Celia Alfonso (Capital Region)
Celia "Cessie" Alfonso, is a nationally recognized expert in forensic social work, domestic violence and organizational development in the area of cultural competence and valuing diversity. She is founder and president of Alfonso Consultants, Inc. which for the past 20 years has provided social work and psychosocial assessments to the clients of civil and criminal attorneys throughout the United States, and internationally. As a mitigation specialist, she and her associates have conducted over 700 mitigation investigations since she began providing services. She is an activist who marched against the Vietnam War, for civil rights, women, lesbian, and gay rights. Currently she is a board member of Citizen Action of New York. Read Cessie's reflection on the commission here.
Sahar Alsahlani (Cuba, Capital Region, Long Island)
Originally from Iraq, Sahar recently moved to NY from Los Angeles, CA., where she had been working as a television writer and producer. Discovering her passion for activism, she joined the board of the Muslim Women's League, became active with Muslim advocacy organizations including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and was part of the start-up team that launched Bridges-TV, the first ever, American-Muslim lifestyle network. She currently lives in one of the countries only intentional multi-faith communities geared towards studying the principles and practice of social justice and nonviolence, The Community of Living Traditions at the Stony Point Center. Sahar is also part of the Religious Leaders Council of the City of New York, and is currently working on video productions geared towards inter-religious peace-building. Read Sahar's reflections on the commissions here and here.
Shirley Coverdale (Long Island)
Shirley Coverdale is the President/CEO of the Family Community Life Center in Riverhead, New York. Ms. Coverdale’s love for the community, upbringing and beliefs have given her unusual insight and concern for the plight of ordinary people who are willing to work hard to make life better for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Riverhead community for nearly thirty-five years. Ms. Coverdale’s initiatives have been the catalyst for legislative actions that have repeatedly benefited Riverhead and other Long Island communities. Ms. Coverdale was instrumental as a leader in the Long Island Organizing Network (LION) in securing enactment by the Riverhead Town Board of a bill to legalize accessory apartments. Her persistent advocacy on behalf of the residents of Horton Avenue in Riverhead whose houses were lost in 2010 flooding led to the reversal of our government’s initial decision not to seek a federal disaster designation for the storm affected area; this resulted in nearly ten million dollars of disaster mitigation & recovery funding being made available to Suffolk County generally and the affected Horton Avenue residents. Ms. Coverdale serves on the board of the Long Island Housing Partnership. She also serves on the Riverside Economic Development Committee. She is an appointee to the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission, the Suffolk County Workforce Development Board, and the Riverhead Senior Citizen Council.
Larry Cox (Cuba)
Larry Cox has been working for peace, justice, and human rights around the world for more than four decades. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary, he is serving as co-director of Kairos: The Center on Religions, Rights, and Social Justice. He served as executive director of Amnesty International USA from 2006 to 2011. In assuming the leadership of AI USA, Cox returned to the movement he had helped to develop over 14 years in a variety of positions. In 1995, Cox began an 11 year term as senior program officer for human rights at the Ford Foundation, where he initiated new programs on international justice and economic, social, and cultural rights and human rights in the United States. As part of that work he co-edited and co-wrote a report close to home, Case Studies of Human Rights Work in the U.S. In focusing on human rights in the United States, Cox came full circle to work he did in his early years to advance peace and social justice. Active in the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, he did organizing as a GI at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1970 and 71 and he later became a news director of the New York Pacific radio station WBAI. Read Larry's reflections on the commissions here and here.
Patricia Cumo (Capital Region)
Recently retired from Communication Workers of America 1118, Pat Cumo has worked in the labor movement, offering community outreach and strike support, as well as various other capacities since her first strike in 1989.
David Decker (Cuba)
David Decker is married to Lynette and has three sons, aged 26, 24, and 19. He grew up on a dairy farm in Rushford, is presently retired, but is still working as a county legislator and a Republican committeeman. He also mows the White Cemetery in Rushford, assists at the local funeral home, and is a night herdsman at local, state, and national cattle shows. He has been a Christian since 1988 and attends Genesis Bible Church. Read David's reflection on the commission here.
Claire DeRoche (Long Island)
Claire Deroche is Social Justice Coordinator for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR) in Manhasset, NY, a position she has held since 2007. She is also a member of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). Through these organizations she has been active in organizing support on Long Island for the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. Claire has a BA in English from St. Joseph’s College in North Windham, ME and an MA in Biblical Studies from Providence College. Read Claire's reflection on the commission here.
Mark Emanatian (Capital Region, Long Island)
Mark Emanatian is the Senior Field Coordinator for the Capital District Area Labor Federation. He has been active in union organizing and strike support, anti-war and peace groups, antiracist and anti-apartheid movements, defense of women’s rights and equality, the fight for jobs and socialism, climate change and environmental causes and the struggle for civil liberties and democracy. Read Mark's reflections on the commission here and here.
Suzanne Flierl Krull (Cuba, Capital Region, Long Island)
Suzanne is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Cuba Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization that serves struggling and poor families in the Southern Tier of New York. She received her BS in Humanities from the University of Rochester, and earned her Master of Nonprofit Management degree from Regis University. Having worked with marginalized individuals and families informally for 30 years, Suzanne has been formally working to alleviate hunger and poverty in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties since 2010. Ms. Flierl Krull serves on several local, regional, and state coalitions regarding the root causes of poverty, and is on the board of the Hunger Action Network of New York State. She also advocates at the state and federal levels to promote various anti-poverty policies.
Elaine Gross (Long Island)
Elaine Gross is founder and president of ERASE Racism, a regional civil rights organization, launched in 2001 and based on Long Island, NY. Under her leadership, ERASE Racism has been recognized locally and nationally for its cutting edge work exposing and addressing the devastating impact of festering and continuing institutional and structural racism. Some of Elaine’s previous experience included: deputy director of the Boston Housing Partnership; founding executive director of a national nonprofit—Sustainable America—that provided assistance to regional sustainable development initiatives; and program officer of the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program, where she was responsible for national grant making in economic development and human rights. Read Elaine's reflection on the commission here.
Shailly Gupta Barnes (Capital Region)
Shailly Gupta Barnes is the Coordinator of the Truth Commission on the Right to Not be Poor. Convened by the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, the Truth Commission is an effort to identify, connect and learn from key struggles that are confronting the injustices of poverty, racism, militarism and ecological devastation today. Read Shailly's reflection on the commission here.
Anita Halasz (Long Island)
Anita is the Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice. Anita was born in Romania and moved to New York City at the age of four. Anita moved to Long Island in 2004 and received a Bachelors and Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from SUNY Stony Brook. Anita went on to receive a Masters in Disability Studies from the School of Professional Studies at CUNY. Anita began organizing as a student in college focusing on issues of corporate accountability, campus transparency, and LGBTQ rights. For 3 years, Anita led Stony Brook’s “Kick Coca-Cola Off Campus” campaign – they won! Anita joined Long Island Jobs with Justice in 2010 as a part-time Administrative Assistant, and in 2011 came on staff as the immigrant rights organizer. During this time, Anita coordinated the Equal Education and Employment Project, which provided resources and advocacy opportunities to undocumented students and their families, and founded the Long Island DREAM Act Coalition. Anita became Executive Director in January of 2014. Anita currently lives in Lake Ronkonkoma with their wife, Maria, son, Dimitri, and their Chihuahua, Macho, and 3-legged kitty, Butch.
Dr. Yogini Kothari (Cuba)
Dr. Yogini Kothari has lived in Allegany, NY, for the last 34 years and is a retired orthodontist. Yogini has a long history of volunteering in the local community, having served in various capacities for 3 decades. She currently serves on the boards of Olean General Hospital and the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation. Yogini is the co-founder and a past vice president of the Olean Meditation Center, and continues to serve upon the governing board of the Hindu Society. In her spare time, Yogini loves to prepare meals for the sick and elderly. She and her husband look forward to moving to Cuba Lake, where they will spend their retirement years and enjoy visits from their grown children. Read Yogini's reflection on the commission here.
Richard Koubek (Long Island)
Richard is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Long Island Jobs with Justice. He facilitates the Jobs with Justice AMOS Project, which is an interfaith campaign for workers’ rights and economic justice. Dr. Koubek is Chair of the Welfare to Work Commission of the Suffolk County Legislature, and the President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. Before he started working with Jobs with Justice, Dr. Koubek was administrator of the Public Policy Education Network at Catholic Charities. He also was an American History and Government teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview-Old Bethpage, where he served as President and Vice-President of the Plainview Congress of Teachers. Dr. Koubek holds a PhD in American Government from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Dr. Koubek joined our staff in 2008. He currently lives in Dix Hills.
Jonathan Landsman graduated SUNY Binghamton with a degree in economics. After graduation, he served in the peace corps in Nicaragua where he taught high school students skills to better their career prospects. Following this, he began his career as a UFCW international organizer. He has worked with UFCW for the last ten years. He primarily works in organizing non-union retail food workers. Currently he is assisting Best Market workers throughout Long Island on their campaign to raise their conditions of work to meet the the standard of what Long Island grocery workers deserve. Read Jonathan's reflection on the commission here.
Paule Pachter (Long Island)
Paule T. Pachter is Chief Executive Officer of Long Island Cares, Inc., The Harry Chapin Food Bank. Founded by the late singer, Grammy Award winning songwriter, and social activist Harry Chapin, Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island, and provides to the best of their ability for the humanitarian needs of our communities. Mr. Pachter is also on the faculty of St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue where he teaches a second-year graduate course on executive leadership and models of innovation. Mr. Pachter is a graduate of the Adelphi University School of Social Work and has held several positions within Long Island’s human services community including Deputy Commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Bernice Rivera (Capital Region)
Bernice currently works for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Education & Learning Trust (ELT), the professional development arm of NYSUT. Before transitioning to NYSUT she was a teacher in the Schenectady City School District for approximately 11 years and is currently serving the Schenectady community with her newly appointed role as Schenectady School Board Member.
Rev. Horace Sanders, Jr. (Capital Region)
Rev. Horace Sanders, Jr. currently serves in ministry preaching and teaching to the Glory of God as the Senior Pastor of the Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, Schenectady, NY. He also serves as the Chief Diversity Officer of SICM (Schenectady Inner City Ministry) and the administrator of the SCED (Schenectady County Embraces Diversity) program. In these positions, he provides training to Schenectady County middle and high school students in youth study circles and adult Dialogue To Change conversation groups.
Rebecca Sanin (Long Island)
Rebecca Sanin is the President/CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, an umbrella organization with a network of 150 nonprofit organizations. She served in County government for five years as an Assistant Deputy County Executive for Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone. Prior to working in government, Rebecca worked extensively in the nonprofit industry engaged in policy, planning and education in numerous roles, including focus group development and facilitation, diversity/cultural competency training, early childhood professional development, strategic planning in government and political capital development. She taught varied Psychology coursework as an Adjunct Professor at Dowling College, Suffolk Community College and Iona College, teaching undergraduate coursework. She holds a Juris Doctor from Fordham University where she was a Stein Scholar and a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University where she was a fellow at the National Center for Children and Families.
Barbara Smith (Capital Region, Long Island)
Barbara Smith has played a groundbreaking role in opening up a national, cultural, and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. She has been politically active in many movements for social justice since the 1960s. In 1981 she was co-founder and until 1995 publisher of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, one of the first U.S. publishers for women of color. She served two terms on the Albany Common Council representing Arbor Hill and North Albany from 2006 to 2013. She has taught English, African American literature, Black Women Writers, and Black Women’s Studies at a number of colleges and universities since the early 1970’s, most recently at the College of Saint Rose. Read Barbara's reflection on the commission here.
Luis Valenzuela (Long Island)
Luis Valenzuela is currently employed by the Healthcare Education Project of the Greater New York Hospital Association & 1199 SEIU. In his capacity as a Health Care Advocate, Luis works to improve healthcare in New York State through education, grassroots organizing and coalition-building. In order to protect and expand access to quality, affordable healthcare for all New Yorkers, Luis focuses on building partnerships with individuals, local healthcare providers, and civic and religious leaders in neighborhoods across the Long Island region. In his role as the Executive Director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance (LIIA), Luis works with an alliance of charitable, religious, labor, civil rights and immigrant organizations in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that are concerned with ensuring that Long Island provides a welcoming environment for immigrants and invites their involvement in the cultural, socio-economic and political life of their community. Luis also serves on the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and on the Suffolk County Welfare to WorkCommission.
Amaury Tañón-Santos (Capital Region)
The Rev. Amaury Tañón-Santos serves as the Synod Networker for the Synod of the Northeast of the Presbyterian Church, USA. As the networker, Amaury travels throughout a region that covers New England, New Jersey and New York connecting passions in ministry and mission. Amaury has also been the parish pastor for four congregations, and worked at Princeton Seminary as director of continuing education programs.
Brad Weaver (Cuba, Capital Region, Long Island)
Brad Weaver has lived in Cuba, NY for the last 13 years, teaching, raising his son and working on his home. He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, a former lab tech, and a serial conference attendee. He has led, followed, and sought his way. He has served as a union rep and advocates for the rights of workers. He is a student of history and a fan of the Constitution, especially the preamble. Read Brad's reflection on the commission here.