Leadership Transitions at Voice of Witness

Mimi Lok
Left: Mimi with narrator Zaira Arvelo Alicea, authors Piper Kerman and Isabel Allende, and narrator Gabriel Mendéz. Right: Mimi speaking at VOW’s 10th anniversary event.
Voice of Witness is in the midst of planning for the departure of Mimi Lok, VOW’s cofounder and longtime executive director. Read Mimi’s transition letter, as well as a note from VOW’s board chair Kris Leja, below.

Dear Friends,

I have some news to share. This is my 14th year leading Voice of Witness and it will also, sadly, be my last. I have decided to step down in order to make more time for myself and my loved ones. While this is a joyful decision, it has certainly not been an easy one. Stepping back from something I’ve invested so much heart and effort into as a founding executive director, a mission and vision I believe in as deeply as ever, and a staff, board, and community that I hold in the greatest esteem and affection, comes with much bittersweetness.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to build this organization and constantly refine our purpose and direction alongside this incredible community. I’m proud of so many things we’ve achieved together: our oral history book series (twenty-two titles and counting!), which has re-centered the voices of people that we need to hear from the most, from undocumented immigrants and Indigenous peoples to individuals impacted by the criminal justice system; our field-shaping education program that has connected tens of thousands of students across the country (as well as teachers, journalists, medical professionals, and advocates) with crucial stories and ethics-driven storytelling practices; and an organizational culture that is committed to critical learning and unlearning.

I feel lucky to be able to step down with such joyful intent. It is truly a testament to the strength of the VOW team, who, armed with our collective Vision Plan, has forged a clear directive for what is next for the organization. This team has already achieved so much; I have the utmost faith in them, as well as excitement for what is yet to come.

Starting in June, VOW will operate under the interim leadership of two of our longstanding colleagues, editorial director Dao X. Tran and education director Erin Vong Limoges, with close support from our board chair Kristine Leja. I will be providing continued support in an advisory capacity through July while the board leads the executive search for VOW’s next ED. 

Dao and Erin have driven some of the organization’s most impactful initiatives in recent years, from our expanded district-level work supporting ELL and Ethnic Studies (including San Francisco, New York, and Oakland unified school districts), to the rapid-response storytelling project Unheard Voices of the Pandemic and the newly launched Storyteller Initiative pilot to support marginalized community storytellers. Dao and Erin’s stellar leadership in recent years has ensured that VOW remains acutely responsive to the needs of our communities, and that our innovations are rooted in organizational values of empathy, equity, and wholeness. 

What’s next for me? I am looking forward to taking a sabbatical this summer, which will include rest, renewal, and time with my family and community. I am also looking forward to reflecting on the lessons of these last fourteen years, and to developing several creative projects. As we find ourselves in uniquely consequential times, I am excited to further explore where I can be of most service to collectively building a narratively expansive, inclusive, and just society.

I am confident that VOW’s best work is yet to come. I want to thank you for being on this journey so far with us, and for your continued support and inspiration. I am leaving VOW with a deep gratitude for the relationships we’ve built, the stories we’ve shared, and the work we’ve done together. 

In stories and solidarity,


A Note from Board Chair Kris Leja:

Dear VOW Community,

I want to say thank you to Mimi Lok for her 14 years of service and dedication to Voice of Witness. She has been a tireless advocate for the power of oral history for communities impacted by and fighting against injustice. She has ensured that their voices are centered, heard, and amplified through VOW’s book series, education program, and community partnerships. Her legacy will live on as we continue to utilize the ethics-driven practices and approaches that were developed under her leadership. I am so excited to see what is next for Mimi, and I know she will remain a powerful force for narrative change in the world.

Given our strong foundation and armed with our exciting Vision Plan, the future is bright. I am so pleased to welcome Dao X. Tran and Erin Vong Limoges as interim co-executive directors, collectively bringing 13 years of experience at VOW to support the organization through the transition. I have had the opportunity to work closely with them both in my many years as a board member and now board chair, and I know they will continue to drive VOW’s work forward with a high degree of skill and passion. 

As Mimi has noted, this is such an exciting time for VOW and I am so grateful to you, our broader community, for your unwavering support. Many of you may be asking, what can I do to help? Continue to share our work on social media, read our newsletters, download our free resources, join an upcoming event, or make a donation. Your involvement is more critical now than ever before. 

With thanks,

Kris Leja

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