Dr. Erica Southerland
Initiative honors the late Congressman John R. Lewis
(Black PR Wire) Washington, D.C. – The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF’s) National Racial Equity Initiative for Social Justice (NREI) fellowship program this month is marking one year of advancing social justice and racial equity and welcoming four new Congressman John R. Lewis Social Justice Policy Fellows.
CBCF launched NREI in June of 2020 in response to the protests of police killings of unarmed Black Americans and the historically unlevel playing field for minorities. NREI’s mission is to combat systemic injustice and advance racial equity, human rights, education, and community and economic development opportunities for the Black community. In July 2020, the fellowship program was renamed to honor the late Congressman John R. Lewis, a leader in the U.S. Congress and the fight for racial equity. The John R. Lewis Social Justice Fellowship is designed to give young Black leaders the opportunity to work in Congress, and fellows are placed with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for 12 months.
“We are extremely proud of NREI and the John R. Lewis Social Justice Fellowship program, which has grown to include seven fellows over the past year,” said CBCF President and CEO Tonya Veasey. “Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to fighting for social justice. We can think of no better way to honor the anniversary of his passing than by continuing his work and empowering the next generation of leaders. We welcome this new class of fellows, who embody Congressman Lewis’ passion and commitment to the greater good.”
The Congressman John R. Lewis Social Justice Fellows are:
- Eliazar Chacha, Fellowship Class of 2021, Office of Rep. Kweisi Mfume: Chacha is an Oakland native, attorney and former CBCF Emerging Leaders intern who has substantial experience working on criminal justice reform, election law, and civil rights issues. Chacha’s research focuses on how democratizing police departments can improve officer interactions with members of the Black community. Chacha’s work has received honors and recognition from the D.C. Bar, the American Bar Association and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
- Sianay Chase Clifford, Fellowship Class of 2020, Office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley: A Burlington, Vermont native, Clifford is a macro social worker whose work focuses on how racism is embedded into the policies of public and private institutions, and how those institutions can transition from causing harm to reducing harm and eradicating the causes of harm, specifically racism and anti-Blackness. Most recently, she worked as a financial counselor in Roxbury, Massachusetts where she researched how low-income individuals and families interact with state and federal income support services, and how perverse incentives in the welfare system affect Black residents’ physical, mental and financial health.
- Haleigh Hoskins, Fellowship Class of 2021, Office of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: A Chicago resident, Hoskins is an equity-focused professional who focuses on economic development and criminal justice reform. Hoskins previously worked in municipal government, focusing her efforts on the intersectionality of race and healthcare and on community outreach to underserved areas. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, her research supported a citywide mask distribution effort to assist Black and Brown communities most affected by COVID-19 in Chicago.
- Dennis Johnson, Fellowship Class of 2020, Office of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman: Johnson is a Chicago native and a career pathway specialist who focuses on community and student development. He is one of the founders of the Black Youth Project and member of The Peace Exchange: Chicago-Asia. His work has been centered around student development issues regarding systemic and structural oppression toward minority youth and education policy.
- Jared Lewis, Fellowship Class of 2020, Office of Rep. Barbara Lee: A Chicago native, Lewis works at the intersection of economic development, small business, public policy and social enterprise. He is formerly a Global Program Manager for Airbnb Policy Communications, and he currently serves on the board for the Social Enterprise Alliance, the largest organization in the United States supporting social enterprise organizations. Lewis is the first Congressman John R. Lewis Social Justice Fellow for Science and Technology and is working with the CBC on a legislative portfolio centering on technology and innovation.
- Airenakhue B. Omoragbon, Fellowship Class of 2021, Office of Rep. Robin Kelly: Omoragbon is a social worker and policy practitioner from Brooklyn, New York, whose work sits at the intersection of policy research, advocacy, and the amplification of minoritized women’s leadership. Most recently, she served as the Human Trafficking Research and Policy Fellow at the United States Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, where she researched opportunities to center the physical, psychological, and social wellness needs of survivors of human trafficking in efforts to improve U.S. maternal health outcomes.
- Jasmine Payne, Fellowship Class of 2021, Office of Rep. Nikema Williams: Payne is an Atlanta native and an advocate and servant leader whose work focuses on combating intergenerational poverty and identifying and uprooting hurdles that prohibit socioeconomic mobility, such as housing, education and nutrition. Her advocacy experience extends across local, state and federal levels through various nonprofit and government agency positions, such as CARE, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Massachusetts State House of Representatives.
“We welcome these new fellows and believe their diverse backgrounds in policy and research will be instrumental in shaping the policies Black Americans need to thrive,” said CBCF NREI Director Olajumoke Obayanju. “We are excited to continue the work of the NREI and uphold the legacy of Congressman Lewis this year and beyond.”
In addition to the John R. Lewis Social Justice Fellowship, NREI offers social justice scholarships to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and advances racial equity and human rights in research, data, analysis and public policy related to criminal justice reform.
To learn more about the fellows and NREI, visit: www.cbcfinc.org/nrei/.
About the CBCF
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF), established in 1976, is a non-partisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and educational institute, committed to advancing the global Black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public.