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LJ Amsterdam

Trainer

LJ is a trainer, dancer, and youth organizer born and based in occupied Lenape territory/New York City. For a decade she has created making-spaces and mobilizing-spaces for young folks through music, movement, and political education. She developed Re-Up, a harm reduction organizing project for young drug users and sellers, and co-founded Social Justice Leadership Academy, a summer-long arts and action training for teens. In 2016, she was invited to Standing Rock to “come get the white people” which meant running daily come-correct trainings for non-Native visitors and helping build out national infrastructure to disseminate decolonization resources. She now works locally against militarism and mass incarceration. LJ is currently a direct action trainer and staff member with The Ruckus Society where she organizes opportunities for people to step off of the curb and into their power. She loves the ocean, outer space, and love.   


 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Saa'un P. Bell

Trainer

Saa'un is the Statewide Communications Director for Californians for Justice- a statewide racial and education justice organization that organizes youth. Grounded in her southern roots of Greenville Alabama and Eastern Samar, Saa’un is the oldest of six, in a serious, but comical, working class Black and Filipino immigrant family. A Bolder of Black Organizing Leadership & Dignity (BOLD), Saa’un is a commitment to unseating the roots of racial and educational inequities through transformative organizing and narrative strategy. She has been organizing immigrant and youth of color in education for 8 years. Now, if you ever see Saa’un in the streets of Oakland she’s probably not smiling. For serious, you can catch her kicking it with her australian shepherds Fox & Sir Fyodor Dostoevsky, fishing the Pacific Coast for Halibut, reading, writing short fiction & philosophizing on everything from science fiction to Sailor Moon.


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Danielle Coates-Conner

Story Associate

Danielle Coates-Connor is a story-teller and communications strategist. Her first publicity experience was as an environmental health organizer at Clean Water Action. From there, she found her way to Center for Story-based Strategy, and partnered with national social movement groups to package visionary campaign stories and support political imagination. She was Director of Communications at Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), where she upgraded the brand and designed digital strategies for large systems with complex messages. Danielle is inspired by teaching the Holistic Vision and experimenting with learning and engagement practices at Infinite Growth, a creative home she founded in 2016. Stay tuned in early 2019 on PBS for “Walk on My Own,” a documentary she edited and produced with ByKids.


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Rona Fernandez

Associate

Rona is dedicated to helping social justice nonprofits learn how to fundraise effectively and in a way that aligns with their mission, vision and values. She has worked with social justice nonprofits since 1996, always with fundraising as a key component of her work, and has raised money in several capacities — as a community organizer, house party coordinator, development director, executive director and board member. Now a Senior Consultant with Klein & Roth Consulting, she was previously Managing Director of Californians for Justice, and has served on the boards of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Media Alliance and YouthSpace. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Rona also writes regularly for the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, and is currently working on a low-tech, post-apocalyptic novel set in the year 2100. 


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Dante Garcia

Trainer

Dante Garcia is a graphic designer, strategist, and co-founder at Story 2 Designs — a PoC lead, design cooperative dedicated to making transformation irresistible. Born in Seattle, he is a long time local activist. In 2015 he was part of the organizing core of Seattle’s resistance to Arctic drilling in the ShellNo campaign. Today he is a trainer-in-training here at the Center for Story-based Strategy. He values justice, creative self-expression, health, accountability, dignity, the long game, and joy. You can find him biking across Seattle hills from meeting to meeting and geeking out about a post-capitalist world.


 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Reuben Hayslett

Trainer

Reuben is a queer activist, writer, and storyteller. He currently works at Demand Progress, leading online campaigns against the overreach of government surveillance. Prior to that, Reuben worked as an online campaigner for the Working Families Party, a progressive third party in the United States, where he combined his storytelling skills and political activism. Reuben has won consumer campaigns against Netflix, UPS, Rhode Island Lifespan Hospital, and led a coalition to remove David Koch from the Board of the Smithsonian and PBS. His non-fiction work first appeared in The Splinter Generation in 2007 and most recently in The Mary Sue blog in 2015. His first fiction short-story collection “Dark Corners” will debut in 2018 on Amazon Books. His fiction has elsewhere appeared in the Surreal South Anthology in 2011, transLit magazine, and the Oregon Literary Review. Based out of Brooklyn, Reuben produced Rustik Storytellers, a monthly oral storytelling live show in 2013. In 2016 he co-produced PRACTICE, a safe-space live storytelling show designed to encourage new-comers to take up the oral storytelling tradition. Reuben has a MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University.


 Photo illustration by Angus Maguire

PaKou Her

Trainer & Associate

PaKou Her is Principal of Tseng Development Group, a consulting firm that provides lectures, workshops, organizational development, transformative leadership coaching, and grassroots strategy development designed to build racial equity and create systems change. She also spent three years  at 18MillionRising.org (18MR) in the roles of Campaign Director and Executive Director. There she leveraged civic technology and new media to build power and community among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, growing the 18MR member list from 5,000 to nearly 50,000 and elevating the cultural, political, and media power of AAPIs nationwide. Additionally, PaKou holds 20 years of anti-racism organizing experience, along with digital campaign experience as a Field Organizer with MoveOn.org and as Senior Campaign Director of Reproductive Rights and Culture at UltraViolet. Born and raised in the Midwest, she takes great pride representing AAPIs living in the nation’s midsection, and believes there are invaluable stories to be told by People of Color living in the most rural areas of the United States. Some of her favorite non-campaigning activities include entertaining two young daughters, squeezing in occasional adult-only evenings with her spouse, chasing culinary adventures, and dreaming about reviving a long-lost singing career. Swap musings about race, culture, and organizing on Twitter @pakouher.


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Hannah Jones

Trainer

Hannah learned a thirst for justice from her parents, a high school history teacher and a labor advocate. Her upbringing in an a — typical Mormon household as a queer white woman was formative, though it's a lifelong project to unearth all the implications of that. She is the Partnerships Associate with CSS, and spends the rest of her time organizing with a poor people's organization in logging country in Washington State. She is deeply committed to shifting ownership from the hands of the few to the hands of the many, particularly in this time of rising discontent and rising crisis. She spends other parts of her time building things, playing music, and fermenting vegetables.


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Cris Lagunas

Trainer

Cris is originally from Chile and comes out of organizing in the DREAM Act movement as an undocumented young person. He is a founding member of National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and DREAM Activist Massachusetts, he has also worked on Environmental justice issues as well as labor unions. Cris really enjoys story-based strategy, non-violent direct action and the Ninja Turtles!


 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Terry Marshall

Trainer

Terry has been involved in youth and social justice struggles for over 15 yrs. In 2008 Terry became the Lead Youth Organizer of the Healthcare Education Project, an initiative of 1199 SEIU in New York City. While there he led the innovative “Young Voices For Healthcare” campaign to involve young people in the healthcare reform struggle. Terry is the Co-Founder and Co-editor of Occupy Comix, a bimonthly comic book that depicts the stories of the 99% and is working on a book presented by his Intelligent Mischief project depicting creative activists of color.


 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Mariana Mendoza

Trainer

Mariana grew up in the class-divided, ironic Mexico City. She became involved in environmental and social justice campaigns in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue a Masters in Urban Sustainability. For the last two plus years, Mariana has been working with Enlace, facilitating capacity building and organizing trainings for grassroots organizations and womxn in Mexico and the U.S., organizing to fight against the corporate for-profit power in criminalizing immigrants and people of color with the Prison Divestment Campaign, and advocating for reinvestment in community solutions. She worked to develop curriculum and programming to launch Enlace’s Womxn Rise Fellows Program. Mariana undertook original research on the rise of private prisons in Mexico and the increasing influence of the private prison industry in Los Angeles, sparking efforts to cancel private contracts for detention, jails, and reentry facilities in the LA area. She is also an Associate Trainer at Center for Story-Based Strategy and works with youth in a program for dialogue and utopian imagining. Mariana strongly believes in the power of communities for sustainability and self-determination.


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Kiara Nagel

Lead Trainer & Associate

Kiara Nagel is a creative strategist based in Los Angeles with 20 years of experience building creative and collaborative initiatives and supporting social groups, leaders, and organizations to become more engaged and impactful. In addition to being a Lead Associate with Center for Story-based Strategy, Kiara is an Affiliate with Interaction Institute for Social Change and often delivers facilitation and consulting services to foster collaboration, grow healthy organizations, and support equitable community development. Kiara has contributed to many local, national and international initiatives focused on social justice and transformational change and trained and supported organizers, educators, and young people to be more creative in their work. Kiara currently serves as faculty at Antioch University in Los Angeles and holds a Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.


 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Genevieve Erin O'Brien

Trainer

Genevieve Erin O'Brien is a Queer Vietnamese/Irish/German artist with 20+ years as a community organizer, trainer and cultural producer. O’Brien holds an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a Fulbright Fellow to Vietnam in 2009. O’Brien has been a frequent lecturer in Asian American Studies. Their short film For The Love of Unicorns has screened internationally. O'Brien received the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles’ Creative Economic Development Fund in 2015 & 2016. As a US Dept. of State/ZERO1 American Arts Incubator Artist, O’Brien traveled to Hanoi to develop a digital media project highlighting LGBTQ visibility and equality in 2016. Recent works More Than Love on the Horizon and Sugar Rebels were commissioned by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. The Critical Refugees Studies Collective of the University of California recently funded O’Brien’s current performance series Refugee Resistance Menu. www.erin-obrien.com


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Jess St. Louis

Network Associate

Jess St. Louis is a lesbian femme-identified white trans woman & communications strategist who lives and loves in Greensboro, NC. She comes out of LGBTQ liberation, racial justice, and prison industrial complex abolitionist movements in the US South, and most recently served as the Director of Communications, Research, and Evaluation at the US Human Rights Network. As a CSS Network Associate, she is working on integrating story-based strategy tools for spokesperson training and a new CSS tool to address self-care, burnout, and sustainability in movement-building work. You can find her sitting on her porch, dreaming of a world where we live free from interpersonal, systemic, and state violence—and of movements that are powerful and expansive enough to bring that world into being.


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Megan Swoboda

Associate

Megan Swoboda is committed to collective liberation, with over a decade of experience working in social and environmental justice organizations, in addition to organizing and direct action outside of the nonprofit sphere. Megan served as the Co-Director of The Ruckus Society, a group dedicated to building the direct action arm of the movements for environmental and social justice, where she served on staff from 2006-2014, and worked with Julia Butterfly Hill at Circle of Life from 2004-2006. She completed the Challenging White Supremacy program in 2005, and Movement Generation's Liberation Permaculture course for social justice activists in 2010. Megan is currently the Managing Director at the Center for Story-based Strategy, a grant advisor for The Pollination Project, a Ruckus network member, a volunteer with Catalyst Project and mentor for the Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizer Training Program, and a trumpet player with the Brass Liberation Orchestra.