Board of Directors
Chicago Votes Action Fund
Lawrence 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 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.
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.
Harish 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.
Karla 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.
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
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.
Born and raised in Chicago, Luis Klein has been working as a campaign staffer and consultant for progressive candidates and organizations for almost a decade. Having grown up in a union household and the son of Chilean exiles, progressive politics and a commitment to action has always been present. He last worked for Yes for Independent Maps, a campaign aimed at bringing redistricting reform to Illinois state government where he served as Finance Director. He previously worked for Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, State Sen. Daniel Biss, Toni Preckwinkle, and Comm. Larry Suffredin, as well as many others. He attended Loyola University Chicago, studying Political Science and Philosophy.
Alex is a union organizer based in Chicago. He got his start in community organizing with New York ACORN in Brooklyn, New York, and since 2001 has helped tens of thousands of workers win a voice on the job with SEIU, both in Illinois and across the country. He is currently Director of Strategic Campaigns and Partnerships for SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana – the largest local union in the Midwest, representing over 90,000 healthcare and child care workers – where he works with allied unions and community organizations to build a stronger movement for social and economic justice.
Former Board Members
(No longer serving on our board, but still super duper important)
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.