Board of Directors

Steve Shaff

Stephen Shaff is a community and political organizer, social entrepreneur, and the founder of Community-Vision Partners (C-VP), a community and social solutions Benefit LLC whose mission is to initiate, facilitate and agitate for the Common Good. A significant project of C-VP has been the establishment and development of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council (CSBC), a business-led educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote and expand sustainable business viability, awareness, and impact within the Chesapeake region (MD, DC and VA). Shaff’s background represents an unusually broad but interrelated series of accomplishments along with a multi-sector network of relationships and contacts. His areas of expertise include inner-city Washington, DC Affordable Housing & Real Estate Development; Community Development and Activism; Green & New Economy Advocacy; Civic & Political Advocacy Leadership and other national movement initiatives.

Steve Shaff

Secretary - People Demanding Action
Executive Director Community Vision Partners
Maryland

Executive Director

Alex Lawson is the executive director of Social Security Works, the convening member of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition— a coalition made up of over 300 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans. Lawson was the first employee of Social Security Works, when he served as the communications director, and has built the organization alongside the founding co-directors into a recognized leader on social insurance. Mr. Lawson is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. Mr. Lawson is also the co-owner of We Act Radio an AM radio station and media production company whose studio is located in the historic Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC. We Act Radio is a mission driven business that is dedicated to raising up the stories and voices of those historically excluded from the media. We Act Radio is also an innovator in the use of online and social media as well as video livestreaming to cover breaking news and events. Most recently, producing video livestreaming from Ferguson, MO as the #FergusonLive project sponsored by Color of Change.

Alex Lawson

Treasurer - People Demanding Action
Social Security Works
Washington, DC

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Dr. Sadler's work in the community includes terms as a board member of the N.C. Council of Churches, Siegel Avenue Partners, and Mecklenburg Ministries, and currently he serves on the boards of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Loaves and Fishes, the Hispanic Summer Program, and the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP. His activism includes work with the Community for Creative Non-Violence in D.C., Durham C.A.N., H.E.L.P. Charlotte, and he has worked organizing clergy with and developing theological resources for the Forward Together/Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. Rev. Sadler is the managing editor of the African American Devotional Bible, associate editor of the Africana Bible, and the author of Can a Cushite Change His Skin? An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, and Othering in the Hebrew Bible. He has published articles in Interpretation, Ex Audito, Christian Century, the Criswell Theological Review, and the Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and has essays and entries in True to Our Native Land, the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, the Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Light against Darkness, and several other publications. Among his research interests are the intersection of race and Scripture, the impact of our images of Jesus for the perpetuation of racial thought in America, the development of African American biblical interpretation in slave narratives, the enactment of justice in society based on biblical imperatives, and the intersection of religion and politics.

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Co - Chair - People Demanding Action
North Carolina Forward Together/Moral Monday Movem
Radio Host: Politics of Faith - Wednesday @ 11 am

Executive Director and Executive Producer PDA Radio

Andrea Miller is the Executive Director of People Demanding Action, a multi-issue advocacy group. Andrea is both an organizer as well as a digital advocacy expert. She has appeared on the Thom Hartmann show, hosts the Progressive Round Table and is Executive Producer or PDAction Radio. As an IT professional she is also responsible for PDAction's digital strategy and customizes advocacy tools for small to medium size organizations through the Progressive Support Project. She is the former Co-Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, was the Democratic Nominee in 2008 for House of Representatives in the Virginia 4th District. Running on a Medicare for All and clean energy platform, Andrea was endorsed by PDA, California Nurses and The Sierra Club. Prior to running for office, Andrea was a part of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign, first as Statewide Coordinator for Virginia and subsequently as Regional Coordinator. From 2006 until leading the VA Kucinich camppaign Andrea was MoveOn.org’s Regional Coordinator for Central, Southwest and Hampton Roads areas of Virginia and West Virginia.

Andrea Miller

Board Member and Executive Director
Spotsylvania, VA

President and Executive Director

Since September 2013, Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus has served as the President of Progressive Congress. Dr. Lemus served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and was Director of the Office of Public Engagement from July 2009 until August 2013. Prior to her appointment, she was the first woman to hold the position of Executive Director at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) from 2007-2009, and the first woman to chair the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) from 2008-2009. During her tenure at LCLAA, she helped co-found the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) and was a Commissioner for the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change (CEAAC). She served 3-year terms on the advisory boards of both the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) from 2005-2008 and the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) from 2006-2009. In January 2013, she was confirmed by the DC Council to sit on the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia. From 2000-2007, she served as Director of Policy and Legislation at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) where she launched the LULAC Democracy Initiative - a national Hispanic civic participation campaign and founded Latinos for a Secure Retirement - a national campaign to preserve the Social Security safety net. Dr. Lemus was adjunct professor of international relations and border policy at the University of Memphis, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego; as well as a Guest Scholar at the University of California, San Diego – Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies. Dr. Lemus has appeared in both English and Spanish language media outlets, including CNN, CNN en Español, C-SPAN, MSNBC, NBC's Hardball, Fox's Neil Cavuto, Univision and NBC-Telemundo among others. She received her doctorate in International Relations from the University of Miami in 1998.

Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus

Co - Chair - People Demanding Action
President and Executive Director
Progressive Congress

Team Leader and Climate Action Radio Host

Russell Greene has been focused on the climate crisis since 1988. He leads the Progressive Democrats of America Stop Global Warming and Environmental Issue Organizing Team, is Advisory Board Chair for iMatter, Kids vs. Global Warming, vice-chair legislation for the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and has been an executive in the restaurant industry for over 30 years, with a current focus on the impact of sustainability in business.

Russell Greene

President, People Demanding Action

President & CEO

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, is a minister, community activist and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. He works tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice.

 A national leader and pacemaker within the green movement, Rev Yearwood has been successfully bridging the gap between communities of color and environmental issue advocacy for the past decade. With a diverse set of celebrity allies, Rev Yearwood raises awareness and action in communities that are often overlooked by traditional environmental campaigns. Rev Yearwood’s innovative climate and clean energy work has garnered the Hip Hop Caucus support from several environmental leaders including former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Bill McKibben’s 350.org. Rolling Stone deemed Rev Yearwood one of our country’s “New Green Heroes” and Huffington Post named him one of the top ten change makers in the green movement. He was also named one of the 100 most powerful African Americans by Ebony Magazine in 2010, and was also named to the Source Magazine’s Power 30, Utne Magazine’s 50 Visionaries changing the world, and the Root 100 Young Achievers and Pacesetters. Rev Yearwood is a national leader in engaging young people in electoral activism. He leads the national Respect My Vote! campaign and coalition (www.respectmyvote.com). In the 2012 Elections, numerous celebrity partners have joined the campaign to reach their fan bases, including Respect My Vote! spokesperson 2 Chainz. The Hip Hop Caucus registered and mobilized tens of thousands of young voters to the polls in 2012. In 2008, the Hip Hop Caucus set a world record of registering the most voters in one day: 32,000 people across 16 U.S. cities. This effort was part of the Hip Hop Caucus’ 2008 “Respect My Vote!” campaign with celebrity spokespeople T.I., Keyshia Cole and many other recording artists, athletes, and entertainers. Rev Yearwood entered the world of Hip Hop Politics when he served as the Political and Grassroots Director of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 he also was a key architect and implementer of three other voter turnout operations – P. Diddy’s Citizen Change organization which created the “Vote Or Die!” campaign; Jay Z’s “Voice Your Choice” campaign; and, “Hip Hop Voices”, a project at the AFL-CIO. It was in 2004 that he founded the Hip Hop Caucus to bring the power of the Hip Hop Community to Washington, DC. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Rev Yearwood established the award winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign where he led a coalition of national and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Katrina survivors. The coalition successfully stopped early rounds of illegal evictions of Katrina survivors from temporary housing, held accountable police and government entities to the injustices committed during the emergency response efforts, supported the United Nations “right to return” policies for internally displaced persons, promoted comprehensive federal recovery legislation, and campaigned against increased violence resulting from lack of schools and jobs in the years after Katrina. Rev Yearwood is a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer. In the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he began speaking out against such an invasion. He has since remained a vocal activist in opposition to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007 he organized a national pro-peace tour, “Make Hip Hop Not War”, which engaged urban communities in discussions and rallies about our country’s wars abroad and parallels to the structural and physical violence poor urban communities endure here at home. Rev Yearwood is a proud graduate of Howard University School of Divinity and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), both Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He served as student body president at both institutions. As a student at UDC, he organized massive student protests and sit-ins, shutting down the school for ten days straight, and achieved victory against budget cutbacks. After graduating from UDC he served as the Director of Student Life at a time when the city was attempting to relocate the school, under his leadership the city was forced to rescind its effort to marginalize and move the campus. Rev Yearwood went on to teach at the Center for Social Justice at Georgetown University, before entering the world of Hip Hop politics with Russell Simmons and civil rights activist, Dr. Benjamin Chavis. He has been featured in such media outlets as CNN, MSNBC, BET, Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, MTV, AllHipHop.com, The Source Magazine, Ebony and Jet, Al Jazeera, BBC, C-Span, and Hardball with Chris Mathews and featured in the Washington Post, The New York Times and VIBE magazine. He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. The first in his family to be born in the United States, his parents, aunts, and uncles, are from Trinidad and Tobago. Rev Yearwood currently lives in Washington, DC with his two sons, who are his biggest inspiration to making this world a better place.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood

Board Member
President and CEO
Hip Hop Caucus

Board Member

Marc Carr’s passion for social justice and entrepreneurship has led him to work on civil rights campaigns in the Deep South and organize community forums in the U.S. and West Africa. His professional experience includes heading the sales division of a major international corporation in West Africa, consulting for the United Nations Foundation, and working as a Social Media Analyst for McKinsey & Co. Marc is the Founder of Social Solutions, an organization devoted to crowd-sourcing tech solutions to solve intractable social problems. Social Solutions produces a monthly event series, the Capitol Innovation Forum, and the yearly Social Innovation Festival, along with a podcast series, the Capitol Justice Podcast. Social Solutions also spearheads the Capitol Justice Lab, an initiative to reduce the incarceration rate in the nation’s capital by half in five years. Marc is expecting his Master’s Degree in Social Enterprise in 2016 from the American University School of International Service.

Marc Carr

Board Member
Social Solutions
Washington, DC

Board Member

Lise received her Doctorate in Medicine in 1982 from the University of Paris. After interning at hospitals in Paris and Lome, Togo, she completed her residency in psychiatry at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. Board certified in both general and forensic psychiatry, Lise worked as a staff psychiatrist in public mental health centers in Alexandria and Fairfax, Virginia. For more than twenty years Lise has maintained a private practice in psychiatry. An Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University and an active member of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, she has worked to educate the public on mental health issues through writing in professional journals, the press and other media outlets. A frequent guest on local and national radio and television, Lise has addressed a range of issues on violence, trauma, and mental illness. Through Physicians for Human Rights, she conducts evaluations of victims of torture seeking asylum in this country and advocates on their behalf. She has served as a consultant to the CIA where she developed psychological assessments of world leaders. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti Lise provided mental health services to those traumatized by the events. In 2005, concerned about the direction the country was taking -- and believing that a background in science and human behavior would strengthen the political process -- she ran for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland. In September, 2006, she was chosen as one of the first fifty persons to be trained in Nashville by Al Gore to educate the public about global warming. Lise is an expert on climate change and public health, with a particular interest in the psychological impacts of climate change. She frequently writes and speaks about these issues. In collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation she organized a conference held in March 2009 on the mental health and psychological impacts of climate change. Lise is on the board of The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the International Transformational Resilience Coalition.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren

Board Member
Moral Action on Climate
Maryland
Saturday, 13 May 2017 02:00

Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting.

Written by Lulu Friesdat | Alternet

A seismic political battle that could send shockwaves all the way to the White House was launched last week in Florida. On Thursday, the Voting Rights Amendment, a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to non-violent individuals with felony convictions cleared a major hurdle when the state Supreme Court unanimously determined that the measure is constitutional and can be placed on the 2018 ballot, if organizers can collect enough signatures.

In Florida, a felony conviction means the loss of voting rights for life in most cases, making it one of the most restrictive states in the country. “There are a lot of people that are being excluded from voting,” says Jon Mills, the attorney who successfully presented the initiative before the court. The Sentencing Project estimates that 10 percent of Florida’s voting population is unable to vote, and close to 1.5 million people could have their voting rights restored if the amendment passes.

The felony population is disproportionately made up of people of color. Black men and women are five to six times more likely than their white counterparts to be incarcerated; Latino men and women are two to three times more likely to see prison time than whites. Many of them are young people ensnared in the war on drugs. Organizers like Desmond Meade of Floridians for a Fair Democracy point out that the amendment will cover those that have completed their sentences, probation and parole, but not those convicted of murder or sexual assault. He says those who have done their time have paid their debt to society and that the issue is not one of politics, but of fairness.

Meade is making the moral argument for the amendment, but it may be the political one that motivates supporters. Felons traditionally vote Democratic, with one study estimating they would turnout at 35% and vote 70% Democratic. That could put 367,000 votes in the Democratic column in presidential elections. Compare that to Trump’s margin of victory of 112,911 votes in the Florida 2016 presidential election, and it becomes clear how the amendment could be a game-changer for the whole country.

A Heavy Lift

Getting the prize of Florida’s 29 electoral votes won't be easy. Supporters of the measure must collect over 750,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. Organizers say they have 100,000 on hand from the push that got them to the Supreme Court. But it took over a year to collect those 100,000 signatures. Now they must collect six times that amount in eight months to make the Feb. 1, 2018, deadline for the November ballot.

Meade says he is not deterred. "I love challenges like that," he told me in a lengthy phone interview. "I was a one-man show working the entire state of Florida. Matter of fact, in the last couple years, I put over 157,000 miles on my car."

Blacks trying to participate in U.S. elections have historically been asked to perform Herculean tasks to attain a right that was freely given to white men: the right to vote. From having to read and interpret the constitution to paying hefty fees known as “poll taxes,” to undertaking the civil rights movement itself, blacks have consistently been forced to “demonstrate” that they deserve to participate in elections. In some ways the tortuous requirements for this ballot initiative are reminiscent of those past burdens. Not only must organizers collect three quarters of a million signatures, the signatures must come proportionally from 14 different districts across Florida. Petitions can be downloaded from the group's website, and mailed in, but most will wind up being collected in person. If supporters can cross the signature threshold, they are still not across the finish line. The ballot measure will need to be approved by a 60% vote in order to successfully amend the state’s constitution.

Andrea Miller says she is up for the challenge. The executive director of the grassroots advocacy group People Demanding Action, describes her organization as "very tiny" and admits, "We don’t have any resources." But she says, "If not us, who?" She believes the best hope for attaining the signatures lies in working with African-American advocacy groups and mega-churches in Florida, and threw down the gauntlet for them to help. "We are going to go to the NAACP and the African-American churches and make sure that they are involved in this. They are going to do something they haven’t done since the '60s. They are going to remember who they are.”

If progressive groups that have sprung up around the country decide to take up the cause, they could exponentially expand available resources while building out their own organizations. A chapter of Indivisible in North Lake Florida has already taken up the call and tweeted a photo of their team gathering signatures.

Requests for comment for this article to other groups including Our RevolutionBrand New CongressJustice Democrats and Our States went unanswered. But perhaps those organizations will also be motivated by the large lottery prize to send in the troops.

The 2018 Florida election could be a perfect storm for change if the initiative brings out extra voters to put Andrew Gillum over the top in his quest to be the next governor. The Tallahassee mayor, best known for fighting the gun lobby and other statewide efforts by Republicans to thwart local control, has made it clear he supports second chances for people with a criminal record. The state's right-wing incumbent, Gov. Rick Scott, faces term limits and cannot seek re-election. 

A History of Twists and Turns

Desmond Meade, the driving force behind the initiative, has traveled a road with twists and turns. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm. After his release, he faced homelessness and thoughts of suicide, but instead entered a drug rehabilitation program and went first to college, graduating summa cum laude, and then on to law school. He exemplifies the message of the voting restoration movement that people can change, and deserve second chances. Their motto #SayYestoSecondChances is so hopeful it dares to use 21 characters for a hashtag.

That unvarnished optimism is likely to run into some real-world politics before the campaign is through. Conservatives like Roger Clegg, president of the conservative advocacy group Center for Equal Opportunity, have long made the argument, "If you aren't willing to follow the law, you can't claim the right to make the law for everyone else." On occasion they have expressed their priorities more bluntly, as in 2004 when Marty Connors, then chairman of the Alabama Republican Party said, “As frank as I can be, we’re opposed to [restoring voting rights] because felons don’t tend to vote Republican.”

Connors’ quote hints at the darker origins of the laws preventing felons from voting; origins that were laid bare when a 1906 quote from Virginia State Senator Carter Glass surfaced, saying they intended to “eliminate the darkey as a political factor… in less than five years.”

In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander discusses the parallels between the current criminal justice system and Jim Crow, the system of segregation and degradation of blacks that was in place in the South between 1877 and the mid 1960s. She argues that the prison label is in many respects more damaging than Jim Crow. “The criminalization and demonization of black men has turned the black community against itself, unraveling community and family relationships, decimating networks of mutual support, and intensifying the shame and self-hate experienced by the current pariah caste.”

Despite his hopeful outlook, Meade acknowledges the impact the restrictions he’s faced as an ex-felon have had on him. Last August, his wife Sheena ran for the Florida House of Representatives, and Meade was unable to vote for her. He says, “That was like a slap in the face, really reminding me I’m not a full citizen because I can’t have my voice heard.” He says it strengthened his resolve to push the initiative forward. A study by Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza hints at the rehabilitating effect that voting can have on ex-felons. “In our Minnesota data, voters … were about half as likely to be rearrested … as non-voters.”

It’s possible that Meade’s optimism is contagious. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo has signed the petition, and the congressman is not alone. The ACLU has been a strong advocate for the amendment, with political director Kirk Bailey speaking out forcefully about moving Florida’s voting rules from the 19th to the 21st century. The Advancement Project’s national office is providing strategy support. Even the League of Women Voters, whose hallmark is caution, hosted an event to draw awareness to the campaign.

Meade says in general Americans support second chances, and the long-standing 2002 Harris poll confirms that 80% of Americans “favor restoring voting rights to former felons who have served their entire sentences.” He points out that because of the 60% support necessary for the measure to ultimately pass, it will need endorsements from across the political spectrum.

But he is not daunted. He tells me, “We collected signatures at Donald Trump rallies.” I asked how many. “I would definitely say at least over 100 at each one,” he replied. You’ve got to admit … that’s 'yuge.'

Link to original article from AlterNet

Lulu Friesdat is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist whose many news assignments include producing election coverage for MSNBC and editing with the CBS Evening News and Good Morning America. She received a Best Documentary award for directing her first feature-length documentary Holler Back — [not] Voting in an American Town, a film that explores systemic issues in our elections that discourage voter participation. Follow her on twitter @LuluFriesdat.

Read 15482 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 May 2017 14:14

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