Monique Brown (she/her)
Monique Brown is a Workforce Development professional with over 25 years of experience. As a fourth-generation West Oaklander, Monique has dedicated her life to serving communities that have been traditionally underserved, under-resourced and overlooked for decades. As Executive Director at Mandela Partners, Monique is responsible for leading the organization through its next phase of growth through a people-centered leadership approach—uplifting the intersections of health, wealth, and community development, and championing local economic development strategies created with and by communities of color. Monique is leading the organization’s multi-year strategic planning efforts, designing long-term programs that exemplify the mission and values of Mandela Partners, and developing models that help increase investments in local economies and access to healthy food options.
Monique started her career in workforce at a very early age in West Oakland. In response to the Loma Prieta earthquake aftermath, Monique managed a large 2-year project that both trained and placed 85 Oakland residents in skilled positions rebuilding the Cypress Freeway structure. Monique also served as liaison on the project, strengthening collaborations between community residents, Caltrans and The Building and Trades Council of Alameda County. This experience was life changing and served as a launching pad for her decades-long career in Workforce and Community Development.
Prior to joining Mandela Partners, Monique served as Bay Area Regional Director for the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). In her role, she provided support and leadership to 3 sites in California located in Fresno, Oakland and San Jose. Monique previously worked as Director of Workforce Services for Rubicon Programs, Inc. where she provided state and federal contracts oversight and administration. In her role, she also offered workforce, program planning and design, and community development assistance to local municipalities, nonprofits, and educational providers.
Monique attended the University of California at Berkeley, majoring in Political Science and has completed numerous trainings, including a Management Training Course through the American Express Leadership Institute in New York City.
Christine Kuo (she/her)
Finance & Administration Director
Christine has more than 20 years of experience in finance across multiple industries, including healthcare, power and gas, entertainment, software, and retail. Before joining Mandela in 2014, she was a Finance Manager for a biotechnology firm in the Bay Area, working directly with divisional account teams, driving financial management cycles, and facilitating capital planning budgets. In search of an opportunity to work in a community-based field, Christine left the corporate sector to pursue a position with Mandela Partners. At Mandela Partners, Christine has been able to build on her passion for healthy food and positively contribute to the Oakland community. As the Finance & Administration Director at Mandela Partners, Ms. Kuo manages a $3.7MM budget, provides oversight for contract and funds compliance, and oversees operations for the organization. Additionally, Christine is the organization’s technical assistance lead for financial management advising and support provided to Mandela incubated businesses. Christine has a BS Degree in Managerial Economics from UC Davis.
Maureen Silva (she/her)
Fund Development & Communications Director
Born in the East Bay and raised in the Central Valley region of California, Maureen has seen firsthand the impact of urban development on local farming communities. She is passionate about uplifting sustainable food systems as a way to strengthen local economies, and also to help restore our planet. Since joining Mandela Partners, Maureen has played an integral role in building the organization's fund development program from the ground up. Maureen has worked closely with the Board of Directors to diversify Mandela's funding revenue streams, and deepen relationships with philanthropic institutions and individual donors to support a $3.7MM organizational budget. She has led the organization through a multi-year fund development plan, created a streamlined donor management and communications platform, and built systems for effectively evaluating and reporting annual impact data.
Over the past decade, Maureen has been part of several nonprofits--serving communities nationally as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area-- to support healthier, equitable food environments. Maureen acquired her Master's Degree in Public Health from San Jose State University in 2014 and has traveled extensively across the country providing consultation with coalitions, nonprofits, and public health departments to develop multi-sector strategies that advance healthy places nationwide.
Ana Sloan-Stephens (she/her)
Business Development Director
Born and raised in Richmond, California, Ana’s parents modeled that food is a symbol of love. Everywhere they went – to a soccer game, a school event, or even just a playdate – they brought something to share.
This passion for building community through food has flowed seamlessly into her career. With an eclectic educational background in food growth and production, leadership development, and over 10 years of restaurant industry experience, Ana offers an advantageous blend of business insight and a “community-based” savvy that enables success in the unique dynamic world of food businesses. She has helped launch local restaurants of all sizes, scaled and pivoted business plans effectively through turmoil, retained over 80% of employees during growth periods, and maintained invaluable relationships with influential community members. As the Business Development Director, Ana is leading the strategic direction and operations of Ashland Market & Café—community food hall and business incubator in unincorporated Alameda County—with Mandela’s Business Development Team, oversees individual advising and evaluation with community entrepreneurs and provides oversight and support to Mandela's incubated businesses.
In her free time, Ana is an avid reader, adores cooking with and for her family, and loves to hike the Bay Area and beyond with her partner and Pitbull, Talulah.
Sara Draper-Zivetz (she/her)
Food Equity Director
Sara has spent almost fifteen years in the community development and food justice fields, and has experience in the non-profit, for-profit, social enterprise, and philanthropic sectors of the food system. She believes strongly in the power of food to build community and wellness, and this has animated both her career and much of her life outside of work.
Sara brings a highly strategic lens to her work, and is especially interested in nurturing and developing internal capacity - both systems and people - in organizations to best align with and achieve their mission. Through this lens she has helped launch, build, and sustain a range of organizations and projects, including a food-based social enterprise, a policy and research center, and several community-based programs. As Mandela Partners Food Equity Director, Sara oversees our suite of food access and wellness initiatives. She sets annual objectives and evaluation metrics, creates revenue targets with our food hub--Mandela Produce Distribution, cultivates partnerships with new and existing community-based entities, and identifies opportunities to advance policies and funding that deepen our impacts. Prior to joining Mandela Partners, she served as Program Manager for The SF Market, and led the organization’s multi-year strategic planning efforts.
Sara has a master’s degree in City & Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Barnard College. She proudly considers herself a global citizen, having grown up living in five different countries before moving to the United States as a teenager. Despite her transitory past, she moved to the East Bay in 2014 and feels privileged to be growing deep roots in Oakland.
Erick Ismael Sanchez de Leon (he/him)
Food Hub Operations Manager
Erick Ismael Sanchez de Leon, whom friends call "E", loves California and has a special place in his heart for the Bay Area. His academic interests revolve around our built, natural, and imagined environments. He also enjoys learning about places and spaces off the beaten path. Erick works alongside Joseph at Mandela Foods Distribution assisting with warehouse management, produce sourcing, and delivery. Erick loves meeting new farmers, exploring West Oakland, and providing community residents with healthy, locally grown produce.
Sean Brekke-Miesner (he/him)
Culinary Education Manager
A third-generation East Oaklander, Sean's grandparents owned a restaurant for 22 years, which had a big influence on his interest in food. Working in the restaurant industry for the last 10 years, Sean has worked every job in the kitchen from dishwasher to Sous Chef. Drawing on a background in everything from menu development to running an internship program at a local restaurant, Sean has been able to build those talents into his position as Culinary Education Manager at Mandela Partners.
Sean manages the day-to-day operations of the Re-Generate Opportunity Program--which creates pathways to employment with local food businesses by providing paid kitchen and culinary training for community members facing barriers to employment, with a focus on the re-entry population. In addition, Sean provides facilities management and support for E14th Eatery + Kitchen, a community food hall, and community space. His belief in equity, job training for residents with employment barriers, and investing in underserved communities are the core values that attracted him to working at Mandela Partners and he looks forward to continuing to grow with the organization. Outside of work, Sean enjoys watching the A's and the Warriors, as well as trying new restaurants in Oakland.
Nina Arrocena (she/her)
Food Access Program Manager
Nina is a core contributor to the Food Equity Team. She leads our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, coordinates the NOURISH! program with Mothers-for-Mothers Postpartum Justice Project (MPJ) and leads various community-led produce distributions across Oakland neighborhoods through Mandela's food hub, Mandela Produce Distribution.
Raised in the Salinas Valley, agriculture has been a large part of her life, and she moved to Oakland with hopes of making a positive contribution to her new neighborhood. She is thrilled to be part of the meaningful work of providing access to fresh, healthy food to community members throughout the city.
Amani Ali (she/her)
Healthy Grocery Initiative Manager
Amani has been instrumental in restructuring the Healthy Grocery Initiative (HGI) from a produce delivery service to one that better serves the unique business needs of local retailers and engages in local advocacy efforts on their behalf. Amani also oversees the Fresh Creds discount program and neighborhood engagement strategies at HGI stores.
Amani is a justice-driven leader who is vocal about questioning the status quo. She is an Oakland native who returned from Southern California in 2011 to pursue a Master of Social Work degree from CSU East Bay. There she studied community mental health and her understanding of systemic inequities were deepened, shaping a new worldview. In her free time, Amani enjoys competing in pool (billiards) tournaments and cooking.
Sabine Dabady (they/them)
Entrepreneurship Development Manager
Raised in Brooklyn, New York to Haitian Immigrants, Sabine is grateful for the path that brought them to California and now, Mandela Partners. Following several years of securing tour dates for performing arts companies, nursing an injury after a bike accident was one of the catalyzing events that motivated them to pursue work connected to health, nutrition, and food systems. Deeper reflections and questions about the built environment of their Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush sparked the necessity to ask complex questions over simple solutions. In 2015, they moved to the Bay Area to complete a graduate degree in Public Health at UC Berkeley.
In their role as Entrepreneur Development Manager, Sabine collaborates with East Bay entrepreneurs in service to promoting their businesses and contributing to positive shifts in community wealth and health. Leading with curiosity, they rely on the tools that shaped their rich and diverse background working in arts administration, nutrition education, urban agriculture, and teaching. In their free time, Sabine swims regularly to keep them sane and hopes to complete a (non-competitive) swim from Alcatraz.
Mimi Lim (she/her)
Finance and Office Manager
Mimi moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2007 and worked in accounting for various industries, such as telecommunications, healthcare, retail, startups, architecture, and nonprofit. After working in various industries, she was most interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. Influenced by her upbringing, she understood how important access to equitable food and obtainable employment was. So she decided to pursue a position with Mandela Partners, which best aligns with her values and passion for social justice.
Mimi manages the day-to-day administrative functions for Mandela Partners. She oversees the organization’s financial data and compliance as well as performs daily accounting tasks by recording, organizing, and managing financial data and transactions.
In her free time, Mimi enjoys exploring the Bay Area, volunteering, reading about permaculture and hydroculture, and learning about urban farming. For fun, she likes to experiment in her hydroponics and aquaponics garden. Also, she loves working with tools to build things, such as greenhouses, grow beds, and storage shelves.
Aliyah Bey (she/her)
Aliyah is from Southern California and moved to the Bay Area in 2010 to attend California State University, East Bay. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Liberal Arts, and in 2020 completed a one-year program to become a certified nutritionist, nutrition coach, and personal trainer.
Since 2018, Aliyah's had the pleasure of leading food demonstrations for Kaiser Permanente, facilitating workshops with the American Diabetes Association, and working in partnership with organizations to steer health and wellness workshops at Mandela Partners' Wellness Education Manager. She has partnered with HOPE Collaborative, the Oakland Unified School District, Lincoln Families, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, and the West Oakland Health Council. She believes building partnerships is imperative to healing communities and providing plentiful resources.
Aliyah's goal is to continue implementing different aspects of wellness in the program for the communities she works in, and share the wealth of knowledge she's acquired over the years.
Ray Stubblefield-Tave (they/she)
Fund Development Manager
Born in Chicago and raised on the East Coast, Ray has been living, working, and rooting in Oakland for the past six years. They have worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, previously holding roles that have connected young people to nature, expanded access to veterinary care in communities of color, and brought music and the arts to stages, classrooms, and protests. The child of a social worker and anti-racism trainer, the grandchild of educators, and the descendent of the African and Jewish diasporas, they center equity and community care in all their work.
As the Fund Development Manager, Ray plays a key role in growing Mandela Partners’ fundraising portfolio by identifying new funding prospects, coordinating donor campaigns, developing strong grant proposals, and supporting our community and partner communications. Outside of Mandela Partners, Ray is a coordinator and drummer with BoomShake Music, a street drumming group working for the liberation for all people.
Yuro Chavez (he/him)
Sourcing & Warehouse Operations Coordinator
Yuro is a San Francisco-raised Guatemalan-American who has been living in the East Bay for over a decade. He believes strongly in supporting local small farmers and providing the community with healthy fruits and vegetables. He has been with Mandela Partners since 2007, and as part of the Mandela Produce Distribution team, he has gained valuable business skills. Yuro looks forward to continuing to grow his skills as well as the business.
Natasha Nazer (she/her)
Workforce Development Coordinator
Natasha spent the past five years splitting her time between managing New Space Studio, the disabled arts program she co-founded, and helping to launch and manage independent Oakland restaurants. Her distinct experiences have cultivated a passion for creating effective and impactful systems for a more equitable world. Originally from Los Angeles, the Bay Area is her home and she has been here for over a decade.
She grew up cooking and connecting to her multi-cultural background through food, which evolved over time into an appreciation for our food systems and their pervasive inequity. Natasha has seen firsthand the effect nourishment has on wellbeing and the capacity for personal development. As a Workforce Development Coordinator for the Re-Generate Opportunity Program, Natasha integrates the skills she acquired in restaurant management with her dedication to social justice work.
Natasha received a BA in Psychology from UC Davis and lives in East Oakland with her dog, and her cat. In her spare time, she loves to cook, surf, and appreciate all the natural beauty the Bay Area has to offer.
Rya O'Rourke (she/they)
Neighborhood Engagement and Communications Coordinator
Rya is a Bay Area native born in Redwood City, CA, and raised in Fremont, CA. They received a Bachelor of Science in Communication Design from California State University, Monterey Bay. She loves working with their community by participating in projects that enable healing, activism, and aspirations. She is passionate about building environments everyone can participate and people from all backgrounds are valued, respected, and supported.
Outside of Mandela Partners, they are the Multidimensional Design Director for Soulstice Bay Area, a grassroots collective focused on creating accessible spaces and affordable creative expression for Queer Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian Bay Area artists. She hopes to be a leader in her community who curates accessible spaces for healing and liberation through art. Rya enjoys anime, manga, gaming, and her cat, Tito.
Javi Palacios (he/they)
Culinary Education Coordinator
A native Californian, Javi was born in San Jose to parents who immigrated from El Salvador to escape the civil war. They settled in the South Bay amongst a diverse group of family and friends. Thanks to his eclectic upbringing, the seeds of multiculturalism and social inclination were sown at an early age.
Javi graduated from San Francisco State University with a double major in Comparative World Literature and French, respectively. His studies focusing on the history of the Americas & France, Raza literature, Africana literature, and foodways solidified his passion and understanding of food as ritual, cultural heritage, and an ideal mechanism for societal exchange.
A self-described jack-of-all-trades and resident “baylien,” Javi continues to be driven by a desire to acquire and share knowledge, guided by the principle that food should be nutritious, delicious, and accessible to all. In his free time, Javi enjoys cycling, cooking, live music, traveling, exploring the culinary scene with his partner & friends, and enjoying nature with their dog. He is also an avid gardener and amateur mycologist.
Loren Johnson (they/she)
Entrepreneur Incubation Coordinator
Loren is originally from Chicago, IL but has lived in Oakland for over a decade. They went to college in a small town in Indiana, where they studied Political Science and worked at their first restaurant job as a host. They've been working in the food industry for 15+ years and have held almost every restaurant position: from host to Sous Chef to owner of their own food business, LoJo's Tacos.
Their passions and things they like to do for fun are hiking, biking with friends, cooking, and reading. Loren is a big fan of a SyFy TV show, Wynonna Earp, and sometimes travels to attend conventions to meet the cast members & other fans of the show. They're passionate about mental wellness and often practice different meditation styles to promote well-being.
Stephanie Flores (she/her)
Delivery and Operations Associate
Stephanie is Bay Area born and raised, to Mexican immigrants who both grew up in ranchos. After volunteering at Veggielution Community farm back in college, she gained an interest and passion for food access, food justice, and all things related to farmers' markets and community work.
During her free time, you can find her sitting at a coffee shop either journaling or writing letters to her friends.
Silvia Guzman (she/her)
Community Outreach Associate
Silvia stands for love, joy, inclusion, and compassion for herself and all others. Silvia lives, works, and plays in Oakland, CA, and is the mother of three beautiful beings. She came to the US at the tender age of seven; she quickly learned she was the communication link between her parents and THE system.
Since then Silvia has used her personal experiences to develop herself professionally and impact the work she does today. Silvia is an Interpreter, and hosts Parent Cafes and community organizing in the areas of healthy food, healthy homes, wellness, and policy advocacy. Traveling and coffee by the beach are her favorite things to do other than spending time with her family and cats.