Tarso Luís Ramos (Executive Director) has been investigating and challenging the U.S. Right for 25 years. Under his leadership, PRA has launched major initiatives on Islamophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, authoritarianism, White nationalism and the Alt Right, and other emerging threats to democracy. He collaborates closely with immigrant and racial justice groups, social justice feminists, LGBTQ advocates, and worker organizations to provide analysis and strategic advice. Ramos is a sought-after public speaker and the author of numerous articles and reports. Before joining PRA in 2006, Ramos served as founding director of Western States Center’s racial justice program, which resists racist public policy initiatives and supports the base-building work of progressive people of color-led organizations. As director of the Wise Use Public Exposure Project, he monitored the Right’s anti-union and anti-environmental campaigns. Ramos is currently an activist in residence at the Barnard Center for the Study of Women and a Rockwood Leadership Institute National Yearlong Fellow for 2017-2018.
Sarah 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.
Frederick Clarkson (Senior Research Analyst) 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.
Cloee Cooper (Research Analyst) holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism, specializing in social justice and investigative reporting. Cloee tracked, monitored and organized against anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white nationalism with the Center for New Community from 2009-2012. Her work can be seen at Chicago’s local PBS affiliate – WTTW, Alternet, Social Justice News Nexus, Imagine2050, Hard Crackers and in a Chicago Tribune investigation. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of Hard Crackers, a journal documenting the everyday life of those striving to overturn the mess we are in.
Steven Gardiner (Senior Research Analyst) started researching and writing in opposition to the politics of bigotry, violence, and authoritarianism in the early 1990s. Working for the Portland, Oregon-based Coalition for Human Dignity (CHD), he did some of the first analyses of the Religious Right in the Northwest and his work supported the years-long fight against anti-LGBTQ ballot measures of the Oregon Citizens Alliance. As editor of CHD’s newsletter, The Dignity Report, and principal writer and analyst on a series of articles and reports he helped to shape understanding and arm the resistance to antisemitism, Holocaust denial, the Patriot and militia movements, anti-immigrant xenophobia and anti-LGBTQ politics. In 2004 Gardiner received a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Cornell University for his work on military masculinity and conscientious objection in the German military. Since earning his doctorate, he has taught more than twenty different courses as eight universities in the United States, Pakistan, and the UAE. Selected publications include “In the Shadow of Service: Veteran Masculinity and Civil-Military Disjuncture in the United States” (North American Dialogue, 2013), “Behold the Man: Heroic Masochism, Militant Christianity, and Mel Gibson’s Passion” (Cultural Analysis, 2013), and “White Nationalism Revisited: Demographic Dystopia and White Identity Politics (Journal of Hate Studies, 2006).
Heron Greenesmith (Senior Research Analyst) has worked in LGBTQ advocacy for over a decade with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, and the National LGBTQ Task Force. They specialize in advocacy for bisexual and pansexual people. Heron is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and American University, Washington College of Law. Heron is admitted to the New York and Massachusetts bars. They are a board member of the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association, a former Rockwood Leadership Institute Fellow, and a returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
Gabriel Joffe (Program Coordinator) supports all departments at PRA, in particular the Research and Communications departments. They coordinate print and web production of PRA’s research and manages the internship program. Gabriel joins PRA with a background in media/publishing and social justice organizing, particularly around LGBTQ justice. Contact Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathryn Joyce (The 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.
Rev. Dr. Kapya John Kaoma (Senior Research Analyst) 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.
Isabelle H. Leighton (Development Director) comes to PRA with 15 years of strategic fundraising and nonprofit management experience with a strong emphasis on social, immigrant, and economic justice. Most recently, Isabelle was founding director of Equality Fund, a philanthropic advocacy project launched by Asian Americans for Equality to address the growing need for intergenerational, cross-class, and multi-ethnic forums to combat inequality in NYC. Through her various positions, Isabelle has created successful strategies and campaigns which have raised over $20 million through engagement with diverse audiences including youth, seniors, corporate employees, local businesses, educators, film and media makers, foundations, government officials, and private philanthropists.
Greeley O’Connor (Communications Director) is a writer and strategist who brings more than 15 years of experience helping non-profit organizations and progressive candidates. Her primary focus has been creating feminist civic spaces and advancing economic justice and reproductive freedom. At PRA, Greeley works to maximize the impact of the organization’s research, publications, and other core activities. For media inquiries or other communications requests, contact Greeley at email@example.com.
Cole Parke (Research Analyst), studied theology at Texas Lutheran University, earned their Master’s in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, and has been working at the intersections of faith, gender, and sexuality as an activist, organizer, and scholar for more than a decade. Their research and writing examines the infrastructure, mechanisms, strategies, and effects of the Religious Right on LGBTQ people and reproductive rights, both domestically and internationally, always with an eye toward collective liberation. Read articles by Cole Parke.
Renee Vallejo (Development Coordinator) supports the development director in strategic fundraising, marketing and public relations. They join PRA with a demonstrated history in non profit support, LGBTQ justice, community engagement, education and family advocacy.
Zeina Zaatari, PhD (Research Director) brings more than 15 years of extensive experience in global feminist analysis and movements and strong skills in research and program development and management. Zeina earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis in Feminist Theory from the University of California at Davis. Immediately prior to joining PRA, Zeina served as a consultant for different projects including with the Women’s Refugee Commission. She trains junior faculty from Arab states in research design, implementation, and analysis and acts as Associate Editor, Middle East and Europe, for the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. She is a former Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Global Fund for Women. Her recent publications include, “Social Movements and Revolution” in A Companion to the Anthropology of the Middle East, UK: Wiley-Blackwell and “In the Belly of the Beast: Struggling for Non-Violent Belonging” in Arab and Arab American Feminisms. Zeina currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, as an Advisor to the Women Human Rights Defenders MENA Coalition, and is the Secretary of the Board for the Association for Women’s Rights in Development.
Dania 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.
Paulina Helm-Hernandez is a queer femme artist, trainer, political organizer, strategist & trouble-maker-at-large from Veracrúz, Mexico. This Chicana grew up in rural North Carolina, and is currently growing roots in Atlanta, GA. She has been the Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) for 10 years, having joined the staff after coordinating the Southern regional youth activism program at the Highlander Research & Education Center for over 4 years. Paulina has a background in farm worker and immigrant / refugee rights organizing, cultural work, youth organizing, anti-violence work, and liberation work that centers people most affected by violence, poverty, war and racism. Paulinacurrently sits on the Board of Directors of the GA Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Political Research Associates, the Vision and Strategies Council of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, and is always exploring ways to deepen political unity with people willing to fight and organize for collective liberation.
Lynette 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.
Hamid 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.
Jenny Levison has worked for over 20 years at the nexus of the arts, media, justice, and equity. As a creative strategist and writer for progressive organizations, she specializes in communications, organizational development, fundraising, PR, and arts/activism. Currently the Vice President of Marketing & Development at Center for Social Inclusion, Jenny provides development, marketing, and communications leadership, and leads organizations through communications and institutional change processes to center racial equity. As a writer, filmmaker, theater artist, and on-the-ground activist, Jenny has worked in and written about the fields of anti-South African apartheid, reproductive rights and gender justice, labor organizing and economic justice, immigrant rights, racial equity, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, foster care, progressive Jewish activism, and counter-white supremacy. She is a proud member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Artists and Cultural Workers Council. She grows a prolific garden and cooks a lot of soup.
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.
Mohan Sikka has had a non-profit career spanning two decades, working for and with social change organizations, campaigns and initiatives. At heart his organizational development work is about supporting mission-driven groups and leaders align their efforts with a compelling vision for change. For over a decade he worked as senior staff at Community Resource Exchange, NYC’s largest non-profit consulting firm focused on anti-poverty groups. He continues an affiliate relationship with several regional and national consulting teams, such as RoadMap, that are dedicated to advancing the power and effectiveness of social justice organizations. Mohan is also an award-winning writer.
Zeke 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 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.
Chip 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.