LEAF Chicago is a growing group of trainers and facilitators. Here’s who we are:
Claudia Garcia-Rojas is a multiracial woman with eleven years of professional experience working as a speaker, activist, and scholar on antiviolence and antiracism issues, specifically focusing on gender-based violence.
Claudia was educated in the departments of Philosophy and Women and Gender studies at DePaul University, and in art and art theory in Paris. After receiving her dual Bachelors of Arts in 2006, she moved to Nantes, France on a Teaching Assistantship Grant to work as an English Instructor. During this time, Claudia was offered a position as a Public Relations intern at Le Lieu Unique where she assisted with the Estuaire 2007 Project, an arts and culture installation that sought to draw attention to the regions sociocultural histories. Working alongside world-renowned artists such as Tazu Nishi and Minerva Cuevas, but especially Anish Kapoor’s Svayambh installation, deepened her interest in the relationship between artistic resistance to intergenerational trauma and violence.
Returning to the United States, in 2007, Claudia worked as a Counselor/Legal Advocate in Chicago’s Hospital’s Crisis Intervention Project (HCIP) with low-income women of color and children who are survivors of violence. That same year, Claudia was chosen as Amnesty International’s “Stop the Violence Against Women” Campaign Coordinator for the Midwest. Claudia began work as a Research Associate for the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women in 2009. This year, she was promoted to coordinate the Chicago Taskforce’s Media Toolkit project that will help journalists cover the issues of rape and sexual assault. Claudia also serves as the Design Coordinator for AREA Chicago, and is also a contributing writer and photographer for Gozamos.
Jessica Havens is a white woman raised in multiracial communities from the Southside of Chicago. She is an educator, feminist, cultural worker, public education advocate and racial justice cheerleader who works to integrate love and mindfulness into her social justice work. Jessica has worked with high school students for 10 years in Chicago as a youth educator at Project Exploration, Kenwood Academy, the Multicultural Arts School and Francis W Parker School.
Her current work as a trainer and consultant, with both adults and youth, is focused on anti-racism, community building and love-centered racial healing. She received her M.A. in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University in 2011, completing a thesis entitled, Of Heart, Mind & Belonging: Reflections on Anti-Racist White Identity Development. During the past year, Jessica taught and/or led workshops at Francis W. Parker School, The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, the Chicago Freedom School, Northwestern University’s Civic Education Project and DePaul University. As part of her work at Francis W. Parker School, Jessica founded and facilitated a white anti-racist affinity group with faculty called White Educators for Racial Justice (WERJ). She believes strongly in the need for white anti-racist affinity groups and sees this as vital to capacity building for institutions that have an espoused commitment to “diversity” and anti-racism.
Jane Hereth is an educator, organizer, and radical social worker. Jane got her start facilitating and creating anti-oppression trainings in her youth as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Trainer/Organizer Program. In college, she co-founded the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites, a group dedicated to resisiting white supremacy through education and identity development.
Since moving to Chicago in 2007, Jane worked as a trainer for the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline, facilitating trainings on sexual violence, rape culture and crisis intervention for staff, volunteers, and community members. She currently facilitates workshops on the Prison Industrial Complex as a member of the Chicago Prison Industrial Complex Teaching Collective. As a volunteer with Project NIA’s Chain Reaction project, Jane works with youth at the Broadway Youth Center to collect and disseminate stories about young people’s interactions with the police. By day, Jane coordinates a behavioral research study on HIV prevention among transgender youth.
Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator, and writer who lives in Chicago. Her work focuses on ending violence, dismantling the prison industrial complex, and supporting youth leadership development. Mariame is a published author, a teacher, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards. Mariame is currently the founding director of Project NIA (www.project-nia.org), a grassroots organization with the long-term goal of ending juvenile incarceration in Illinois. Prior to launching Project NIA, she spent five years as a Program Officer for education and youth development at the Steans Family Foundation and also as the coordinator of evaluation for the foundation.
Mariame has been active in the anti-violence against women and girls movement where her experience includes coordinating emergency shelter services at Sanctuary for Families in New York City, directing prevention services at Friends of Battered Women & their Children, serving as the co-chair of the Women of Color Committee at the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, serving on the founding board of the Women and Girls Collective Action Network (www.womenandgirlscan.org), being a member of Incite! Women of Color against Violence and co-founding the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women (www.chitaskforce.org). She was also an adult ally and co-founder of the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (www.rogersparkywat.org). Mariame is one of the founders of the Chicago Freedom School (www.chicagofreedomschool.org).
In addition to her experience teaching both high school and college, Mariame has facilitated workshops and trainings on several topics including anti-oppression, understanding youth criminalization, mobilizing youth for social change, community accountability to address violence, grassroots fundraising, evaluation, and more. Some of the curricula and research she has developed can be accessed through www.thepicis.org.
Ana Mercado is the Youth Organizer at Blocks Together, an intergenerational community organizing group in West Humboldt Park where she is developing the leadership of youth as organizers and restorative justice practitioners that challenge the school-to-prison pipeline. She is also the Restorative Justice Co-coordinator at Cameron Elementary school where she trains youth and parents on Restorative Justice and brings together stakeholders to develop strategies for culture shift at the school. Before working at BT, she was the Girls Organizing Coordinator at Access Living, a disability rights organization, where she facilitated the Empowered Fe Fes political education group. She was a founding member of the Black Diaspora Project, a collective dedicated to supporting Black youth in Chicago to understand their connection to the issues and lives of Black youth in Haiti. She was also a founding member of FRIDA (Feminist Response in Disability Activism). She developed her skills as a participatory video documentarian and popular educator during an extended internship at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. She holds a BA in Cultural Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Women’s Studies from Antioch College. She was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.
Abraham Mwaura is developing a project to create resiliency to climate change among the most vulnerable communities as a platform for movement building. He has organized and helped facilitate powerful strategic planning with anti-war, labor, environmental, community and religious groups. He was the founding Coordinator of Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), a campaign to improve conditions and bring dignity to warehouse & logistics workers in the Chicago region. Prior to that he organized with the United Electrical Workers (UE) and coordinated media during the historic occupation of Republic Windows factory. Abe also organized with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) helping to grow a base of coalfield residents in southern West Virginia to resist mountaintop removal and win grassroots campaigns for access to clean drinking water. He has roots in the mountains of West Virginia and Kenya.
Megan Selby is a fiercely proud midwesterner with over a decade of experience as a facilitator, organizer, and educator. Politicized around issues of prisons and education reform in the Unitarian Universalist youth movement, Megan’s politics are grounded in the transformative power of love and community. Within her faith organization she supported a national youth leadership development program and social justice training. She was a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Trainer/Organizer Program that focused on challenging white supremacy and collective liberation. She began facilitating workshops on the prison industrial complex as the Volunteer Coordinator of a books to prisoners program in Bloomington, IN. She then worked for a few years as an elementary school educator in a public school in Brooklyn, NY.
Megan has facilitated workshops and trainings with a wide variety of groups including faith communities, students in elementary school, high school, and university, people incarcerated in the San Bruno, CA jail, and more.
After participating in the Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program in San Francisco, Megan moved to Chicago in 2011, where she organizes locally around immigration justice, housing justice, and tearing down the Prison Industrial Complex.
Lewis Wallace has over 12 years of experience as a facilitator, organizer and educator. He began facilitating as an LGBTQ youth organizer in Michigan working with his peers to target “zero tolerance” policies and homophobia in schools. He went on to work for several years as a sexuality educator, cooperative worker-owner, and facilitation team member at Good Vibrations Berkeley, giving workshops on sexuality, safety, and consent.
After training with the Challenging White Supremacy (CWS) workshop in 2003, Lewis shifted his focus towards political education as a form of solidarity, training mostly-white constituencies about institutional racism. In addition to training with CWS, he has worked as a trainer and consultant with the Pacific Center in Berkeley, the Neutral Zone Teen Center in Ann Arbor, and with grassroots LGBTQ groups to address institutional racism, transphobia, and adultism.
Lewis moved to Chicago in 2006, where he co-founded the Chicago Childcare Collective, a group that provides free childcare for social justice organizations around the city. In 2009, he had the opportunity to become involved in restorative justice and peacemaking circle practices through his work with Project NIA, an organization fighting youth incarceration through community-based alternatives. In addition to sitting on the advisory board of Project NIA, he is a current volunteer with the Chicago Prison-Industrial Complex Teaching Collective and the coordinator of Chain Reaction: Alternatives to Calling Police. By day, Lewis is also a freelance writer with an educational background in religious studies and Christian history.
Lewis is passionate about the power of transformative and restorative justice to build viable community-based responses to violence and conflict. He is equally passionate about the necessity of education and facilitation as a path to empowerment and to building more effective movements for collective liberation.