Our

board of directors

shanequa Levinis a motivational speaker and an uplifting social entrepreneur who has earned 6 awards for her work. She is the former director of Every Child Matters in NY, an advocacy and electoral engagement organization for kids. While being a wife and mother of two on Long Island, and having volunteered her time for organizations like Girl Scouts where she was a troop leader for 6 years; the Huntington Station Enrichment Center where she was a board member; the Mothers’ Center where she was a facilitator; The State of Black Long Island through the Urban League of Long Island; Mocha Moms Inc. where she was a chapter founder, president, regional director and now the Parent Nation Coordinator; and newly a Community Advisor for Hofstra University’s Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge. She has also been an instrumental with advocacy for policy changes to: Early Care and Learning, Raise The Age, Paid Family Leave Insurance and more. These policies gave: more access to affordable and quality child care; sixteen and seventeen-year old’s the right to be tried and housed with youth instead of adults in the criminal justice system; and moms, dads, military, adoptive parents, and caretakers the right to have their job secured while taking care of a loved one.

After surviving childhood poverty, dealing with drug addicted parents, and family members engaged in the criminal justice system, she gives her all to campaigns that focus on marginalized community members. She has works alongside prominent politicians, organizers, and individuals impelling change.  After working for over a decade in the non-profit sector to be an advocate for mothers and children, Shanequa noticed the lack of diversity in non-profit social movements. She felt these movements themselves were segregated; everyone working to do good with people from their own culture only. In an attempt to build cultural bridges, educate people on issues that affect them, celebrate diversity, unite women, and create unified advocacy opportunities, she founded the Women’s Diversity Network aka WDN. WDN has become a social movement organization practicing transformative justice processes based on group leadership where marginalized lives are centered. The mission of the WDN is to connect and mobilize women of different backgrounds to create positive change through collective work and a unified sisterhood.

Communing with state law makers and community leaders Shanequa has advocated for Raise the Wage and Bail Reform. Participating in speaking circuits discussing and advocating for legislative change that protect safety net programs which give every child the opportunity to thrive; she also lobbied in Albany and Washington, DC with many community-based groups.

In order to help others, break negative generational cycles, she has written a book called Poverty’s Phoenix which sheds light onto the child’s perspective of growing up in poverty. Shanequa believes that it is important to step up and advocate for those that need one's strength and voice. She has spoken at various events across the country, facilitated countless workshops on advocacy and voter engagement in early learning centers, community groups, training programs, and colleges, and met with community members one-on-one to provide them with guidance during their journey to become lifelong advocates. Shanequa has founded other groups like the Long Island chapter of Mocha Moms, Long Island Black Alliance, and Black Parents of Long Island; she also creates events that bring together hundreds of diverse people to educate and engage with candidates running for office, and to combat bias and racism.

Shanequa attended Lincoln & Hofstra universities in pursuit of a bachelors degree.  She has certificates from: Adelphi University, for Organizational and Community Leadership; Social Movement Technologies for Digital Organizing; University of Connecticut, for Workplace Empowerment Leadership & Skills; Rockwood Institute, for The Art of Leadership; and the National Association of Mothers’ Centers, for Group Facilitation.

Her renewed purpose is uniting people through the celebration of cultures, adding diverse voices to advocacy campaigns, and officiating weddings as an ordained minister.

Erika Deansis a Licensed Social Worker, obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Molloy College and MSW from Fordham University with a concentration on Children and their families. Erika has a strong commitment in servicing the needs of disadvantaged youth and their families. Her professional expertise includes networking, collaboration, written and oral communication, engaging diverse populations, policy, juvenile justice reform and facilitation, while displaying immense strength in staff support, management, organizational skills, coordinating and cultural diversity. Her experience began working in disenfranchised neighborhoods coordinating the Street Outreach Project, where she assisted adolescents who ran-a-way and/or were homeless; reaching out to them on the streets, in schools and at the local correctional facility. Following that, she began working as a Substance Abuse Therapist providing treatment to adolescents and adults who were also diagnosed with mental health disorders. She has also worked part-time in a local alternative high school providing individual and group counseling.

Currently, Erika works for Nassau County Government under the direction of the Probation Department as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Coordinator (JDAI). Erika works diligently on a macro level advancing Juvenile Justice Reform on a national, state and local level utilizing the research methodology to evaluate policies and inform direct practice. She assesses the efficacy of existing policies, programs and practices, identifying gaps to decrease disproportionate minority contact; oversees and assist in creating alternatives to detention to lessen the need for incarceration in Nassau County’s Juvenile Justice System. Erika facilitates the JDAI Collaborative and co-chairs many of the JDAI subcommittees. She also researches how to decrease Racial and Ethnic Disparities, oversees the efficacy for the Conditions of Confinement in the Juvenile Detention Center, and provides stakeholders with evidence-based alternatives to detention while utilizing data to drive change within the County. Erika continues to enhance her career with professional development trainings such as Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform Crossover Youth Practice Model facilitator training and

the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Certificate Program, becoming a fellow of the University; Moral  Recognition Facilitator Therapy (MRT), an Evidence Based Programming (EBP) provided by Correctional Counseling; Unraveling Racism provided by Erase Racism and EBP Thinking for a Change (T4C) provided by the US Department of Corrections, just to name a few.  For the past four years, Erika has supervised social work undergraduate and graduate students in the field while they complete their recommended hours for graduation. She has taken a keen interest in mentoring up and coming students in the field so much that she pursued another avenue recently, becoming an adjunct professor at Nassau Community College teaching Intro to Social Work in the Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work Department.

In Erika’s professional and personal life she is also involved in several projects which included the Village of Hempstead Mayors Antiviolence Taskforce, current member of Hands Across Hempstead Collaborative hosted by Hempstead High School, Village of Hempstead Community Land Trust Board Member; The NYS Partnership for Youth Justice, Community Coalition against Youth and Gang Violence, Nassau County Police Department District 2 Commissioner’s Community Council Member & Community Leader, former Board Member and Planning Committee for 3’s for Kay Foundation, Nassau/Suffolk Association for Black Social Workers (NABSW), the Urban League of LI, State of Black Long Island Equity Council (SOBLI) and the Village of Hempstead Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPIRI) Justice Planning Committee, which led to the opportunity of becoming a community liaison at the Community Empowerment. Erika is currently earning her doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Educational Studies from LIU.

Aleisha Garvinhas 28 years of experience in the Social Welfare, Mental Health and Criminal Justice field.  She has spent her career working with the most vulnerable of people in our communities. Aleisha holds an associate degree from Nassau Community College, and graduated from Molloy College social work program in 1998. As an advanced standing student, Aleisha went on to receive her MSW from Fordham University School of Social Service in 1999. She is a fellow of Georgetown University having earned post graduate certifications in Georgetown University’s Multi-System Integration, Crossover Youth Practice Model and Reducing Racial & Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Certificate Programs. Aleisha has also received advanced training in substance abuse and employment services and is a Licensed Clinical SocialWorker and Offender Workforce Development Specialist.

Since 1991 Aleisha has been employed in Nassau County Government. She has held positions in Nassau County Department of Social Services, first as a Child Support Investigator. In this capacity Aleisha was responsible for locating, investigating and examining individuals who were responsible for support of public assistance clients. Aleisha then served as a social worker in the Department of Social Services child abuse and neglect unit. She performed the complicated responsibility of supervising and monitoring families indicated for abusing or neglecting children. While supervising these families, Aleisha frequently interfaced with the Justice System, with police and the courts, to enforce and monitor Family Court orders and directives. These experiences working at the Department of Social Services refined Aleisha’s expertise in working with the courts. In 2002, Aleisha became a mental health consultant for the Nassau County Department of Mental Health, assigned to the Family Court. She served as a member of an on-site diagnostic assessment and therapeutic treatment team working with mentally ill and emotionally ill clients. In 2004, Aleisha became a Nassau County Probation Officer. As a forensic specialist, she prepared court ordered investigations, and supervised offenders as an alternative to incarceration. Much of her work was with the challenging population of sex offenders, substance abusers and the mentally ill. Since 2014 Aleisha was the Probation Supervisor, working with the mentally ill populations as well as with Juvenile Justice Reform and Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities, she is now the Assistant Deputy Director for the Probation Department of Nassau County. 

Aleisha serves as the Co-Chair for the Nassau County JDAI RED sub-committee as well as having served as the CO-Chair for the Criminal Justice committee for the ESPRI Hempstead Anti-Poverty Initiative. Aleisha diligently serves as an Ex-Officio Representative for the Nassau County Office of Youth Services, Nassau County Re-Entry Task Force and the Long Island Regional Youth Justice Team. Aleisha has a passion for advocacy for the underserved in our communities. Aleisha is a current member of the New York Statewide Multicultural Advisory Committee where she advocates for culturally competent services for the mentally ill population. She is also a Council Member with Urban League’s SOBLI (State of Black Long Island) Council. Aleisha has a passion for advocating for the underserved and has been selected for the Spring 2019 class of the National Urban League Washington Bureau Certificate in Advocacy Program.

Retha Fernandezis an original member of WDN. She serves as the first-ever Suffolk County Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.  She was the the Project Director of the State of Black Long Island (SOBLI) Equity Council, a project convened by the Urban League of Long Island. In this role, she reports to the President/CEO and is responsible for the project delivery of the Council's equity agenda and campaigns. The Council's efforts are focused on policy development and the creation and/or enhancement of regional programs and services designed to improve quality of life in Black communities on Long Island.

Prior to joining the Urban League, Retha spent 15 years in the prestige beauty industry leading regional teams and overseeing technology strategy development and execution as an Information Technology Executive. Her IT career spanned several industries, where her earliest roles included creating and executing test scripts for Y2K preparation, repairing computers, and

progressed to her managing and leading regional IT teams at the executive level, and ultimately having responsibility for technology strategy development for three brands within the Fortune 500 company. She attributes her success to her ability to build and develop relationships based on dependability and honesty.

Retha is a Certified Meditation Instructor, and is the Founder of Soul of Long Island, LLC, where she teaches individuals and groups meditation and mindfulness as a stress management and self-empowerment tool. She serves on the board of Women of Integrity, Inc. (WOI), and is currently serving as Chapter Vice President of the Suffolk County chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Retha volunteers her time mentoring and speaking on career panels with organizations such as The Young Women’s Leadership Network and Girls, Inc of Long Island, as well as with various community-based organizations. She has received several citations and recognition from the Nassau County government and was a 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award Recipient for her community service. In April 2018 she received the Women of Distinction Award from New York State Assembly Woman Christine Pellegrino. She was recently appointed to Newsday's nextLI Community Advisory Council and LISTnet's GRIT Startup Program Advisory Board. Retha is an original Women's Diversity Network Member and was elected by her peers to serve on the board.

 

Retha holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from St. Joseph’s College. She resides on Long Island with her husband of 11 years and son, Taylor.

Serena liguori serves as executive director of New Hour for Women and Children—Long Island, a

nonprofit dedicated to supporting women and children impacted by incarceration. New Hour provides direct-service programming in the Suffolk County jails and reentry support to women across the state returning to Long Island.

Prior to leading New Hour, she was the executive director of Herstory Writers Workshop, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing marginalized voices into the public arena. Serena served as associate director of policy at the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project, where she spearheaded legislative initiatives and policy advocacy addressing prison reform. She was the key organizer of a successful effort to create the Adoption and Safe Families Act Expanded Discretion Law, which works to secure parental rights for incarcerated parents as well as the Anti-Shackling Law, which prohibits the shackling of incarcerated mothers during labor. Serena is a survivor of isolated confinement, received her associate’s degree in the College Bound Program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and her bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University. Serena co-chairs the United Nations Association of the USA National Council. She enjoys preparing her family’s favorite traditional Puerto Rican meals for her husband Greg and her seven-year-old son James.

Vanessa baird-streeter is the daughter of the late Mary Baird and the late Venice Baird, was born on June 4, 1967, in Bay Shore, New York. Vanessa spent her early years of education at the Montessori school of Melville. She received her intermediate and high school education at the Academy of St. Joseph in Brentwood, New York. During Vanessa’s formative years she was always taught that she had a responsibility to give back to her community-she witnessed this happening every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Venettes Cultural Workshop (a workshop where her Mother was the founder and director).

Vanessa was fortunate enough to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a double major in Economics and Education. While attending Dartmouth, Vanessa was one of the founding members of the Ujima Dance Troupe and was also inducted into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Upon graduating from Dartmouth, Vanessa joined the Wall Street Investment Bank, Goldman Sachs, as a financial analyst. While maintaining a heavy work load, seventy to eighty hours per week, Vanessa still managed to volunteer her time at the Venettes Cultural Workshop on Saturdays. She served the workshop in a variety of capacities-teacher, mentor, role model and friend. This is where her desire to serve and uplift the youth of our communities was reinforced.

In 1992, Mary Baird, Vanessa’s mother, passed away from lung cancer and Vanessa took over the responsibilities of running the Venettes Cultural Workshop. She has been the director of the Venettes for the past 26 years. During her tenure, she continues to promote academic excellence through the arts. Vanessa has instituted a black history program, college advisory program and continues to take the children to Dance Conventions throughout the country. During Vanessa’s leadership of the Venettes, she has been able to award over $800,000 to students in the form of educational and performing arts scholarships. In addition to her commitment to the Venettes Cultural Workshop, Vanessa has served as the Director of the Ministry to Catholics of African Ancestry from 1997-2005, Director of Communications for the Town of Babylon from 2005-2009, Executive Director of Communications for the Long Island Power Authority from 2009-2012 and she just completed her role as the Assistant Deputy County Executive for Suffolk County. In this role, she was responsible for Smart Start Suffolk, an early education pilot program focused on children 0-5 years of age, their families and community. Under her leadership, Smart Start Suffolk has provided Mind in the Making-Executive Function training, facilitated the administration of the Early Development Instrument in the Wyandanch School District, formed the Smart Start Wyandanch Think and Action Steering Committee, created the Barber Beauty and Books Reading Campaign, initiated the creation of the Suffolk County Trauma Informed Collaborative and has Worked with a variety of organizations and agencies to highlight the importance of the first 5 years of life. She is currently the Deputy County Executive for Suffolk County.

Vanessa has always had the entrepreneurial bug and has also been the owner of the El-Van’s Beauty Explosion, BST Multi-Talent Management and is currently the CEO of VBS Hair Collection. Vanessa is married to Elston Streeter, who is a staunch supporter of her and the Venettes Cultural Workshop. They are the proud parents of Dallas Anthony Streeter, who is 20 years old and attends Howard University in  Washington, DC where he is currently studying Sports Management.

eva pearson has a long standing history of dedication to community service and education.  After serving five years active duty in the United States Air Force during the first Gulf War, she attained her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Psychology with the long-term goal of being of service to others. 

Presently, Eva is the Program Director of the Social Science Research Institute at Farmingdale State College (SUNY) where she facilitates the leadership and civic engagement skills of the next generation of community leaders.  Further, she is PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Buffalo (SUNY), studying the longitudinal effects of educational inequalities on minority populations.  Her professional experience spans several fields, including psychological research at the New York University Child Study Center, behavioral therapy at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, health care management at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, and educational administration at Long Island University. 

Her volunteer activities include the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and more locally at Child Abuse Prevention Services and the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.  She is decorated with several military service medals, received multiple undergraduate academic awards, and was most recently awarded the Farmingdale State College “Club Advisor of the Year Award” in recognition of her work as the faculty advisor of the FSC Social Justice Club.  She is a prior political candidate, and has been an Adjunct Professor in the fields of Psychology and Education for nearly fifteen years.  Most importantly, she is the proud mother of two young sons, Jacob and Zachary, who continually inspire and motivate her to create positive change.

farrah mozawallahas a proven track record of dedication to creating a more inclusive Nassau County. She is the Executive Director of The Office of Asian American Affairs of Nassau County, the first Muslim to be appointed as a department head in Nassau County. This department elevates the social, political, and economic issues of the Asian community by strengthening how government addresses those concerns. She spearheads community building through the various cultural events she organizes for the county such as: Ramadan Iftar, Independence Day Celebrations, Diwali, and Lunar New Year. She organizes forums and MWBE events to help build bridges between government and residents. She is also a member of the County Executive’s Task Force on Domestic Violence and on the County’s Census Count Committee.

Prior to this, she was a teacher at Lynbrook High School and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Science and a master’s degree in Education. In addition to her accomplishments as a teacher and government liaison, she is committed to serving the community. She was instrumental in Eid being recognized as a school holiday in Valley Stream. Farrah is a member of Salam Sholom and a school board member for Hamza Academy, a private school located in Valley Stream. Her most important accomplishment is that she is a proud mother of 6 children.

irma solisis the Suffolk Chapter Director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she organizes legal, educational, and community outreach in Suffolk County on issues ranging from police accountability to education reform. Solis has more than 15 years of experience leading campaigns to address issues affecting communities in upstate New York, Brooklyn and Long Island. These include racially targeted housing code enforcement activities in the Town of Brookhaven, wage theft by unscrupulous employers, violations of the Fair Housing Act, day laborers right to seek work in public spaces, Latino students’ right to public education and discriminatory practices by the Suffolk County police.

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© 2019 by Women's Diversity Network

Phone: 516-847-4411