Our Community

Get to know the Voice of Witness staff, board, and wider community. Interested in joining our team? Check out our job openings.

Staff

Natasha Johnson
Executive Director
Natasha’s bio

Natasha Johnson (she/her/unicorn) is a proud Brooklynite that considers many spots across the globe her extended home. She is an activist, educator, lawyer, and artist motivated by creating innovative methods of access for communities historically peripheral to justice. Natasha serves as a board member of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault and the NYC Cyber Abuse Task Force. Her passion for storytelling and human rights is evidenced in her TEDx Talk reframing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as a human rights violation in the US and in her efforts co-drafting legislation creating a municipal FGM/C Advisory Committee, the first of its kind in the country. Before joining VOW, she worked as the executive director of a coalition against family violence, as an anti-trafficking legal specialist in the Solomon Islands, as a director of education supporting homeless LGBTQ youth, and as a professor at multiple universities. When not collaborating with the VOW team, Natasha is also a trauma-informed yoga teacher; the creator of dotzz, an app to support gender-based violence survivors; and the founder of PROFIT + JULY, an inclusive-sized yoga mat line.

Dao X. Tran
Editorial Director
Dao’s bio

Dao X. Tran (she/her) was born in Mỹ Tho—but made in the USA. She’s passionate about democratizing the stories being heard and finds a curiosity about our world essential. Before joining Voice of Witness, Dao was senior editor at Haymarket Books and a freelance book editor. Dao currently is also on the editorial board of Haymarket Books. When not marking up manuscripts—or scouting projects and partnerships—she’s raising a spirited teenager and a mini poodle-terrier-shih-tzu on the land of Carnarsie and Munsee Lenape peoples (Brooklyn). books@voiceofwitness.org

Erin Vong Limoges
Education Program Director
Erin’s bio

Erin Vong Limoges (she/her) has been part of the team since 2016. She was born and raised in the Bay Area and received dual Bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis. She has also completed a Master of Arts in Organization & Leadership at the University of San Francisco. Before coming to Voice of Witness, she spent three years teaching in Spain and remains dedicated to multilingual learners. She returned home with a renewed interest in education, social justice, and sports, and hopes to finally finish recording her family’s stories as Vietnamese refugees. She can often be found practicing self-care by walking (and chasing after) her dog, Yuki. edu@voiceofwitness.org

Kathleen Brennan
Development Director
Kathleen’s bio

Kathleen Brennan (she/her) grew up in the Bay Area and has spent the last 10 years fundraising for local nonprofits. She has a BA in Art History from the University of Washington and an MA in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts. Before joining Voice of Witness, Kathleen worked in development at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She is excited to be part of an organization that uses the arts to advance social justice and amplify the voices of those impacted by injustice. When not at work, Kathleen enjoys exploring the Bay Area’s many hiking trails, knitting, and perfecting her home brewed beer. dev@voiceofwitness.org

Annaick Miller
Communications & Outreach Director
Annaick’s bio

Annaick Miller (she/her) grew up in Berkeley and holds a BA from Tufts University in Political Science, with a minor in Media and Communications. Previously, Annaick worked at Promundo, a gender-based violence prevention NGO, where she developed institutional and campaign communications and supervised the production of research and advocacy publications. Annaick is motivated by the transformative power of storytelling and by centering, documenting, and sharing lived experiences as an approach to raise awareness and advance justice. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, gardening, and bungee jumping. Communications & Press Inquiries: press@voiceofwitness.org

Ela Banerjee
Community Partnership Manager
Ela’s bio

Ela Banerjee (she/her) split her childhood between the very different worlds of urban Kentucky and suburban Sacramento. Ela holds a BA from UC Berkeley, where she studied Cognitive Science, Education, and Creative Writing. She previously worked for the national oral history project, StoryCorps, where she facilitated audio recordings of diverse personal and community stories from across the Bay Area to be archived at the Library of Congress. The over 120 StoryCorps interviews Ela recorded helped shape her love of both storytelling and community engagement. As part of the Voice of Witness team, she is excited to continue discovering how stories can be used as tools for empowerment, advocacy, and change. Outside of work, Ela enjoys writing, filmmaking, and finding the best breakfast foods in the East Bay. ela@voiceofwitness.org

Jessica Fagen
Education Specialist & Program Coordinator
Jessica’s bio

Jessica Fagen (she/her) is an educator with a passion for critical literacy studies and a deeply-held belief in the power of storytelling. She holds a BA in English and Film & Media Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in Education from UC Berkeley. Jessica taught English and Ethnic Studies in Oakland Unified School District for five years before coming to Voice of Witness. Apart from being an educator, Jessica is a lifelong learner: her most recent undertakings are learning how to roller skate and play guitar (though not at the same time!). edu@voiceofwitness.org

Kate Garrett
Individual Giving Manager
Kate’s bio

Kate Garrett (they/she) subscribes to a community-centered fundraising model, centering their work around anti-racism and cultural humility. They have been working in nonprofit spaces for over 7 years, across mental health, disability services, harm reduction, and tenants’ rights. They previously co-founded the Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County and served as its finance director for four years. Kate currently resides in their hometown of Santa Cruz on unceded Awaswas land. Outside of work, Kate is an avid photographer, backpacker, and cat parent. dev@voiceofwitness.org

Contact Us

Interested in getting in touch with the Voice of Witness team? Curious to learn more about our work and how we can collaborate? Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and inquiries.

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Board of Directors

Lupe Poblano
Director & Treasurer
Lupe’s bio

Lupe Poblano, CPC, MSOD, is a certified professional coach. He is the former Co-Executive Director at CompassPoint and utilizes coaching, training, and consulting to help emerging and experienced leaders achieve race, class, and gender equity in social justice movements. Lupe has worked in the nonprofit sector for almost 20 years, and his work as a coach and consultant is deeply rooted in his experience as a young Chicanx positional leader within larger mainstream organizations, as well as the experience of holding the significant risk, responsibility, and overall accountability for an organization as its executive leader.

Kristine Leja
Chair
Kristine’s bio

Kristine Leja is the Co-Founder and Principal of KLP Impact. As a consultant, coach, and strategist she brings to her work a passion for supporting people and organizations to create cultures that are grounded in empathy, social justice principles and practices, shared leadership, and democratized ways of being. Previously, she served as the executive director of Summer Search Bay Area and was the interim CEO and chief development officer for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. Kris is a published poet and serves as an editor at Sidebrow Books, a San Francisco and Portland-based independent press. She has served on the Voice of Witness board of directors since 2012 and she lives in San Francisco with her partner and cat.

Nicole Janisiewicz
Director & Secretary
Nicole’s bio

Nicole Janisiewicz is an international development and human rights attorney. She currently works as a Senior International Attorney for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government agency that focuses on reducing global poverty through economic growth. Prior to joining MCC, she lived in Indonesia and had a consulting practice focused on providing human rights-related legal and strategic advice to nonprofits, multi-corporations, and diplomats. Nicole also worked as a Staff Attorney for the US Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco and as an attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Brown University and a member of the State Bar of California. Nicole hails from upstate New York and has served on the VOW board of directors since 2015.

Amanda Mei Kim
Director
Amanda’s bio

Amanda Mei Kim is a strategist who supports a wide range of racial, environmental, and health equity projects. In addition, she is a creative writing instructor who has won the Phelan Award and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays. She has supported two oral history projects, one on farmworkers in her hometown of Saticoy, California, and the other on the history of medicine in San Francisco. She has a BA in American Studies from Brown University and both a MPA and a MFA from San Francisco State University. Currently, a California Arts Council Fellow and a Steinbeck Fellow, Amanda writes about the intersection of climate, culture, and capitalism in the lives of rural Asian Americans. She is also the Executive Director of California Foodshed Funders. In her free time, she is cooking up a new dish, learning about the natural world, and hiking with her one-eyed dog.

Fariha Tayyab
Fariha Tayyab
Director
Fariha’s bio

Fariha Tayyab is a multidisciplinary storyteller and facilitator who explores identity, radical reimagination, and liberation through trainings, writing, and photography. She is also a lifelong educator and equity facilitator, who works closely with K-12 schools and youth experiencing trauma through incarceration, foster care, and migration. Fariha leads storytelling and artivism workshops as well, and has done so with University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, Netroots Nation, Writers in the Schools, Girl Scouts National, Alley Theatre, and others. As a lover of culture and language, Fariha believes we must dismantle the stories and systems we were taught to obey; immerse ourselves in the stories of others; and curate our own stories and models that move us toward freedom.

Tasliym Morales
Tasliym Morales
Director
Tasliym’s bio

Tasliym is the Chief of People & Culture at Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) and has more than 15 years of experience shaping organizational culture with a focus on fostering unity. Tasliym has a BA in Urban Planning from Metropolitan College of NY, an MS in Organizational & Strategic Leadership from Neumann University, and ongoing doctoral studies in Business Administration with a focus in HR Leadership at Thomas Edison State University. Tasliym currently serves as an elected member on the Chester-Upland School Board, various committees promoting youth legal system reform, and as a VP Director at Large for the National Association of African Americans in HR for DEI and Talent Acquisition. Tasliym enjoys exploring music, reenacting movies, and embracing lifelong learning.

Uzma Rahman
Uzma Rahman
Director
Uzma’s bio

Uzma earned an MA in International Relations, along with a JD from the California Western School of Law. She has studied all over the world and brings extensive experience as a grant writer, journalist, editor, and advocacy consultant. She is an unapologetic lifelong activist. Since graduating, Uzma’s work has centered on using her legal experience – which spans the private, non-profit, and government sectors – to affect positive change within her communities through the lens of social justice, civil rights, access, and equity. Her advocacy efforts are now focused on economic equity and access to resources for all Californians. When she is not working at her desk, she can be found on nature walks (or runs) with her kids, cooking with her husband, traveling with her family, or practicing and teaching yoga in her community.

Jane Hwang
Jane Hwang
Director
Jane’s bio

Jane’s leadership inspires and motivates others, fostering a culture of collaboration and a one-team ethos. She began her news career to tell the invisible stories within Asian communities in America that challenged the model minority myth. With 15+ years in news and 7 years in humanitarian aid, Jane has witnessed firsthand how stories can bridge divides and humanize complex issues. She understands that stories are not just narratives; they are experiences that allow points of connection. Jane is a child of immigrants and a first-generation college student. She has a certification in Project Management from the Project Management Institute, an MBA from Columbia Business School, an MA in Journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism, and a BA in Visual Art.

Natasha Johnson
Executive Director
Natasha’s bio

Natasha Johnson (she/her/unicorn) is a proud Brooklynite that considers many spots across the globe her extended home. She is an activist, educator, lawyer, and artist motivated by creating innovative methods of access for communities historically peripheral to justice. Natasha serves as a board member of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault and the NYC Cyber Abuse Task Force. Her passion for storytelling and human rights is evidenced in her TEDx Talk reframing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as a human rights violation in the US and in her efforts co-drafting legislation creating a municipal FGM/C Advisory Committee, the first of its kind in the country. Before joining VOW, she worked as the executive director of a coalition against family violence, as an anti-trafficking legal specialist in the Solomon Islands, as a director of education supporting homeless LGBTQ youth, and as a professor at multiple universities. When not collaborating with the VOW team, Natasha is also a trauma-informed yoga teacher; the creator of dotzz, an app to support gender-based violence survivors; and the founder of PROFIT + JULY, an inclusive-sized yoga mat line.

Interested in Joining the Board?

The Board of Directors helps VOW pursue its mission of advancing human rights by amplifying the voices of people impacted by—and fighting against—injustice through oral history, education, and advocacy.

Spotlight: VOW Narrators

The narrators below are a few of many who have shared their stories of facing—and fighting against—injustice in Voice of Witness oral history projects. Explore our projects to read their in-depth narratives and learn from the over 325 individuals whose oral histories VOW has amplified over the past decade.
Zaira Arvelo Alicea
Narrator in Mi María: Surviving the Storm, Voices from Puerto Rico
Zaira’s bio

“It was just my lungs against the hurricane. That was the moment we realized we were completely alone. No one, anywhere, was going to hear us.”

Zaira Arvelo Alicea is a writer, editor, and educator who grew up in Lares, Puerto Rico and now runs an education consulting company. During Hurricane María, Zaira and her husband spent sixteen hours floating on an air mattress as their home was flooded and destroyed. In VOW’s book Mi María: Surviving the Storm, she shares her story of survival and highlights the failures of the federal government to support survivors of the storm. Zaira is also VOW’s Curriculum Specialist for the project. She currently teaches a biliteracy course for the Bilingual Certification Program at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. Visit Zaira’s website to find out more about her work.

Ashley Hemmers
Narrator in How We Go Home: Voices from Indigenous North America
Ashley’s bio

“I meet a lot of people who are looking for a past. I am looking for a future.”

Growing up in the American Southwest, Ashley Hemmers (Fort Mojave Indian Tribe) experienced struggles around intergenerational trauma, environmental racism, and Indigenous representation in education. After leaving the Fort Mojave Reservation for an undergraduate degree at Yale and then returning home, Ashley is now a Mojave Tribal Administrator. Read Ashley’s narrative in VOW’s book How We Go Home: Voices from Indigenous North America and listen to Ashley share her story at the How We Go Home launch and a San Francisco Public Library event.

Gabriel Mendéz
Narrator in Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America
Gabriel’s bio

“I feel that storytelling is part of me now. I’ve learned that my story is a form of activism… It is a movement, it is connecting.”

In VOW’s book Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America, Gabriel Mendéz shares his story of migrating to the US to seek asylum at age 15 after experiencing years of sexual abuse and homophobia in Honduras. He is now a student at UC Berkeley and an advocate for immigrant youth and LGBTQ rights. Read Gabriel’s story in VOW’s Unheard Voices of the Pandemic series and hear him speak at the El Paso Artistic Uprising. In 2019, Representative Jackie Speier shared Gabriel’s experiences on the floor of Congress.

Ashley Jacobs
Ashley Jacobs
Narrator in Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons
Ashley’s bio

Ashley Jacobs is a narrator from the VOW book Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. She shares her experiences being incarcerated, specifically while pregnant. Ashley has gone on to use her story to fight for more humane treatment of incarcerated pregnant people. She also produced her own oral history project documenting the stories of women escaping domestic violence, which was featured in Say It Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling.

Education Advisory

Rick Ayers
Rick’s bio

Rick Ayers is a Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco in the Urban Education and Social Justice cohort. He taught in the Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, where he pioneered innovative and effective strategies for academic and social success for a diverse range of students. Rick has won the Berkeley Community Award (2004), Distinguished Educator of the Year Award, Occidental College (2004), and the Distinguished Adviser Award by Dow Jones Newspaper Fund (2000). He has his PhD from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education in the Language, Literacy, and Culture division. He is the co-author, with his brother William Ayers, of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom (2010) from Teachers College Press. He is also author of Great Books for High School Kids and A Teacher’s Guide to Studs Terkel’s Working.

William Ayers
William’s bio

William Ayers is a former Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, and he has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. William’s articles have appeared in numerous scholarly and popular journals, and his books include Teaching Toward FreedomA Kind and Just ParentFugitive DaysOn the Side of the ChildTeaching the Personal and the Political; (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner) To Teach: The Journey, in Comics; (with Kevin Kumashiro, Erica Meiners, Therese Quinn, and David Stovall) Teaching Toward Democracy; (with Bernardine Dohrn) Race Course.

Soledad Castillo
Soledad’s bio

Born in Honduras, Soledad Castillo survived abuse and serious health challenges before migrating to the US at age 14. After experiencing mistreatment in the foster care system and homelessness in the Bay Area, she graduated from college and worked as a housing case manager for foster youth. Soledad recently graduated from the UC Berkeley Master of Social Welfare program. She has a strong vision of combining her personal experience and education to work with young people of color who have faced abuse and trauma, envisioning “a community of healing that empowers young survivors of abuse through empowering others.” Learn more about Soledad’s story in Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America and the Unheard Voices of the Pandemic series. 

Diana Cohn
Diana’s bio

Diana Cohn has worked for over two decades on environmental, economic, and global justice issues as a teacher, media activist, and as a senior program officer and executive director for philanthropic grantmaking foundations. As Executive Director of the Panta Rhea Foundation, she oversaw their Water Governance, Environmental Justice, and Corporate Accountability programs. Her expertise as an educator led to the creation of the foundation’s Social Imagination, Arts and Education program that provides grants for professional development support for teachers and deeper learning opportunities for students. She is a member of the Bay Area Arts Education Funders Group, Grantmakers for Education, and Grantmakers in the Arts. Diana holds a BA in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic and a MA in Educational Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also an award-winning children’s book author. She currently serves on the boards of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Food Craft Institute in Oakland.

Aminah Elster
Aminah’s bio

Aminah Elster is a UC Berkeley student from the San Francisco Bay Area, working to empower formerly incarcerated people to pursue a higher education. She is the Ambassador Program Coordinator for Underground Scholars Initiative, a student organization on the Berkeley campus, that focuses on recruitment, retention, and advocacy for formerly incarcerated and system impacted individuals. She is also a Haas Public Service Leader, currently working on a project in collaboration with Feather River College and its Incarcerated Student Program, in an effort to assist folks exiting prison with the UC application process and personal statement improvements. Having earned several degrees while in prison herself, Aminah is committed to the advancement and leadership of formerly incarcerated people.

Praveena Fernes
Praveena’s bio

Praveena K. Fernes (PhD Candidate) is a Marshall Scholar in the UK, where she studied political ecology at SOAS University of London and now public health and policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a Fulbright Research Scholar, she curated Visible Ghosts, a virtual installation that illuminates villagers’ evolving relationship to the Mun River and wetlands in Thailand over the past quarter century through objects, maps, and citizen science research. Her current PhD project explores the place-based experiences of people who are homeless and seek drug and alcohol services in East London, with a special focus on relations of care. Her work strives to advance health equity through transdisciplinary research-to-action partnerships and creative storytelling.

Anne Germanacos
Anne’s bio

Anne Germanacos’s collection of short stories, In the Time of the Girls, was published by BOA Editions in 2010. Her novel, Tribute, was published by Rescue Press in 2014. For thirty years, together with her husband, she ran the Ithaka Cultural Study Program, an immersive academic semester for high school and college students on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete in Greece. Through the Germanacos Foundation, she supports the work of dozens of individuals and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Her time as an Artist-in- Residence at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts in the fall of 2015 resulted in a collaborative work, Not Upon You. She serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Review of Books and T’ruah: a Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Gabriel Mendéz
Gabriel’s bio

Gabriel Mendéz is a narrator in the Voice of Witness book Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America. Gabriel is a UC Berkeley student from Honduras hoping to empower youth who have survived violence and discrimination. He wants to tell all youth that there is space for them in society. As a survivor of sexual abuse and a member of the LGBTQ community, he feels it is it is his duty to advocate for the persecuted.

Suzanne Methot
Suzanne’s bio

Suzanne Methot (Asiniwachi Nehiyaw/Rocky Mountain Cree) is a writer, editor, and educator with a long history of work centering issues impacting Indigenous communities. She the author of the non-fiction book Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing, co-author of the Grade 11 textbook Aboriginal Beliefs, Values, and Aspirations, and a contributor to Scholastic’s Take Action series of classroom resource books. Suzanne has 30 years of experience creating and applying equity and anti-oppression frameworks, beginning as an adult literacy and skills training practitioner and then as an elementary classroom teacher specializing in social justice education. She has also worked in advocacy and direct-service positions at Indigenous organizations, serving community members who are marginalized by racism, poverty, homelessness, health status, addictions, mental-health challenges, crime, and victimization. Suzanne first collaborated with Voice of Witness as the curriculum specialist for VOW’s latest oral history project, How We Go Home: Voices From Indigenous North America.

Gerald Richards
Gerald’s bio

Gerald Richards is the CEO of the Super Power Agency, a new nonprofit focused on youth writing and creative expression based in Edinburgh, UK. He is also the founder and principal consultant at Black Unicorn Consultants, a new firm specializing in coaching and consulting for nonprofit organisations and leaders, especially nonprofit leaders of color. From 2010 – 2017, Gerald was the CEO of 826 National, where he led the strategic direction, administration and building of resources for the network of affiliate organizations. With more than 20 years of management and development experience at local and national nonprofit organizations, Gerald is a respected trainer and sought after speaker on topics of youth development, writing, creativity, and education access. He has been interviewed regularly on these topics and appeared on CBS The Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s 360, and The Michael Eric Dyson Show, and has had articles published in the Huffington Post and GOOD Online. Gerald was awarded the 2016 News Corp Community Hero Award and is a current fellow in the Pahara-Aspen Institute Education Fellowship. Originally from Harlem, NYC, Gerald has a BA in Film Studies from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Barbara Yasue
Barbara’s bio

Barbara H. Yasue is currently the department chair and tenured instructor in the ESOL (English for Students of Other Languages) department at Laney College in Oakland, California. She has worked with refugee, immigrant and international students for more than 30 years in the United States and abroad, including a stint in the Peace Corps, and was awarded a Fulbright grant to train teachers in Portugal. She is the author of Transitions: Stories of Immigrant Students, a three-year study of eight immigrant students in an urban college, which brings to light intimate stories of war, poverty, discrimination, workplace challenges, street violence and the struggle for democracy.

Voice of Witness Co-founders

  • Mimi Lok, Author, Educator, and Oral Historian
  • Dave Eggers, Author, Co-founder of 826 National, Founder of McSweeney’s Publishing
  • Lola Vollen, M.D., M.P.H, Co-founder of the Life After Exoneration Program

Founding Advisor

  • Studs Terkel (deceased), Author, Oral Historian

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