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Alezandra Zaragoza Melendrez

DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH

I am a Mexican American critical educator, community-based scholar and professor who was born and raised in Chula Vista, with ancestral roots in Baja California and New Mexico. I’ve spent the last 15 years working and learning alongside youth of color in Harlem, the Bronx, and the Bay Area. As Research Director, I am collaborating with an intergenerational team to carry out participatory and decolonizing research that centers the voice of formerly incarcerated and system involved cis and trans women. I am here to work alongside my community using research as a tool for radical social and personal liberation.

Amika Mota

PROGRAM DIRECTOR OF WOMEN'S PRISON RE-ENTRY & POLICY

Over twenty years ago, I began organizing for Reproductive Justice and young mothers’ rights as a teen mama and midwife. I found my passion advocating for women in prison during my own seven-year incarceration in the California Department of Corrections, where I served time at both CIW and CCWF. During my time inside, I was a jailhouse lawyer, paralegal, firefighter, and mentor to many youth on the yard. The sisterhood and resiliency of the women on the inside are what motivated me to revolutionize the criminal justice system, transform what true rehabilitation and reentry look like, and promote a culture of healing and restorative justice to those most impacted by the system.

Aurielle Lucier

Program Manager, Leadership and Advocacy

Born and raised ATL-ien, I am a Black and Queer poet and social strategist focused on community organizing and program development for racial justice and institutional change
. I believe our most vulnerable communities are young women, girls, and TGNC youth of color who are forced to navigate violence because of their gender, sexuality, and their ethnicities and that we must fight for those on the margins in ways that are intersectional. I am committed creating better access to the resources they deserve. My poems and essays address systemic violence, racial justice, gender and sexuality and radical healing, and have been featured in the Adroit Journal, BOAAT, Vinyl, ESSENCE, and Allure Magazine. Always, we will win.

Desiree Victor

Program Manager, San Jose

Standing in my power as a self-identified Xicana, born and raised in San Jose with roots in Sahuayo Michoacan. I bring my lived experience, a Master’s degree in Mexican American Studies/Education, and 15+ years of community work to YWFC. Grounded in community knowledge and ancestral wisdom, I use the critical lens of a feminist of color to contextually call out injustices that oppress our communities, specifically those that affect our young women. As a pregnant high school push-out by the age of 15, I returned to school at 19 (then with 2 sons) to pursue my G.E.D. I attended community college, transferred to San Jose State University and went on to acquire my Master’s. Through it all, I learned that I was not the labels and lies placed on young women like me. I am working to build a world where all young women feel in their spirits that they are capable and they are worthy, just as they are. I am a committed mother of 3, love writing poetry, and have a passion for Chicanx and family history.

Jacqueline “Jaki” Murillo

Community Orgranizer - L.A.

I was born in the westside of Los Angeles and raised on the eastside...seeing nothing but gang violence. I grew up on the run from something or someone. Sleeping in parks as a kid became the norm. My passion for advocating stems from my experience growing up in the juvenile justice system and being sent to an adult women’s prison at such a young age. The women inside raised me - even kept me in school. They saw things in me I never would of seen in myself. Because of this, I have built a community of formerly incarcerated women and girls that keeps getting bigger and bigger. This is my life and my job. It is my duty to be of service to my women, to help them that push forward and see something different in themselves.

Jessica Nowlan

Executive Director

Over 20 years ago, I came to the Center right out of juvenile hall. I was looking for a job and I heard they hired folks like me - sisters navigating the juvenile justice system, poverty, homelessness, and intimate partner violence. I became a Community Health Outreach Worker and stayed for 7 years, until I became the Deputy Director. I had to leave for awhile when life threw me some highs (having my kids, starting a successful business, winning some big entrepreneur awards) and some serious lows. But I came back. I came back because the Center was where I learned to own my power. I came back because, with no formal education, the Center had me reading bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Paolo Friere. Through the Center, I declared my expertise and learned how to cultivate space for other leaders to emerge. Since coming back as the Executive Director in 2017, I have grown the Center to be a multi-million dollar organization in several locations throughout California. I am here because, everyday, I see more and more women, girls, and gnc folks growing into their leadership and building a better world for all of us.

Jocelyn Mati

Lead YPAR Researcher

I am young adult whose life is only getting more and more political. My birthday is on election day - November 8th, 1995 - presidential status. A young Samoan brown woman from San Francisco - Bayview Hunters Point. Being that I am from a city full of “opportunities” and the land of the “milk and honey,” us young women of color and people of color are kept away from that big illusive dream. I am a Community Organizer. I am here to speak and advocate for my own liberation and to liberate others.

Julia "Juju" Arroyo

PROGRAM DIRECTOR OF YOUTH RE-ENTRY

I came to the Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC) because of my experience in the system and underground street economy. My sister/siblings loved me up until I recognized my own personal power. They created a pathway to freedom. I am committed to the decriminalization of trans, cis women, girls, and gender non-conforming young people. I believe that every young person should live free from violence and systemic oppression. I’m here to dismantle those systems even if it’s brick by brick.

Kandy "K.I." Ifopo

PROGRAM MANAGER, OUTREACH & MEMBERSHIP

I am a leader who isn’t afraid to be themselves. A Samoan, gender non-conforming, beautiful human being who is so fly. A proud warrior who steps up to lead at the frontlines for our young people to our elders. A San Francisco native, born and raised in the heart of Bayview Hunters Point. 3rd generation incarceration and 2nd generation born stateside, I have been organizing since the age of 14. I am a member of the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership and a student at City College of San Francisco majoring in LGBTQ stuides and Critical Pacific Islander studies. I am dedicated to fighting for freedom for equality of all people. But my first priority is breaking cycles of violence and centering healing for our people!

Katie Manbachi

Community Research Associate

I’m an Iranian-American educator exploring understandings of history and political community that transcend colonial frames of knowledge. My commitment to the classroom as a liberatory space directs my teaching of American History and the History of [Western] Civilization at the high school and community college levels. Over the last decade, research projects inspired my living in Tehran, Copenhagen, Dushanbe, and New York City. As a member of the research team at the Center, I practice community based learning and writing that highlights shared experiences of struggle and violence. I'm dedicated to imagining political and social futures through reading and listening to bell hooks, Octavia Butler, Donna Haraway, and Ursula Le Guin.

Krea Gomez

DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY & ORGANIZING

I am an Indigenous mama who was raised in San Francisco and lives in Oakland with her tribe of 6 children. I believe in the power of women and girls and believe that we have everything we need to be the best versions of ourselves- sometimes we just need others to encourage us to bring it out. At 16, the Center helped me find purpose and power. I have spent the last 25 years working to help other girls and women do the same. Sometimes I did this as a middle school teacher, other times as a program manager for a national network of grassroots organizations working to free our young people from the juvenile justice system. Now I am making sure that women and girls across CA who have experienced the system use their collective power to demand and win dignity and respect. In addition to justice, I love spending time with my family, watching documentaries, and learning about the Bay Area history.

Lucero Herrera

Lead YPAR Researcher

"There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried" - Oscar Romero. I was Born in El Salvador, my mom escaped violence from gangs and the Civil War. I am that Beautiful Struggle. Charged as an adult at 17 yrs old, the court did not see me as a child. I am why Young Women and Girls will organize. I am a fast Learner. Navigating my childhood, navigating systems, navigating the streets. I am why women and girls will elevate and empower. I am an artist, drawing values and morals in my sons heart. I am why young mothers will imagine a bright future in the world.

Sam Brooks

Director of Operations

They/them pronouns, I am a formerly-incarcerated queer and trans person working to affect social transformation as Operations Director at the Center, through academic research, and working in my communities. I am studying queer and trans folks' struggles and experiences in American prisons as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, and want to begin a Ph.D program after graduation. As a sober alcoholic, I care deeply about supporting other people in recovery through my work, school, and communities.

Stacy Rojas

Community Organizer - L.A.

I am a Mexican American from Compton, a product of a single mother household in an impoverished community and a victim of the school-to-prison pipeline. A survivor of sexual and physical abuse due to discrimination of GNC and LGBTQ people, in prison I began to organize in the 14th year of a 15 year sentence. Feeling guilty about my release and knowing what my peers would continue to face, I made a promise to myself that I would advocate for all the women I left behind. I am a community organizer and facilitator that encourages system impacted people to be apart of the social justice reform movement. A founding member of the YWFC LA chapter, I have dedicated my life to this work and am very proud to be apart of the Me Too Behind Behind Bars, Social Justice and Prison Reform Movements.

Storm Green-Loe

Administrative Assistant

A beautiful mix of Samoan and African American, I stand 25 years young. The first person you see when you walk into the Center is me. I make sure that each guest is connected with the right person for any appointment. The Center is definitely a necessity in our community because if not them, then who would help us become knowledgeable about the systems that were designed for us to fail? Who would help us fight for our equal rights not only as women, but women from all different ethnicities and backgrounds? I am so grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with the masterminds that are behind every rally, every bill being passed, and every formerly incarcerated & incarcerated individual getting the help they need to succeed.

TaMeicka "Ifasina" Clear

DIRECTOR OF LEADERSHIP, HEALING, & SPIRITUALITY

Also known as Tha Hood Alkemist, I am a fat, Black, genderqueer-femme from the South, living in East Oakland - Pronouns: femme/they/them. I began organizing work around LGBTQ issues as a homeless queer youth, which led to working with and for the liberation of Black folks. I am an aspiring stage actor, performance artist, dancer and spiritual teacher. As Leadership Director, I bring the teachings of my elders in the Ifa tradition, the energy of the elders and community of Black folks that raised me with my own vision and experience of personal transformation and healing through meaningful work. I believe that connection to culture and community combined with the cultivation of skills innately within us forges leaders that are accountable and dedicated to their community.

Join the Coalition!

The Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition is a membership base of incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and system-involved women, girls, and gender non-forming folks. Together, we work to transform the laws and systems that have caused us harm.  

Formed in 2017 and unified by the Bill of Rights, the Coalition provides members opportunities to come together with networking, education, emotional support, and paid opportunities to take leadership in the movement. 

Have you ever been incarcerated or IDENTIFY AS "SYSTEM-INVOLVED?"
JOIN the Coalition
You believe in the Audre Lorde quote “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” 

Ally Membership is open to anyone who believes deeply in the work of the Young Women’s Freedom Center, supports the Bill of Rights, and is committed to our mission to de-criminalize and de-carcerate women and girls of color.

JOin the coalition as an ally member
JOIN the Coalition
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