Board of Directors
Board Chair | Community & Economic Development (Retired) - City of Richmond
Thomas Mills, after 40+ years of professional service to residents, neighborhoods, businesses and developers in the Greater Bay Area, retired from the City of Richmond CA as its Economic Development Administrator. Prior to Richmond, Thomas—in various senior level positions—devised and fought for policies, programs and resources to maximize: community benefits, access to capital and living wage jobs (NEDLC); affordable housing and commercial finance (Local Initiatives Support Corporation); land acquisition and historic preservation (Trust for Public Land); cooperative ownership, asset building and resident-led business and economic development (TCMI).
Thomas was a co-founder of Mandela MarketPlace (MMP), and previously served on several boards, including Mercy Housing California, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), Building Opportunities For Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Home Buyer Assistance Center, and the California Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA)
Thomas holds a JD in Law (University of California, Berkeley—Law Review); a MS in Education (University of Southern California, Los Angeles); and, a BA in Industrial Psychology (California State University, Los Angeles).
Board Treasurer | Former Senior Banker, JPMorgan Chase Community Development Bank
Cort Gross is a senior banker at JPMorgan Chase Community Development Bank, focusing on affordable housing finance. Mr. Gross has close to 30 years of experience in the field, working recently on business development with Self-Help Federal Credit Union, and for many years before consulted on community investment, assets, and the financing and development of real estate. He worked previously as CFO of nonprofit housing developer BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Vice President of Affordable Housing with mortgage banker TRI Capital Corporation, and Program Manager for Lending with nonprofit financial intermediary the Low Income Housing Fund. A former Coro Fellow in public affairs, Mr. Gross received his A.B. degree in history at Stanford University and his M.Div. Degree in liberation theology at Yale University.
Jose Adonnis Jimenez
Board Secretary | Regional Business Consultant, The Permanente Medical Group
Jose’s experience and expertise in strategy, performance improvement, and operations, stem from his deep roots in healthcare. As a consultant, Jose partners with physicians and clinicians to operationalize healthcare initiatives and improve the quality of care for their patients. Additionally, Jose also serves as an Executive Board Member of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Latino Association (KPLA), a business resource group committed to professional development, multicultural collaboration, and community well-being. Outside of KP, Jose volunteers as a consultant and thought partner to non-profit organizations across the Bay Area, helping them accelerate their growth and increase their impact.
Since receiving his degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley, Jose has continued to leveraged his knowledge and networks to uplift and empower underserved and underrepresented communities. Mandela’s hard work and leadership in the Oakland community both excites and inspires Jose. As an active board member, Jose is proud to support the Mandela team as they continue to push the organization’s mission and vision forward.
Raminder K. Somal
Board Member | Consulting Manager, RDA Consulting
Raminder Somal is a seasoned consultant with 20 years of professional experience in social impact and sustainability. Raminder brings expertise in community needs assessments and connecting private and philanthropic leaders to engage in problem-solving and community investment opportunities. She is passionate about creating solutions to community challenges in the areas of in housing, employment, entrepreneurship, and food insecurity, especially in communities of color. As Consulting Manager at RDA, she contributes this expertise to a variety of projects across the human services spectrum. Prior to joining RDA, she worked as a Community Relations Senior Consultant for Wells Fargo, where she developed and strengthened relationships with key community partners and nonprofit organizations as well as internal regional leaders.
Board Member | CEO, Feed the Hunger Foundation
Patti Chang is currently the CEO of the Feed the Hunger Foundation. She is the former President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, which funded over 1100 organizations throughout California as well as in Mexico, China, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. She oversaw the merger of a southern and northern California foundation to create a statewide foundation for women.
Patti has served as a Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and the San Francisco Commission on the Environment. She was the President of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women where she chaired taskforces on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence. Patti has served as the board chair of the Women’s Funding Network (an association of 120 women’s funding organizations, 20 outside of the United States) and the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development working on human rights.
Patti was instrumental in passing the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women, making San Francisco the first city to adopt an international treaty. Both through her work at the Women’s Foundation and through numerous boards on which she has served, Patti has worked to end discrimination based on race, class, gender, national origin and sexual identity. Her passion lies in finding solutions to the economic, social and political barriers faced by low-income individuals, particularly women and girls. Patti received her B.A. and J.D. from Stanford. She is originally from Hawaii.
Board Member | Former Director of Strategic Initiatives, Community Vision
As the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at Community Vision, a community development financial institution based in San Francisco, CA, Esperanza Pallana drives investment that institutes leadership by, and honors the labor of, people of color. Esperanza works to align organizational systems and initiatives that ensure that Community Vision’s programmatic strategies are focused on creating measurable, sustainable social change rooted in equity and justice. Esperanza’s career has spanned more than 20 years in food systems, environmental health, and public health advocacy, always with a deep calling to promote racial and economic equity.
She first made her mark leading the Oakland Food Policy Council, where she focused on issues of economic equity, land acquisition, use and rights as well as ownership of food and farm businesses by people of color. In her role as Executive Director, she launched successful policy campaigns and organized with the community on a response event around economic and racial inequities affecting the food system called the Wine Soul Train; a policy campaign to address the basic human right to grow and access food; and an amplification event as a call to action to Black and Brown communities to decolonize our bodies and minds. She shifted her focus to community development, where she works across sectors to meet community needs in land ownership, equitable food systems, health, labor, wages, and environment, supporting both nonprofits and social enterprises. Today, her work includes leading place based initiatives across California to ensure community centered investment.
Board Member | CEO, Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation
Carolyn Johnson (“C.J.”) joined the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative and Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation in 2019 as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, respectively, with thirty years of experience in entrepreneurship and business management, non-profit operations, finance and commercial real estate. She is a native of Oakland, California and a proud graduate of Castlemont High School. She brings to the Black Cultural Zone her homegrown knowledge of East Oakland, where she was born and raised, and her commercial real estate experience encompassing twenty years of both commercial investment and leasing transactions in the Bay Area. She has completed over $250 million in Investment Sales transactions and has leased hundreds of spaces throughout the bay area, particularly Oakland. Most recently, CJ was the Broker for and Director of Commercial Real Estate at a leading Bay Area affordable housing community development corporation. Currently, she is also a tenured Professor at the College of Alameda in the Business Department and is in the process of launching its first online Entrepreneurship Certificate Program.
C.J. has a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles in Psychology with a specialization in Business Administration; a MPH from the University of California at Berkeley in Health Policy and Administration; a MBA from Columbia University in Marketing, Corporate Finance and Real Estate Finance; and her Doctorate (EdD) from Saint Mary’s College of California in Educational Leadership.