The Member of the Month initiative showcases the outstanding contributions of ACT's community leaders. ACT's members are as diverse as the African continent from which they come. They are at the heart of this organization. They are the reason why ACT fights everyday for language access, economic opportunity, and a fair chance for a better tomorrow.
Click here to check out the Member of the Month profiles!
Amaha Kassa is ACT’s founder and Executive Director. Amaha is an Ethiopian immigrant with 22 years of professional experience as a labor and community organizer, nonprofit director, and social entrepreneur. For nine years, Amaha directed East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a workers’ rights nonprofit in Oakland, California, growing it from a startup to one of the leading organizations in its field. Prior to launching ACT, Amaha earned his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. In 2012, Amaha launched ACT with the support of a Black Male Achievement Fellowship from Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations. Since then, ACT has grown into a membership organization with chapters in New York and D.C., run several successful policy campaigns, and emerged as a key voice on African immigrant issues.
Akinde Kodjo-Sanogo is Lead Community Organizer with ACT. Akinde brings to ACT extensive experience with New York’s African immigrant communities. For over a decade, Akinde served as an outreach worker for a child development project affiliated with New York University, which Akinde first encountered as a parent leader. Akinde is active in the Ivorian community, with African women’s organizations, and with her religious community, which is one of the largest African mosques in New York City. Akinde is fluent in five languages, including English, French, and Mandingo.
Behailu Weldeyohannes is a Community Organizer with ACT in the D.C. metro area. Before joining ACT, Behailu worked for UNITE HERE Local 23 as an Immigration Coordinator, helping African immigrants in D.C. access immigration services. Behailu was a fellow with New Markets Lab where he conducted policy research on Africa. He was also a Special Projects and Program intern with DC Government Mayor's Office on African Affairs. While in Ethiopia, Behailu was a law lecturer and worked to ensure the accessibility of legal aid service to vulnerable communities, such as women and prisoners. Behailu is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center where he was a Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa Fellow. Behailu is fluent in Amharic and also speaks Afan Oromo.
Karina Edouard serves as ACT’s AmeriCorps volunteer where she focuses on communications outreach. Prior to joining ACT, Karina interned at her local congressman’s office and with various government agencies in the New York Metropolitan area. For two years, Karina worked as the International Studies Department Assistant at Manhattanville College. In this role, she organized campus-wide events, oversaw the development of the department’s biannual newsletter, and helped create the department’s new degree minor. She received her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies, Economics, and French from Manhattanville College, where she graduated magna cum laude. In 2012, she was awarded the Newman Civic Fellowship Award for her commitment to public service. Karina is a second generation Haitian immigrant.
Ojiugo Uzoma is ACT’s Program Manager. Ojiugo is an organizer with 12 years of experience building power in disenfranchised communities. She began her activism as a student at Washington University, where in addition to leading anti-war efforts, she co-founded the Student-Worker Alliance. Since then, she has worked on campaigns with the Communications Workers’ of America, the Working Families Party, and SEIU Local 32BJ. In addition, Ojiugo has organized parents around education issues with the Industrial Areas Foundation. Ojiugo is active in grassroots organizations in her community and has led political education for the New York City chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Ojiugo is a Nigerian immigrant, and is passionate about developing political power among African immigrants.
Sadatu Mamah-Trawill is a Community Organizer with ACT. Sadatu has over 15 years of experience fighting for social justice in New York. While working at a non-union hotel in New York, Sadatu helped organize her co-workers into Hotel Trade Council Local 6, UNITE HERE. Sadatu later joined Local 6 as a professional Organizer. Sadatu continued her organizing with the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU), where she served as Lead Organizer/Secretary Treasurer for Local 2006. While at RWDSU, Sadatu helped create the Retail Action Project (RAP), an immigrant worker organizing initiative, and served as RAP's Lead Organizer. Over the course of her career, Sadatu has helped thousands of workers to organize and won back millions of dollars in unpaid wage claims. Sadatu is an immigrant from Ghana and is fluent in Hausa.
Board of Directors
Kolu Zigbi is ACT’s President. Kolu is the Program Director for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, and has 14 years of experience funding grassroots organizations engaged in organizing and advocacy. Prior to philanthropy, Kolu worked for nearly a decade as an affordable housing advocate and organizer in New York City. Kolu has a degree in Rural Development Studies with a focus on West Africa from Stanford University, studied in the Master’s program in City and Regional Planning at Cornell University, and is currently researching food systems, urbanization, and globalization as a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Kolu’s commitment to the African diaspora is inspired by her grandfather, a Liberian rice farmer and traditional town chief.
Ilana Berger is ACT’s Secretary. Ilana is a community organizer and an independent consultant to grassroots organizations. Ilana brings to ACT over 16 years of experience leading membership organizations in New York, San Francisco and Miami. For five years, Ilana directed the work of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), one of Brooklyn’s most effective community organizations. Ilana is the daughter of Jewish immigrants and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Ilana has also served on the Board of Directors of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and New York Jobs with Justice.
Naomi Abraham is ACT's Treasurer. Currently the Director of Communications at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Naomi has more than 10 years of experience working in various roles including as a multimedia communications strategist and a program officer managing a multimillion-dollar immigrant civic engagement fund. In 2010, she transitioned from working in philanthropy and non-profit programming to communications because of her ardent belief in the power of storytelling and messaging for social change. Since then Naomi has had the privilege of consulting with various human rights organizations around the world and working as a communications strategist with groups such as Policy Link, the UN Population Fund, and Video Volunteers. She has also worked as a freelance journalist publishing articles on human rights and social issues for which she was awarded a fellowship with the International Center for Journalists to report on human rights abuses in Uganda and Kenya. She holds graduate degrees in international relations and journalism, respectively, from City University of New York and Columbia University. Naomi is an Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrant.
Afua Atta-Mensah is a Board Member. She is the Director of Litigation at the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center. Afua received her Bachelors from Trinity College, where she was a Presidential Fellow, and her law degree from Fordham University School of Law, where she was a Stein Scholar. Prior to joining the Urban Justice Center, Afua was a staff attorney in The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, the Policy Director at the Center for Working Families, and was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship that sponsored her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys-Accra, Ghana. Afua has also worked as an adviser to community based organizations throughout New York City and has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham Law. Afua is a Ghanaian-American and a native of The Bronx.
Sekou Siby is a Board Member. Sekou is Deputy Director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers- United (ROC United), a national organization committed to improving wages and working conditions for the nation's restaurant workforce. Sekou was a French teacher in his native Côte d'Ivoire, and worked at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center until September 11, 2001. Sekou was a founding member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, where he served as Community Organizer, Co-Director, and Executive Director prior to joining ROC United in 2012. At ROC NY, Sekou led successful campaigns that improved conditions for hundreds of restaurant workers. At ROC United, Sekou oversees organizational finances and management as well as several local affiliates.
Juanita Lewis is a Board Member. Juanita was born and raised in the Sierra Leonean community in Saint Paul, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in History and Political Science, and earned her M.A. in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 2004 Juanita began her work as a community organizer with the Minnesota chapter of ACORN. She has worked on numerous electoral campaigns at the city, state and federal level. Juanita worked as a field organizer, campaign manager and fundraiser. She currently is the Lead Westchester Organizer for Community Voices Heard. Community Voices Heard is a statewide community organizing group focusing on housing and job creation for low-income communities.