// Team + Board
Meet Our Team
We are a team of narrative practitioners who have backgrounds in art, social justice, organizing, research, philanthropy, and more. We’re deep listeners who are committed to social justice. We take on ambitious projects and approach them with tenacity and curiosity.
Elliot is a social scientist, mixed-methods researcher, and PhD candidate at the University of Arizona School of Sociology. Their research considers economies of punishment, racialized inequality, digital technologies, and epistemology through the lenses of Black Feminist and postcolonial theory. Elliot has more than a decade of professional experience in project management, academic and applied research, and business analysis. Prior to joining Narrative Initiative, they served as the lead delivery manager for the current iteration of HealthCare.gov and implemented the core Marketplace functionality that determines eligibility for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to anti-racist organizing around disability justice and queer/trans liberation, Elliot enjoys biking long distances, making things with their hands, and listening to podcasts about almost anything. They live in Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, on the traditional lands of the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
Emi is the Network Weaver at Narrative Initiative. She connects and supports organizers and practitioners in order to create, cultivate, and ensure meaningful collaborations that strengthen the narrative change ecosystem.
Emi brings 20+ years of experience as a community organizer, educator, researcher, and editor. She believes that relationships of trust are the most important political tools we have, and tries to live and work in ways that reflect that belief.
Francesca is an advocate and communications strategist bringing 20 years of experience in understanding the dynamic human ecosystems that house stakeholders, messaging, research, creative development, community building and policy action. She joins the Narrative Initiative as a Landscape & Assessment Lead where she will focus on making narrative change strategies easier and more effective.
A champion for ocean conservation, Francesca was instrumental in designing & implementing marine protected areas (MPAs) along the California coast as a primary chair in the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The former Director of Strategic Initiatives at NRDC, Francesca has been successful in the passage of many local & national policies by spurring the creation of diverse coalitions to include & amplify voices from otherwise underrepresented cultures.
Francesca is a founding board member of Trailmixer.org, a non-profit that works to create safe, inclusive access and educational outdoor experiences for LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, Francesca sits on the federal Advisory Council for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and serves as Program Chair for Greater Farallones Association.
Jennifer Baker is the Senior Program Manager for Author Support at Narrative Initiative. She worked in book publishing for 20 years in production, editorial, media and project management across genres in trade and academia for various publishers, and as a freelancer. She is also the creator & host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast and a faculty member of the MFA program in creative nonfiction at Bay Path University. In 2019, Jennifer was named Publishers Weekly Superstar for her contributions to inclusion and representation in publishing. Jennifer previously volunteered as a social media manager and event coordinator with organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and I, Too Arts Collective, and conducts presentations/lectures on topics of inclusion, the craft of writing/editing, podcasting, and the inner-workings of the publishing industry. Her writing and criticism has appeared in various print and online publications.
Malkia Devich Cyril is a writer, public speaker and award winning activist on issues of digital rights, narrative power, Black liberation and collective grief best known for spearheading national grassroots efforts of the Net Neutrality campaign and framing it as a racial justice issue. Malkia is the founding and former executive director of MediaJustice — a national hub boldly advancing racial justice, rights and dignity in a digital age. After more than 20 years of media justice leadership, Devich Cyril is now the Founder-in-Residence at Media Justice, a Leading Edge Fellow, and a Strategist-in-Residence at the Narrative Initiative exploring public narratives on grief and race. Devich Cyril has featured in Outfoxed (2004), Miss Representation (2011), 13TH (2016), and Free For All: Inside the Public Library (2020). Since 2021, Malkia has co-designed the Transformative Movements Project examining structural approaches to collective healing with movement leaders, and is now the Principal at CultureJedi Consulting.
Megan is a communications strategist with over fifteen years experience in the United States and Southern Africa.
With both editorial and graphic design experience, Megan has worked to help strengthen organizational sustainability, infrastructure and commitment to racial, environmental and gender justice. She has worked with a wide range of organizations, philanthropists and activists including PhytoTrade Africa, Hedgebrook: Women Authoring Change, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, Unbound Philanthropy and Race Forward.
Megan received her Bachelor of Arts in Women's and Gender Studies and Mathematics from Sonoma State University and Master of Arts from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Her writing has been published by Colorlines, alternet.org and the New York Times.
Nadia Awad is an interdisciplinary artist and writer, whose work focuses on narrative and justice.
For over fifteen years, she has produced media on the lives of LGBT, HIV-affected, and MENA communities. She contributed 20 oral histories, many with Muslim and Arabic-speaking narrators, for the New York Trans Oral History Project, and created photographs and videos on trans athletes, HIV criminalization, and healthcare access for Lambda Legal. Nadia has written about film, memory, and power for The New Inquiry, The Journal of Palestine Studies, and Camera Obscura. Two forthcoming scholarly works, Terrorism in American Memory and a study on Middle Eastern asylum seekers, will feature her art.
Nadia received a B.A. from York University. She lives in New York with her partner, and an ever-expanding collection of succulents.
Natalie comes to narrative practice by way of the law. As a lawyer she became interested in how the interplay between law and culture can advance or hinder social and political movements. At Narrative Initiative, she has contributed to our strategy for work at the intersection of popular action and democracy narratives. In her role as Director of Development she focuses on program strategy and partner and funder relationships.
Natalie earned a Master’s at the Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights at the University of Geneva, and holds a J.D. from Cardozo School of Law and B.A. in Latin American Studies from Brown University.
Nick is a social media creative with a true passion for social justice and equity.
For the last three years, he has created content that is innovative, meaningful, and research-driven for brands and organizations. Prior to Narrative Initiative, Nick was the Art Director and Graphic Designer for the University of Oregon’s Sexual Health Services, a movement dedicated to safer sex supplies and wellness resources for the community. He was able to produce a comprehensive campaign that contained merchandise, print materials, and social content for the movement.
Nick studied Graphic Design and Art Direction at the University of Oregon, and graduated with a B.S. in Advertising and Business Administration.
Nikesha Elise Williams joins Narrative Initiative as the Co-Editor of Word Force. She is a two-time Emmy award winning producer, an award-winning author, and producer and host of the Black & Published podcast. Her latest novel, Beyond Bourbon Street, was awarded Best Fiction by the Black Caucus of African-American Librarians in the 2021 Self-Published eBook Literary Awards. It also received the 2020 Outstanding Book Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Nikesha’s debut novel Four Women received the 2018 NABJ Outstanding Literary Work Award and the Florida Authors and Publisher’s Association President’s Award for Adult Contemporary/Literary Fiction. Nikesha is a Chicago native. She attended The Florida State University where she graduated with a B.S. in Communication: Mass Media Studies and Honors English Creative Writing. Nikesha writes full time with bylines in The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and VOX. She lives in Florida with her family.
Orion Camero is a queer Filipinx multi-medium artist, coalition-builder and community advocate focused on nurturing the conditions for better worlds. Across more than a decade, their work has spanned the lenses local to global: ranging from organizing to protecting and restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways in their hometown of Stockton, to mobilizing narrative interventions in global solidarity with grassroots communities to influence policy at the United Nations climate talks. For their efforts, Orion has been a 2015 Brower Youth Award winner for the New Leaders Initiative, a 2017-2018 Spiritual Ecology Fellow with the Kalliopeia Foundation, and most recently was a creative documenter/participant of ArtPlace America's "Local Control, Local Fields" Initiative in 2020 to advance the field of creative placemaking in the Central Valley of California.
With an embodied commitment to personal and political study of story, Orion holds leadership roles at the Center for Babaylan Studies, an ancestral organization working to bridge connections between the Philippine diaspora and indigenous kin, and the Beehive Design Collective, a globally renowned arts activist group. He has previously been a program designer and executive director of national youth-led climate justice organization SustainUS, a vital staff facilitator and gallery guide for the Oakland Museum of California's anti-racist equity process, and an intersectional justice organizer/educator for the Sierra Student Coalition. Orion believes that what nurtures the heart of collective liberation are the ingredients of inter-identity solidarity, cross-cultural connection and exponential collaboration.
They currently call Oakland, the traditional lands of the Lisjan Ohlone people, home. Some of their broader interests include experimental theater/improv, epic stories with ensemble casts, attuning to somatic and sensory experiences, and interdisciplinary dreaming.
Rachana Sukhadia has a passion for creative community building. Her academic background in Human Development and Family Studies specializing in grief and loss counseling for hospitalized children, shapes how she engages with individuals on a deeper, more compassionate level. Rachana has an unconventional background that spans working with indigenous artisans in India, working as a Costume Designer in Hollywood and working with local fiber artists in her current North Carolina community in Durham. As the People and Culture Program Manager at Narrative Initiative, she enjoys providing a nurturing and inclusive work culture for the entire team. When she’s not at work, you can find her harvesting plants and making pigments from her dye garden and going on long walks by the river with her pup, Chikoo!
Rachel is an artist, researcher, and organizer using all three of those lenses to illustrate what is possible and to build patterns for broad, mutual survival.
In 2011, Rachel founded Upwell. (The ocean was our client.) As executive director, she led the development of Big Listening practices, coupled with campaigning across a distributed network of influencers. The project aggregated power for movements and immediately redistributed that power through networks. Upwell's groundbreaking narrative work was grounded in both offline community organizing and online community management.
Recent appointments include an arts residency at Monson Arts, Creative Dissent Fellow at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Arts & Culture for Economic Development Residency at PolicyLink, and Growth Hacking Fellow at the Energy Foundation.
Rachel holds an MFA-Social Practice from the California College of the Arts, a B. Phil in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University, and completed coursework for an MA in Arts Policy & Administration at Ohio State.
Rinku is a writer and social justice strategist. She is formerly the Executive Director of Race Forward and was Publisher of their award-winning news site Colorlines. Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes of recent years, including Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal,” resulting in the Associated Press, USA Today, LA Times, and many more outlets changing their practice. She was also the architect of the Shattered Families report, which identified the number of kids in foster care whose parents had been deported.
Her books Stir it Up and The Accidental American theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems. As a consultant, Rinku has worked on narrative and political strategy with numerous organizations and foundations, including PolicyLink, the ACLU and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She serves on numerous boards, including the Women’s March, where she is Co-President and the Foundation for National Progress, publisher of Mother Jones magazine.
Shannon is an operations specialist with a background in the service industry and healthcare. She believes in values-driven operations that center people and their experiences. As an Operations Project Manager, Shannon enjoys designing processes and systems that are user-friendly, efficient, and beautiful.
Shannon lives in Arlington, Virginia with her partner, dog, and extended family. She enjoys graphic design, karaoke, crossword puzzles, and math.
Shiyam Galyon is a narrative strategist from Houston, Texas. Her work focuses on democracy and authoritarianism within the United States, at the U.S. border, and beyond our borders. Shiyam graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and spent the majority of the 2010's working to support Syrian civil society's pursuit of democracy on the international stage, and brings this knowledge of cross-cultural and cross-theater communication to Narrative Initiative's content team.
Yokebed is the Executive Administrative Assistant and an advocate with a passion for birth justice for women of color. She believes in creating an atmosphere that is conducive to serving, educating, and excelling in all areas of life. By day, her organizational and strategic skills flourish, and by night - or the wee hours of the morning - she helps bring babies earthside. Yokebed has a knack for keeping a company organized, managed, and functioning while taking joy in the minute details. Known as the "Queen of Multitasking" in her hometown, Yokebed is a wife and mother of six who homeschools and homesteads.
Our Advisory Board
Our advisory board is a diverse group working in advocacy, storytelling, strategic communications, nonprofit leadership, law, academics and other fields.
Alvin is the program director of the equality team of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, overseeing grantmaking related to racial justice and racial narratives. He is a progressive racial justice thinker, writer, and strategist whose work supports a new generation of ideas and organizations to explore the intersection of human rights, racial justice, cross-movement building, and gender equity.
Eric is principal at Brownbridge Strategies, a firm providing comprehensive communications and fundraising strategies for progressive organizations and movements. Previously, Eric was the communications director for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, where he created strategies for the foundation’s communications and worked closely with grantees to design and implement communications strategies in global development, reproductive health, environment, education, philanthropy, and the performing arts.
Jeff is the vice president for Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward. A celebrated journalist and music critic on hip hop music and culture, his 2005 book, Can't Stop Won't Stop, won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award. His writings have appeared in publications such as URB, San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, Vibe, Spin, The Nation, and Mother Jones. Jeff was previously the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts + Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University.
As the founder and president of Spitfire Strategies, Kristen has extensive experience conceiving, implementing and managing smart programs that create lasting social change. She has helped hundreds of nonprofits and foundations develop winning communication and campaign strategies to spur action around some of today’s most pressing problems and critical issues ranging from restoring the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill to protecting Americans’ online privacy rights to making sure all kids have access to a good education, nutritious food and quality health care.
Liz is a seasoned cultural producer, change-maker, and strategist who has spent her career at the nexus of film and social impact. She is an independent consultant and co-founder of The Culture Group. Previously she served as executive director of FilmAid; advisor to HBO Films; executive vice president of programming and marketing at Sundance Channel, and co-founder and executive vice president of marketing for Fine Line Features. She was a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.