At State Voices, we believe in the power of the collective and the power of transformational leadership. The best leaders are committed to amplifying more voices, supporting leadership in others, and building power with BIPOC communities.

Executive Directors of State Tables across the network exemplify these ideals. We’d like to introduce you to some of the newest Directors of State Tables in our network!

Several Executive Directors have joined State Voices over the last ten months, and they have so much to share about their collective vision for a more equitable world and a healthy democracy.
Learn more about them below!

 

 

Irene Shin

Executive Director of Virginia Civic Engagement Table

Q: What inspired you to join Virginia Civic Engagement Table? What excites you most about the State Voices network?

A: I’ve long supported the work that VCET does—I served on the Board for 3 years prior and am also an alumna of our Virginia Progressive Leadership Project. From the thoughtful and intentional ways we build pipelines to power with our leadership development program, to the long-term strategies and investments we make to achieve a just and multi-racial democracy here in Virginia, I deeply believe that the work of VCET is indispensable.
I’m thrilled to be a part of the State Voices network, which I’ve already come to learn is an incredible, powerful, and fierce community of humans. I am so excited to work alongside the SV team as well as Table Directors and staff across the country, whom I have so much respect for and gratitude to.

 

Q: What are a few key things collectives should organize around to build BIPOC political power?

A: Some of our core priorities at VCET include: access to the ballot box, elections security, and racial equity within the movement, in coalitions, and at partner organizations.

 

Q: What is a critical issue in Virginia that you’re looking forward to organizing around in 2020?

A: One critical issue that I’m excited to organize around this year is redistricting. We have a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that creates a bipartisan redistricting commission — which is far from perfect, but it does provide a unique opportunity for our communities and partners to work together to get it right. It will determine the next decade of policies and we can’t afford not to.

 

Q: What is your superpower?

A: I like to think of my ability to hone in and solve for the root of a problem, rather than the symptoms, as my superpower! It’s the same superpower that enables me to see through BS!

 

 

Wintana Melekin

Executive Director of Minnesota Voice

Q: What inspired you to join Minnesota Voice? What excites you most about the State Voices network?

A: I became a community organizer after attending a protest for Trayvon Martin in 2012, that I helped organize. That experience dramatically changed my life. It moved me from passive supporter to full time organizer. I then went on to work for a community organizing nonprofit for 6 years. While there I helped to pass various policies such as the strongest “Earned Sick and Safe Time” policy in the country in the city of St.Paul, a $15 dollar minimum wage in Minneapolis and St.Paul. All these experiences making change in the system lead me to Minnesota Voice.

My belief in movements and democracy is what lead me to Minnesota Voice.
What excites me about the State Voice network is knowing that we have a group of brilliant people working daily to ensure that historically underrepresented and marginalized populations: including Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color, TLGBQ+ people, low-income individuals, single women, and youth are represented and heard. When you have a network of people working collectively for a common goal, every endeavor is possible.

 

Q: What are a few key things collectives should organize around to build BIPOC political power?

A: To build BIPOC political power, we need to elect individuals who will strengthen our representative democracy and ensure that we are on the path for progress in our nation. We need to ensure that people are engaged in our electoral process by understanding issues that will impact the current and future generations. Protecting the integrity of our electoral system and ensuring everyone has the right to vote without restrictions is a priority.

 

Q: What is a critical issue in Minnesota that you’re looking forward to organizing around in 2020?

A: One critical issue I will be organizing around is voter suppression. Voter suppression prevents many individuals from exercising their right to vote. In 2012 the ACLU found that with new voter suppression laws about 5 million individuals were kept from registering and or casting their vote. The ability to vote is one fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens and we should be doing everything we can to make sure no individual’s rights are infringed on. That’s why Minnesota Voice and I are proud to stand with the ACLU as they sue the state of Minnesota to restore voting rights to those on felony probation.

 

Q: What is your superpower?

A: I’m a Cancer. But not a regular Cancer, I’m a Cancer Rising, Sun, Moon, Mercury and Mars. So I’m the best caretaker you’ve ever met. I give great presents and always have a cup of coffee for you. So my superpower is my ability to always care even in the darkest moments.

 

 

Melanie Herrera Bortz

Executive Director of Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable

Q: What inspired you to join Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable? What excites you most about the State Voices network?

A: After being away from non-profit organizational work for almost 5 years, I constantly found myself feeling a void in my heart. I was yearning to do work where I was making more of a direct social justice impact. When the job at CCER opened up, it seemed perfectly aligned with my values, knowledge, and skill set. I am passionate about ensuring that all voices are lifted in the social justice movement and that all people have the opportunity to directly participate in the democratic process. I am excited to work with and learn from other SV leaders.

 

Q: What are a few key things collectives should organize around to build BIPOC political power?

A: Historically, because of systemic racism, discrimination, and oppression BIPOC people have not been invited to sit around movement ‘tables.’ In my experience, especially around reproductive justice, I built my own table, I didn’t wait for an invitation. Things needed to effectively help build political power in BIPOC communities are money, leadership development, and community engagement. Organizations led by BIPOC for BIPOC get very little funding in the U.S.. Relational organizing, as it is now called, is an effective tool to help amplify the BIPOC voice. Also, centering leadership development as a value of organizations that work in civic engagement is key to making lasting social impact in BIPOC communities.

 

Q: What is a critical issue in Colorado that you’re looking forward to organizing around in 2020?

A: To an outsider, CO looks great from a civic participation perspective. We have moderatized access to voting and have voter protection laws. Yet, BIPOC are still underrepresented in voting and other civic engagement activities. So, as a Chicana, I will continue advocating for ALL voices to be lifted and heard.

 

Q: What is your superpower?

A: My superpower is being Chicana and Having humongous vision and passion for the work!

 

 

Amanda Frickle

Executive Director of Montana Voices

Q: What inspired you to join Montana Voices? What excites you most about the State Voices network?

A: I am so excited to be part of a network with people who are doing the hard work on the ground to move Montana FORWARD. As someone who comes from the cyclical electoral space, it is exciting to be part of a long-term infrastructure movement where we are building power for real change. Both in Montana and nationally, it is an honor to work alongside incredible changemakers.

 

Q: What are a few key things collectives should organize around to build BIPOC political power?

A: We need to organize around truly anti-racist policies and against institutions that disproportionately marginalize BIPOC. This mandates that we center those most impacted at the head of the decision-making table.

 

Q: What is a critical issue in Montana that you’re looking forward to organizing around in 2020?

A: We are focusing our energy on building a long-term campaign to fundamentally shift the narrative around voting rights and civic access. This includes everything from building relationships with election administrators to help them do their job more effectively, to changing the public narrative around voting rights and positively affecting policy change. We don’t want to just pass good bills, we want Montanans to proactively and enthusiastically organize around expanding access to the ballot and building political power.

 

Q: What is your superpower?

A: Devotion or loyalty.

 

 

Sellus Wilder

Executive Director of Kentucky Civic Engagement Table

Q: What inspired you to join Kentucky Civic Engagement Table? What excites you most about the State Voices network?

A: I’m so excited for KCET to be able to support and empower the work of lower-capacity frontline organizations across the Kentucky. The opportunity to learn best practices from more experienced tables alone makes State Voices an invaluable partner, but the data access and training are also tremendous resources for our smaller state.

 

Q: What are a few key things collectives should organize around to build BIPOC political power?

A: We aim to build BIPOC political power by prioritizing transformational leadership development within impacted and underrepresented communities, and we have uncommonly strong criteria for diverse representation within our leadership structure and hiring process. I can be pretty evangelical about the value of a good racial justice training.

 

Q: What is a critical issue in Kentucky that you’re looking forward to organizing around in 2020?

A: We’re working hard in Kentucky on the full restoration of voting rights for Kentuckians with felony convictions in their past via executive action, legislation and constitutional amendment. We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to participate in the democratic process, and that robust representation is essential for healthy communities.

 

Q: What is your superpower?

A: I can sleep anywhere! I have to travel frequently for work, and pride myself on rarely springing for a hotel room.

 

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We’d also love to shout out Juanica Fernandes, Executive Director of Florida Civic Engagement Table; and Tameka Ramsey and Sommer Foster, Co-Executive Directors of Michigan Voices!

There are so many ways to fight for a liberated world, and we’re glad to be in the fight with Irene, Wintana, Melanie, Serena, Amanda, Sellus, and all of the incredible advocates in the network.

To close, we’d like to share this quote from Fannie Lou Hamer, which Wintana Melekin shared with us as one of her favorite guiding quotes:

“If I fall, I’ll fall five feet, four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off.”