuous, and positive relationship with the Dallas community. Joli graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a Bachelors of Art and Science in Sociology and Communication and a graduate degree in Communications specializing in Organizational Communication Management. She is continuing her road to higher education by pursuing an EdD in Organizational Change & Leadership at the University of Southern California. Joli is passionate about the Dallas community she serves. She spent several years volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with Dallas CASA where she advocated on behalf of abused and neglected children as they moved through the foster care system. Currently, Joli volunteers at Roosevelt High School where she serves as the Chair of the Site-Based Decision Making Team and is the Co-Chair for the local Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation organization in Dallas. PEER COACH – DALLAS PUBLIC VOICES FELLOWSHIP 2015 & 2019
Dr. Rija Siddiqui is a newly minted pediatrician in Dallas, the metroplex I call home. I spent most of my childhood summers in Pakistan, which is where my parents called home, witnessing inequality for vulnerable populations, especially mothers and children. These experiences, coupled with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology, led to my eventual pursuit of a medical degree and completion of training in pediatrics. As an undergraduate, I studied comparative healthcare systems in Florence, Italy for six months, as well as art history, both of which taught me how perspective shapes society. In medical school, I coordinated free, student-run indigent care clinics and learned how to manage obstacles I encountered with providing free healthcare, including limited staff, supplies, and referrals. During residency, I studied the utilization of pediatric community clinics for voter registration and how parental attitudes towards voting affect their registration status. This year, I am a chief resident physician in pediatrics, with a primary focus in improving medical education and advocacy in residency. In 2020, I plan to continue my training in psychiatry, with a specific focus on maternal mental health and caregiver psychiatry, as my professional and personal experiences illuminate that we cannot have healthy children without healthy mothers.
Roselle Tenorio is the Grants and Programs Coordinator at Texas Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in the power of women and girls to drive positive change. Roselle coordinates the Community Grants Cycle, which in 2019 granted $635,500 to 24 local nonprofits, 18 of which serve women and girls in Dallas. Here she has lived out her dream of launching a career in philanthropy that redistributes wealth utilizing an intersectional race, class and gender lens. Roselle received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies from Grinnell College thanks to QuestBridge, a nonprofit that connects low-income students with full four-year scholarships. As a low-income, Latinx student, Roselle realized how again and again nonprofits propelled her forward so she committed to a career in the nonprofit sector – conducting research for the local community action center and securing a grant for a new mobile food pantry program both funded through the college. Fueled to continue to give back after graduation, Roselle joined AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program that matches a Corps member to a nonprofit alleviating poverty in the US. She returned to Dallas bringing all she had learned so that she could give back through her work and service to the community that raised her. Her story is featured on Visible Magazine, Dallas Doing Good, and Voyage Dallas. When she is not giving back, you can find Roselle with her partner, Devin and cat, Xochitl, reading or enjoying the city and the outdoors.
Severina Ware js Community Engagement Manager at Wesley-Rankin Community Center. Severina has the privilege of managing volunteers and community relations with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, and the Perot Museum. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Nonprofit Management from the University of North Texas and a Master of Science in Criminology from Texas A&M Commerce. Dynamic and engaging, Severina is passionate about her work.
Veronica Ray Whitehead is Reproductive Justice and health equity advocate as well as the Director of Programs at the North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (Ntarupt). In this role she oversees sexual health education programs for parents, adolescents and youth-serving professionals with the goal of changing the stigma around talking about sex. Additionally, Veronica is a program coordinator for the Dallas Young Women’s Advisory Council, a local leadership development program for young women of color between the ages of 17-24. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with an emphasis in promotion, education and advocacy related to sexual and reproductive health and healthcare access. Driven by a desire to create a better Texas for women and girls of color, Veronica believes inclusive, trauma informed comprehensive sexual health education and healthcare access is basic human right of all people. She is a current Movement Mujeres fellow and a United States of Women Ambassador representing North Texas. Veronica earned a Bachelors of Science in health at Texas A&M University and a Masters of Education in Community Health Education at Texas State University. She is also a group fitness instructor at Dallas Grit Fitness.