Support Committee

Lisa Brock, Academic Director, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Dr. Lisa Brock is the Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.  Her articles on Africa and the African Diaspora have appeared in dozens of academic journals and as book chapters. Her book  Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution, was co-edited with University of Havana Professor Digna Castaneda in 1998; her latest project is a comparative study of Afro-descended peoples in the United States and Cuba.  She is also on the editorial collective of the Radical History Review.

Lisa has been an activist all her life, from fighting for girl’s rights and black rights in her native Cincinnati, Ohio area and against police violence and judicial misconduct in Washington D.C, to becoming a leader in the anti-apartheid movement in Chicago, Illinois. She lived in Mozambique as a Fulbright Scholar in the 1980s and successfully merged her academic interest with Southern African social justice struggles. In the mid 2000s, she worked with others to found the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection (archives) at Columbia College Chicago. She also successfully developed study abroad programs for Columbia College in South Africa and Cuba.

She attended Oberlin College and earned her B.A. from Howard University. She earned her Ph.D. in African History from Northwestern University.

Jim Cason, Associate Executive Secretary for Strategic Advocacy, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)  

Jim is responsible for directing the full range of FCNL’s strategic advocacy work. Among his activities, Jim has organized public events with members of Congress, led efforts to reach out beyond our existing base to draw new constituencies into FCNL’s lobbying work and nurtured focused, strategic grassroots lobbying in key states and Congressional districts.

Jim comes to FCNL after more than 30 years working for social change as an activist, journalist, non-profit leader, and lobbyist. For eight years, Jim was the U.S. correspondent in Washington, DC for La Jornada, Mexico’s second largest daily circulation newspaper. Jim also worked as a Senior Editor for Previously, Jim has worked journalist, editor, and non-profit financial consultant.

In the 1980s, Jim served as Associate Director of the Africa Fund, developing anti-apartheid campaign materials, communications strategies, and framing issues for the organization. Among other tasks, Jim helped organize lobbying to pass the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 He was the Africa Fund staff responsible for supervision of a weekly television program broadcast on more than 60 PBS stations and directed the development and implementation of communications strategies behind campaigns such as Unlock Apartheid’s Jails and the One Person, One Vote Campaign.

He is a graduate of Earlham College.

Kassahun Checole, Publisher, Africa World Press / Red Sea Press

Kassahun Checole is the founding publisher of Africa World Press and Red Sea Press, and a leading figure in the African publishing world. He came to the US in 1971 and earned a bachelor’s degree (Political Science and African American Studies) and M.A. (Sociology), and completed all the requirements for a PhD degree except for the dissertation at State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton.  While he was a student at SUNY Binghamton, Kassahun became a very active member of the Association of Eritrean Students in North America (AESNA). He was responsible for AESNA’s newsletters, magazines, books and other publications.

In 1983, Kassahun founded the Africa World Press in Trenton, N.J. with a mission to publish books on the history, culture and politics of Africa and the African Diaspora, including Eritrea. Two years later, he added the Red Sea Press, whose primary focus was on the Horn of Africa.

Authors published by these presses include a wide range of prominent scholars and activists, such as, on Eritriea in particular, Bereket Habte Selassie, Basil Davidson, and Dan Connell. The list of scholars on other African and African American subjects are far too numerous to be listed. Together, by 2011 the sister presses havd published over 1800 titles.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Activist and Commentator

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO

Fletcher is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941″; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

Alie Kabba, Executive Director, United African Organization

Alie Kabba is the current President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. He elected as President to the board in 2010.

He is the Executive Director of the United African Organization (UAO), a dynamic coalition of African national associations that promotes social and economic justice, civic participation, and empowerment of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois. Under his leadership, the UAO has becom highly visible and respected African-led advocacy organization with a strategic focus on grassroots organizing, leadership development and public policy advocacy. He has been very active in building a strong and engaged U.S. constituency for Africa, strengthening immigrant-led coalitions in Chicago, and building bridges of understanding and shared vision between African  and immigrant communities.

Amaha Kassa, Founder, African Communities Together

A first-generation Ethiopian immigrant, Amaha Kassa has over 15 years’ experience as a labor and community organizer, nonprofit director, and social entrepreneur. Amaha just completed a law degree at University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to graduate school, he served for 9 years as Executive Director of East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a workers’ rights research and advocacy organization in Oakland, CA.

Donna Katzin, Executive Director, Shared Interest

Donna Katzin is Executive Director of Shared Interest, a social investment fund that mobilizes Southern African bank loans to low-income communities of color. Since 1994, it has benefited more than 2 million economically marginalized black South Africans, and begun to unlock credit and technical support for communities that would otherwise be considered “unbankable.”  Born on the South Side of Chicago, and long familiar with economic and race-based inequities, she worked as a community organizer in black and Latino communities in Chicago and New York.  In 1982, she helped launch and headed the Human Rights Department of District 65, UAW in New Jersey at the height of the anti-apartheid movement.  Subsequently she directed the South Africa and International Justice Programs for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility – galvanizing institutional investor support to accelerate the end of apartheid and, after its demise, to establish criteria for responsible reinvestment. In 1994, she left ICCR to help found and lead Shared Interest — offering US investors a way to channel funds into the new democracy struggling to give birth to itself.  She holds a Master’s degree in Community Organization and Planning, and a doctorate in Human Services Education and Development

Will Lawrence

Will Lawrence is a young climate justice organizer and a 2013 graduate of Swarthmore College. He is committed to building a movement for climate justice that prioritizes the voices and leadership of the people most impacted by climate change and environmental sacrifice zones. At Swarthmore, he co-founded the first fossil fuel divestment campaign. He was a core organizer of the February 2013 Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels student convergence, which brought together 200 students and anti-extraction activists from across North America to build the national divestment movement.

Will also worked as a regional coordinator for the 2011 Stand Up For Democracy campaign to repeal Michigan’s Emergency Manager legislation. He is a researcher and advisory board member of the Global Nonviolent Action Database, and a content adviser to the Envision Peace Museum.

Nicole Lee, President, TransAfrica

Ms. Nicole Lee is a human rights expert and the first female President of TransAfrica. Ms. Lee has conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions documenting violations of human rights and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Ms Lee has testified before Congress on international policy issues effecting Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and racial minorities worldwide.

As the President, Ms. Lee leads the formation of the organizations policies.  Under her leadership, TransAfrica instituted numerous campaigns and strategic initiatives that have informed and shifted US foreign policy towards Africa and the Diaspora. Highlighting issues facing the Africa Diaspora, aid accountability and a focus on vulnerable populations are trademarks of these new initiatives.

In addition, major media is calling on Ms. Lee as an expert on Africa and the African Diaspora. She has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, BBC, National Public Radio, Pacifica/ Democracy Now, Voice of America and hundreds of TV and radio stations around the globe. She has been quoted in numerous international and national newspapers and her opinion editorials have been published in The Nation, Tom Paine,, the National Newspapers Publishers’ Association wire service that serves more than 200 newspapers weekly.

Gerald Lenoir, Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Gerald Lenoir has been a leader in progressive social movements for over 30 years.  He is currently the Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and a board member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.  He is also a co-founder of the Priority Africa Network, which advocates for progressive U.S. policies toward Africa and organizes dialogues between African Americans and black immigrants

Lenoir is the former executive director of the Black Coalition on AIDS in San Francisco and co-founder/board chair of the HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County in Oakland, Calif.  He was a member of the editorial board of War Times, an anti-Iraq War newspaper and a long time leader in the racial justice and anti-apartheid movements in the United States.  He has also served as a strategic planning consultant for racial justice, immigrant rights, HIV/AIDS and health-related organizations, and public health departments.

Aubrey McCutcheon, Senior Resident Director in Liberia, National Democratic Institute

Aubrey McCutcheon is currently the senior resident director of the National Democratic Institute in Liberia.  He has had a diverse career with three decades of professional experience spanning legislative affairs, congressional office management, development, human rights, public interest law and philanthropy; including program development, evaluation, advocacy, university-level teaching, community organizing and NGO management and capacity building.  He was trained as a social scientist and lawyer in both the U.S. and U.K.

Immediately before joining NDI, Mr. McCutcheon served as the deputy executive director of Global Rights: Partners for Justice.  He lived for many years in southern Africa and south Asia, working in Namibia, South Africa, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  In those locations he worked first with the Ford Foundation, designing support for the human rights and social justice sectors, and later as an independent consultant.  Earlier he served as a congressional staff director and as a legislative aide to two Members of Congress in the United States.  Aubrey has also served as executive director of the Washington Office on Africa, and director of legislative and political affairs for Sane/Freeze, an arms control and disarmament organization.

Aubrey earned a B.A. from Yale University, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, a M.Sc. at the London School of Economics, and a LL.M degree at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Cornelius Moore, Co-Director, California Newsreel

Cornelius Moore has been involved with Africa-related issues since the early 1970s. In Philadelphia, he worked with the African Liberation Support Committee in 1974-75 and with United People’s Campaign Against Apartheid and Racism (UPCAAR) beginning in the late 1970s. He was involved with premiere showings of O Povo Organizado that raised funds for health projects in Mozambique .  He cooperated with the Mozambique Film Project to promote this film as a staff member of Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Film Project.  Campaigns with UPCAAR included one against a bank that was lending to apartheid South Africa while redlining Black communities and a speakers’ tour for the South African Military Refugee Aid Fund (SAMRAF) and SWAPO Women’s League.  In 1981,   Moore moved to California and became the staff person for the Southern Africa Media Center of California Newsreel, which was a resource to organizations for using films about Southern Africa to build their southern Africa support work.

Cornelius Moore is currently the Co-Director of California Newsreel, the non-profit film distributor and producer that focuses on race, African American life and history, Africa and health and society. He was  the Director and Founder of California Newsreel’s African film distribution project, the Library of African Cinema.  He has been with California Newsreel for 31 years and is extremely knowledgeable about African American and African Diaspora cinema, having curated film programs for the San Francisco International Film Festival, the African Studies Association, and the Museum of the African Diaspora.  He serves on the Boards of Cal Humanities and the Priority Africa Network where among other initiatives built support for South Africa ’s AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign by hosting their tour of the Bay Area in 2003.

Barbara Ransby, Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer, and longtime political activist. Ransby has published dozens of articles and essays in popular and scholarly venues. She is most notably the author of an award-winning biography of civil rights activist Ella Baker, entitled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, (University of North Carolina, 2003). Barbara is currently working on two major research projects: a study of African American feminist organizations in the 1970s, and a political biography of Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson. She serves on the editorial board of the London-based journal, Race and Class, and a number of non-profit civic and media organizations.

Professor Ransby received a BA in History from Columbia University and an MA and PhD in History from the University of Michigan.

Evelyn Sallah, Founder, Unchain Africa Press

Evelyn Sallah is a Sierra Leonean-Gambian American who is an international development professional currently working for a global health agency in Washington, DC as a program manager.  After attaining a B.A. in Economics and French from Spelman College, and a M.A. in African Studies from Howard University, she has worked in advocacy focusing on local and global issues specifically on shaping U.S foreign policy towards Africa.

The Founder of Unchain Africa Press, an analytical forum of young Africa-focused scholars and activists, Miss Sallah has mobilized young people and religious leaders in her work through direct project implementation in providing emergency relief to flood affected communities in West Africa, to focussing on influencing US policies which affect access to life-saving drugs to combat HIV/AIDS.

She has worked in Senegal, Niger, and Ghana, as well as travelled throughout West, Southern, and East Africa.

Abdi Samatar, Professor, University of Minnesota

Abdi Samatar is the incoming president of the African Studies Associationl. His parents hailed from the Somali region of the Horn of Africa, where he was born in a nomadic camp. After Qoranic school, be attended the only school in an area with a population of half a million people after which fortune took him to the only secondary school in the region. Through these early experiences he learned the catastrophic deficit in education Africa inherited. Almost forty years later Africa remains the only continent in the Third World where Africans are relatively “smaller” players in the “production of knowledge” about their continent.

His sojourn from the camp brought him to Wisconsin, Iowa, and the University of California where he had opportunities to reflect on African affairs, particularly on Northeast and Southern Africa. These lived and academic experiences gave him a perspective different from work based on a single country and three threads run through his work: livelihood struggles, public institutions, and social justice. He has published widely on Somalia, the Horn of Africa, Botswana, and on the nature of the state in Africa.

He has been a presenter in the Annual Meetings of the African Studies Association (ASA) since 1985, served on the Board of Directors of ASA from 1999 to 2002, and most of my civic engagement has been in Africa.

Elizabeth Schmidt, Professor, Loyola University Maryland

Elizabeth Schmidt is a professor of African history at Loyola University Maryland, where her students engage with Baltimore’s African refugee community through partnerships with Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project and Soccer Without Borders-Baltimore. She serves on the board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS) and is a past board member of the African Studies Association. Schmidt came to academia through the anti-apartheid movement. Before attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she worked on the Africa Project of the Institute for Policy Studies. She traveled and wrote in South Africa under apartheid and conducted research in Zimbabwe and Guinea.

Her books include: Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2013); Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958 (2007); Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939-1958 (2005); Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939 (1992); and Decoding Corporate Camouflage: U.S. Business Support for Apartheid (1980). Her 2007 book received the African Politics Conference Group’s 2008 Best Book Award. Her 1992 book was named by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Book for 1994.” Her 1980 book was banned in apartheid South Africa.

Walter Turner, “Africa Today” host and producer

Walter Turner is the host and producer of the weekly Pacifica radio program “Africa Today” which is aired on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California,” and widely listened to on the Internet. He is Professor of Social Sciences and Contemporary African Affairs at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California, and chair of its Social Sciences Department. He is the president of the board of directors of Global Exchange, a San Francisco based human rights organization, and is on the board of directors of Freedom Archives and the Priority Africa Network. Turner completed his undergraduate work at the UC Berkeley and his graduate work at Sonoma State University.

Turner has traveled extensively in southern and western Africa and worked as a journalist in South Africa, Kenya, Cuba, Nigeria, and Venezuela. He was the media director for President Nelson Mandela’s visit to California in 1990 and covered the historic elections in South Africa in 1994. He has led more than 50 research/study delegations to Cuba, Jordan, Syria, Mali, Senegal, Vietnam, Kenya, Mexico, Venezuela, South Africa, and other countries. He was a delegation leader to the World Social Forums in Nairobi, Kenya (2007) and Dakar, Senegal (2011). His commentaries have appeared in the Black Scholar, and on Pacifica National News, National Public Radio, and PBS. He is one of the authors of the book No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000.

David Wiley

David Wiley is a faculty member of sociology and African studies at Michigan State University (MSU).  His African research has included the environment (rural and urban), the political economy, and militarization, as well as internationalizing higher education.  Previously, Wiley was director of the MSU African Studies Center (1978-2008), chaired the African Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison (1972 – 1977), was a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Zambia, and, in the 1960s, worked in race relations in the U.S. and in “Southern Rhodesia” (now Zimbabwe).

In the 1960s through the 1990s, Wiley participated in the movement for decolonization in Southern Africa and the anti-apartheid movement both nationally and at MSU. This included the New Jersey Committee on Southern Africa, the Madison Area Committee on Southern Africa, Southern Africa magazine, and the Southern Africa Liberation Committee (East Lansing). He has been a member of the Higher Education Forum of the U.S./South Africa Bi-National Commission and in 1994 and 1996 was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Durban, South Africa.

Wiley has been president of the African Studies Association and chairperson of the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for International Programs, international committees of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Sociological Association, and the Council of Title VI National Resource Centers for more than 100 U.S. university area studies centers. He has been Vice-Chairperson of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and co-chairperson and board member of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars.