Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism

Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (CROAR)

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Joy BaileyJoy Bailey
Co-Program Coordinator
Joy Bailey is a national organizer for Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training as well as the co-program coordinator for Chicago ROAR, a regional program of Crossroads. She has been a Core/Organizer Trainer since 2008. Joy has her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Education and her Master’s in Socio-cultural Studies in Education, both from Western Michigan University (WMU). Formerly, Joy taught high school Spanish for six years in Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and also taught courses on race and racism in education at WMU. Although originally from North Dakota, Joy currently lives with her partner in Chicago, IL.

Derrick DawsonDerrick C. Dawson

Co-Program Coordinator
Derrick received a bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University. He was also a broadcaster and journalist in the United States Navy, where he served for over 10 years on ships in the Pacific fleet. Derrick Dawson is a member of the Antiracism Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, and served as its Co-Chair for several years. He is currently serving his second elected term as a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese. Derrick also serves on the Board of Directors of ReVive Center for Housing and Healing Homeless Shelter. Derrick is an Organizer/Trainer and former board member of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training and is currently Co-Program Coordinator for Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism, a regional program of Crossroads Antiracism & Training.

Karen ZeichKaren Ziech

Regional Organizer
Karen Ziech organizes and trains in the Chicago metropolitan area, where she serves as co-chair of Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (C-ROAR) and works to build a network of antiracist partners and allies. Since 2008, she’s been organizing and training to dismantle systemic racism as a member of the Anti-racism Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Karen spent 20 years as a professional volunteer, organizing women and parents around various issues. She moved into instructional design and training in the telecom industry where she worked for nearly 15 years. As an independent career consultant, she teaches laid-off employees job search skills, including resume writing, interviewing and negotiating skills. Karen loves spending time with her four children and 12 grandchildren, practicing yoga, reading and walking.


ericEric Bjorlin
Eric Bjorlin is an educator and organizer with a varied and diverse personal and professional history. He grew up in a town of 1200 people in rural Ohio before slowly transitioning to an urban setting. He spent three years as a HS math teacher, two at a public school in Chicago’s northern suburbs and one at a small, alternative-credit HS in Milwaukee, part of a year-long volunteer program. After a variety of shorter experiences, he joined the non-profit Active Transportation Alliance where he spent five years engaging schools in Chicagoland around walking- and biking-related issues. He has also worked as a camp counselor, recruiter, tutor, and life guard, and spent two months as part of a peace team in Palestine in 2008. eric also considers himself a writer and storyteller, having performed at various live lit shows around Chicago, and enjoys biking, theater, and being outdoors.

Nora GainesNora Gaines
Nora Gaines is an educator, essayist and organizer from the southern east coast with experience in public policy, adult education, grassroots community and labor organizing. She holds a Masters of Arts in African-American Studies specializing in social justice from Columbia University and a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology specializing in stratification and inequality from the University of Maryland. When not busy sticking it to “the man” Nora enjoys getting lost in fiction novels and on the streets of unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Seva Gandhi
Seva Gandhi, a Chicago native, has been in the field of community development as an organizer and facilitator locally and abroad, for the past 8 years. Currently she is the Director of Programs at the Institute of Cultural Affairs, a non-profit in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Trained as a social worker, Seva has spent the past few years organizing the accelerate77 project and the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network,connecting local neighborhood sustainability initiatives throughout the City of Chicago. Seva spends a lot of her time thinking about the pervasiveness of systemic social justice issues in our society, and the role of individuals and communities mitigating them. Seva’s interests involve international rural community development, increasing access to local, organic, and affordable food, and riding her bicycle.

AbbiAbbi Heimach
Abbi Heimach is a senior at McCormick Theological Seminary and will graduate in May 2016 with a Masters of Divinity. She also is a candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She serves on the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Leadership Team as an organizer for Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism. She has a BA in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Religious Studies from the College of Wooster. Some of her past work experience includes teaching elementary special education in Nashville, TN and working in the offices of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Peacemaking Program, and Young Adult Ministry at the Presbyterian Mission Agency in Louisville, KY. When not working or studying, Abbi loves to dance, bake, bike and spend hours having deep conversations in coffee shops.

Ryan Lents
Ryan Lents joined the leadership team of Chicago ROAR in 2017, but has long had a passion for social justice, racial justice, and community building. He currently serves as the Director of the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In this capacity, he works parishes and people of faith on a wide range of initiatives, including advocacy, justice education and programming, and fostering partnerships and collaboration between local, state, and national organizations working on issues of Catholic Social Teaching. Ryan also serves on the Racial Justice and Diversity Committee for the Catholic Volunteer Network Board of Directors. He is currently in graduate studies at Catholic Theological Union, seeking a Master of Arts in Justice Ministry. Ryan and his family reside in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

IvanIván A Pérez
I was born on the enchanted island of Puerto Rico and grew up and reside in Chicago. I arrived in the US when my parents, both teachers, joined the group of Latino educators raising the Bilingual Education program in the Chicago Public Schools. I am the proud partner of Victoria Alvarez — a civil engineer from Colombia and father of Nicolás — a rambunctious child of God and the person who motivates me to carry on with this work. As a bicultural, bilingual Latino male in the US, “living in the hyphen” has provided me unique insight into the destructive nature of racism as well as into justice issues and social responsibility. A lifetime spent in and around education circles and with educators has taught me the importance of creatively sharing my insights and experiences with others. As a result, I seek to positively impact the evolution of our society and of our hopeful witness to this world. A founding member of the antiracism ministries for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), I currently serve as co-chair, organizer and trainer for the Metropolitan Chicago Synod Antiracism Team. I have been associated with Crossroads, in various capacities, for nearly 25 years. I hold Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture and Master of Management degrees. In my “spare” time, I practice my vocation as a Technology Project Manager in the financial services industry.

SoukpridaSoukprida Phetmisy
Soukprida received her BFA in Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she focused on storytelling through sound, radio, poetry, voice and literary journalism. She was introduced to Crossroads through her work with Teach For America (TFA) – Chicago, where she has been for the last three years working to onboard newly accepted teachers to the program, lead the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) affinity group for the region, and serve on the national AAPI Resource Group Leadership Team as the Coalition Chair. Prior to TFA, she worked with arts-centered educational nonprofits such as 826CHI, the Center for Community Arts Partnerships, and Free Spirit Media, to provide arts programming, creative problem solving, and direct services to youth in Chicago’s North, Near West and West side neighborhoods. In addition to TFA, she sits on the Asian Pacific Islander American – Spoken Word and Poetry Summit planning committee as the Design and Outreach Chair. When not working, she enjoys riding her bike, sewing and learning choreography.

Debra RussellDebra Russell
Debra joined Crossroads in September 1998. She coordinates training events, is responsible for financial administration, and is on Crossroads Leadership Team. Debra is also a member of the antiracism team in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She and Michael, her life partner of more than 25 years, are parents of two sons and a daughter. Debra fantasizes about using her spare time in community theater, filming documentaries, and creating a stand-up comedy act, but would be satisfied to read the stack of books near her bedside, weed her flower garden and finish a quilt.

Rev. Michael P. RussellMichael P. Russell
Michael P. Russell has been involved with transforming communities and the lives of its residents for most of his life. Currently the pastor of a church in Country Club Hills, IL, he spent many years doing community organizing with Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc as a Neighborhood Director in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood. Michael is president of SOUL, a grassroots coalition of organizations focused on economic justice, leadership training and political responsibility in Chicago’s Southland. Michael has a B.A. in Communication/Philosophy from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, a Masters of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and has completed post graduate studies at the Keller Graduate School of Business Management in Chicago IL. Michael has been active with Crossroads for more than 15 years. He is partner of Debra, father of three adult children and “Big Papa” to his grandson. They are inspiration for his anti-racism work.

Mary Pat MartinMary Pat Martin
Mary Pat Martin has been an Early Childhood Education professional with experience as a director of an Early Childhood Program. She was a professor at Oakton Community College in Illinois, and a member of the Oakton antiracism team. She has an M.A. in Early Childhood and a Masters in Education. Mary Pat has also been an elementary and preschool teacher and an early childhood education consultant in the Chicago area. She has done extensive consulting and training in culturally relevant and anti-bias education. Mary Pat has been associated with Crossroads for more than 20 years.

TerriTerry A. Solomon
Terry is a co-founder and executive director of the African American Family Research Institute, created to promote the social and economic well­being of African-American families and children by conducting research, facilitating an exchange of information, and by providing support and technical assistance to agencies, providers, and consumers at all levels. Prior to joining the Research Institute, Solomon was the founding executive director of the Illinois African-American Family Commission, where she was responsible for developing public policy and consulting with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and other state agencies on legislation affecting the African-American community. Solomon was project director at Habilitative Systems, Inc., Austin Infant Mortality Network, where she managed, developed and implemented maternal and child health programs. She grew up in the Chicago area, in a family grounded in cultural, family and spiritual values. Dedicated to improving the quality of life of communities through family-centered public policy and culturally sensitive programs, Solomon developed several programs for pregnant and parenting clients and implemented a community-based child abuse prevention program. She is recognized as an authority in her field and is often called upon to speak on issues related to health, infant mortality, child abuse prevention, kinship foster care, and other issues affecting African-American communities and families in general. She has appeared on both radio and television in the Chicago area including, Channel 5, WVON and WGCI. Terry is past president of the Chicago Association of Black Social Workers; the School of Public Health, Alumni Association at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition. She has served as the Corresponding Secretary for the National Association of Black Social Workers, and is serving on the Illinois Child Welfare Advisory Committee and Child Welfare League of America National Kinship Care Advisory Committee. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and National Hook-up of Black Women.

Anne StewartAnne Stewart
Anne Stewart has worked as an Organizer/Trainer for Crossroads since 1992. She believes that her life experience has prepared her to focus on systemic racism. That experience includes: growing up in Mississippi, teaching high school English on Chicago’s South and West Sides, counseling individuals and couples, teaching and social work in an Early Childhood setting, and parenting and grand-parenting African Americans.

Arij Mikati
Arij is originally from Lebanon, but thinks of Minnesota as home. She was born the daughter of a diversity organizer, and her mother serves as her greatest mentor and inspiration for her anti-racism work. She has her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Theater from the University of Minnesota as well as her Master’s in Bilingual Education from the University of North Carolina. Arij formerly taught in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools for two years. She has coached and developed bilingual Teach For America teachers in Chicago for three years. Currently, she is a director of teacher support at OneGoal, a nonprofit that focuses on college graduation for first-generation college students. In her spare time, Arij enjoys exploring the Chicago arts scene, improv comedy, traveling, and playing her ukulele.

Stacy Williams is a member of the Leadership Team of Chicago ROAR, a regional program of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training. Stacy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cross-Cultural Sociology and a Professional Educator License with an emphasis in Social Justice and ELL Instruction from Antioch University in Santa Barbara, CA. Stacy has also studied community development in Nairobi, Kenya where she worked as a literacy teacher among the Masai people. She has also worked as an elementary teacher teaching English in Mexico City, Mexico.  Stacy has brought her passion for social justice to bear on her work in the field of education since 1998, working primarily in urban settings from preschool to adults, as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and district leader. Stacy originally is from California and now resides in Chicago, IL with her spouse, Reggie Williams, and their two children. Stacy loves to travel, explore the outdoors, and spend time with her family.