Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams on Tuesday announced the creation of five community organizer positions within the Office of Public Advocate, each focusing on designated issue-based areas to build coalitions for change, as well as the organizers who will fill those roles.
Williams said this is the latest in a series of organizational restructurings designed to better serve New Yorkers across the city.
“When I first started working as a community organizer two decades ago, before President Barack Obama, people questioned what community organizing was and what organizers did,” said Williams in making the announcement. “Since then, organizers across the city and nation have shown how this work creates change.
“Now, I’m excited to expand the organizing strength of this office to engage and uplift communities across our city, and for our new organizers to be agents of change,” he added.
Williams said the new community organizers work with local constituencies on grassroots campaigns across their specific area of focus, as well as conduct research on policy and legislation.
He said they will implement campaigns and initiatives within these issue portfolios, working with advocacy groups and community-based organizations.
Williams said the positions are designed in line with his activist-elected official strategy, community organizing background and newly developed structure for the office.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after the previous appointments of deputy public advocates, with each community organizer directly aligned with the deputy public advocate’s portfolios.
Williams said the Community Organizers will work with the five Deputy Public Advocates in the areas of Housing Equity; Infrastructure and Environmental Justice; Justice, Health Equity and Safety; Education and Opportunity; and Civic and Community Empowerment.
The newly-announced community organizers are: Ivie Bien-Aime — Community Organizer of Housing Equity; Steve Fox – Infrastructure and Environmental Justice; Keeshan Harley — Justice, Health Equity and Safety; Elizabeth Kennedy — Education and Opportunity; and Hadeel Mishal — Civic and Community Empowerment.
Williams said Bien-Aime is an experienced AmeriCorps V.I.S.T.A. tenant organizer and former site director of a COMPASS Elementary After School Program. She has previously held three community engagement positions with the NYC Department of Education as school based parent coordinator, district family advocate and family leadership coordinator.
Fox comes to the Office of the Public Advocate after years organizing campaigns and consulting in the renewable energy sector.
Before that, he organized and developed offices for the Community Voters Project, which registered over 165,000 African American and Latino voters in six states, focusing on states that had recently passed discriminatory voter ID laws, Williams said.
He said Harley has “fully dedicated the last four years of his life to community organizing and forwarding public policy in New York City.”
At Make the Road NY, the public advocate said Harley was active in city wide campaigns with young people around both Education and Policing reform.
Harley had partnered with the Public Science Project at CUNY for a Participatory Action Research project called Researchers for Fair Policing, had given testimony to President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task force, and sat on the Mayoral Leadership Team around School Discipline, Williams said.
He said Kennedy began her New York City career as a human rights education fellow with Amnesty International HQ, and went on to work as an education consultant with the Department of Education in the Office of Post-Secondary Readiness.
Later, she led a national leadership program called GlobeChangers at Multiplying Good, and engaged in local and national community organizing with groups like NYCoRE, Housing Works, and the Center for Popular Democracy.
Mishal is an activist and organizer from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, who started her career organizing with young immigrants on Staten Island and teaching action civics courses to middle and high school students.
She later accepted a fellowship through Newman’s Own Foundation and moved to Philadelphia to organize with the Youth Leadership Council, working on local advocacy issues and awarding mini grants to local organizations doing work align with their values.
After completing her fellowship, Williams said Hadeel began working as a youth organizer at the Arab American Association of New York, engaging in city-wide advocacy and civic engagement initiatives.