Leadership Core

taij square2Taij Kumarie Moteelall, is a visionary and change-maker who has blazed a successful path in the arts, activism and philanthropy. She acts on her deep belief that we can restore balance and foster peace, justice and sustainability by connecting to create and build thriving communities and movements. Whether working with communities of color to achieve self-determination or people with wealth to align their values with their resources, Taij has consistently increased opportunity and access for society’s most marginalized. In her role as Director of Programs at Spirit in Action, she launched Standing in Our Power (SiOP).

Taij co-founded Media Sutra, a creative services and strategic consulting firm that supports clients to build visibility, ensure long-term sustainability and have a social impact by moving people to action.  She helped to build this socially responsible business into a profitable company serving organizations across the United States.

As the former Executive Director of Resource Generation, an organization that works with young people with financial wealth and class privilege, Taij helped to build a more inclusive and sustainable organization while supporting members to move millions of dollars to social justice.  She forged partnerships with national entities, like Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and the Council on Foundations, to lift up the vision and voices of Next Generation philanthropists. Taij has been featured in publications such as: The New York Times, Worth Magazine and Contribute Magazine’s cover story on “The New Face of Giving.”  During her 6-year tenure at the East Harlem Tutorial Program she helped to more than double the agency’s budget, the number of young people served and the number of local sites where programming was offered.

Taij is a writer and spoken word artist who has performed nationally and internationally for the past 18 years.  As a co-founder of Blackout Arts Collective, she worked at the intersection of art and activism, helping to grow a local NY-based group into a national network, and was recognized with a Union Square Award. She has co-produced hundreds of multi-disciplinary arts and activism events and national social justice tours.

Born in Guyana and raised largely in the United States, Taij remains rooted in her Caribbean community and works to build bridges and bring resources to this isolated immigrant group.  She won several awards for her work in her community, and most recently she co-founded Jahajee Sisters, a movement-building organization, supporting the leadership development of Indo-Caribbean women activists organizing against gender-based oppression and violence.  In 2009, she developed and facilitated an Arts & Empowerment Program, which lead to the creation of a poetry anthology entitled, Bolo Bahen! Speak Sister!

Taij is a board member of Grassroots International, a foundation that supports global movement building and people’s rights to land, water and food.  She has a BA in History and Cultural Studies from Hampshire College, and a MA in Art, Media and Communications from New York University.


diana squareDiana Marie Lee Is an elder healing woman whose roots are African American and Cherokee Nation, from Tahlequah and Muskogee, Oklahoma, Diana grew up working class in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves nature, sunshine, dance, poetry, music, travel, family and laughter. Her three core values are joy, mutual reciprocity/ interdependence and diversity.

Since childhood, Diana has worked for over 40 years with diverse vulnerable communities including immigrants, youth, elders, labor activists, farmers, poor and low income, people of color and children and adults with special health care needs. Her aim is always: make lasting impact.  Emerging from Diana’s own healing journey and over 24 years of experience in public health and community development, Sweet Livity LLC was founded as a minority and woman owned business in 2011 and is based in California and Miami.

Sweet Livity focuses on improving the effectiveness and sustainability of individuals and organizations that serve the community by blending healing practices into organizational development, community development, wellness retreats and leadership coaching programs.  Sweet Livity is about a different kind of climate change — helping people transform the spaces where they live, work and play into healthy, life affirming environments. Sweet Livity is a holistic approach to healing and liberation.

A lot of Diana’s work involves helping shift how people work in diverse cultural contexts so that everyone, regardless of identity and background, can fully engage in organizational or community work with their whole, authentic self.  It is about transforming the way we work and live so that we are in harmonious relationship with ourselves, our communities and with nature as we create the lives we want.  This includes how we leverage and connect all of our capital – our health, our money, our social relationships, our resilience and our passion.

Diana joined the Standing in Our Power (SiOP) leadership team because of her own joy helping women heal from trauma and stress and reclaim their dreams.  Diana brings to SiOP skill and compassion to teach women how healing strategies — such as heart-based conversations, restorative justice healing circles, conflict resolution, sound toning, meditation in nature, gratitude and forgiveness practices, spiritual baths, rites of passage rituals, chakra dance and other energy healing practices — can reduce stress, increase energy and inspire renewed imagination and creativity.  As a certified Worksite Wellness Program Manager, Diana also brings the capacity to help organizations develop wellness programs that are high quality and relevant in today’s complex and changing world.

Prior to starting her own business, Diana served as Vice President of Programs at the National Community Development Institute and managed technical support and training programs in diverse communities across the country for individuals, organizations, and neighborhood/ community projects while continuing her volunteer work on the governing boards of non-profits and as a family advocate.  Prior to joining NCDI, she was an active advocate on behalf of children and adults with a broad range of disabilities and special health care needs, serving as a consultant-trainer for the California Department of Education, assisting parent groups, schools, and professionals around California to build effective partnerships through trainings, one-on-one consultation, technical assistance, and publications. During this time, Diana served as a community organizer working for equal access to health, education, social and legal services for youth and adults living with sickle cell and other special health care needs; as part of this work, she managed a residential sickle cell camp program for children and improved its operation to earn the camp accreditation through the American Camping Association. An alumnus of the LeaderSpring (formerly Eureka Communities) Fellowship for non-profit directors, Diana holds a B.S. in Health Science with an emphasis in Community Health Education from San Francisco State University.


mayowa squareMayowa Obasaju, PhD, is a clinical and community, trauma and healing focused psychologist at The Furman Counseling Center of Barnard College, Columbia University and an Ordained Interfaith Minister. At the Furman Counseling Center, Mayowa provides individual and group psychotherapy with a focus on healing work with women who have experienced various forms of trauma. Mayowa also provides consultation, workshops, and lectures, for outreach and education activities on campus, particularly in the areas of intimate partner violence and women of color, stress reduction, self-care, complex trauma, intersectionality and rape culture, and working clinically with people who have experienced trauma. Mayowa trains and advises Peer Advocates at the Sexual Violence Response Rape Crisis/ Anti-Violence Support Center of Columbia University. Additionally, Mayowa supervise psychology externs and social work interns and is a liaison to Sexual Violence Response Rape Crisis/ Anti-Violence Support Center and the Office of International and Intercultural Student Programs. Mayowa is also an adjunct faculty at NYU and co-teaches a class on Diversity, Racism, Oppression, and Privilege for social work students at the Silver School of Social Work.

Mayowa’s research interests center on systemic, clinical and community based approaches to trauma intervention and  prevention, interpersonal, relational, and community violence with a focus on childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, work with women of color, and transformative and social justice. Mayowa has published articles on the influence of community on women’s experiences with trauma and utilizing virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders.

Mayowa’s has received training in Somatics and Trauma, Multicultural Family Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Mayowa is currently accepted into the Aboriginal Focusing Therapy for Complex Trauma program.

Mayowa previously worked at University of Medicine and Dentistry-Newark, NJ (now Rutgers University) under a Ryan White grant, providing individual therapy for those impacted by HIV/AIDs with co-occurring concerns with mental health and substance use.

Mayowa’s unpaid work centers on a integrating spirituality with healing from various forms and levels of trauma and oppression, program and curriculum development, and gender justice, centered on the intersectional experiences of women of color. Mayowa is board member of Black Women’s Blueprint, a civil and human rights organization that seeks the social, economic, and emotional health of African descended people via progressive research, historical documentation, emotional support spaces, museum of women’s resistance, truth commissions, and support of movement building.  Mayowa is also a member of the Radical Social Work Group, an organization of social service providers who seek to confront systemic inequality, with the colleagues and clients, in an effort to transform society. Mayowa is a part of the Gender Justice Working Group of the US Social Forum and Standing in Our Power. Mayowa is also working with The New Seminary, the interfaith program she graduated from, to develop a program for the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women convening at the United Nations in New York City.  Mayowa graduated with a PhD in clinical and community psychology from Georgia State University.



Leslie Grant began her work in social justice as a young mother at the age of fifteen working with Sistas on the Rise Inc. in the South Bronx. Leslie organized other young mothers around issues of access to education and childcare in New York with a concentration on its intersections to the larger reproductive justice movement. From 2007-2011, Leslie served as the organization’s executive director where she focused on fundraising, donor relations, board recruitment, board retention, human resources and administration. Leslie also served as the Secretary to the Board of Directors for the national organization, Sister Song: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, from 2007-2013. Leslie has worked for other community-based organizations including Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Casa Atabex Ache and Spirit in Action.

Leslie’s passion for social change is rooted in her belief that in order to sustain change in our movements we need to cultivate the leadership capacities of young activists while finding new and innovative ways to finance social missions.

Leslie completed a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services in 2008, graduating magna cum laude. In spring of 2013, Leslie graduated cum laude with a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College.

Leslie is a mother to two beautiful children son Demein and daughter Malayia and resides in the South Bronx.


yaroYaromil Fong-Olivares is an activist entrepreneur. She coaches women and men to develop work/life balance by strengthening the physical and spiritual body. To do so, she helps her clients increase physical fitness, commit to sustainable healthy nutrition, and adopt a self-guided spirituality practice. She is an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach as well as a Reiki practitioner.

Prior to becoming a trainer and coach, Yaromil worked as the Development Director for Boys & Girls Harbor in East Harlem, New York City where she cultivated a diverse portfolio of individual, public, and private donors. Her efforts to lead the organization and its directorship in transitioning from reliance on government grants to a more sustainable donor-focused model resulted in an increase of $3M a year in donations. She also spearheaded Harbor’s branding and marketing campaign in effort to rebrand the organization as an education entity, moving away from the organization’s traditional after school/recreational activity image. This work contributed to her former success at Harbor where she and the Executive Director established the Emily N. Carey School serving youth who struggled to achieve academic and social success in public schools. Their model of creating individualized education plans grounded in experiential learning allowed students to learn at their own pace and travel abroad to participate in community service projects.

Yaromil began her career in the nonprofit sector with the goal of helping youth develop a passion for learning and community activism. Over the years she has held various leadership roles in multiple agencies including high schools, foster care programs, and community-based organizations in San Francisco, New York City, and Westchester County. While working as Development Director at Harbor Yaromil discovered her own passion for entrepreneurship and innovative marketing and fundraising.  Upon completion of her tenure, she received certifications in nutrition coaching and personal training and continued to work independently and in community and collaboration with her colleagues in the nonprofit sector. It is through this interest in helping social justice activists find sustainable self-care practice beyond the elusive “work-life balance” that she finds herself in community and collaboration with the women of Standing in Our Power.

She is a graduate of Barnard College and holds a nutrition coaching certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.


nakeisha squareNakisha M. Lewis is a philanthropic strategist and consultant based in New York City. Originally from Boston, MA Nakisha is a longtime advocate for race and gender justice who has spent the last decade supporting youth and community grassroots organizing across movements. She is a skilled community builder who specializes in facilitating movement building dialogues with historically marginalized populations including women, girls, youth, people of color and the LGBT community.

As the former Program Manager at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, she managed the state-based Opportunity to Learn Campaign in Massachusetts and established the foundation’s Gender Equity portfolio. Nakisha’s current work focuses on centering Black women and girls in philanthropic dialogue and developing a roadmap for investment in Black and Brown girls. At present she is working with the African American Policy Forum to organize women of color around the country in calling for an inclusive and intersectional racial justice agenda in response to the launch of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. Nakisha has served the philanthropic community through her leadership roles with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, the Association of Black Foundation Executives, New England Blacks in Philanthropy, and is a board member at Resource Generation.


simone squareSimone Devi Jhingoor is an artivist (artist + activist) committed to gender, racial, and transformative justice movements. Her passion is supporting communities of color, including women of color, impacted by intersecting socio-economic inequities, to thrive. She believes in the integral connection of the arts to activism, and also to a transformative process that enables healing from trauma, and has adopted this methodology in her work over the last ten years.

As a development and communications strategist, Simone realizes her passion by leveraging resources to sustain grassroots organizations at the forefront of social justice movements and direct services nonprofits creating more vibrant and equitable communities. As a seasoned facilitator and artivist, she also realizes her passion by convening women and girls of color who are steeped in communities that are most marginalized and creating healing spaces for creativity and storytelling/truth-sharing with the larger purpose of supporting their development into effective social justice leaders.

Simone currently works as a Development Officer at the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, a community development nonprofit in the South Bronx where she manages relationships with funders and raises money for key programs that promote stability among women and families through microenterprise development, family support services and afterschool/youth development programming.

She is the co-founder of Jahajee Sisters Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women, the only organization of its kind working to end gender-based violence in the Indo-Caribbean community. She currently serves on the steering committee and leads fundraising efforts. Simone has also led arts-based activism and leadership development programs with youth and an inter-generational group of South Asian women city-wide through various community-based organizations, including South Asian Youth Action, SAKHI for South Asian Women, New Settlements Apartments and Harlem Children’s Zone.

She has worked with a range of healers and somatic practitioners in the social justice movement and engaged in communities of practice. In 2012, with a group of women of color healers based in New York City, Simone formed the transformative justice collective, Catalyst for Community Healing and is a member of the national women of color leadership network, Standing in Our Power. As a writer, she also enjoys penning and performing poems that voice her unique Indo-Caribbean and Boogie-Down-Bronx experience. Simone has performed her work in the U.S. and the Caribbean.