There has been a heightened awareness and a greater sense of urgency of the need to address the inequities laid bare by a cascade of crises in recent years. This has highlighted the work of leaders on the frontlines for social change. Leading Boldly, The USC Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy’s new series, focuses on emerging leaders who are working on an array of issues and varying approaches to create a more equitable society.
Four remarkable leaders, whose life experiences give them inspiration and strength, share their personal stories and reflect on their leadership journeys with Fred Ali, the retired President and CEO of the Weingart Foundation and a former nonprofit leader. The interviews are inspired by the words of Booker T. Washington: “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
Desmond Meade overcame drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration on a path to advocate for returning citizenship to the formerly incarcerated by removing/reducing barriers for fully participating in civic life. As President and Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, he led one of the most inspiring and successful grassroots campaigns in history – Amendment 4 – restoring voting rights to over 1.4 million “returning citizens” in Florida.
Greisa Martinez Rosas who immigrated with her family from Mexico to the U.S. at a young age, later to see her father later deported, has drawn inspiration from challenging life experiences to commit to a life of activism and organizing. As the Executive Director of United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigrant rights network in the nation, Greisa has emerged as a strong intersectional voice for equity and justice.
Phi Nguyen, whose parents immigrated from Vietnam, witnessed the continual exclusion of immigrants when she helped resettle a Syrian family in Clarkston, Georgia, in 2015. As the Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta, Phi chose to leave a successful private law practice to dedicate herself to reducing the barriers to inclusion and voting rights and fighting Anti-Asian hate.
Reverend Jennifer Bailey, channeled her early life experiences of isolation and marginalization into a ministry of belonging and healing. She offers support and radical hope to community organizers, clergy, and other activists from across the nation through the Faith Matters Network that she founded and leads.