MPLI Introduces the 2023 Fall Cohort
Alexa Rodriguez (she/her)
Alexa Elizabeth Rodriguez is an international activist, originally from Usulután, El Salvador. Her passion is defending Transgender and people living with HIV rights. She founded the first working and support group for people living with HIV and Trans Women named formerly “Mi Nueva Familia” (my New Family) now Asociacion de DOLORES de El Salvador, in her hometown Usulután. Alexa has continued her work in the DMV area (DC, Maryland, and Virginia), and around the US. Working with organizations like, CASA, La Clinica Del Pueblo, Identity Inc., Transgender Strategy Center (TSC) PWN, and DC Health Department. She does community advocacy thru organizations like National LULAC LGBTQ Affairs Committee, DC LULAC Lambda and LULAC National Women’s Commission, the National TransLatin@ Coalition, Latinx History Project (LHP) and many other organizations that defend human rights.
Alexa believes that visibility is important but also fillings the gaps where there are no voices, especially trans womxn of color including indigenous and immigrant trans womxn voices in the decision-making spaces.
She currently works at Whitman Walker Health as Trans Care Navigator Lead, in the Gender Affirming Services Department. Alexa is the Director of the Trans-Latinx DMV a Two-Spirit led organization that centers the needs of Black & Indigenous Trans-Latinx people living in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, that function as regional Chapter of The National Trans-Latin@ Coalition Alexa held the title of Miss LHP 2012, 2014 she received Engendered Spirit Award from Capital Trans Pride, Heil-Balin Community Service Award from Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Carmen Martin Award of Excellence 2015 by Latin Soul Productions, Community Leadership Award Hispanic Heritage by LHP, Member of the Year of DC LULAC Lambda, Recognition from Mayor Office of Latino Affair, POZ 100 and her story has been published in Latina Magazine in October 2015 Issue. In June 2023 she received the first Public Service award from LHP during the Latinx Pride Kickoff receptions at the DC Kennedy Center. Rodriguez arrived in the United States ready to fight and work for the transgender community. She saw transphobia persist in her home country and in the US, she wanted to ignite a call for action. She has been an activist for over 20 years fighting for the rights of people living with HIV and members of the transgender community. As a transgender immigrant, indigenous woman, Alexa will continue to fight to make sure her community does not fail.
Anthony Wilson (he/him)
Prince George’s County
One of the most effective and powerful speakers in Maryland, and surrounding communities, Anthony Wilson’s capacity to engage an audience is proven, as is his talent for creating a relaxed, purpose-filled rapport with his audience while getting them actively engaged in learning the truth about, at the core of an injustice is a violation of a person’s rights that can and does result in a Great Injustice.
Anthony J. Wilson is the founder of F.R.E.S.H., “Fully Restoring Every Son’s Hope”, an organization set up to provide safe and productive communities where positive male and female role models are perpetuated daily. Because of the clear injustice of a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts black people, Wilson created THE GREAT INJUSTICE workshop, teaching youth about their 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights. Wilson and his team visit schools and community centers to teach primarily Black kids and teens about their rights under the amendments that grant people the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
Wilson’s personal mission is to positively influence others through open communication, empathetic understanding, and contagious commitment to learning and positive self-development.
He currently travels, teaching, educating and sharing knowledge about our 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.
Antoine M. Thompson (he/him)
Prince George’s County
Antoine Maurice Thompson is a native of Buffalo, New York. He graduated from Buffalo Public Schools #61, #60, and Bennett High School. A graduate of SUNY Brockport with a dual bachelors’ degree in History and African and Afro-American Studies, Thompson also studied at the University of Ghana in Ghana, West Africa. Antoine is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Medaille College. He is a graduate of the 2001 Class of Leadership Buffalo.
Antoine M. Thompson is a nationally recognized leader for environmental justice, green business, housing, diversity, and urban policy. Antoine is the Executive Director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition (GWRCC), a public-private partnership that promotes the use of clean, American transportation fuels for homeland security, improved air quality, environmental, energy, transportation justice, diversity, and inclusion.
He is the former Executive Director of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) the oldest organization of African-American real estate professionals in the United States. Antoine led efforts to increase advocacy on Capitol Hill on closing the racial wealth gap through increasing the rate of Black homeownership.
He had a significant public service career in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. His positions have included election to Buffalo Common Council where he authored the Buffalo’s Fair Housing Law, the Minority and Women Business Enterprise Inclusion Law and secured over $75 million for community development projects. He was elected to the New York State Senate in 2006 and 2008 and served as the Senate Deputy Majority Whip and the first African-American to Chair the Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and Co-Chair of the Senate Minority and Woman Business Enterprise Task Force. He authored the NYS MWBE Mentor/Protégé Law. He was the key architect of the Green Jobs/Green New York law and securing of over $450 million for schools, hospitals and various projects and organizations in his district.
Antoine is a partner in Creative PMO Solutions. He is also a licensed real estate agent in New York State. He is guest writer in various publications and highly sought-after speaker. Antoine is married to Tracey Thompson, and the father of Deja L. Middlebrook and Joseph A. Thompson. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Antoine is a Silver Life Member of the NAACP, and a longtime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Antonia Brooks (she/her)
Antonia Brooks was born and raised in the vibrant city of Baltimore, Maryland. Growing up in a community that faced its fair share of challenges, Antonia developed a deep sense of empathy and a strong desire to make a positive impact on the lives of those around her. She took on the role of a single mother, raising her son with unwavering determination and resilience. Antonia's passion for caring for others led her to a career in healthcare. She embarked on a journey that would eventually see her become a skilled medical technician in an ICU hospital in her hometown. Her commitment to her profession, combined with her dedication to making a difference, led her to become a member of the 1199SEIU union, where she assumed the crucial roles of a Union Delegate and a Member Political Organizer.
Antonia's personal experiences gave her a unique perspective on the challenges that many families face when it comes to accessing healthcare. She vividly remembers a time when she couldn't afford proper medical care and medication for her sick son, forcing her into heart-wrenching decisions between essentials like bills, food, and medication. Determined to change the trajectory for others in similar situations, Antonia became a vocal advocate for affordable healthcare.As an active member of the 1199SEIU union, Antonia recognized the power of collective bargaining in improving the lives of workers and their families. She played a pivotal role in fighting for higher wages and better health insurance for union members, ensuring that they no longer have to choose between essentials like healthcare and basic needs. Antonia's involvement in the union also extended to her role as a Member Political Organizer, where she worked to mobilize individuals and communities to advocate for their rights.
Antonia's journey as a healthcare worker exposed her to the pressing issues within the healthcare system. She witnessed the strain on hospitals due to understaffing, leading to prolonged wait times and compromised patient care. She observed the disparities in treatment based on insurance status, a situation she found morally unjust. Antonia's determination to create a more equitable healthcare system fueled her advocacy for a drug affordability board to curb rising medication costs and initiatives to ensure access to timely and quality healthcare for all.
Antonia Brooks stands as a beacon of hope and change for her community and beyond. Her tireless efforts to improve healthcare accessibility, alleviate medical debt, and fight for workers' rights have left an indelible mark. Through her advocacy, Antonia strives to ensure that no mother or family has to face the agonizing decisions she once did, and that everyone, regardless of income, can access the care they deserve. As a proud health care worker who has stood on the front lines, Antonia continues to uphold her duty to the city she loves. Her commitment to Maryland's low-income patients and marginalized communities remains unwavering, and her advocacy serves as an inspiration to others seeking to create a more just and equitable society.
Antonia Brooks' biography is a testament to the power of one individual's determination to create positive change. From her beginnings in Baltimore to her impactful role in the healthcare industry and as an advocate for affordable healthcare, Antonia's journey is a reminder that even in the face of challenges, the will to make a difference can lead to remarkable accomplishments. Her legacy is one of compassion, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to social justice.
Connor White (he/him)
Connor White is a lifelong resident of rural northern Baltimore County studying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at CCBC Catonsville. As a devout Quaker, Connor is deeply invested in the stewardship of the local environment by protecting the local greenspace and waterways, as well as advocating for peace and justice in his community. Connor has also taken a leading role in organizing and raising the voice of the next generation of voters as Secretary of Baltimore County Young Democrats.
Erica Puentes (she/her)
Erica Puentes Martínez is a community advocate with over 9 years of experience in organizing as a student activist (leading PLUMAS and various student coalitions) at the University of Maryland, College Park and the broader DMV and Baltimore City areas. After graduating with a double degree in African American Studies, U.S. Latina/o Studies, and American Studies, she worked as a Faculty Research Assistant in UMD’s African American Studies department where she contributed to research on Black women’s political advocacy in the late 19th and early 20th century. She also conducted research on Black and African diasporic identities, gender, labor, migration, and race, and helped manage two academic publications including a biographical monograph contracted by Yale University Press.
Most recently, Erica helped found and develop the Audelia Community Response Team (ACRT) a mutual aid project created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and she is a Community Service Co-Chair for the Gamma Alpha Alumna Chapter of SIA, Inc. where she designed and led a 3-part campaign entitled “Workers’ Rights Series” to empower community members, construction workers, students, and union leaders to collaborate and participate in social action.
Currently, Erica is serving the immigrant and working class communities of the Central Maryland area (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, and Howard County) through her role as Policy Analyst for CASA, Inc.
Erica’s passion for social justice is informed by her background: she is the daughter of Ecuadorian and Colombian immigrants and a proud Baltimorean. She plans to dedicate her life to serving the community that raised her via grassroots organizing and transformative education.
Gibson Homan (he/him)
Gibson Homan is a person who cares about the needs of people. Gibson has functioned in various leadership roles in commerce, industry and in various advocacy roles and community development roles, always using these exposures and positions in the upliftment of the people and community that he comes into contact with.
Jonathan Briggs (he/him)
Prince George’s County
Jonathan Briggs holds a politically appointed role as the Associate Director of Public Engagement in the Office of the US Surgeon General. In this capacity, he is instrumental in advancing public health priorities for the nation's doctors, focusing on crucial areas such as mental health, fostering social connection, and navigating the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this, he served as the Policy Manager at America Forward, a New Profit policy initiative, where he contributed significantly to their 2020 Presidential engagement effort, the Whole-Learner Education Initiative and workforce policy, and their advocacy for evidence-based policies in education and workforce development.
His background includes a tenure as a Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) Fellow and Education Program Specialist at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). During this time, he co-managed a portfolio of discretionary grant awardees in the Office of Program and Grantee Support Services. His role extended to collaborating with various formula and discretionary grant program offices within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. This involved designing qualitative and quantitative methods for assessing grant programs' effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity, employing analytical and evaluative techniques to identify challenges and enhance grant programs and processes.
Before joining ED, Jonathan's contributions extended to Capitol Hill, where he served as a Legislative Fellow and Acting Legislative Assistant in the Office of Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge. His focus encompassed various policies, including education, health, employment, higher education, labor, and civil rights. During this period, Jonathan played an integral part in the development of impactful bills such as the Strength in Diversity Act of 2019, aimed at improving diversity and reducing socioeconomic isolation in public schools and early education programs, and the Time for Completion Act of 2019, which redefined the way institutions calculate completion rates, providing essential information for students and families evaluating colleges and universities.
A Chicago Southsider by origin, Jonathan's unwavering commitment to social justice and education reform has defined his journey. Prior to his work on Capitol Hill, he contributed to enhancing safe travel experiences for students through the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education's Safe Passage initiative in DC. Back in his home state of Illinois, he championed the creation of the Governor's Children's Cabinet to empower and amplify youth voices.
Jonathan's dedication to education evolved during his experience as a 2013 Teach for America - Kansas City Corps member, where he taught 5th-grade all-subjects and led Guided Reading sessions. He spearheaded family engagement initiatives to foster stronger family and school bonds. Furthermore, he was a 2011-2013 Corps member with City Year Chicago. He served as an Outreach Coordinator and Team Leader, providing targeted support in attendance, behavior, and course performance to cohorts of students most in need of academic intervention.
In addition to an extensive background in education, Jonathan's dedication to the field and community led him to run for the Prince George's County School Board during the midterm election in 2022, where he emerged victorious to represent District 2. Elected to a four-year term as a member of the Prince George’s County Public School District 2 Board of Education, he is one of seven elected board members, out of fourteen in total, responsible for a $2.7 billion budget. District 2 consists of 17 schools, which employ over 1,000 teachers and staff and serve over 8,000 students. Jonathan Briggs sits on the Policy & Governance Committee as Vice Chair, which develops, repeals, and amends administrative policies for the entire school district. The Board of Education supports all areas of the Strategic Plan through its community engagement efforts, committee work, public work sessions, and meetings.
His educational journey includes a BA from National Louis University, a Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University, a graduate certificate in Urban Education and Leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and he is currently a candidate for a Master of Science in Law at Cornell Law School.
Kamal Nkele (he/him)
After getting married, l moved to Maryland with my wife and son to start our new life as a family. Over a decade later, I have fallen in love with living in Maryland and to be a proud Marylander . From the strong diversity of its communities to its love of democratic values, Maryland has truly become my home. After providing intelligent solutions in the Climate and Sustainability spaces for well over 11 years, I decided that the incremental approach that our leaders are taking is not enough. I want to try and see if I can lend my knowledge and experience to making a difference for my kids and my community. It is time for “Aggressively proactive” leadership and I am ready to get in the ring.
Kiran Badwal (she/her)
Prince George’s County
I'm Kiran Badwal. I was born and raised in Maryland. I'm excited to have been selected to participate in this year's Progressive Maryland Political Leadership Fellowship Program! I've always had a keen interest in politics and public policy, but I was often too shy and hesitant to actively pursue it. However, I decided that now that I'm older (and hopefully wiser!), it was time I started to be more active in showing my support for progressive public policies because their adoption can potentially help to make everyone's lives better. Maryland is a special place and has the potential to help lead the country in achieving a more just, fair, inclusive, and healthy society and I want to help contribute to making that happen. Thank you for your support of me and my fellowship cohort.
Lisa Dickerson (she/her)
Prince George’s County
My name is Lisa Dickerson and I am excited to participate in the Progressive MD leadership training program. I am a resident of PG County MD and enjoy participating in community activities and civic organizations throughout my community.
I have been employed for the past five years as a dental assistant and I am currently completing a degree in political science at ODU, which I look forward to utilizing in service to my community in a political capacity.
Some of the social issues that I am compassionate about are prolific homelessness throughout the country, healthcare disparities, ever-increasing wealth inequality gap, unaffordable housing, and mass gentrification/red-lining to name a few.
Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this program and I look forward to learning as much as possible and applying this knowledge to the enrichment of my community and my personal life.
Nathan Feinberg (he/him)
I am a high school math teacher and father of three young children in Fairland, Maryland. I am also a life long Marylander who believes deeply in the potential of our culturally rich and diverse communities. But if I am being honest it is the barriers, obstacles, and systemic injustices that squander this potential - and the moral imperative of correcting them - which drives my pursuit of political activism. At every level it seems we are having the wrong conversations, fighting over the wrong issues. American working families have been set against each other in a manufactured culture war to serve the interests of corrupt and morally bankrupt elites, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, to keep us divided while they rule. Having experienced homelessness, as well as exploitation in both labor and healthcare, I know all too well the very human consequences this has for working families. And it is these experiences which have compelled me to fight, along with local organizations and my labor union, for just housing, universal healthcare, and labor rights here in Maryland.
Because it is not enough to solve my own family's struggles while millions of my neighbors and countrymen continue to suffer needlessly for the benefit of a few. My goal is ambitious but I believe in my heart that it is necessary. We MUST bridge our cultural differences and unite working class Americans of all backgrounds, beliefs, and ideologies. Yes, even the ones, in fact especially the ones, we have been taught to despise the most. I have no illusions, it is a monumental task. But what are the alternatives? Only through the true solidarity of the working class, left and right, can we build the world our children and grandchildren deserve to inherit.
Senay Emmanuel (he/him)
Prince George’s County
Senay Emmanuel is a Climate Policy Analyst at Progressive Maryland, where he advocates for environmental policies rooted in equity and justice. As a researcher, policy practitioner, and government relations professional, he is concerned with the ways decisions made at the top impact the lives of average people. His goal is to see policymakers implement policy interventions that effectively target root causes of environmental racism and injustice, and orient Maryland towards a healthier and sustainable future for all. He has been an environmental policy specialist for grassroots nonprofits, international governmental organizations, and think tanks, with a background in quantitative and qualitative research and analysis. Senay received a BA in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University and an MA in International Affairs from Marquette University. He’s a Seattle native but now lives in Prince George’s County. barbarism, rapacious greed, and wanton immorality.
Sharonda L. Huffman (she/her)
Sharonda L. Huffman is a strong disability advocate. She became the ADA (American Disabilities Act) Manager of a Maryland housing authority in August 2023. Huffman has been asked to be the keynote speaker for several webinars, training and workshops related to the cross section of discrimination related disability. She is a volunteer in various organizations including Sigma Gamma Rho community service sorority. She also holds memberships with the Greater Baltimore Urban League, NAACP, National Federation of the Blind, National Association of Parliamentarians, League of Women Voters, and the American Society of Public Administration. Further, she is the President of Blue and Gold Democratic Club in Baltimore County and an associate member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee. Huffman earned a BA in Political Science from Morgan State University and attained her master’s in public administration from Strayer University.
Sunmy Brown (she/her)
My name is Sunmy Brown, born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1976. My passions include fighting for equity in education, environmental justice, and bringing power back to working families in Maryland. I believe that everyone deserves a fair shake in life that includes having access to affordable healthcare and a high-quality education. I earned my B.S. in Elementary Education at Towson University and M.S. in Educational Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. I’ve worked in the field of education for the past 25 years and continue to work tirelessly to fight for worker’s rights. I am a community activist and mobilizer, and tutor and consult during my free time. My favorite hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.