Staff

Afua Atta-Mensah

Executive Director

Afua Atta-Mensah is CVH’s new Executive Director, starting September 2016. She had served as a member of CVH’s Board of Directors since 2008, so she is already very invested in CVH’s mission and vision   Afua, who is a Harlem resident, holds a law degree from Fordham Univ. School of Law, and a BA in Sociology and African American History from Trinity College.  

CVH is a leading New York nonprofit that develops ad guides civic leaders, grassroots organizations and neighborhood activist as they take powerful, concrete steps to improve their lives and their communities. From Ghana, West Africa to the United States, Afua has worked to empower women, improve the quality and quantity of fair and equitable housing, defend women's rights and galvanize support for programs benefiting low-income families.

She was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship in support of her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys advocating on behalf of indigent women in Ghana. She represents these women in court helped draft proposed legislation to criminalize marital rape and was a visiting university lecturer. She also worked with area lawyers to develop proposed legislation for marital rape law and served as a visiting lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology , where she taught a course on women's rights in the context of Ashanti-tribal law.

Between 2012 and 2016,Afua was the Urban Justice Center’s Director of Litigation for the Safety Net Project. During her tenure,the project filed a federal lawsuit that pressured former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to abandon a proposal to demolish Public Housing playgrounds and community centers so developers could build high-priced apartment towers. Under Afua,the Safety Net Project also challenged mayoral candidates to stay overnight with host families in public housing to experience firsthand the deplorable conditions public housing residents are exposed. That innovative strategy brought a media spotlight and the government's attention residents plight.

As CVH Executive Director, Afua is currently leading a grassroots fight against a city proposal to rezone a huge portion of East Harlem for residential towers and "infill" public housing property with new development. Additionally, CVH is demanding that Mayor de Blasio's administration first allocate $200 million to fix and upgrade existing public housing buildings and increase the number affordable units for families making $23,000 and less.

Michelle Perez

Director of Development & Administration

Michelle joined Community Voices Heard as Development Director in May 2002. She is very pleased to turn her efforts to economic justice projects after having worked in fundraising for arts/community development organizations for 19 years. She has previously worked for the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Meet The Composer, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and The Joffrey Ballet. Michelle has a BA degree in Economics/Political Economy from Barnard College, and has done graduate work in business administration at New York University. Michelle was also a member of the Fall 2015 cohort of the NY Community Trust Leadership Fellows program.

Stephen Roberson

Director of Organizing

Stephen Roberson joined the staff of CVH as our Organizing Director in 2013.  Immediately prior to working with CVH, he was the Deputy Director of Organizing for Local 32BJ where he helped in the organizing of Security Officers, food service workers and other low wage workers throughout the east coast jurisdiction of the local which included work in Florida.  Before that he worked for 24 years at the Industrial Areas Foundation as an associate organizer, a lead organizer and a member of the National Staff, where he helped in organizing and developing The Nehemiah Plan which has become a key component in providing a way for working class New Yorkers access to ownership in a system that makes it difficult for the majority to own housing in New York City.   He first cut his teeth in organizing with the United Farmworkers Union where he spent 10 years as a part of the boycott of lettuce and grape boycotts.  Stephen grew up in Northern New Jersey, in a community which was majority white with a small, primarily African American population that was working class and poor.  He learned a lot through his church and community relationships about what it feels like to experience growing up as a minority in that kind of community in America.  He learned the importance of family and how critical having relationships with people who would stand with you is when the going gets tough.

Juanita O. Lewis

Hudson Valley Organizing Director

Juanita joined CVH in 2009 as the Yonkers Organizer. She was born and raised in Saint Paul, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in History and Political Science, and with her Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership Degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

She began her work as a community organizer with the Minnesota chapter of ACORN. Since 2004, she has worked on numerous electoral campaigns at the city, state and federal level in different staffing capacities.

She currently is the Lead Westchester organizer, for Community Voices Heard. Juanita develops community members into leaders that work on strategic issue based campaigns that bring the issues of low-income people to the forefront.

Juanita is trainer for the non-partisan women’s political group called, VoteRunLead and a member of several political and social groups such as, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Sierra Leonean cultural heritage group called, Krio Descendants Union, board member of African Communities Together, Yonkers Chapter of the Black's Women's Political Caucus, Secretary- Treasurer of Westchester Young Democrats and Hudson Valley Region Vice Chair for Young Democrats Caucus of Color. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, going to Zumba and or kickboxing, spending time with close friends and family.

Julia Solow

Westchester County Organizer

Julia Solow began at CVH in November 2013 as a Westchester County Community Organizer based out of the Yonkers office. Ms. Solow brings a background in community organizing, program development and research through her experiences as a MSW Field Intern at the Latino Leadership Institute, Member Mobilization Intern with the AFL-CIO National Campaigns Department in DC, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with John Carroll University’s Center for Service and Social Action in Cleveland and an organizer with the DREAM Act movement. Ms. Solow is bilingual in English and Spanish and is dedicated to building inclusive movements for social and economic justice in the home, the community and the workplace.

Gabriel Strachota

NYC Chapter Lead Organizer

After working as a boost organizer in CVH’s participatory budgeting campaign in early 2014, Gabriel joined CVH’s staff as the new NYC Chapter Organizer. Gabriel first became politically active in the lead up to the wars in the Iraq when his mother brought him massive anti-war protests happening throughout the northeast. After graduating from high school in 2005 Gabriel went to New Orleans to work with the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. His time there working under veteran Black leadership for a just rebuilding of the city would set him on his life path as an anti-racist organizer. After getting his feet wet in New Orleans Gabriel would go on to learn the basic skills of community organizing in ACORN in Massachusetts, and eventually pursue further training in at Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles. In 2008 Gabriel joined the Labor Community Strategy Center’s staff as an organizer for the Bus Riders Union where he would work for five years doing base building work and political education. In late 2013 he moved back to the east coast and looks forward to working with public housing residents to build power in their struggle for dignity and justice. Gabriel was elevated to NYC Chapter Lead Organizer in July 2016

Daisy Gonzalez

Sustainable Communities Organizer

Daisy Gonzalez began at Community Voices Heard in 2015 as the Gail Aska Policy and Research Fellow and is now on staff as the Sustainable Communities Organizer focusing on the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan and Rezoning Process. Her family emigrated from Guatemala to South Gate, California in Los Angeles where she was raised. Daisy was first exposed to organizing in her hometown around issues of environmental justice and has since worked on various processes alongside low-income people of color connecting urban planning, civic engagement, and organizing. Her experience includes working in Orange County, California with tenants on substandard housing and affordability issues, as well as making decision making processes more inclusive. Daisy worked with the City of San Diego on the Barrio Logan Community Plan from 2008-2010 in a participatory process for updating land use and zoning regulations. She has a bachelor's degree in urban planning from the University of California, San Diego and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Urban Planning at CUNY Hunter College.

Aaron Jones

Mass Engagement Director

Aaron joined Community Voices Heard in 2014. Prior to joining CVH, he worked in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia organizing communities of color, youth, women, and progressive individuals around social justice issues like rights restoration and Medicaid expansion. He also worked throughout Virginia and in other states to engage communities of color and low income communities in various local, state, and federal elections. Aaron spent some time working on environmental issues, including fighting for a comprehensive clean energy bill at the federal level and successfully organizing to stop Proposition 23 in California. Aaron is a “military brat” who first got introduced to this type of work when he pushed (and won) to change the rules around in-state college tuition for youth who had legal guardians in the Army. He graduated with a B.A in Political Science and an M.B.A w/ a concentration in Public Administration.  

Susannah Dyen

Jobs Organizer

Susannah joined the CVH team in January 2016. She organizes with people struggling to find decent work that sustains their families as well as those on public assistance. Prior to coming to CVH, she worked in post-Sandy recovery and rebuilding first with Occupy Sandy, primarily in Staten Island and later in the Rockaways, and then at ALIGN coordinating the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, a coalition of over 40 labor unions and community, faith-based, environmental and policy organizations – of which CVH was a steering committee member. She has worked on several electoral campaigns and as a union organizer. Susannah earned a Masters in City & Regional Planning from Rutgers University with a specialization in community-based response to disaster, a BA from Barnard College, and has additional professional experience as a Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and data analyst.  Susannah is interested in weaving arts and culture into movement spaces and campaign work. 

Jason Schwartz

NYC Chapter Organizer

Jason Schwartz joined the staff of CVH as the NYC Chapter Organizer in 2016. Jason got his start in organizing in 2013 when he was a student at San Francisco State University, leading a campaign to get the university to stop investing in coal, oil, and gas corporations. He quickly became a national leader in the student movement for fossil fuel divestment, working with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network to organize a 300-person conference at SFSU. He then worked to build a statewide regional network for the DSN in California before moving on to a national staff position building a grassroots fundraising program that would allow the organization to be less reliant on foundations. Jason was trained in community organizing by People’s Action (formerly National People’s Action) at the Weeklong Leadership Training in 2014. He has since been trained as a trainer and has trained at Weeklong Leadership Training twice. Jason’s motivation to work building power among poor people comes from his experience growing up isolated in the era of corporate power and losing friends to drug addiction. In his free time he enjoys drinking with friends and talking politics, relaxing in parks, going to bookstores, and biking.

Jordan Taylor

Dutchess County Organizer

Jordan Taylor was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Spring Valley, New York. Jordan joined CVH in January 2017. He double majored in Political Science and Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz, where he graduated in 2015. During his time on campus he organized with students around tuition increases, social justice, and building institutional student power on campus. After college Jordan moved to Poughkeepsie to get involved with local Black Lives Matter organizing that began around the murder of Samuel Harrell, and is currently a member of Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley. Over the course of 2016 Jordan has gotten increasingly involved in community organizing working on the Nick Mosby Mayoral campaign in Baltimore, directing a canvass operation on education issues for NYSUT, and pushing for the One Fair Wage campaign with Citizen Action. Jordan is also an aspiring writer, actor, and comedian and looks forward to incorporating these art forms and many others in his organizing.