Board

Carla Sparks, MPH

Board Chair

Carla Sparks is a Rural Outreach Coordinator for the Child Advocacy and Public Health Division of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Little Rock, AR. Via her 15 year tenure at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, she served as a the Director, Patient Centered Initiatives and Community Engagement, Center for Health Literacy, and Community Liaison and Health Policy and Management Department adjunct faculty member at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. Ms. Sparks worked in the public sector for (7) years as Director of Training Community Organizations for Change a nonprofit capacity building organization, Development Director for Second Genesis Project, and an organization development consultant. In her continuing role as an organization development consultant, Ms. Sparks has had the opportunity to work with numerous community-based, governmental, and philanthropic organizations dealing with nonprofit capacity building, community development, and public health. Prior to work in the public sector, she worked for 13 years in the private/corporate sector primarily in human resources and organization development. Ms. Sparks received her BS in Mathematics from Philander Smith College of Little Rock, AR and her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock Arkansas. Ms. Sparks has served on a campus-wide task force focused on reducing racial and ethnic health disparities, and a campus-wide inter-professional health education team including the establishment of student-run free health and wellness center in an under-served community, supported by a community-based advisory board. Ms. Sparks has also served as a leader and member of the Boards of several different nonprofit/community-based organizations such as Better Community Development, the Arkansas Literacy Council, and University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Center for Community Philanthropy Advisory Board.

Estevan Flores, PhD

Board Vice Chair

Dr. Flores is Principal of Flores Consulting, LLC. He was the 2014 Academic and Faculty Director at Regis University’s Dual Language Campus. A sociologist, Dr. Flores was Executive Director of the Latino/a Research & Policy Center (LRPC) at the University of Colorado Denver (1997-2007), where he was also Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences. He was Chief of Population Science and Cancer Control at the Nevada Cancer Institute to July, 2008. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas (Austin) and MA from the University of Notre Dame.

His fields include public health and health disparities, race and ethnic relations, cancer control, leadership, community-based research, and dual language university programs. Dr. Flores published work appears in U.S. journals and in Mexico as well. Dr. Flores has published over 75 op-eds and his career funding is $7.5M in research grants on health and cancer prevention. His 2005-10 NCI grant brought 12 counties and 25 community based organizations and leaders into a Colorado prevention Network to save lives. He served on the first national Minority Advisory Committee to eliminate health disparities for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and for a decade on the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

His consulting work in Dallas resulted in the opening of a new Dual Language University Campus in January of 2015. In Dallas he worked with city and state elected officials, university administrators, hospital leadership, and community based organizations and leaders. He was an Adviser to the Mexican government from 2006 to 2008.

In Colorado he has been an activist and co-founded organizations like the Hispanic Health Coalition, the Hispanic League, the Latino Education Campaign, and the Colorado Latino Forum. He now serves on Denver’s Clinica Tepeyac’s Board of Directors (a gateway health facility for the underserved). Estevan received the Community Health Research Leadership Award from the National Cancer Institute (2005) and the “Cesar Chavez Leadership Award” in 2014 by Denver’s Peace and Justice Committee. Currently he is working nightly to complete his autobiography.

John Govea

Board Secretary

John Govea is the Program Director Immigrant Rights and Integration at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Previously, John managed national programs and initiatives focused on health equity and childhood obesity with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey. Born and raised in Bakersfield, California, John is descended from Mexican immigrants who settled in the state. His father came to the United States under the bracero program during World War II to work on the Santa Fe Railroad. His mother was a migrant farmworker in the San Joaquin Valley.

John started his professional career as an attorney representing farmworkers in rural California. He has worked on the staffs of the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and was senior program officer with the State of California’s California Service Corps, where he oversaw implementation of the state’s AmeriCorps program.

John holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University, a law degree from the University of California School of Law, Boalt Hall, and a master of public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Rodrigo Vazquez

Board Treasurer

Rodrigo (Rigo) Vazquez is a Mexican immigrant raised in the city of South Gate, a suburb located southeast of Los Angeles. Rigo has an ingrained commitment to family, education and social justice grounded through his upbringing and his parents’ work ethic – throughout his youth, his father worked 12-hour days at a food processing plant and his mother worked the graveyard shift making telephone books.

Rigo is deeply involved in community activities and activism ranging from grassroots mobilization to politics. He is an active member of the LA Tenants Union, an organization founded on the belief that housing is a human right and that empowers and mobilizes tenants to protect their homes and communities. As part of his commitment to housing justice, Rigo supports efforts addressing homelessness, such as the #SheDoes movement in Los Angeles, which is a movement to provide bridge housing to homeless women. In addition, Rigo volunteers with Imagine LA as a permanent supportive housing mentor for families transitioning out of homelessness. On the political front, Rigo has served as the Legislative Director for one of the largest Democratic Party clubs in the Los Angeles area. Rigo believes that in addition to important community grassroots work, social and economic justice currently requires a transformation of our politics. As such, Rigo strongly supports progressive candidates and causes with platforms promoting healthcare as a human right, immigrant rights, living wages, equity in education, and environmental justice, among other important issues.

Rigo graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Economics and Rhetoric and received a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Rigo has an accounting background and is a practicing attorney specializing in media distribution.

Closest to his heart, Rigo is married and has two young daughters.

Alex T. Tom

Board Member

Alex T. Tom is a second generation Chinese American born and raised in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Alex got politicized in high school youth programs in the Bay Area and spent nearly a decade organizing youth and college students in San Diego and the U.S./Mexico Border Region. He is currently the Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco and has played a leadership role in building CPA’s service, organizing, and civic engagement programs. Before becoming Executive Director, Alex served as the Campaign Coordinator where he built the CPA Worker Organizing Center and led campaigns to organize workers in the garment and restaurant industries, winning over a million dollars in back wages.

Alex has also played a key role in local and national movement building. On a local level, Alex serves on the Leadership Committee of the San Francisco Rising Alliance, a nine-member grassroots multiracial electoral movement building alliance. He serves on the Board of Directors of the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and is on the Coordinating Committee of Grassroots Asians Risings, a new national initiative for grassroots Asian organizations. CPA launched Seeding Change: A Center for Asian American Movement Building, CPA’s national project that includes building a national pipeline for the next generation of organizers; creating an infrastructure for grassroots organizing; and building power and scale for our movements toward a vibrant social and economic justice movement. Alex has a BA in Political Science and Ethnic Studies with a minor in Education from the University of California, San Diego.

Janvieve Williams Comrie

Board Member

Janvieve Williams Comrie is a human rights strategist, trainer and organizer with a deep commitment to assist in the building of powerful social movements for racial justice and human rights. She is an expert a race and human rights expert, and internationally recognized for her work with African Descendent communities. She has worked in a variety of fields and for several human rights institutions, including the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights Regional Office Central America, where she coordinated a regional program on race and racism. She has also done groundbreaking human rights work, both with grassroots organizations, NGO’s and with the United Nations, primarily in southern-based United States, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil to name a few.

Her work around race and racism has been highlighted on CNN en Español, and its impact has been documented through international networks such as Al Jazeera, TeleSur, and BBC Radio. In addition, Janvieve has been featured on national media outlets such as the Nation Magazine, Laura Flanders, and ColorLines Magazine, as well as many local media outlets.

Presently Janvieve serves social movements as a facilitator, communications consultant and strategic planning consultant. She is a writer for Al Jazeera on issues of human rights, race and immigration.

Janeen Comenote

Board Member

Janeen Comenote lives in Seattle, Washington. She is Hesquiaht and Kwakiutl First Nation from her mother’s side and Oglala Lakota and enrolled Quinault from her father’s side. She has spent the last 14 years advocating for American Indians/Alaska Natives who live off reservations and endeavoring to provide a voice to this often “silent majority” in Indian Country.

In 2003, through her work with urban Indian families, she saw the need for urban Indian centers to find ways to collaborate to improve services to Native American children and families nationwide, prompting her to initiate the creation of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC). The NUIFC is a growing national coalition representing 27 urban Indian centers in 20 cities, several Native American organizations and more than 1 million Native Americans living away from their traditional land base and provides advocacy, research and a vehicle for urban Indian centers to collaborate on critical issues.

José Bravo

Board Member

José Bravo is a leader in Californian and national chemical policy reform work and a member of Green Chemistry’s Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE). CHANGE is an alliance of health, environmental, labor, resource organizations and EJ organizations throughout California. José is also on the steering committee of the State Alliance for Federal Reform of Chemicals Policy (SAFER). SAFER is an alliance of organizations in key states working to create a pre-market testing system and regulation for all chemicals. José works directly with Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities and Labor (Organized and Unorganized). José’s work in social justice is rooted in his upbringing in the Southern California farm fields alongside both his parents. José has also worked on immigrant rights issues since his days as a student organizer in the 80’s to the present. José has participated in the Environmental Justice movement since 1990, and over the years he has gained recognition as a national and international leader in the EJ movement. José is also serves on the board of Communities for a Better Environment.

Suniti Bal

Board Member

Suniti Sarah Bal is the Director of Public Relations for The Arc of the United Sates. The Arc is the nation’s largest and oldest human rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, serving more than a million individuals and their families. With a robust network of over 650 chapters in 47 states, The Arc is leading the movement to promote and protect the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.

Raised in a family dedicated to social justice, her passion for civil rights and public policy began at a young age. Beginning her career fresh out of college with a position at the Hawaii State legislature and then relocating to Washington, DC to take a job as Communications Director for The Roosevelt Institute. Prior to joining The Arc, she served on Senator Mazie Hirono’s (then Congresswoman Hirono) staff doing both legislative and press work.

Suniti has been with The Arc since 2011, leading the national media strategy for the organization. During her tenure with The Arc, she has expanded The Arc’s national media profile (including coverage on CNN, NY Times, and HBO) and created lasting partnerships with national organizations to further the organization’s mission of inclusion for people with disabilities. She has also created and now leads The Arc’s premier event, The Catalyst Awards, which are sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal. In her role she works closely with The National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability and The Arc’s Public Policy Team.

Carol Blackmon

Board Member

Carol Blackmon is Principal Consultant of CB Enterprises & Associates, Incorporated. She currently serves as Senior Consultant and Human Rights Coordinator for Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice where she trains community leaders and their commissions on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recently, she led a delegation of 30 rural black women to the United States Human Rights Network Conference to provide testimony related to Extreme poverty in the United States to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for his 2018 report. She was Executive Director of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Foundation for three years.

She was a Program and Executive Coach with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative providing technical and grant seeking support to designated nonprofits across Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As Program Manager for the Mid South African American Philanthropy Program she successfully coordinated black philanthropy programs and three black philanthropy state conferences in the Mid-South. She is the first program officer hired by Foundation for the Mid-South where she assisted emerging nonprofits in organizational development and grants seeking. As Managing Consultant for the Deep South Delta Consortium she successfully managed the submission of a non-commercial educational radio application to the Federal Communications Commission. For three years she served as a Technical Assistance Coach with YouthBuild USA’s Rural and Tribal programs. She spent five years as a network member of the Deep South Wealth Creation Network value chain where she helped to shape rural wealth creation strategies among regional produce farmers. She represents the deep-south as a steering committee member on the National Rural Assembly.

Her community engagement includes Board Chair, Mississippi Housing Partnership an affordable housing provider and homeless prevention agency, founding board member Greater Jackson Community Foundation, and Board of Directors of Rural Education and Leadership Foundation where she is the Grants Committee Chair. She also served on the boards of the National Center for Black Philanthropy and the Association of Black Foundation Executives. Her policy reform engagement includes local organizing around implementation of welfare reform in Mississippi, grassroots organizing to support public education funding, continued funding of the Child Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), Congressional testimony to eliminate food stamp co-payments, and passage of Mississippi’s landlord tenant and school nurses legislation.

Sumaiya Zama

Board Member

Sumaiya Zama is the Director of Community Advocacy and Education at the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to defending the rights of Muslims in the United States. In her role at CAIR, she works to provide young people, community members, educators, and youth workers with the tools to self-advocate, implement inclusionary practices, build power, and hone leadership skills.

Sumaiya is an educator, community organizer, youth advocate, and human rights activist from the Boston area. Her primary areas of focus have been Islamophobia, youth work, systemic racism, surveillance and policing, gender-based violence, and anti-blackness.

Before joining CAIR, Sumaiya was a youth worker for the City of Cambridge, working primarily with children of color from immigrant and refugee communities. She is currently the co-founder of the Muslim Liberation Collective, a grassroots Muslim women’s empowerment collective and the co-author of a non-binary sexual and reproductive health curriculum for Muslim women.

She holds a degree in Political Science with minors in Human Rights and African Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  Also a writer and poet, she believes in our ability to teach others and build bridges through storytelling and art. In her spare time, Sumaiya writes and performs poetry at local venues in the Boston and Cambridge area.