THE PRAXIS PROJECT STAFF
Makani Themba, Executive Director
Makani Themba is executive director of The Praxis Project, a nonprofit organization helping communities use media and policy advocacy to advance health justice. Under her leadership, The Praxis Project has raised more than $20 million for advocacy organizations working in communities of color nationwide. These initiatives include Communities Creating Healthy Environments (C-CHE), an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support policy advocacy to advance healthy food outlets and safe places to play in communities of color and Building Capacity Building Power, a partnership with Ford Foundation to support grassroots civic engagement.
Makani was previously director of the Transnational Racial Justice Initiative (TRJI), an international project to build capacity among advocates to more effectively address structural racism and leverage tools and best practices from around the world. While at TRJI, she co-authored and edited a "shadow report" on institutional racism and white privilege – the first of its kind.
Prior to that, she directed the Grass Roots Innovative Policy Program (GRIPP) a national project to build capacity among local organizing groups to more effectively engage in media and policy advocacy to address institutional racism in welfare and public education. She was a staffer for the California State Legislature, served as media director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/Los Angeles, and worked five years for the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, including three years as director of its Center for Media and Policy Analysis.
Makani has published numerous articles and case studies on race, class, media, policy advocacy and public health. She is author of Making Policy, Making Change, and co-author of Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention, a contributor to the volumes Community Based Participatory Research for Health, Prevention is Primary: Strategies for Community well Being, We the Media along with many other edited book projects. Her publications have helped set the standard for policy advocacy work and contributed significantly to the field’s current emphasis on media and policy advocacy to address health problems. She has also co-authored with Hunter Cutting is Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice. Her latest book, a collaboration under The Praxis Project with contributions from Malkia Cyril and others, is Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era.
Ditra has centered her life's work on working with communities of color to fight for justice. A skilled trainer, facilitator, community organizer, fundraiser and strategist, Ditra brings a high level integrity and effectiveness to all of her work.
Prior to coming to Praxis, Ditra served as a consultant in partnership with the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, The Center for Applied Research and Technical Assistance, Inc. (CARTA) and The Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO). From 1999 to 2005, Ditra Edwards was on the staff of LISTEN, Inc., serving as Executive Director from 2002 to 2005. Under Ditra's leadership, the organization grew tremendously. LISTEN secured and managed the National Roots Initiative - a two-year partnership with the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing. Ditra also won multi-year funding to secure the infrastructure of LISTEN and core support for grass roots organizations in their national network.
As director of Training and Youth Development at LISTEN, Ditra was responsible for the design and implementation of the Global Exchange Program, which supported youth activists from the United States and their counterparts in other countries to learn about leadership and democracy. Ditra was also the catalyst for the content and framework of the organization's leadership and youth development curriculum. Ditra also helped incubate Youth Education Alliance (YEA), a DC based youth organizing group fighting for equality education in DC Public Schools. She also helped create the national network of youth workers and organizers called Building Leadership Organizing Communities (BLOC).
Ditra has served on the boards of the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing, and the Columbia Heights Shaw Family Support Collaborative. Ditra was the recipient of the Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, Session 366 on Urban Youth and the Smithsonian Institute Museum Leadership Award.
Salimah Salaam-Muhammad, Finance and Personnel Director
Salimah Salaam Muhammad is a native Washingtonian and serves as the Chief Financial Officer for the Praxis Project. Her primary function is to act as the financial liaison for the organization and to provide administrative and fiscal management. She also works directly with the Praxis Project Fiscal Sponsor in the capacity of fiscal manager to institution of color at the local and regional levels to provide technical assistance in the areas of budget development, planning policies and procedures and accounting.
Hailing from a varied business background that spans over two decades, her experience includes managing the Abundant Life Clinic, an inclusive and non-sectarian community-based holistic health clinic serving health care needs to underserved and disadvantaged communities, to a management stint at Citibank. Prior to working at Praxis, Salimah was professionally employed with various financial planning, investment and community based fundraising to individuals and small businesses. She holds a master’s degree in business finance from the University of the District of Columbia and she completed her undergraduate work at Howard University.
Priscilla Ellison,Finance Associate
Priscilla was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. Priscilla’s background includes Human Resources, Administrative/Financial Management & Event Planning. Priscilla has also worked on issues affecting people of color such as domestic violence, voter rights, women’s rights, and worker’s rights.
Prior to coming to the Praxis Project, she worked with other internationally and nationally known non-profit organizations in South Carolina and the District of Columbia. Priscilla earned her B.S degree in Business Administration & Management from Limestone College and her M.A. degree in Human Resources Development from Webster University.Priscilla is committed to the fight for economic and social justice for communities of color.
Sylvia Castillo, Deputy Director
Sylvia has combined her passions for public policy and grassroots organizing for the last 20 years by serving as District Director to the Congress member Karen Bass and former California Assembly Speaker and by being a founding leader of the Community Coalition, a community institution that involves thousands of grassroots activists to create, influence and change public policy.
Kim Diehl, Communications Manager
Kim helped build a healthcare workers union in Florida for seven years as Communications Coordinator at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. She is a former co-director of Southerners On New Ground and currently serves on the board of Critical Resistance. Kim's writings have appeared in Color Lines and Southern Exposure magazines and Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (South End Press).
Miles Parish, Technology Manager
Miles began his organizing career at a young age when he began volunteering in election campaigns before he was ten years old. As a college student at Morehouse, he worked in the Obama For America campaign, designed websites and technology applications for independent musicians and produced short viral videos and other promotional materials. Miles coordinates digital outreach for the CCHE Get FReE initiative, which focuses on networking, support and tools for youth-led organizing nationwide.
Now in his fifth year at Praxis Miles has stepped into the role as Technology Manager adding to his multimedia credentials through various accredidation programs and independent study on how to use the web more effectively for organizing and also speaking at gatherings on the importance for people of color to use available technology to better their communities by taking charge in its development.
Gabriella Ramos, Program Associate (California)
Gabriella was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio by her mother and a loving village of relatives where values of social awareness and community service were instilled in her at a very young age. She moved to the California Bay Area in 1991 and now shares her values by being a loving member of multiple villages, where she has spent time mentoring and empowering the youth in her chosen family and community. As a licensed spiritual counselor and mentor, she co-leads a weekly pre-teen and teen program at her church. The experience Gabriella brings to Praxis includes over a decade of volunteer recruitment and management as well as a diverse conference and event production skill set. She is committed to social justice, equality and a world that works for everyone.