Detroit Action Ambassador
A Detroit Action Ambassador, Cynthia Bell has a passion for working with homeless citizens. Years prior, in a state of homelessness, Cynthia stumbled across the Capuchin Soup Kitchen from a treatment center, looking for help with her ID because she hadn’t had one for many years due to her addiction. While there, she noticed a multitude of people in the same predicament as her and she realized that she wanted to help those people. With this new urge to help others, she noticed that it helped her deal with her addiction to eventually recover. Cynthia joined Detroit Action Commonwealth in February 2012 where she became the secretary and eventually climbed the ranks to become President of the organization. Today, she’s been clean for 9 years and still has that passion for helping citizens who are homeless, low-income, senior and those who are returning from prison.
Jennifer Disla joined the Detroit Action team in March 2020. She has over 10 years in Labor Organizing experience. She has organized in Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Indiana. She brought home victories in Michigan during the 2015 Justice for Janitors Campaign. Additionally, she brings a wealth of knowledge on building with community partners. She is ready to continue to cultivate power in Detroit. She is a strategic thinker and implementer in the organization. She shares Detroit Actions values on centering the most impacted. She currently helps think through staff and membership organizing and political development. Jennifer started organizing in 2008 in the midst of a life changing diagnosis. She has and will continue to champion affordable, equitable, and quality access to healthcare for all. She believes in Black Liberation and continues to fight white supremacy practices within the non-profit complex and beyond. Her favorite quote is “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde. Jennifer urges all of us to go past our fears in remembrance of ancestors and for the next Generation’s hopes and dreams.
Economic Justice Organizer
Bio coming soon!
Shoniqua Kemp is a lifelong Detroiter, mother of three, and grandmother of five. Her community involvement started in education organizing and advocacy in 2012. Advocacy quickly became her passion as she became a hardcore volunteer with Detroit Public Schools, Gleaners Food Bank, Detroit Parent Network, and donates her spare time supporting and educating families that deal with education issues like special education, discipline in school, and other barriers like homelessness navigation. Shoniqua is a certified Parent Mentor, Peer Supporter, Mental Health First Responder, and a founding member of 482Forward. She transitioned to electoral organizing in 2018 as a Canvass Lead, leading two fellowships that knocked over 150,000 doors and registered folks to vote. Since then, she has taken on the role of Lead Organizer, where she coordinates the building of our members through leadership development and leaderful movements. She is a firm believer in the motto “Each one teach one, each one reach one” and is ready to give that to our members.
Laura is a fourth-generation Japanese American who believes strongly in building people’s capacity to come together to exercise their collective power, grounded in their history and identity. Laura supports Michigan Action (Detroit Action) as Managing Director, building out systems to ground the work of organizing Black and Brown Detroiters for power in healing justice and sustainability. She also serves as the part-time Executive Director and Board President of Rising Voices of Asian American Families/Action Fund, organizing Asian American women in Michigan. Prior to Michigan Action, Laura served as in-house counsel for SEIU Healthcare Michigan, Workers’ Rights Staff Attorney for the Community Development Project (now TakeRoot Justice), and as Home Care Law Fellow at SEIU International in the Legal Department. She obtained her B.A. in Political Science and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. She seeks to apply her skills as a lawyer and interest in food and storytelling to move the projects of Detroit Action forward.
Bio coming soon!
At Detroit Action, ensuring that staff and members have the tools and systems they need, we have our Operations Manager, Kudaja Navarrete. Kudaja has been a member of the Detroit Community for almost 20 years. For Kudaja, Detroit is Home. Coming in from roles of management and customer service, Kudaja has worked within Detroit all her life and understands the needs of the community. Using the skills that she acquired over the years, she is not hesitant to step up and help the community.
Kelsey is a Digital Organizer for Detroit Action. As a Digital Organizer, Kelsey is responsible for building a community of supporters online, this includes: assisting in the management of Detroit Action’s social media accounts, finding supporters online, and using digital tools to connect with people. She is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan and a native of Flint, MI. One of the things that Kelsey loves most about working for Detroit Action is the dedication to radical love and tenderness.
Bio coming soon!
Born and raised on Detroit’s East Side to a working-class union family, Branden has been involved in faith, electoral and community organizing projects throughout the United States for over 10 years. Previously, Branden was the Deputy Organizing Director in charge of Youth Voting for the Hillary For Michigan 2016 presidential campaign, the Deputy Campaign Manager for the groundbreaking Gilchrist for Detroit City Clerk campaign, as well as the Statewide Director of Organizing for Michigan United. Branden’s commitment to democracy and racial justice is fueled, in great part, by his experiences as a Detroiter and that of other Detroiters who have endured poverty and the criminal justice system. He believes in the power of bringing our communities together and challenging leaders to go from victims to victors by engaging the systems and policies that impact our lives. Branden is a graduate of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a B.A. in Political Science and Afro-American studies and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy. Branden also is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity Incorporated and is a die-hard Detroit sports fan (GO BLUE!) filled with a love for dogs, random trivia from “The Simpsons”, Hip-Hop and the NBA.
Moving to Detroit at 5 years old, Joanna has been involved in electoral politics and community organizing from her high school years up to the present. As a canvasser and community organizer, Joanna has been passionate about people seeing and hearing themselves, their values, and their issues in politics. Prior to joining the Detroit Action family, Joanna was a Field Organizer in Isabella County with the One Campaign for Michigan 2018 Midterm Elections, and has past experience canvassing as a volunteer on campaigns starting with the Obama 2012 Campaign. Joanna’s experience growing up in both Southwest Detroit and the Downriver community has solidified the need for racial and economic justice reflected in policy. The disparities within education, housing, job opportunities and much more were abundantly clear to her as a child and not much, if anything, has changed for the communities she’s accountable to. She believes that when black and brown folks, poor folks, the most impacted folks are truly brought into the conversation in meaningful ways, real power and change can be built. Joanna is an alumna from Michigan State University- with a degree in World Politics and History with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Vanessa Velazquez is our Field Director at Detroit Action. She is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada and grew up in the Detroit and Downriver area. Vanessa comes from a proud Puerto Rican household which influenced her passion for politics at an early age; there was constant conversation centered around experiences of poverty and that does not have to be the status quo. Vanessa came to Detroit Action when we were formerly known as Good Jobs Now as a recent graduate from Michigan State University. She received a B.A. in World Politics and a minor in Peace & Justice. Vanessa came in as a canvasser and moved up through the team’s leadership to become our Canvass Director in May of 2019. Vanessa’s role was to develop and manage a team of canvassers that builds membership and activates the community on a daily basis. Her team uses a deeper canvassing model to develop captivating relationships between canvasser and community leader. As Field Director, Vanessa’s new goals with our field work is to make sure that every conversation a canvasser has, holds a lasting impact on that community; ensuring they remember Detroit Action not just three weeks from now but also, 10 months down the road.
Detroit Action Ambassador
Clark joined Detroit Action Commonwealth 9 years ago and was heavily involved in major projects including getting St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen up and running. One of his proudest achievements is becoming the co-founder of Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD).
Kenny Williams Jr., MA
Kenny Williams Jr. joined Detroit Action in February 2020 as the communications manager. Kenny received his Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a minor in leadership and integrated learning from Michigan State University and went on to obtain his Master of Arts degree in public relations with a specialization in nonprofit fundraising as well. In addition to his role at Detroit Action, Kenny is a pop culture staff writer for Blavity. Kenny is a proud East sider, and a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.