Board(s) of Directors

Chicago Votes Action Fund

Chicago Votes pictureMatt Blizek

Matt managed his first campaign at the age of 19 while a student at the University of Iowa and has never stopped organizing. At 32, he is a nationally known progressive organizer with experience in field, fundraising, training and online organizing for numerous campaigns and organizations including the DNC, MoveOn.org, Russ Feingold, Jon Tester, Annette Taddeo, No on 1 Protect Maine Equality, Ilya Sheyman for Congress, Rebuild the Dream and Credo SuperPAC.

From 2007 through 2011 he worked at Democracy for America, as the national training director & field director, organizing 87 trainings in 37 states and mobilizing DFA’s million-plus members to elect progressives at all levels of office.

Matt is proudly serving his second term as a Board Member at Democratic GAIN, the premier organization for connecting talented people to campaigns and organizations in need of staff. He currently lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago and works as a Grassroots Campaign Director at MoveOn.org

Charlene Headshot- CVCharlene Carruthers

Charlene is a Chicago based writer, political organizer and foodie. She has worked extensively to promote social justice and build political leadership on local and national levels.

Charlene’s passion for developing young leaders to build capacity and leadership has led her to work with youth and women of color across the country. She has served as a trainer with the Center for Progressive Leadership, Young People For and Wellstone Action.

Charlene holds expertise in Black and youth political participation, civic engagement and digital engagement strategies. Charlene is a Co-Chair of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and serves as the Director of Online Engagement at National People’s Action. She has also worked for national progressive organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center and ColorOfChange.org.

Charlene earned a B.A. in History & International Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.

JH compressed for webJason Horwitz

Jason is a public policy consultant and political organizer living in Chicago, Illinois. As a consultant at Anderson Economic Group since 2010, he has provided research, analysis, and advice on state and local policy regarding tax reform, public pensions, economic development, energy, health care, criminal justice, and education.

Jason cut his teeth in local Chicago politics at 1st Ward First, a community-based political organization that serves the neighborhoods of Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square. He currently serves as an area captain and a member of the board at 1st Ward First, spearheading an initiative to increase their membership and leading their endorsement committee. Jason earned a B.A. with honors in Physics and Philosophy from Swarthmore College and a Master in Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Joanna KlonskyJoanna Klonsky

Joanna is a media and public relations consultant. With a background in public relations and political journalism, Joanna brings strategic insight into forging successful media and messaging campaigns. A Chicago native, Joanna has served as Communications Director on several high-profile political campaigns, both on a municipal and federal level. She was a senior writer and account executive at MK Communications. Joanna’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Newsweek, among other outlets.

L.A. SealsLawrence Anton Seals Jr.

Anton has worked in a myriad of organizations advocating for better education, food, housing access and equity issues and previously worked in the office of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), where he was responsible for the oversight and development of programming and policy in the 1st Congressional District. A graduate of the film department at Columbia College and the School for New Learning at DePaul University, Anton studied social enterprises and public policy models that impact maligned communities of color. Anton is Project Coordinator for Eat2Live, which is developing an urban garden and farm in Englewood, helping neighbors of all ages, learn, grow and lead healthier lifestyles. Anton also is part of the creative team that is producing the trans-media project InterruptViolence.com, using story, in particular new media, as a way to connect and give voice and resources to those impacted by violence. Anton is a founder of the Revival Arts Collective, a group of Chicago artists committed to using arts and culture as a catalyst for community redevelopment.

Brian SleetBrian E. Sleet

Brian was born and raised in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood and is committed to his community and public service. In the tradition of President Obama’s often cited “Joshua Generation,” Sleet believes that those who gained opportunity from the civil rights struggle should repay society through public service. A lifelong resident of the 6th Ward, Sleet is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois, College of Law. He currently serves as the Chief of Staff to the Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer or the 6th Ward. Balancing the issues of community development, economic growth and city governance Brian is guided by the idea that working in the best interests of the people leads to the best government. Prior to that, he worked as Deputy District Administrator for the Second Congressional District of Illinois. Before going into the public sector, Sleet worked as a litigator in his own law firm, specializing in criminal defense and family law.

Chicago Votes Education Fund

ChristianChristian Diaz

Christian grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago in a Spanish-speaking home. He is a youth organizer with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, where he politicizes high school students to lobby for better schools. Christian graduated with a B.A. in Global Studies at Warren Wilson College in 2012. His first organizing campaign led him to recruit 300 volunteers to register more than 1200 Latino voters in Logan Square through the New Americans Democracy Project with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In his spare time, Christian writes creative non-fiction, calls out racism, looks super cute and whips his phantom-ponytail to filthy dance tracks. In 2013 Christian was elected “cutest pouty face of Logan Square” for the third consecutive year.

Karla Estela RiveraKarla Estela Rivera

As a skilled filmmaker, writer, performer and activist, Karla has always used her storytelling talents with a mind for community. As early as 1996, Karla was featured in The Nation magazine as “the paper’s most prolific North Side writers” for her work with New Expression newspaper.

As a teaching artist, she has worked with over 2,500 youth ages 8-21 in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York City and Chicago, focusing on high-need and urban communities of color. Karla now works at Instituto del Progreso Latino, formerly as an Administrative Coordinator for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative’s Youth Mentoring Plus Jobs program and currently as Development & Communications Manager.

Karla continues to write, work with local arts organizations in various capacities and is producing her first feature film. Karla is a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago’s Department of Film & Video with graduate studies at New York University.

Adam HeenanAdam Heenan

Adam is a social studies teacher at Curie Metro High School on the Southwest Side of Chicago, where he is also the elected delegate to the Chicago Teachers Union. He previously taught Spanish at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School and in his hometown of Kankakee, Illinois. He also blogs and tweets @ClassroomSooth on issues of teaching and learning in Chicago and nationwide. In his free time, Adam reads comic books and rides motorcycles, but not simultaneously.

Huff photoChristopher Huff

Chris is from the South Side of Chicago and passionate about issues regarding juvenile justice, public education reform, expanding access to the voting process, and rebuilding under served communities. Building on his commitment to public service, Christopher has spent has time working to engage and mobilize young people to take action in and around their community. He has worked as a community organizer, developed and directed mentorship programs for disadvantaged children, and helped to create entrepreneurship-training opportunities for teenagers across the country. Chris is a 2013 graduate of Chicago Votes’ DemocracyCorps Summer Fellowship. He is currently a Social Services Administration graduate student at the University of Chicago.

Courtney HullCourtney Hull

Courtney has a decade of experience working with young people and the adventure of civic engagement. She’s worked with numerous non-profit organizations and coalitions, including the Carter Center, League of Young Voters, Energy Action Coalition, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She is the former Political Director of Green For All, a national advocacy organization working to build an inclusive green economy. Currently, Hull runs her own sustainable eco-friendly accessories company, Stay in the Light Co., and is working with Project WOO to build a social enterprise hotel in the coastal town of Gigante, Nicaragua. Hull is on the board of LoveArt, a non-profit organization empowering youth through art, outdoor adventure, and environmental advocacy. She has a BA in Political Science from Brown University, with a concentration in philanthropy and community organizing.

CVScott Kane

Scott is a third year law student at Northwestern University School of Law and the Executive Online Editor of the school’s Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. He is the founder of the BUSL student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and former President of a chapter of the American Constitution Society’s Constitution in the Classroom program. With professional experience working for both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and local law firms, Scott looks forward to starting his legal career in Chicago. Prior to law school Scott managed local programming for the Center for Economic Progress, a financial services non-profit that helps hard-working, low-income families move from financial uncertainty to financial security. Born and raised a Michigander, Scott has taken Chicago – specifically Palmer Square – as his much beloved adopted home. He remains involved in neighborhood political and civic campaigns.

MarissaLieblingMarissa Liebling

Marissa is an attorney who leads the Voting Rights Project at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. She organizes legal voter protection during elections, works with officials and community partners to advocate for better election practices, and works with voters directly to increase voter education and participation. Through her work, she has organized, trained, and assisted thousands of voters and volunteers. She has presented on voting rights, voter suppression, and Supreme Court decisions at regional, statewide, and national conferences and has advised national groups, as well as local media, on voting rights and election law. Since moving to Chicago 2007, Marissa has been an active volunteer and mentor though several local community organizations.

Harishi PatelHarish I Patel

Harishi is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), studying Urban Planning and Policy. Harish is a co-founder of ishi | vests with benefits, a socially conscious, sustainable, naturally-dyeing clothing line. One of the most transformative experiences for him was leading and participating in community organizing and international advocacy work while traveling and living in India, Mexico, New Zealand and Uganda. Co-founding Project FOCUS, a youth-led initiative of artists, writers, activists and students committed to educate, inspire, and empower Ugandan and American youth through art and creative projects further influenced his passion for international engagement. He has worked as Program Coordinator at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, as a Coalition-Organizer on Chicago’s Southwest side, taught a class on ‘Youth Engagement in a Globalized World’ and coordinated the social justice initiative at UIC. He has been a fellow of Green For All, New Leaders Council and most recently, Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education.

Founding Board Members

Cathy CohenCathy Cohen

Prof. Cohen, Deputy Provost for Graduate Education at the University of Chicago, specializes in American politics. Her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements. She is the author of the book The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University Of Chicago Press, 1999), the co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (New York University Press, 1997) and Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press, 2010). Cohen also is editor with Frederick Harris of a new book series from Oxford Press entitled Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities. She is principal investigator for The Black Youth Project.

TJTJ Crawford

TJ is a Hip Hop Generation community advocate and social entrepreneur who specializes in civic engagement, youth development and media literacy. A South Side Chicago native, TJ has more than two decades of experience working on campaigns aimed at engaging young people and underrepresented communities. TJ has played a leadership role in political and community development organizations including the Georgia Alliance for Children, Rolling Out Urbanstyle Weekly, the National Hip Hop Political Convention (chair), Africa International House, WVON radio, and Positive Influence Social Marketing Group.

Ilya ShaymenIlya Sheyman

Ilya is the Executive Director at MoveOn.org Political Action. At 25, Ilya became one of the youngest candidates for U.S. Congress in the nation, running in the Democratic Primary in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District where he garnered nearly 40 percent of the vote in a four way race—earning national attention. Prior to his campaign, Ilya served as the National Mobilization Director at MoveOn.org, where he mobilized the organization’s 5 million members for health care reform. A community organizer at heart, Ilya has worked extensively with local organizations working to improve their communities. He coordinates and leads Job Training Workshops for individuals exiting the criminal justice system in Lake County. Ilya got his start working as an organizer for the education advocacy group A+ Illinois, building coalitions to improve the quality and funding of public schools in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

Eric ZobermanEric Zoberman

As Rock the Vote’s Field Director during the 2010 election cycle, Eric oversaw the nationally-known organization’s voter registration and nationwide Get Out The Vote efforts, which yielded more than 16,000 new voter registrations on college campuses alone. The Chicago-area native was an early member of Senator Obama’s field staff. After President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Eric served as Project Director for the White House’s United We Serve national service initiative, where he led the team responsible for developing and implementing the President’s community service agenda on a grassroots level.  Most recently, Eric joined the President Obama’s re-election campaign and helped design its Youth Vote strategy.

Carlos HeadshotCarlos Claudio

Carlos was born and raised on Chicago’s Northwest side, in the Bucktown, Hermosa neighborhoods. Carlos was elected president of DePaul’s Alliance for Latin American Enrichment, a student organization that highlighted the importance of diversity in higher education and worked to provide assistance to underserved communities at Depaul. He was also instrumental in the formation of DePaul’s Latino Cultural Center. Carlos received Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Hispanic Leadership Award in 2009 for his role as an active leader in his community. Carlos is also a member of the Local School Council for Drummond Montessori, where his daughter is a second grader, and is a member of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Carlos lives in Logan Square with his wife Marina and their 7-year-old daughter Isabella.