Board of Directors

Paige Azuma, Co-Chair

Bio coming soon

Shilpa Bavikatte, Co-Chair

Shilpa has worked in the nonprofit community since moving to Chicago in 2002. She has been with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago for over 8 years. Her career at United Way started in the area of diversity/inclusion where she worked directly with Asian American organizations. Through this work, she created culturally competent and inclusive language around the grant-making process. Developer of the Safety Net framework for United Way funding, Ms. Bavikatte is responsible for the local distribution of grants to programs that address housing, food, intimate violence and legal assistance. Outside of her work at United Way, Ms. Bavikatte is a long-time member and current Strategic Planning Co-Lead for the Asian Giving Circle. She is also a South Asian Progressive Action Collective (SAPAC) Core Member and has been twice a producer of SAPAC's Voices of Resistance, a visual and performance art show focused on social justice. Lastly, Ms. Bavikatte is also the Founder & President of the Kiran Bavikatte Foundation. KBF aims to support South Asian artists, as well as mental health awareness in the South Asian community.

Mike Chen

Mike is a Senior Mutual Fund Accountant with Jackson National Asset Management. Prior to Jackson, he worked as a Senior Analyst at Northern Trust and Morgan Stanley in their Mutual Fund Financial Reporting departments. Before his time at Morgan Stanley, he worked as a Data Analyst at Morningstar. he received a Master’s of Science in Finance from IIT’s Stuart School of Business and a BA in Economics from Northwestern University. Mike has extensive volunteer experience in such organizations as Inspiration Corporation and Connections for the Homeless, which concentrate on anti-poverty and homeless outreach programs.

MeCole Jordan

Mecole Jordan graduated from Western Illinois University with a BA in Organizational Communication and Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management at Capella University. She began her non-profit career volunteering for Target Area Development in 2006-2012 starting with the SMART Act campaign to reduce the criminalization of individuals with drug addiction. She also provided direct oversight for Community Support Advisory Council (CSAC), an IDOC reentry program providing comprehensive wraparound support for the formerly incarcerated and violence prevention programs such as Ceasefire Auburn Gresham.  Mecole is currently an organizer with the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO). She is a member of the advocacy team and trainer for the Racial Equity Curriculum.  In 2013, Mecole worked part-time with UCCRO as the coordinator of the Equal Voice Membership Campaign. In 2015, Mecole organized nearly 800 Illinois Early Intervention providers and parents around the State budget, bringing attention vulnerable infants and toddlers losing needed therapies during the budget impasse. Mecole currently lives in the south suburbs with her 3-year-old daughter, Micaela Grace.

Dr. James Manos

Dr. James Manos is currently the Community Justice Program Associate in the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University. His work focuses on criminal and juvenile justice policy reform, with an emphasis on restorative justice implementation and evaluation. His research focuses on labor, mass incarceration, and segregation. Previously, James was a Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from DePaul University, his MA in Philosophy from Miami University of Ohio, and his BA from Appalachian State University. 

Hina Mahmood

Hina Mahmood is a Program Officer at the Woods Fund Chicago. She is committed to making philanthropy work for and with communities in true partnership. While currently working in the field of philanthropy, her roots are in community organizing and social services. She served as an Education Organizer at Organization of the NorthEast and Grow Your Own Coordinator at Northeastern Illinois University. She also has experience in the public sector, having served as the Infrastructure and Social Service Coordinator for 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore. She received her Masters from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Hina serves on Chicago Freedom School’s Board of Directors, is a collective member of Chicago Desi Youth Rising, and is a co-chair for the Chicago Chapter of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.

Essence McDowell

Essence is the digital media strategist and program manager at the Social Justice Initiative at University of Illinois in Chicago where she organizes public programs, digital media campigns, and national conferences. In addition to her role at the Social Justice Initiative, Essence is a communications consultant for educational institutions and non-profit organizations in throughout Chicago. Her educational background includes a master’s degree in journalism & new media from DePaul University and bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethune-Cookman University. Essence also attended Georgetown University as a leadership scholar in the Institute of Political Journalism.  Essence is also an activist with a love for community organizing. She has organized with multiple social justice groups throughout Chicago including: Love & Protect (formally the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander), Bridging While Black, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, Black Youth Project 100 and Black Lives Matter Chicago. 

Candace Moore

Candace Moore is a Staff Attorney for the Educational Equity Project where she advocates for the educational rights of young people through a lens of racial and social justice. She was instrumental in the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s re-launch of the Educational Equity Project. Candace’s work has focused on organizing legal advocacy resources to address disparate discipline and barriers to enrollment for students throughout Chicago and its surrounding communities. She also works in partnership with community-based reformers and institutional policy makers to achieve sustainable and meaningful solutions.

She is a proud graduate of both Loyola University Chicago’s undergraduate program and the School of Law (J.D. ’13). In 2014, Candace completed the inaugural class of the Racial Justice Training Institute hosted by the Sargent Shriver National Poverty Law Center. In 2015, she completed the inaugural class of the Surge Fellowship, a leadership development program focused on addressing the issues of race and class in urban education. In 2015, Candace was awarded the distinct honor of being the year’s recipient of the Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship. 


Jackie Rosa

Chicago native, Jackie Rosa, has spent the past 10 years educating and empowering Chicago youth. Her youth development background helped coordinate and inform out-of -school time programming, at CPS Sullivan High School, most recently Jackie worked at Mikva Challenge as a senior program director. Currently, Jackie is a community engagement manager at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and works with a variety of stakeholders to create and foster "quality of life improvements" in neighborhoods across the city and suburbs. Jackie's areas of expertise include generating and implementing strategies that enhance school and community engagement.

Alvin Schexnider

Alvin Schexnider is the Director of Operations for Greater Good Studio, a social innovation & design firm based out of Chicago. Previously, he was Director of Human Resources for Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), a mid-sized direct service agency. Before joining Y.O.U., Alvin was the Director of Planning & Administration at UMI/Urban Ministries, Inc., a national social impact media firm, and he started his career in a two-year leadership program for Abbott Laboratories, holding roles in both Chicago and Shanghai, China. Alvin holds a B.A. in Political Science from Morehouse College, an M.A. in HR & Business from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and is a former Luard Scholar. He is a member of University Church Chicago, a student of Capoeira at the Quilombo Cultural Center, and is an avid reader of Coates' writing run on the Black Panther comic.

Daisy Zamora

Daisy Yessenia Zamora Centeno received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in Latin American and Latino Studies. She was born and raised in Chicago. She received her masters from the College of Education in Youth Development rom UIC. She was a founding board member of the Chicago Freedom School and Women and Girls Collective Action Network/Females United for Action (WGCAN Daisy co-taught a course on Black and Latino Unity for Freedom Fellows at the CFS. As part of the WGCAN she developed a media justice toolkit for nonprofits. WGCAN testified at the FCC and launched a campaign to bring down La Ley's 107.9 pegaditas sexist and not culturally sensitive billboards
  Daisy is interested in Queer Latina Health and is a member of Brown and Proud Press. Daisy is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Chicana Studies and/or Public Health.


Founders & Key Contributors

Mia Henry, Founding Director

Alex Poeter, Founding Director  

Mariame Kaba, Founding Chair of the Board of Directors 

Nadeja Wesley, Founding Treasurer 

Micaiah Kline, Founding Secretary 

Kevin Brown, Founder

Lamont Boswell, Founder

Keisha Farmer-Smith, Founder

Linda Hannah, Founder

Lesley Kennedy, Founder

Mia Muhammad, Founder

Jobi Petersen, Founder

Pam Smith, Founder

Melissa Spatz, Founder

Daisy Zamora, Founder

Yasmin Ahmed

Chris Brown

Kristen Cox

Shonettia Monique

Edward Onaci

Jane Palmer

Ravi Ricker

Jonathan Stacks

Adaku Utah