Today, the Levi Strauss Foundation is excited to announce our third cohort of Pioneers in Justice, comprised entirely of women, femme and nonbinary Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Through feedback from our two classes of Pioneers and research by our program partner Open Impact, it became evident that women, femme and nonbinary leaders of color face far more barriers in accessing leadership development and organizational funding opportunities than men. Existing systems and traditional power structures create pressure against models of women’s leadership, and these leaders are significantly underrepresented at higher leadership levels in nonprofits, foundations and the government.
Through this new class, we hope to shift this dynamic by investing in a cohort that supports unique models of learning, resilience and impact.
The Foundation launched the first Pioneers in Justice initiative in 2010 as a Bay Area-based cohort program empowering next-generation BIPOC social justice leaders to experiment with bold new strategies for non-profit organizational growth and community mobilization. This multiyear program was so successful that we continued the initiative in 2015, focusing on grassroots BIPOC leaders working on systemic change in the areas of gender equality, climate change, criminal justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, racial equity, immigrant rights and gun violence. Our 2021 Pioneer class builds on these past efforts while bringing to life Levi Strauss & Co.’s core values of originality, empathy, integrity and courage by supporting pioneering social change on the issues and events of our time.
The rise of violence against communities of color against the backdrop of a global pandemic has illuminated the importance for women, femme and nonbinary leaders to be at the center of collective systems that are fighting to maintain resilience. This moment also shows us that business and social issues are intertwined — and that companies have an inescapable role to play in our democracy. We intend to share our learnings and inspire other funders — especially corporate — to actively invest in communities and leaders of color.
Supporting social justice leaders is not top-down but rather side-by-side work — with the influence flowing both ways. With this in mind, we will engage the new class in a programmatic cocreation process, working collaboratively to define the program’s elements over the next two years. We are excited to learn from these leaders how both the Levi Strauss Foundation and LS&Co. can improve our ability to deliver on our core values.
Congratulations to our new class of Pioneers. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves together!
- Sammie Ablaza Wills, APIENC
- Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA)
- Cat Brooks, Justice Teams Network
- Maria Noel Fernandez, Working Partnerships USA
- Tinisch Hollins, Californians for Safety and Justice
- Niloufar Khonsari, Pangea Legal Services
- Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, SOMOS Mayfair
- Lorena Melgarejo, Faith in Action Bay Area
- Isa Noyola, Mijente
- Imani Rupert-Gordon, National Center for Lesbian Rights
- Aria Sa’id, The Transgender District
- Marlene Sanchez, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
For more information on our new cohort, check out their full bios.