THE PRAXIS PROJECT STAFF
Makani Themba, Executive Director
Makani Themba is executive director of The Praxis Project, a nonprofit organization helping communities use media and policy advocacy to advance health justice. Under her leadership, The Praxis Project has raised more than $20 million for advocacy organizations working in communities of color nationwide. These initiatives include Communities Creating Healthy Environments (C-CHE), an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support policy advocacy to advance healthy food outlets and safe places to play in communities of color and Building Capacity Building Power, a partnership with Ford Foundation to support grassroots civic engagement.
Makani was previously director of the Transnational Racial Justice Initiative (TRJI), an international project to build capacity among advocates to more effectively address structural racism and leverage tools and best practices from around the world. While at TRJI, she co-authored and edited a "shadow report" on institutional racism and white privilege – the first of its kind.
Prior to that, she directed the Grass Roots Innovative Policy Program (GRIPP) a national project to build capacity among local organizing groups to more effectively engage in media and policy advocacy to address institutional racism in welfare and public education. She was a staffer for the California State Legislature, served as media director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/Los Angeles, and worked five years for the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, including three years as director of its Center for Media and Policy Analysis.
Makani has published numerous articles and case studies on race, class, media, policy advocacy and public health. She is author of Making Policy, Making Change, and co-author of Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention, a contributor to the volumes Community Based Participatory Research for Health, Prevention is Primary: Strategies for Community well Being, We the Media along with many other edited book projects. Her publications have helped set the standard for policy advocacy work and contributed significantly to the field’s current emphasis on media and policy advocacy to address health problems. She has also co-authored with Hunter Cutting is Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice. Her latest book, a collaboration under The Praxis Project with contributions from Malkia Cyril and others, is Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era.
Ditra has centered her life's work on working with communities of color to fight for justice. A skilled trainer, facilitator, community organizer, fundraiser and strategist, Ditra brings a high level integrity and effectiveness to all of her work.
Prior to coming to Praxis, Ditra served as a consultant in partnership with the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, The Center for Applied Research and Technical Assistance, Inc. (CARTA) and The Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO). From 1999 to 2005, Ditra Edwards was on the staff of LISTEN, Inc., serving as Executive Director from 2002 to 2005. Under Ditra's leadership, the organization grew tremendously. LISTEN secured and managed the National Roots Initiative - a two-year partnership with the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing. Ditra also won multi-year funding to secure the infrastructure of LISTEN and core support for grass roots organizations in their national network.
As director of Training and Youth Development at LISTEN, Ditra was responsible for the design and implementation of the Global Exchange Program, which supported youth activists from the United States and their counterparts in other countries to learn about leadership and democracy. Ditra was also the catalyst for the content and framework of the organization's leadership and youth development curriculum. Ditra also helped incubate Youth Education Alliance (YEA), a DC based youth organizing group fighting for equality education in DC Public Schools. She also helped create the national network of youth workers and organizers called Building Leadership Organizing Communities (BLOC).
Ditra has served on the boards of the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing, and the Columbia Heights Shaw Family Support Collaborative. Ditra was the recipient of the Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, Session 366 on Urban Youth and the Smithsonian Institute Museum Leadership Award
Liz Derias,Training and Capacity Building Director
Liz Derias serves as the Training and Capacity Building Director for the Praxis Project. A native of Philadelphia by way of Egypt, she has over 12 years of youth and community organizing, popular education training, and advocacy experience, working with organizations such as Sankofa Community Empowerment, the Greenlining Institute, and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. A 2001 graduate of the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP) of the Center for Third World Organizing, she is committed to racial justice for working class communities. While there, she worked on various healthcare justice campaigns of AGENDA in Los Angeles, CA.
A resident of Oakland for eight years, Liz served as the Educational Program Coordinator for the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), leading national training programs in popular education. As an organizer for Leadership Excellence, she worked with a team of youth interns, elected officials, an advisory committee, parents and community members on the West Oakland Teen Center Survey and Development Project, which secured over $ 6 million dollars for a new state of the art youth center in West Oakland. A former organizer with Youth Together, Liz fought for educational justice and finance reform for California's public school students through the Kids Count campaign.
Liz has published several articles, namely, “Black and Arab Solidarity: What Could It Mean?” published on a-rab.net, and “Educating with Soul”, published in, Race, Poverty, and the Environment, Fall 2007. She is the narrator of the documentary, COINTELPRO 101, produced by the Freedom Archives. Liz is an organizing member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Salimah Salaam-Muhammad, Finance and Personnel Director
Salimah Salaam is a native Washingtonian and serves as the Finance and Personnel Director for the Praxis Project. Her primary function is to act as the financial liaison for the organization and to provide administrative and fiscal management. She also works directly with the PATH grantees to provide technical assistance in the areas of budget development, planning policies and procedures and accounting.
Hailing from a varied business background that spans nearly two decades, her experience includes managing the Abundant Life Clinic, an inclusive and non-sectarian community-based holistic health clinic serving health care needs to underserved and disadvantaged communities, to a management stint at Citibank. Prior to working at Praxis, Salimah was professionally employed with various financial planning, investment and community based fundraising to individuals and small businesses. She holds a master’s degree in business finance from the University of the District of Columbia and she completed her undergraduate work at Howard University.
Kenyon Farrow, Communications Director
Kenyon Farrow has been working as an organizer, communications strategist, and writer on issues at the intersection of racial and economic justice issues. Kenyon is the former Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice and has worked as communications staff for Housing Works, and Community HIV AIDS Mobilization Project (now the National HIV Prevention Justice Alliance), and was also Southern Region Coordinator for Critical Resistance. Currently he serves as board chair of Streetwise and Safe in New York City, and is on the advisory committee of BreakOUT! -- an LGBTQ youth organizing project in New Orleans. Kenyon has also worked as an editor/project director with Political Research Associates as well as South End Press.
In addition to his political work, he is a prolific writer. He is the co-editor of A New Queer Agenda, a special issue of Feminist & Scholar, the online journal of the Barnard Center for Women. He is the co-editor of Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out (Nation Books) the forthcoming anthology Stand Up!: The Shifting Politics of Racial Uplift (South End Press) and his work has appeared in the anthologies Spirited: Affirming the Soul of Black Lesbian and Gay Identity (Red Bone Press), 2010's Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Same-Sex Marriage (AK Press), and For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough (Magnus Books). His work has also appeared in publications such as The Huffington Post, theGrio.com, Colorlines, American Prospect, and Alternet.
Kenyon was named one of Out Magazine’s Out 100 for 2008, the Advocate Magazine’s “40 Under 40” LGBT Leaders in the United States for 2010, and one of Black Entertainment Television’s “Modern Black History Heroes” for 2011.
Alfredo Lopez, Technology Manager
Alfredo Jose Miguel Lopez is an activist, writer, media producer, teacher and organizer in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently a well-known Internet activist and the Co-Director of May First/People Link, a progressive Internet users' organization and the Internet's oldest progressive provider.
Lopez is the author of six books and thousands of articles. The main organizer of the Day of Solidarity with Puerto Rico in Madison Square Garden, the largest demonstration of its type in history, and the 1976 Counter-Bicentennial. He coordinated the U.S. delegation to the International Solidarity Conference on Puerto Rico in 1975, the first international conference on the issue.
In more recent years, he was the architect of the campaign to keep NYC public hospitals from being privatized in the 1990s. And he has participated in organizing and leading scores of similar campaigns over his 40 years of activism. He is a founder of The Brooklyn New School as alternative school in Brooklyn. Most recently he was an organizer of the technology group for the United States Social Forum in 2007.
Beginning with his publication of The Case of Carlos Feliciano (1971) and then the ground-breaking Puerto Rican Papers (Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), Lopez has published in a variety of media almost continuously. He has written two mystery novels: Turn Around Once, Then Keep Running and Kings of Crotona Park (both published by EntreMundos Publications). He is probably best known for his history of Puerto Rico, Dona Licha's Island (South End Press) and the more recent The Organic Internet - Organizing History's Largest Social Movement.
He has published for a wide variety of publications including The Village Voice, SevenDays Magazine (at which he was an editor) and he worked for eight years as a reporter at the (Bergen) Record. Lopez has produced two weekly radio programs and a weekly television show (CityLook) broadcast in New York during the late 1980s from union local CWA 1180]. He has produced six documentaries. He was an editor of the news magazine Seven Days (1980) and has written hundreds of articles.
Lopez has taught at many colleges and Universities over the years most notably Columbia University (at the Graduate School of Journalism) and has lectured extensively nationwide.
In 1994, Lopez launched People Link, a progressive Internet provider which has been in continuous existence since then and merged, two years ago, with members of the former May First Technology Collective. His most recent work, as a technologist/organizer, has been exploring the Internet from a critical perspective, an exploration that is described with the term Organic Internet. He was involved in the leadership of the United States Social Forum.
Ayenay Abye, Field Director
AyeNay Abye was born and raised in Los Angeles. She was formerly, Lead Organizer with Californians for Justice in Oakland and Long Beach, California. At Californians For Justice AyeNay led a successful campaign, So Fresh, So Clean, winning $16 million dollars for Oakland High School under the landmark Williams v. California Settlement. She received her BA in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. During her time at UCSC, she was heavily involved in student organizing on campus and the greater community. She has now moved to Washington DC and is the Field Director at The Praxis Project.
Miles Parish, Digital Organizer
Miles began his organizing career at a young age when he began volunteering in election campaigns before he was ten years old. As a college student at Morehouse, he worked in the Obama For America campaign, designed websites and technology applications for independent musicians and produced short viral videos and other promotional materials. Miles coordinates digital outreach for the CCHE Get FReE initiative, which focuses on networking, support and tools for youth-led organizing nationwide.
Lakshmi Sridaran, Policy Director
Lakshmi Sridaran serves as the Policy Director for the Praxis Project. She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. Lakshmi has varied community organizing, urban planning, and advocacy experiences from around the country, but primarily focused in the South. Most recently, she concluded six years of work in New Orleans, starting as a community development specialist with Bright Moments public relations firm and national research institute, PolicyLink, to produce joint research findings on improving federal contracting opportunities for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Her latest position was as Director of Programs for Neighborhoods Partnership Network. Much of her work there was focused on building neighborhood organizational capacity among the over 100 NPN members, helping shape local policy issues among neighborhoods and linking them to state and federal policy efforts. She helped initiate resident participation in the New Orleans city budgeting process, producing two widely distributed residents’ guides to understanding and evaluating the city budget.
Lakshmi comes to this work with a deep commitment to racial and economic justice inspired by her organizing background in the labor movement in California where she completed her undergraduate degree in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley. Lakshmi also has a master’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning from M.I.T. specializing in post-disaster planning. There she had the opportunity to assist and document community rebuilding efforts in New Orleans; Tambo de Mora, Peru; and Tamil Nadu, India leading to a comparative analysis for her master’s thesis.
Donald Jones, Accountant Assistant
Don is a native Chicagoan with extensive accounting experience. He is a committed advocate on issues affecting sexual minorities and enjoys working at a place where he can use his accounting skills to support social justice values.