The OPEN-US Kairos Fellowship is a six month on-the-job training program for emerging digital campaigners of color.
Kairos, an ancient Greek word, refers to “the right or opportune moment for action.” In the past year, we have witnessed an inspiring movement for civil rights that is calling attention to structural violence, racism, and inequality in the United States. Technology and digital campaigning have fundamentally changed how we organize. Individuals and communities can mobilize and create change at an unprecedented pace and scale, yet there is often an access gap when it comes to leaders of color employing these cutting-edge tools.
The Kairos Fellowship is designed to address the racial disparity that exists within the digital movement by pairing robust recruitment with a training and mentorship program that creates a new cohort of tech-savvy campaigners of color.
National organizations at the forefront of digital advocacy and racial justice have joined together to support the Kairos Fellowship. Kairos will place fourteen fellows at leading national and state organizations. Fellows will receive hands-on training, mentorship, and a six-month campaigner apprenticeship - from January-June 2016 with the possibility of full-time employment upon completion of the fellowship.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation in support of the Kairos Fellowship, you can make a donation via paypal.
Iram Ali worked as the Associate Director of Operations & Development at Iraq Veterans Against the War. Ms. Ali has native fluency in Punjabi and Urdu, organizing and leadership experience, and is a non-profit management professional. Born in rural Pakistan and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Ms. Ali’s various identities influence her passion for social justice for marginalized groups. She also enjoys using humor to pinpoint issues. As such, although new to Twitter, Ms. Ali created #HijabiAndHideous to outline the insidious nature of fast-fashion, overconsumption, and how unhealthy fashion trends are catered to Muslim women. You can follow along @iramfali. She also holds a first degree black belt in Shorin Ryu, and writes fiction and poetry during her spare time.
Anay Bickham was born in Louisiana and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she currently resides. Anay earned a Bachelor’s degree in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and then completed her graduate studies in Africana Studies earning a Masters from State University of New York in Albany. Anay’s nonprofit work has included case management and program coordination work in homeless and youth services, and she has been active in community organizing through volunteering with Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Public Allies Arizona Alumni Network. Anay co-founded and serves as Project Director for Arizona Black Voter Alliance, which was instrumental in creating Black Roots Nation during 2015 Netroots Nation conference that helped center the Black Lives Matter movement into the 2016 Presidential campaign. Currently, Anay serves as board secretary for the Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals Network. She also works with the Maricopa County NAACP. She is a research junkie and a Pinterest nerd, and is passionate about love, Justice, and freedom.
Eric Enrique Borja
Eric Enrique Borja is a second-generation Salvadoran-American, who for the past five years has been working towards a Doctoral degree in Sociology at the University of Texas in Austin. Since entering UT-Austin in 2010, his research focus has centered on understanding how new technology changes the way in which we collectively contend for our political interests. Specifically, he looks at how hashtags and Internet memes are leveraged by political movements, such as the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, to subvert power and the state. Eric finds inspiration from his parents, who in 1979 migrated to this country from El Salvador. In his spare time he admits to playing video games - at the moment he is into Fallout 4 since he grew up with the franchise.
Mohammad Khan is a campaigner, activist, and avid student of policy and politics. His work is inspired by and focuses on intersectional movement-based activism and building the political power of emerging and marginalized communities. Mohammad is the Campaign Manager at MPower Change, a grassroots movement rooted in diverse Muslim-American communities working to build justice for all people. Mohammad has worked on electoral, issue, and civic engagement campaigns, including roles as Political Director for gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, Campaign Manager for a NY City Council race, and work in coalitions supporting the Fight for 15, criminal justice reform, and efforts to protect public education. He is also the Secretary of the Muslim Democratic Club of NY, which works to empower NY’s Muslims in local elections. He is a Regional Board member of Citizen Action of NY, a grassroots social justice organization. He holds a BBA from CUNY’s Baruch College and an MPA from Columbia University. A native of Queens, Mohammad is a proud member of the tragedy-prone yet resilient tribe of New York Mets fans. In his spare time, Mohammad enjoys powerlifting and indoor and outdoor gardening.
Moonyoung is a Campaign Organizer for Courage Campaign. Before joining Courage, Moonyoung worked for Technicolor and the California State Assembly, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley. Inspired by the power of education and its ability to empower individuals and communities, Moonyoung helped organize the first public hack-a-thon in the City of Burbank. Over 300 aspiring programmers attended the event held at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Aside from fighting for progressive issues, Moonyoung is deeply passionate about protecting the environment and being a steward for our ocean. She is a former volunteer at the Ocean Institute, where she helped organize its first Girls in Ocean Science Teen Conference. In her spare time, she can be found exploring hiking trails throughout California.
Irna Landrum is a child of the bayou, a lover of large bodies of water, and a non-swimmer. She is from the New Orleans metro, with deep family roots in Vacherie, Louisiana. Irna graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor's in political science and from University of Minnesota Duluth's Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) program. For thirteen years, she has made her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she has worked as an educator, labor organizer, and electoral campaign organizer, before establishing a career as a place-based organizer focused on community planning and leadership development in Saint Paul's historic Rondo community. She has spent the last two years organizing low-income residents in South Minneapolis for economic justice. Irna is also a skilled workshop facilitator and trainer who works to challenge oppressive dynamics inside of social justice movements. Irna is a recipient of the Emerging Writers Fellowship at the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. Her work as a writer, artist, and organizer is driven by a profound belief in the power of community and connection. Irna once acted in a piece in which she married the entire audience every night. She has approximately 500 spouses in the Twin Cities.
Ian Mann is a Freelance Visual Artist based in South Florida. After graduating from West Broward High in 2010, Ian attended Florida Atlantic University where he majored in Film and New Media Studies. While attending FAU, Ian helped charter Progressive Black Men, Inc., a community service organization, and served as its first president and membership chair from 2012-2014. The chapter has grown from eight members to forty-five, and many of the men in the organization have gone on to graduate, hold leadership positions at the university and create their own businesses. In the past two years, Ian has directed a short film, been a cameraman for the award winning web series ‘Close Friends,’ and was most recently Director of Photography for a short film he made while attending the Toronto International Film Festival. Ian is inspired by art, history, literature and the people in his life. In his spare time he enjoys watching movies, reading, exercise, playing violin and eating.
Maryam Mikaniki is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. She has worked for Al Jazeera English and Accessories Magazine among others. Maryam is particularly interested in world news, science, politics and fashion. Most recently, she worked on a documentary feature about reproductive healthcare in Mississippi. She has a master’s in journalism from New York University.
Oanh-Nhi was the Program Associate at Move to End Violence, where she led the program's first social change campaign. With six years of film and documentary experience, Oanh-Nhi developed a passion for digital storytelling and ending violence against girls and women which she put to use working on the Global Clothesline Project documentary, which documents the stories of domestic violence survivors from around the world. Oanh-Nhi graduated from Dickinson College with a double major in International Studies and Policy Management, and currently serves on the Seattle Chapter Workgroup of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and on the Board of Directors for the Council for American Students in International Negotiations (CASIN). In her spare time, Oanh-Nhi screenwrites and enjoys running, pilates, and hiking.
Genny Roman is an organizer who still believes that peace and plenty can be worked out some way. Genny worked on various campaigns using digital means as a way to build power, including with the AFL-CIO and Dēmos. She received her BA in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of South Alabama. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Mississippi, Genny was heavily steeped in a cultural boiling pot and is inspired by a vision of the future where identity and collective struggle can coexist to transform society. In her spare time, Genny enjoys going to comedy shows, reading dense philosophical tomes, and playing the ukulele.
Avatara Smith-Carrington, a New Jersey native, hip-hop enthusiast, and bibliophile, is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a double major in Political Science and English and a double minor in Critical and Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies and Social Justice. As a former mentor for their University’s Social Justice Community, previous intern with the African Women’s Development Fund based in Ghana, and presenter/creator for various programming centering media, coalition building, and marginalized identities, Avatara is passionate about reclaiming and taking up space. As the creator and director of a web-based docuseries entitled “To Queer Things Up”, they are actively engaging in cultivating both virtual and physical spaces for marginalized people within the queer community.
Fresco Steez is a community organizer, educator, and aesthetic designer born and raised on the south side of Chicago. She is currently the DC Chapter Co-chair of Black Youth Project 100, and has fought for freedom with young Black people for nearly a decade. Fresco has served as a youth legal advocate for the Know Your Rights Project, a Junior Grant Officer for the Chicago Crossroads Fund, and a coder and analytics scientist with Code for Progress. Fresco is rooted in the fight for Black Liberation and freedom for all oppressed people. She provides an intersectional young, Black, queer analysis to the struggle for justice in local and national political climates, and is inspired by unapologetically Black political heroes like Assata Shakur, Ella Baker, Audre Lorde, and Harriet Tubman. In her spare time, she makes T-shirt graphics and memorizes the lines of her favorite rap lyrics.
Elizabeth Marie Taveras is Cuban-Dominican and a Miami native. She attends the Florida International University School of Journalism and is in the Digital Media Studies program, with a concentration in Political Science. She founded a local grassroots organization named Reclaim Your Power and Equality (R.Y.P.E.) that organizes around social change, gender equality, and permaculture. Elizabeth became a radical activist through Occupy Miami and has since been involved in taking action on several issues around food justice, climate change, ending state violence and militarization of police, prison divestment, gender equality, and feminism.
Ernesto Villasenor, Jr.
Ernesto Villasenor, Jr., is a proud Compton native. After receiving the Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2010, he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY with a degree in Sustainability Studies and a minor in Economics. He currently serves as an Assembly District Delegate with the California Democratic Party’s 64th Assembly District and sits on the Council for the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association as a National Member. He previously served as an AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow in Dorchester, Massachusetts and worked for the 1st District City Councilmember of the City of Compton. Ernesto has a background in environmental justice and health policy, having done research in environmental health disparities in inner city communities throughout the US and slums in South America and Africa. In his spare time, Ernesto loves to mix music, hike, travel, perform spoken word, and take pictures whenever he doesn’t forget his camera.
Kairos Fellowship Staff:
Mariana Ruiz Firmat
Kairos Fellowship Director
Mariana Ruiz Firmat is the Kairos Fellowship Director. Mariana has over fifteen years of experience as a community organizer and digital campaigner. She helped co-found the Kairos Fellowship along with Jackie Mahendra and others while serving as Managing Director of Presente.org. She launched her digital campaigning career at MoveOn.org where she was Deputy Field Director before joining the digital campaigning team. Mariana currently sits on the WebofChange Board. She also provides digital strategy support to criminal justice and immigrant rights organizations. Mariana has spent most of her career working on racial justice issues, immigrant rights, and ending violence against migrant women. She is also an essayist and poet and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Royce does logistics and research work for CounterPAC and OPEN-US, and has a passion for campaign finance reform and other issues of inequality. Prior to joining CEL, Royce served as the campaign manager for Sam Kang in his bid to represent the East Bay in the California State Assembly. He also co-authored the first supplier diversity report of California's insurance industry during his time at The Greenlining Institute. Royce got his start in public service work in the Bay Area as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs, which gave him the opportunity to complete rotations in the government, labor, nonprofit, and business sectors. Royce received his B.A. from UC Berkeley, where he studied history and completed the Global Poverty & Practice Minor, which took him to his father’s native Nicaragua to volunteer as a teacher and soccer coach in rural primary schools. On the weekends, Royce wakes up at obscenely early hours to watch his beloved Arsenal F.C. at the pub with other soccer fanatics. He also enjoys eating his way around the many awesome restaurants in the Bay Area, playing boardgames, and annoying his friends with his love for 80's music.
Kairos Fellowship Architect and Partner
Citizen Engagement Lab
Founding Director, OPEN-US Network
Jackie is the Founding Director of a network initiative called OPEN-US (Online Progressive Engagement Network, US), whose aim is to strengthen the ecosystem of tech-savvy groups pushing for progressive change in the United States. Before launching this strategic collaboration initiative based at CEL, Jackie served as Director of Organizing and then Director of Storytelling at Change.org, the world’s largest campaigning platform. Prior to that, she led online strategy for the immigration reform advocacy group America's Voice, where she helped seed changes in deportation policy that now protect millions of immigrant families from coast to coast. A board member of Netroots Nation, Jackie has given dozens of talks on innovation strategy, immigration advocacy, and digital storytelling – and spearheaded programs to promote diversity and innovation. When not herding cats, Jackie enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and advising social impact startups. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of CodeWalker Academy, whose mission is to build the pipeline of women and minorities into tech, and co-founded ethical clothing company ishi.
Mia has been at Democracy for America since 2009, starting as the Finance Director. In January 2010 she became DFA’s first Chief of Staff, focusing her efforts on hiring, supporting and getting results from great staff; and long-term planning and budgeting. Mia has a diverse background in organizing and fundraising - dating all the way back to her college years at the University of Wisconsin, where she worked on campaign finance reform with WISPIRG and served on student government. She began her professional organizing career working with students at the University of California-Berkeley, and their high priority campaign succeeded in convincing the state of California to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2017. Mia has also directed telephone outreach offices to raise money and mobilize activists of groups like MASSPIRG and Environment North Carolina. Before her current work with DFA, Mia directed the major gifts program for Toxics Action Center, nearly doubling the income from this program within two years. Mia lives in Vermont with her husband, James and their two sons, William and Oliver. When she's not working and parenting, she's likely reading DIY and decor blogs, watching Project Runway or trying to get outside and go running.