Elihu M. Harris served as Mayor of Oakland for two terms, from 1991 to 1999. He was a 12-year member of the California State Assembly, during which time he authored the historic 1981 legislation designating Dr. King’s birthday a California State holiday. Mr. Harris received an MA in Public Policy from UC Berkeley and law degree from UC Davis. He served as Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District from 2003 to 2010.
Royl L. Roberts
Royl L. Roberts works as the Director of Employee Relations and Diversity Programs at Peralta Community College District. Royl is a former Administrator and Ethical Leadership Coach for the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center. He is also a Commissioner, District #3 on the Alameda County Human Relations Commission. Mr. Roberts graduated of Golden Gate University School of Law with his Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree and a Specialization Certificate in Business Law, with Distinction. While at Golden Gate he has served as a Peer Mentor, Law Student Ambassador, Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, and was the President of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). Prior to attending law school, he held various positions in the insurance and financial service industries. Mr. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and a Master of Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University. Mr. Roberts worked as a Law Clerk at Price And Associates, a Civil Rights Law Firm located in downtown Oakland. Mr. Roberts is also an active member in the Alpha Rho Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. located in Berkeley.
Senior Campaign Advisor, Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Latressa Wilson Alford, JD is a seasoned veteran in government relations and community affairs. With over 30 years in public service, she is highly sought after for her experience in public and legal policy, engagement with underserved communities, and ability to leverage public-private partnerships. As CEO of the firm L. Wilson Alford & Associates (LWA), she is widely recognized as a social entrepreneur because of her ability to build public-private relationships and solve challenging relationships.
Previously, Latressa Wilson Alford served as Senior Aide to Congressman George Miller. She also managed bridge funding to small, minority businesses as a 20 year member of the City of Richmond Revolving Loan Fund Board.
Latressa’s other professional experience is as editor of the Metro Publication Group, founded by the late Carlton B. Goodlett physician, civil rights leader and publisher of the Sun Reporter Newspaper Group. She worked as a Senior Fellow under the Honorable Rod Diridon who she assisted with planning the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Light Rail and Historical Trolley System.
In 2016, Latressa founded LWA – an experienced consulting firm to provide political management and deliver successful campaigns and education initiatives around diversity, inclusion and smart engagement.
Recently, Latressa was tapped by Congresswoman Barbara Lee as her Senior Campaign Advisor to manage Rep Lee’s reelection campaign and state and national campaigns that Rep Lee supports. Latressa is a delegate for Assembly District 14, serves on the board of the Community Democratic Club and is Bylaws Chair for the CA Democratic Black Caucus.
Latressa is a Lifetime Member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and is BWOPA State Director of Education, Legislation and Policy. She is a founder of the Solano-Napa Chapter and serves as its vice president.
Latressa has been recognized as the 2021 Woman of the Year by Assemblyman Tim Grayson, listed in Who’s Who in America (2021) and inducted into the Bay Area Blues Society Hall of Fame (2013). Latressa has a Jurist Doctorate and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. She has three daughters: Nikole, Alyssa and Justice.
Lecturer, Public Administration, Cal State East Bay
Alton Jelks brings extensive public administration expertise to the board of directors, having worked as Administrative Assistant to Assemblyman Elihu Harris, Special Assistant to the Mayor of Oakland, Deputy City Auditor and Associate Vice Chancellor for Peralta Community College District, where we had responsibility for fundraising, employee trainings and oversight of organizational processes. Alton excels in group facilitation for public and private sector settings, and has also served on the board of directors of many nonprofit organizations as well as worked at the executive level in the area of marketing and fundraising. Alton has taught in the Master of Public Administration at California State University East Bay for over two decades, teaching the full range of courses offered.
As Assistant General Manager of Public Affairs at the East Bay Regional Park District, Carol Johnson is responsible for all community affairs outreach, District-wide communications and external relations for the largest regional park district in the U.S. Since joining EBRPD 15 years ago. Carol and her team have been responsible for coordinating the opening of 10 new regional parks and implementing the break-through SHINE initiative to help low income families and chronically ill children improve their health through the prescription of nature.
Carol is also the Executive Director of the Regional Parks Foundation, overseeing all private fundraising and its corporate governing board. For the past six years, the Foundation has seen continuous growth, connecting over 10,000 under-represented youngsters annually with the regional parks through unique programming, active community relationships and corporate partnerships. Carol developed EBRPD’s community outreach positioning to achieve 72% voter approval of a $500 million park bond in in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties – which generated millions for park development in all East Bay cities.
Previous to her work with EBRPD, she was Public Affairs Director with Mervyn’s retailer overseeing crisis management and community partnerships and served as Press Secretary to the Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson where she was responsible for all media relations. Carol holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from University of San Francisco, and currently serves on the Board of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance and California Roundtable on Tourism, Recreation and Parks.
Founding Fellow, The Sanders Institute
Michael Lighty retired after 25 years from California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, where he was the Director of Public Policy. He has spoken and organized throughout the country on health care reform, financing and delivery issues for over 29 years. He coordinated CNA’s campaigns for HMO patients’ bill of rights, clean money elections, and against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s effort to roll back CNA’s landmark safe staffing law. He coordinated the national Robin Hood Tax campaign to tax Wall Street trades to fund jobs, guaranteed healthcare, and a secure retirement for all. Mr. Lighty served eight years on the City of Oakland Planning Commission and was a Commissioner for the Port of Oakland. He has been active with non-profit organizations devoted to neighborhood issues, voter registration, and lesbian and gay equality. Lighty received his BA and MA from Stanford University in the Humanities, graduating with Honors. He grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where he was high school student body president.
Dr. William “Bill” Riley
Bill Riley is a native of Oakland, California. He attended Oakland public schools and transferred from Merritt College, where he was student body president, to the University of San Francisco (USF) earning a B.A. in Sociology and Physical Education. He then attended San Francisco State University earning a M.A. in Educational Administration; then returning to USF, he received an Ed.D. in Educational Policy.
Dr. Riley has an over 40-year long career in public education, including working in the Oakland, East Palo Alto/Ravenswood and San Ramon School Districts. He has been a teacher, counselor, coach, vice-principal, principal, and administrator on special assignment. He also served as the Alameda County Office of Education’s Coordinator of Pupil Services and Child and Family Advocacy.
Community is important to Bill. He is currently a member of the Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center Board of Directors and recently appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf to the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth Planning and Oversight Committee. In the past Bill has served on the Oakland Zoo Board and on the City of Oakland Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission for thirteen years. In addition, he served on the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees from 1998 through 2018; representing Area 5 covering a large portion of Oakland and the entire City of Piedmont.
Bill has been happily married for over forty-five years and has two grown daughters, both of whom are college graduates.
CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellow
Principal, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Kim is a Principal at PwC and a CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellow. In her Fellowship role, she drives social and racial justice through public policy. Previously, Kim was PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Advisory Risk & Quality Leader, providing quality and risk management advice on a wide range of issues to PwC’s Global Deals, Consulting and Forensics businesses. Kim also led the PwC Global Risk Management Consultations Support and Analysis team, providing risk management advice to the PwC Network on emerging risk issues across all of PwC’s lines of service. Kim also served as the U.S. firm’s Black Inclusion Network Leader. Kim previously served as Global Deputy General
Counsel, advising PwC’s Global Advisory business. Before that she served in PwC’s U.S. Office of the General Counsel advising the U.S. Advisory and Assurance businesses. Before joining PwC, Kim was a commercial and securities litigator with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Kim has a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law where she was an editor of the California Law Review. She earned her B.A. in philosophy from Cornell University.
Kim is an active participant in her local community and serves on the boards of Legal Services for Children and the S.H. Cowell Foundation, both of whom focus on the needs of economically disadvantaged youth. Kim also serves on the board of the Berkeley Law Alumni Association and is a member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW) where she serves on the Steering Committee as Vice Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. In 2012, the San Francisco Business Times named Kim as one of the 150 Most Influential Women in Business. In 2013, Kim was named California Law Review’s Alumna of the Year. In 2013 Kim also received Friends of Oakland Parks & Recreation’s annual Ann Woodell Community Award and was an honoree at the 2013 Oakland Parks and Recreation Salute to Excellence and Community Spirit. In 2016, Oakland Magazine recognized Kim and her husband for their volunteer and philanthropic work in the magazine’s annual Best of Oakland and East Bay edition.
Dr. Roy Wilson
Executive Director, Martin Luther Kind Jr. Freedom Center
Roy received a BA in English and Masters in Creative Writing both from the University of Washington. Roy has a Doctorate in Education and is a published author, scholar, and presenter on civil rights, nonviolence and libratory leadership practices. He has served as director of various non-governmental entities including Seattle Managua Sister City Association, International Relations Director for El Centro de la Raza, and is the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Community Leadership and the Jack Hunter O’Dell Education Center. Roy has received international, state and regional awards for his work in civil rights and confronting racial and socio-economic disparities. He is widely published and his work has been featured in Life Magazine, the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Seattle Times, Oakland Tribune, and in a National Public Radio TV Special “The United States of Poetry” and a National television feature on the Nickelodeon Network.
BOARD MEMBER, EMERITUS
Audree is a passionate advocate and an established national leader who has leveraged passion and confidence to bring innovative solutions to parks, recreation, conservation, preservation and play, with a special love for building strong relationships, she has a proven track record of cultivating community partners. Audree’s experience includes 40 plus years in municipal government, most recently she has combined her public sector work with the private sector through her service as a consultant with, the City of San Bruno Community Services Department, where she serves as a Strategic Advisor, she also serves as a consultant with National Strategies, LLC, she served as the Interim General Manager for Marin City Community Services District, and served as an Associate Researcher with Dr. Nina Roberts/Resource Legacy Fund with The California State Coastal Conservancy and served as a consultant to-Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District/Cooley Landing Project.
Audree is a graduate of the University of Redlands with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership in the Arts from Saint Mary’s College of California. Audree is committed to public service. IN addition to her service on the Freedom Center Board of Directors, Audree is a member of the University of San Francisco Gellert Family Business Resource Center Advisory Board, and is a member of National Parks and Recreation Ethnic Minority Society.
The Honorable Barbara Lee
13th-CD, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. First elected in 1998 to represent California’s 13th Congressional District, the Democratic lawmaker has established a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. As a social worker by profession, being an advocate for people in dealing with the federal bureaucracy has been a priority.
Dr. Karen Bohlke
Director of Government and External Affairs
Dr. Karen Bohlke has thirty years of administrative, managerial, grant writing, fund development and advocacy work with educational organizations serving youth and families. She has successfully managed a capital campaign for the O’Dell Education Center in Kent, WA, and numerous federal grants including as partner for Gear Up at the University of Washington, as director of Jose Marti Child Development Center bi-lingual Head Start and Therapeutic Day Care, leadership programming with Metro Miami Dade County Teen Court Program, an ARRA Federal Stimulus work study program with the Oakland Civic Green Campaign, oversight of Department of Justice Appropriation with the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, Oakland CA and a twelve year Washington State Legislative Appropriation with the Institute for Community Leadership. Karen coordinates our fund development and government relations efforts. Karen holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University, an MA Ed from Antioch University, and a BA in Education from the University of Washington. She is a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow.
Jovan Carreon, Executive Assistant, is an East Bay native and holds a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Passionate about the power of words, narrative, and storytelling, Jovan developed organizational and administrative experience at a number of Bay Area publishing and media companies before joining the Freedom Center, responding to an inner calling to better contribute to the world around him.
The Freedom Center’s Communication Specialist, Alex Coba, has extensive experience conducting in-depth market research, developing noteworthy marketing campaigns, and providing brand management services for various tech companies, non-profit organizations and small businesses. Alex, a native of Stockton, California, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, Public Relations from California State University, Chico. He worked as the Digital Content Creator for The Orion, Chico State’s independent newspaper, and as a Freelancer for the local newspaper, the Enterprise-Record, during his time in Chico. His ambition is to produce descriptive multimedia narratives that engage readers.
David Gaines is a graduate of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center. He has been studying community organizing and transformational leadership since he was a sophomore in high school. David has participated in and organized various civic engagement projects including delegations up and down the west coast with the Freedom Center, registering voters, coaching students as an intern, and he has assisted in the organizing of the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series. At the invitation of Congresswoman Lee, David has traveled with and key-noted the Faith and Politics Institute’s Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, which under the leadership of Congressman John Lewis, hosts members of Congress to Selma, Montgomery, Memphis and South Carolina. David transitioned to staff at the Freedom Center as a Social Justice Organizer in 2017 while still in high school.
David is a graduate of Alameda Science and Technology Institute, a running start school in Alameda, and will be graduating with his bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies from American University, in Washington, D.C. fall of 2020. He has recently been accepted to a dual degree program that will allow him to work toward completing his Masters of Public Administration in the spring of 2022. He is a first generation college student, and was raised by a strong single mother who actively encouraged David to engage in public service. David also actively represents the Freedom Center in the nation’s capitol where he has also served in an intern capacity in the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In addition, he also sits on the Board of Directors at the Institute for Community Leadership.
David is trained as a facilitator of the Freedom Centers numerous classes on nonviolence leadership and on the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. David is 20 years old.
Natnael Demeke Gebremariam
Natnael Gebremariam is a Research Staff for the Freedom Center. In his role, Natnael researches topics related to the main focus areas of the freedom center such as equity in civic education, reducing childhood poverty, and access to clean drinking water. In addition, Natnael plays a role in database management, website editing, drafting reports, and documentation. Having lived in and visited several countries, Natnael is appreciative of the experience he gained meeting with people from various cultures and backgrounds.
Natnael graudated with a degree in development economics in 2016.
Scott Horton joins the Freedom Cetner team with more than 35 years expertise with numerous non-profit organizations helping them articulate their brands, tell their stories, broaden their visibility and increase the public’s participation in their work.
Jana Jordan-Fisher has thirty five years of Corporate Tax, Accounting, and Payroll Tax experience. She has successfully managed the accounting for other Non-Profits and Small Businesses. Jana is from Pasadena and moved to the Bay Area to attend Golden Gate University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Accounting. She has previously worked for Del Monte Corporation, Morgan Stanley, Genentech and Anderson and Associate’s CPA firm. She is certified with the Internal Revenue Service and California Tax Education Council. She specializes in keeping the organization current and in compliance with the accounting and tax laws for Non-Profits. Jana’s intent is to bring her education and knowledge to the organization while obtaining the spirit and integrity of Martin Luther King Jr., the MLK staff and its friends.
Educational Services Staff
Ursa Kaiser joined the Freedom Center as a student in Sophomore year, participating in classes, hosting the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series, and studying coaching. She has led leadership poetry workshops and represented the Center in many counties and states, such as Washington, Alabama, and California, on the To Us, You Matter: Vote! Summer Tour. She has also traveled to Alabama multiple times, joining the 2020 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage and working with the Leadership Alabama-07 cohort. Ursa graduated from Oakland Technical High School and transitioned to staff in 2021.
Isabella “Bella” Lopez
Educational Services Staff
Isabella “Bella” Lopez, Educational Services Staff, is originally from Southern California and moved to the Bay Area to study at San Jose State University. During her time at San Jose State University, she studied abroad at the University of Oslo in Norway. She was involved in a LGBT community organization and studied Norwegian society and life. Within San Jose State University she was a member of the San Jose State University Women’s Rugby Club and became the Treasurer in the 2018-2019 year. She graduated the summer of 2019 from San Jose State University with a B.A. in Anthropology, with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology.
Government and Community Engagement
Kathy Neal, Government and Community Engagement has over 35 years in business management, more than 25 years of public sector involvement, and served for 15 years in statewide and local government regulatory and policy-making positions. She is recognized for multi-faceted strategic thinking & organizational abilities combined with a demonstrated commitment to improving the lives of all people. Kathy represented the California State Assembly on both the CA Integrated Waste Management Board and State Bar Board of Governors, was a gubernatorial appointee to the CA Community Colleges Board of Governors and a Port of Oakland Commissioner. She is elected to and an officer of the Alameda County Democratic Party, President of the Oakland Community Fund and has been on numerous non-profit and community service boards. A published author, Kathy earned a BA in Political Science from the California State University at Los Angeles; a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of San Francisco; and two Business Management Certificates from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.
Fifi Fatou Ngom
Fifi is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Business Economics with an Accounting emphasis and has her Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting from Rutgers Business School. She has over ten years of accounting experience specializing in nonprofit entities and government. Fifi believes in making a difference, has a passion in fighting inequalities and serving others.
Community Organizer/Leadership Coach
Ben Paige joined the Freedom Center as a Junior in college pursuing his degree in Sociology. Ben is an Army veteran and comes from a family of military service, following his father and older brother. During his time in the Army, Ben worked as a Military Police Dog Handler and spent the duration of his service entirely overseas. Ben is currently pursuing his educational goals at San Francisco State. Once he graduates, Ben wants to be further involved in civic engagement with the Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center by taking on additional roles while also striving to grow as a person and improve his leadership skills.
Meg has extensive experience working with public and private schools, research organizations, human services agencies, arts organizations, and youth development non-profits. She ran her own business as a non-profit consultant and grant writer since 2004. Prior to 2004 she worked for RAND, UCLA Medical School, and California State University Monterey Bay. She was selected as a United Nations accredited international election observer by the University for Peace in Costa Rica from 1990-92 for Nicaragua and Costa Rica’s general elections. She partnered with the Hispanic Communications and Telecommunications Network of Brooklyn to write a Federal “Ready-to-Learn” proposal for English Language Learners that was awarded $30,000,000 over 5 years, one of only 5 awarded nationwide. Meg holds an MS in International Public Administration from USC, and a BS in Governmental Administration with a Minor in Latin American Studies from Christopher Newport University. She has been certificated in Managing Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreements and Federal Grant Budgeting. She has volunteered for Heal the Bay in southern California and the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, creating an English language acquisition program for employees, naturalists, and a cooperative of campesina women growing medicinal plants in the Braulio Carrillo rainforest.
Beverly Thomas, Administrative Specialist in the Government and External Relations Department at Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center has over 20 cumulative years of experience working for government and non-profit companies.
Beverly worked as an Administrator and Office Manager for many years at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the Public Affairs Department. Beverly holds a degree in Business Administration. Beverly specializes in overseeing office procedures and operations in the workplace.
Liana joined the MLK Freedom Center as a student in 2016. She has written and presented numerous speeches, led classes, helped facilitate lectures and events in the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series, and more. She was also on the 2017 delegation to Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham Alabama for the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Liana is a trained coach, with a passion for civic education and engagement. In 2019, she graduated from Bishop O’ Dowd High School with first academic honors. She is currently attending the University of California, Riverside and working toward a BA in Psychology.
Kei Yamamoto, Community Organizer for the Freedom Center, has experiences living and working with people from all across the country during his time living in diverse settings and places including residencies in Los Angeles, Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. He has traveled with the Freedom Center as a summer intern on the Summer Civic Engagement Pilgrimage where teams of high school and college aged youth traveled to 32 cities, towns and tribes working on “how to get more people civically engaged”. The delegates met with leaders of the Civil Rights Movement past and present. He attended Alma College graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In his time there, he served as a member of the varsity soccer program, member of various social-justice oriented clubs, research assistant for the Department of Psychology, student tutor, and peer mentor for local youth. Kei brings a high-energy passion for social justice and educational equity to the educational services team.