Staff and Board

Staff

Tarso Luís Ramos (Executive Director) has been researching the U.S. Right for over two decades, contributing numerous articles and reports on Christian Right, anti-immigrant, anti-labor, and anti-environmental movements and campaigns. Under his leadership, PRA has launched several new initiatives, on subjects including the export of U.S.-style homophobic campaigns abroad, the spread of Islamophobia, and the Right’s investment in redefining religious liberty to assert a right to discriminate. Ramos previously served as founding director of Western States Center’s racial justice program. Throughout the 1990s, Tarso worked in various western states to counteract anti-gay campaigns, right-wing militias, and other organized threats to social justice. As director of the Wise Use Public Exposure Project in the mid-’90s, he monitored the Right’s anti-union and anti-environmental campaigns.

Theresa BlackmanTheresa Blackman (Operations Coordinator) joined PRA in 2013.  She has a degree in women’s and gender studies from Simmons College and is active in the Boston LGBTQ community.  Theresa is also a co-chair of the Boston Dyke March and a volunteer medical advocate with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Contact Theresa at t.blackman@politicalresearch.org

 

Inline image 1Sarah Burzillo (Finance Manager) has over 15 years experience working with small business owners and the management and Boards of non-profit organizations. She is the owner of Clarity Business Consulting, Inc. which provides accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and business consulting services to a wide variety of small business clients. Prior to starting Clarity in 2008, Sarah was employed as Controller for a Boston-based consulting firm. where she managed an integrated system of accounting services for various clients. Ms. Burzillo received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science and Philosophy from Trinity College (CT) in 1985 and, in 1988, her M.S. in Mathematics from Tufts University.

gabriel joffe resizedGabriel Joffe (Program Coordinator) joins PRA with a background in media/publishing and social justice organizing informed by the intersecting politics of prison abolition, racial justice, and queer/trans liberation.
Contact Gabriel at g.joffe@politicalresearch.org.

 

 

kj2013 Kathryn Joyce (Public Eye Editor) is an investigative journalist and author of two books: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption (PublicAffairs, 2013) and Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Beacon Press, 2009). Her work has appeared in Highline/Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, Slate, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Nation and many others.

 

Kapya Kaoma website headshotRev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma (Religion and Sexuality Researcher) is an ordained Anglican with a particular interest in human rights, ecological ethics, and mission. After traveling to Uganda, Rev. Dr. Kaoma produced a 2009 PRA report entitled Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia that prompted invitations to testify before the United States Congress and the United Nations. In 2012, he followed up this research into the U.S. Christian Right’s exportation of homophobia with another report, Colonizing African Values, and he appears as an expert voice in the 2013 documentary God Loves Uganda. Rev. Dr. Kaoma is currently the Rector of Christ Church, Hyde Park, MA and a Visiting Researcher at Boston University Center for Global Christianity and Mission. He received his doctorate in Ethics from Boston University. Read articles by Rev. Dr. Kaoma.

L. Cole Parke (LGBTQ & Gender Justice Researcher) has been working at the intersections of faith, gender, and sexuality as an activist, organizer, and scholar for the past ten years. Raised in a military family and a conservative Christian world, Cole studied theology at Texas Lutheran University, earned their Master’s in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, and traveled throughout the country advocating for LGBTQ justice at conservative religious schools and institutions as a part of the 2008 and 2012 Soulforce Equality Rides.

 

Fellows

FredClarksonFrederick Clarkson (senior fellow) has written about the Religious Right for three decades. His first article for The Public Eye was in 1994. He later joined the editorial board. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications from Mother Jones, Church & State, and Ms. Magazine to The Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com and Religion Dispatches. He has worked as an investigative editor at Planned Parenthood Federation of America; as Communications Director at the Institute for Democracy Studies; and co-founded the group blog, Talk to Action. He is the author, co-author or editor of several books including Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, and Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Read articles by Frederick Clarkson.

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Tope Fadiran (associate fellow) is working on issues of religious liberty and racial, gender, and LGBTQ justice. She is the founder and editor of Are Women Human?, a space for queer feminist and critical race analysis of religion and media. As a freelance writer she has contributed to The Guardian, Salon, Religion Dispatches, R.H. Reality Check, Ebony.com, and other outlets. Fadiran was a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Science Department at Harvard. Read articles by Tope.

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Abby Scher is a sociologist and writer who regularly contributes articles about the Right and politics to national publications.  She is former editorial director of Political Research Associates, where she also served as interim research director. PRA draws regularly on her expertise related to conservative women and antilabor initiatives by the economic Right.

 

 

 

Spencer Sunshine, Ph.D. (associate fellow) is a researcher and activist. His research interests include U.S. white nationalism, post-war fascism (particularly Third Position and European New Right politics), left/right crossover movements, and left-wing antisemitism. As an activist he has worked on issues regarding anti-fascism, police misconduct, prisoner rights, global trade agreements, environmental issues, and bisexual and queer politics. Read articles by Spencer. Follow him on Twitter at @transform6789.

 

Rachel Tabachnick new headshotRachel Tabachnick (associate fellow) researches, writes, and speaks about the impact of the Religious Right on policy and politics including civil rights, education, economics, environment, foreign policy, and labor.  She produces presentations and speaks on conservative infrastructure and the intersection of the Religious Right and other sectors of the Right, including “free market” think tanks. Rachel has been interviewed on NPR and other radio and print media across the nation on topics including the New Apostolic Reformation, Christian Zionism, and education privatization. Read articles by Rachel Tabachnick.

 

Board

DaniaWebDania Rajendra (board chair) is extension faculty at The Worker Institute at Cornell University and a philanthropic consultant. In addition to worker-organizing and philanthropy, she has worked for immigrant’s rights, in the arts, and on the 2004 election cycle. In the too few hours for what we will, Dania bakes elaborate layer cakes. After stints in the Twin Cities, Baltimore and Jackson, MS, she is home again in New York City.

aceyKatherine Acey (treasurer) served as the Executive Director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice for twenty-three years (1987 – 2010). She now holds the title of Executive Director Emeritus. Under her stewardship Astraea established the nation’s first Lesbian Writers Fund 1990, created the International Fund for Sexual Minorities in 1996 and in 2006 launched the U.S. Movement Building Initiative to support people of color LGBTQ organizations to collectively build their power and voice. Ms. Acey was the Associate Director of the North Star Fund and was involved in the Women’s Funding Network since its inception, serving as a founding board member and chair. Her current affiliations include: Board Member and Treasurer for both the International Network of Women’s Funds and Political Research Associates; Steering Committee, Public Foundations Project; Advisory Committee, Pipeline Project; and Advisory Committee, OSF LGBT Global Initiative. Ms. Acey has received many accolades for her leadership in building a multi-cultural women’s funding movement.

Lynette JacksonLynette Aria Jackson is a professor of African history and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a consultant and expert witness on African political asylum cases, and a long-time human rights, LGBTQ rights, anti-racist and transnational feminist activist and public educator. Dr. Jackson co-directs the Critical Diaspora Studies Initiative, and has previously held the positions of Associate Provost of International Affairs and Chair of the International Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her Africa-related research has focused on Southern African medical and urban social history, the colonial and postcolonial politics of gender and sexuality, comparative forced migration, refugee and diaspora studies, and the contemporary regional histories of major refugee producing countries in the Great Lakes/Central Africa and the Northeast Africa/Horn of Africa.  She is the author of Surfacing Up: Psychiatry and Social Order in Colonial Zimbabwe.  (Cornel University Press, 2005) and numerous other articles and book chapters. Dr. Jackson is committed to creation and dissemination of knowledge towards the building of human empathy and understanding, human rights and social justice.

Janet Jakobsen is a feminist educator whose research interests include ethics, religion, gender, and sexuality in American public life; social movements and feminist alliance politics; and global issues of economics and violence. She is the author of several books, including Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics. She has also worked as an organizer and policy analyst on issues that include environmental policy, homelessness and U.S. foreign policy.

 

Hamid - photoHamid Khan is the coordinator with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, a broad coalition whose primary goal is to raise public awareness, participation, mobilization, and action on police spying and surveillance and to sustain long-term intersectional movement building. Hamid immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1979.  As founder and former Executive Director of South Asian Network (1990 – 2010), Hamid helped create the first grassroots community-based organization in Los Angeles committed to informing and empowering thousands of South Asians in Southern California to act as agents of change in eliminating biases, discrimination and injustices. Hamid is also the founding member of the Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance, on the board of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and on the board of Generation 5, whose mission is to end child sexual abuse within 5 generations by advancing transformative justice.

M. Elena Letona, Ph.D. has close to 25 years of experience working in and serving the non-profit sector a volunteer, organizer, administrator, manager, and director. Currently, she is an organizational development consultant, facilitator and trainer. For 10 years, she directed Centro Presente, a member-driven, state-wide organization dedicated to achieving the self-determination of the Central and Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts. Ms. Letona has received numerous awards including the 2005 Barr Fellowship and the 2006 “Drylongso Award” which recognizes “outstanding individuals for their work challenging structural racism and working to build a just society.”

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Scot Nakagawa is Senior Partner of ChangeLab, an Asian American-led racial justice laboratory. Scot started his career in social justice at18, and has kept at it ever since. Along the way, Scot served as an organizer of the Coalition for Human Dignity, an Oregon-based organization conducting research and counter-organizing campaigns against vigilante white supremacist and religious right wing groups; Fight the Right Organizer of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Associate Director of the Western Prison Project (now the Partnership for Safety and Justice); Education Co-Coordinator of the Highlander Center; and Executive Director of Social Justice Fund Northwest, and of the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation.

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Mohan Sikka

 

 

 

Zeke Spier smallZeke Spier is the Executive Director at Social Justice Fund, where he has been working for eight years. Over that time, he has engaged hundreds of people as donors and helped to move millions of dollars to grassroots organizing in the Northwest. He is currently working to help other social justice foundations replicate Social Justice Fund’s Giving Project model. Zeke has experience both as a manager in the corporate sector and as a community organizer, working on issues from the just reconstruction of New Orleans to criminal justice issues in Philadelphia. Nationally, he sits on the board of Resource Generation in addition to Political Research Associates. In Seattle, he serves on the steering committee of Rainier Valley Corps, a new project to build the capacity of refugee and immigrant community-based organizations. Zeke was born in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys reminiscing about his cross-country bicycle trip on his 6-mile ride to work.

Carla PortraitCarla F. Wallace was born in Louisville, KY and grew up on a farm in Oldham County, and in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where her grandmother hid people fleeing the nazis under her floorboards. Carla’s activism includes anti-KKK work in response to cross burnings and klan on the police force, the Southern Organizing Committee’s environmental justice organizing, coordinating efforts to pass Louisville’s Hate Crimes Law, its motor voter law, mobilizing community against police abuse, and organize solidarity delegations to Nicaragua, Palestine, Colombia and Cuba. In 2005, Carla helped establish the Audre Lorde Chair in Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at University of Louisville. Carla has founded the Fairness Campaignand co-founded the national Showing Up for Racial Justice and its Louisville affiliate. Carla’s work has recently been included in the anthology of progressive change making, Toward Collective Liberation by Chris Crass.

Susan Wefald has been a social justice activist and funder for more than thirty years, consistently working at the intersection of race, class and gender to help build the capacity of organizations and movements to affect change. She is the Vice President of Programs at the Ms. Foundation for Women. Previously, Wefald served as the executive director of the Discount Foundation, a small foundation that supported worker organizing aimed at making economic opportunity a reality for all; it spent down its endowment and closed its doors in 2015. Before leading the Discount Foundation, Wefald was the executive vice president & COO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, and held other positions there, including vice president of programs. Wefald was also the staff director and lead organizer of the Naugatuck Valley Project in Waterbury, CT and the assistant director of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York City. In addition to PRA’s, Wefald serves on the boards of the Labor Institute, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and the Highlander Research and Education Center.

 

 

PRA’s Founder and President Emerita

Political Research Associates was founded by Jean V. Hardisty, a political scientist with a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and seven years’ teaching experience. She founded PRA (formerly Midwest Research) in 1981 in Chicago. She has been an activist for social justice issues for over 25 years and is a well-known speaker and widely published author, especially on women’s rights and civil rights. In 1999 her book, Mobilizing Resentment, Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, was published by Beacon Press. She has served on the boards of the Sister Fund, the Highlander Center, and the Women’s Community Cancer Project, and is the education consultant to the Ms. Foundation Democracy Funding Circle. She remained involved in the work of PRA until her death in March of 2015.

PRA Alumni

Chip Berlet web sizeChip Berlet is an investigative journalist and photographer, and has been documenting social and political movements that undermine human rights since the 1960s. Nevertheless, he claims both sanity and optimism. Chip’s byline has appeared in scores of publications, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Progressive, and Amnesty Now. He has been a guest expert on ABC’s Nightline, TheToday Show, NPR’s All Things Considered, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, and many other radio and television programs. From 1981 to 2010, he served as senior analyst at Political Research Associates. He currently coordinates the online Building Human Rights Network and Social Movement Study Network.