Latest News about the 2018-2021 Fellows

Learn more about how these leaders are meeting this moment and continuing to serve their communities.


Eddy Zheng

New Breath Foundation

Big Idea: To transform opportunities for incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islander people and others caught in the criminal justice and deportation systems.

Quote: “When you deny people’s humanity by saying that some people are more deserving than others, then we tear into the fabric of what humanity is.”

Latest News: 

  • Created the Racial Solidarity Initiative to address anti-Blackness, cultivate cross-cultural healing and political education in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Distributed funds to Cambodian deportees who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
  • Featured in #HeretoLeadCA: Reimagining the Criminal Justice System and Philanthropy

Gina Clayton Johnson

Essie Justice Group

Big Idea: To help end mass incarceration by breaking the social and political isolation of women with incarcerated loved ones, mobilizing them as a powerful base that can lead and win decarceration campaigns.

Quote: “The BREATHE Act is a strategic and bold roadmap to divest federal resources from incarceration and policing and instead invest in non-punitive approaches to community safety that prioritize Black life. I came up with the idea for BREATHE after seeing no comprehensive federal policy response in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. We need to do better and dream bigger — our movement will not rest until Black people are not only allowed to be safe, but are allowed to thrive.”

Latest News: 


Jessica Nowlan 

Young Women’s Freedom Center 

Big Idea: To create a comprehensive strategy for the decriminalization of women, girls, and trans and gender non-conforming people of color.

Quote: “This commitment by the state towards a different approach to youth justice is a huge step in the right direction for juvenile justice reform in California. Community organizations have been working toward this for years because we know youth in division of Juvenile Justice continually face harm, violence, and brutality in detention.”

Latest News:

  • Employed 30 justice involved youth of color as Community Organizers and trained them in doing online advocacy, data collection, and outreach.
  • Launched the #SafeHealthyFree campaign to advocate for systems involved youth in the Bay Area in the midst of COVID.
  • Along with the #FreeOurKids coalition, successfully advocated to stop the $75 million expansion of Camp Sweeney in Alameda County.
  • Launched an emergency housing program for cis women, trans women and gender non-conforming people experiencing violence in SF during Covid-19.  
  • Reduced the detention of girls in Santa Clara by 57% and got to zero percent of girls in SF.
  • Featured in Witness LA: Youth Advocates Cheered As Governor Newsom Announced Plans To Shut Down CA’s Prisons For Kids — But It’s Complicated

Lian Cheun 

Khmer Girls in Action 

Big Idea: To divest funding from policing into sustained positive youth development by deeply engaging youth in democracy.

Quote: “In addition to the important organizing and policy work, KGA has been working to help bridge the digital divide for low-income students without computer and internet access. Because of the distrust in government fueled by over-policing and draconian federal immigration enforcement, we are disseminating important information to our community members while supporting them in the navigation of public systems.”

Latest News:


Malachi Garza

Innovative Justice Solutions 

Big Idea: To use cannabis legalization to repair the harm of the war on drugs and create long-term economic opportunity within communities of color.

Quote: “Even though cannabis usage is almost equal, people of color are often times arrested more than white people. I am grateful in that Rosenberg Foundation invests in my work so that communities of color, too, can benefit long term economically in the business of cannabis today.”

Latest News: 

  • Worked on policy growing cannabis equity in connecting millions of tax dollars in the war on drugs within California, Illinois and New York.
  • Continuing work on building out reparations based on framework within cannabis industry.

Ramla Sahid

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA)

Big Idea: To transform the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in California by guaranteeing them full rights and protections and advancing meaningful freedom for all.

Quote: “We’ve always known that relationships are infrastructure. Covid-19 has reminded us how much this is true. We’re thankful to our partners who make our work possible so that we may rapidly deploy emergency resources to our families while continuing to further our policy and advocacy efforts. “

Latest News: 

  • PANA raised more than $340,000 and provided a one-time family grant to over 380 families during the pandemic. 
  • Worked with San Diego City Council to pass and extend the moratorium on evictions for both commercial and residential renters. In addition, created a $15 million rental relief program that is being administered by San Diego’s housing commission. 
  • Featured in Times of San Diego : Immigrants Should Seek Medical Care if Symptomatic, Groups Stress Amid Crisis

Taina Vargas-Edmond 

Initiate Justice 

Big Idea: To create a comprehensive organizing training program that will mobilize people who are currently incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and their loved ones to win policy reform.

Quote: “Initiate Justice has worked hard to continue our advocacy and power-building programming in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Monthly Member Meetings now take place online, and we transitioned our 12-week organizing training program for people impacted by incarceration (the Institute of Impacted Leaders) to the “Zoomstitute” of Impacted Leaders.”

Latest Idea: 


Tamisha Torres-Walker

Safe Return Project 

Big Idea: To build a movement of highly skilled formerly incarcerated leaders who are fighting for affirmative and universal protections against all forms of discrimination based on criminal history.

Quote: “The work we do now is the work we have always done. We build community, we build power, and we tear down systems of white supremacy and advance justice.”

Latest News:


Vonya Quarles 

Starting Over, Inc. 

Big Idea: To reunite black and brown families by restoring child custody, foster care and adoption rights for people with criminal convictions.

Quote: “The narrative has shifted, and there is power in the movement. Evidence of that change is the shift in conversation. No longer are people blaming the victims, they are finally looking at the perpetrators. Whether that has to do with policing, child welfare, housing, or incarceration…. There is a re-imagining and the story has changed.”

Latest News:

  • Provided Wi-Fi and phone payments for women with open CPS cases to ensure that the shelter-in-place and no in-person visitation emergency procedures would not prevent family visits. Assisted 82 mothers, 12 fathers in maintaining family contact during.

About Leading Edge Fund: 

Launched in 2016 by the Rosenberg Foundation in partnership with the Hellman Foundation, the Leading Edge Fund supports emerging movement leaders by providing unrestricted funding and leadership development so that they can pursue the vision for change that deep transformation demands. The Fund is generously supported by NoVo Foundation, Akonadi Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

About Rosenberg Foundation:

The Rosenberg Foundation is an independent, grantmaking foundation committed to ensuring that every person in California has an equal opportunity to participate fully in the state’s economic, social, and political life. Created in 1935 through the bequest of California business leader Max L. Rosenberg, the Foundation has provided more than 3,000 grants totaling more than $85 million to regional, statewide and national organizations advocating for social and economic justice throughout California. For more information: www.RosenbergFound.org. On Twitter at @RosenbergFound.