The Advancement Project

Officers


Stephen R. English

Secretary/ Treasurer

Founding Co-Director, Advancement Project

Before co-founding Advancement Project, a public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement, Steve English was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius for twelve years, helping manage a 20-lawyer litigation department.   Together with Co-Directors Connie Rice and Molly Munger, Steve launched a coalition lawsuit, Godinez v. Davis, which won approximately $1 billion for new school construction in Los Angeles and other urban areas--money previoulsy slated for less crowded, more affluent suburban school districts.  With these funds the Los Angeles Unified School District began its nationally recognized program to build over 130 new schools since 2001. After the court in Godinez required California to develop a new system for funding schools construction, Advancement Project was instrumental in assessing the need for adequate schools to serve all children in California and in crafting and shepherding three school construction bond initiatives that raised $25 billion for new and renovated facilities throughout the state, including $5 billion earmarked to relieve overcrowding in urban schools. This funding has enabled California to build or renovate over 1 million school spaces since 2000. Steve led Advancement Project's work in crafting the bonds, advising on the implementing regulations and monitoring the state's progress in constructing schools.   A committed advocate for legal services for the poor, Steve has served as board president of three major service providers: Public Counsel, the Inner City Law Center, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). Steve also has served as President of the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation, and chaired the Litigation Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He received the California State Bar President's Pro Bono Award in 1994 and, with Co-Director Molly Munger, the ACLU of Southern California's Equal Justice Advocate award in 2002. With Ms. Munger and Co-Director Connie Rice he received the Western Justice Center’s Builder of Peace Award in 2011 and LAFLA’s Maynard Toll Award for Distinguished Public Service in 2012. Steve is an honors graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School.

Gerald Torres, Esq.

Chair

Professor of Law, Cornell University

Mr. Torres is Professor of Law at the Cornell University and former Senior Attorney in the Justice Department during the Clinton Administration. He and Professor Lani Guinier of Harvard Law School are the co-authors of the celebrated book Miner's Canary.

Molly Munger

President

Founding Co-Director, Advancement Project

Molly Munger is a co-founder and director of the Advancement Project, a public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement.  Founded in 1999, Advancement Project engineers large-scale systems change to remedy inequality, expand opportunity and open paths to upward mobility. Molly brings an extensive background of legal expertise to the Advancement Project, including twenty years as a federal prosecutor and business litigator.   Between 1994 and 1998, Molly served with her current law partner, Connie Rice, as Western Regional Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  Molly also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a partner in the all-women litigation firm Baird, Munger & Meyers, and a partner in the Los Angeles office of New York-based Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.     Together with Advancement Project Co-Directors Connie Rice and Steve English, Molly launched a coalition lawsuit, Godinez v. Davis, which won approximately $1 billion for new school construction in Los Angeles and other urban areas – representing the reclaiming of funds previously slated for less crowded, more affluent suburban school districts. Advancement Project was then instrumental in crafting and shepherding three school construction bond initiatives, raising $25 billion for new and renovated facilities throughout the state. As a result of these efforts, over 66 new schools were built in Los Angeles to relieve chronic overcrowding and over 1 million school spaces were created or renovated throughout California.     In recent years, Molly has become deeply involved in efforts to improve and expand early childhood education in California. Her work was critical to the development of thousands of preschool spaces that serve low income children in Los Angeles County, and California's Preschool Challenge, her report on statewide preschool space shortfalls, spurred the creation of the Speaker's Task Force on School Facilities.    Molly also spearheaded the founding of the Water Cooler network of advocates, bringing together diverse stakeholders from across the state to build consensus for policy solutions that support the needs of children from birth to five. Through quarterly meetings and an annual conference that draws more than 500 education advocates, the Water Cooler elevates the needs of California’s youngest children to the forefront of policy decisions and unites a diverse coalition of unlikely allies to champion their cause.   Molly is now taking a greater stance in supporting the needs of California’s students by supporting the Our Children, Our Future tax initiative.  Our Children, Our Future will provide dedicated funding an entire generation of children to restore the public education programs and services they need to succeed in the workforce and double the existing funding to expand and improve the early learning opportunities for children across the state.    Molly is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the James Irvine Foundation and UNITE-LA.  She is a former commissioner on the First 5 California Commission and former board member at Children Now, Occidental College and the Westridge School for Girls.

Members


Joe Alvarez

Partner, Alvarez Porter Group

Joe Alvarez brings a lifetime of experience on the front lines of the labor movement fighting for racial justice, civil rights, peace, workers’ and immigrants’ rights. In 2005, he left his position with labor and became a founding partner of the Alvarez Porter Group, an organization development consulting firm that specializes in work with mission-driven organizations focused on labor rights and other social justice issues. Joe spent decades organizing industrial workers and labor support for the civil rights movement throughout the south. As the national political director of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union and UNITE, he developed innovative programs promoting grassroots civic engagement and participation. And as the Northeast Regional Director of the AFL-CIO, Mr. Alvarez designed and co-led a major national, state-by-state campaign to revitalize and reorganize state and local AFL-CIO bodies. Joe’s work with unions has involved him in a number of industries, including retail, food processing, arts and entertainment, education, transportation, public sector, construction, and health care. At the AFL-CIO, Mr. Alvarez was also a leader in engaging the labor movement on fighting for immigrant rights, and was a national organizer and leader of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride in 2002. Joe has also worked with national, state, and local union federations, as well as with unions in Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. His work among non-profits has been with organizations involved in community organizing, civil rights, housing, human rights, workers’ rights, and environmental sustainability. In 2000, Joe helped found the New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute, where he still teaches. He also teaches at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Extension Division, and in American University’s Organization Development masters program. Joe is married with two adult children and an expanding number of grandchildren. He lives in Yonkers, NY with his wife, Sally.

Harry Belafonte

Belafonte Enterprises, Inc.

Mr. Belafonte, internationally acclaimed entertainer and social activist, was a close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He plays a major role in Advancement Project's Urban Peace Project.

Bonifacio (Bonny) Garcia

Founding Partner, Garcia, Calderon, Ruiz LLP

Mr. Garcia is an attorney specializing in labor and education law and in the negotiation and litigation of complex matters.

Penda D. Hair, Esq.

Co-Director, Advancement Project

A staunch advocate of civil rights, Penda Hair has spent the last 25 years defending the rights of those unjustly discriminated against. Former director of the Washington, DC, office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Hair co-founded Advancement Project to serve as an innovative racial justice organization that would strengthen grassroots efforts to eradicate structural exclusion throughout the nation. It has done that and more. Under Hair’s direction, Advancement Project has reformed the electoral system in Florida, campaigned for the restoration of voting rights of people with felony convictions in Virginia, and secured the right to return and the opportunity to vote for thousands of displaced survivors of Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, she worked with organizations in Colorado to effectively challenge the state’s illegal purging and cancellation practices that had removed tens of thousands of voters from the rolls. Hair is the author of the Rockefeller Foundation’s report on innovative civil rights strategies, Louder Than Words: Lawyers, Communities, and the Struggle for Justice (2001), and she edited and supervised the drafting of Advancement Project’s report entitled, In Pursuit of an Affirmative Right to Vote (2008). A Harvard Law School graduate, Hair was named one of the top public interest attorneys under age 45 by The American Lawyer in 1998. Hair is admitted in Washington, DC.

Arlene Holt Baker

Former Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO

A trade union activist and labor leader, Arlene Holt Baker was the first African American to ever serve as an officer in the AFL-CIO. She was appointed Executive Vice President in 2007 and won re-election in 2009. Originally from Fort Worth, Holt Baker started out as an organizer for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in California. She is also known for her political work, rising in the ranks of the Democratic Party of California, where she was eventually elected the state party's First Vice Chairwoman. She left the California Democrats in 1995 to join the AFL-CIO.

Gerry Hudson

Executive Vice President, SEIU

Gerry Hudson came to SEIU in 1978 from the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, N.Y., where he was a member of SEIU Local 144. Elected as executive vice president for the former-District 1199 in 1989, Hudson spent more than a dozen years supervising 1199 New York's political action, education, publications, and cultural affairs departments. During his tenure with 1199NY, Hudson coordinated the merger of the 30,000-member Local 144 into SEIU/1199. He also founded the 1199 School for Social Change - a former alternative school in the Bronx - and served as a trustee of the Local 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund, Home Care Workers Benefit Fund, and Michelson Education Fund. Hudson also has considerable political experience. In 1996, Hudson served as political director of the New York state Democratic Party and helped lead the union's campaigns in support of Jesse Jackson's presidential efforts in New York and the successful New York City mayoral campaign of David Dinkins. He played an instrumental role in the election of H. Carl McCall, the first African American controller in New York state. Hudson continues to help lead SEIU's efforts to win quality, affordable healthcare for all, immigration reform, and other major initiatives by strengthening the union's partnerships and alliances with community groups. He lives with his wife, Carol Joyner, and their two children, Camara and Amilcar, in Washington, DC.

Michael Lawson, Esq.

Retired Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Mr. Lawson is a retired attorney who worked on all facets of executive compensation and employee benefits matters.

Bill Lann Lee, Esq.

Partner, Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson

Mr. Lee is a 20-year civil rights veteran. He has served as Co-Director of the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., and as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration.

Barrett S. Litt

Partner, Litt, Estuar, & Kitson, LLP

Barrett S. Litt is a founding partner of Litt & Stormer, Litt & Marquez, Litt & Associates, and now Litt, Estuar & Kitson, LLP. A 1969 graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, Barry began his career as a criminal defense attorney, and worked on the Pentagon Papers and Chicago Conspiracy trials. He has spent most of his career litigating civil rights and constitutional cases in the civil arena. Barry has tried and settled dozens of civil rights cases, many of which involved multi-million dollar awards. He has successfully handled cases throughout the country and has argued frequently before the appellate courts of California. In 2003 Mr. Litt was lead counsel in the McClure v. City of Long Beach trial, a Fair Housing Act case that resulted in a unanimous verdict and an award of $22,500,000.00 after seven months of trial. This is the largest Fair Housing Act verdict in the country. Mr. Litt and his firms have been recognized for their public interest and civil rights work by several organizations, including Public Counsel (the largest pro bono firm in the country), the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., and UCLA School of Law (which acknowledged Barry as its public interest alumnus of the year in 1995).

Pam Martinez

Founding Member and Co-Director, Padres & Jovenes Unidos

Pam Martinez is a founding member and Co-Director of Padres & Jovenes Unidos. Pam has been involved in organizing for racial justice and equality for working class people over the last forty years. Her passion has been reflected in organizing for democratic unions, supporting the United Farmworkrs, organizing against unjust wars and for the right to college preparatory education for all. Her organizing includes the historic struggle to win Plyer v. Doe, a case in which the Supreme Court of the US struck down a state statute denying the right of undocumented students to attend public schools in Tejas; defeating Ron Unz's constitutional attack on bilingual education in Colorado; advancing educational reforms to ensure college preparation for all, organizing parents to open new excellent schools; developing a youth organizing component of Padres known nationally for its outstanding organizing, leadership and youth voice - Jovenes Unidos; creating new graduation requirements to ensure College Prep for All students in the Denver Public Schools, and establishing new policies to end racial disparities in discipline, which is being replicated nationally. Currently, Ms. Martinez helped to secure an i3 grant in which Padres Unidos will be organizing to advance literacy amongst English Language Learners. Ms. Martinez holds fast to the following quote by Frederick Douglass: "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will." -Frederick Douglass, 1849

Katherine Peck

Senior Vice President of Programs, Gill Foundation

Katherine Peck is currently the senior vice president of programs for the Gill Foundation. She is responsible for overseeing the foundation’s grant making and strategic programs, nationally and in Colorado, focusing on achieving full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.  Katherine is responsible for the development and implementation of policy advocacy programs, and programs directed at building alliances with non-LGBT individuals, organizations and institutions.   Katherine came to the Gill Foundation from the Denver-based Rose Community Foundation, where she was vice president for programs. At Rose, Katherine had oversight responsibility for the foundation’s grantmaking, which in 2004 totaled more than $8 million in the foundation’s five program areas: aging, child and family development, education, health, and Jewish life. Katherine’s extensive history of community involvement includes the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, where she served as board president; the Denver Foundation’s civic and education advisory committee; and the boards of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Foundation, the Colorado Women’s Forum, and the Legal Aid Foundation. She is currently on the boards of the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.   Prior to joining the Rose Community Foundation, Katherine was a partner at Holme Roberts & Owen LLP where she practiced law from 1984 to 2001. She served in various leadership positions within the firm including the executive committee and was an openly gay partner in one of Denver’s most prestigious law firms. She has also provided pro bono legal counsel to gay and lesbian people seeking to adopt children and has worked with grassroots activists working to defeat Amendment 2.   Katherine earned her law degree from the University of Denver, attending school in the evenings while working as a financial analyst for the United Bank of Denver National Association. Katherine has been recognized as a Woman Leader of Excellence by the Colorado Women’s Leadership Coalition, and is a member of the prestigious Women’s Leadership Circle of the Girl Scouts of Colorado.  Most recently, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association honored Katherine with its “Raising the Bar Award.”  

Constance L. Rice

Founding Co-Director, Advancement Project

In her legal work, Connie has led multi-racial coalitions of lawyers and clients to win more than $10 billion in damages and policy changes, through traditional class action civil rights cases redressing police misconduct, race and sex discrimination and unfair public policy in transportation, probation and public housing. She filed a landmark case on behalf of low-income bus riders that resulted in a mandate that more than 2 billion dollars be spent to improve the bus system. Together with Co-Directors Molly Munger and Steve English, Connie launched a coalition lawsuit, Godinez v. Davis, that won approximately $1 billion for new school construction in Los Angeles and other urban areas - money previously slated for less crowded, more affluent suburban school districts. With these funds the Los Angeles Unified School District began its nationally recognized program to build over 66 new schools since 2001. After the court in Godinez required California to develop a new system for funding schools construction, Advancement Project was instrumental in assessing the need for adequate schools to serve all children in California and in crafting and shepherding three school construction bond initiatives that raised $25 billion for new and renovated facilities throughout the state, including $5 billion earmarked to relieve overcrowding in urban schools. This funding enabled California to build or renovate over 1 million school spaces since 2000. Connie then chaired the Independent Prop. BB Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee that monitored and evaluated how Los Angeles Unified School District used its allocation of school construction funds. At the invitation of LAPD Chief William Bratton, Connie investigated the biggest police corruption scandal in Los Angeles history and obtained the commitment of the Chief to reform LAPD's training and incentives system through an internal commission that she co-chairs. Connie also conducted a landmark 18-month assessment of the City of Los Angeles' anti-gang programs and drew the blueprint to reduce gang violence through a regional, multi-jurisdictional comprehensive strategy to right the balance between suppression and prevention. Prior to co-founding Advancement Project, Connie was Co-Director of the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, an associate at the law firm of Morrison & Foerster; and a clerk to the Honorable Damon J. Keith, judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit. Connie is a graduate of Harvard College and the New York University School of Law. In 2006, Los Angeles Times West Magazine named Connie one of the 100 most powerful people in Southern California, and California Law Business twice been named her one of the top 10 most influential lawyers in California. Connie serves on the boards of the Public Policy Institute of California and public radio station KPCC.

Sheila Thomas

Attorney

Sheila Thomas is a plaintiff's employment attorney with her own practice in Oakland, California. Ms. Thomas has experience litigating both class and individual gender and race employment discrimination cases. Currently, Ms. Thomas is one of the attorneys litigating Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a nationwide gender discrimination class action against Wal-Mart Stores, and is Class Counsel to a class of women covered by a consent decree in Brown et al. v. Sacramento Regional Transit. She is also lead counsel and co-counsel in lawsuits against several employers for wage and hour violations in the state of California. Ms. Thomas currently is an adjunct faculty member at Golden Gate University School of Law. Ms. Thomas was formerly the Director of Litigation at Equal Rights Advocates Inc., a San Francisco based legal women's advocacy organization where she litigated class action cases alleging employment discrimination against women. She also worked as an associate at the law firm of Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak and Baller. Prior to joining the Saperstein firm, she completed a two-year Skadden Fellowship at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, DC. In addition, Ms. Thomas clerked for the Honorable U.W. Clemon in the Northern District of Alabama. She is a graduate of Yale College and Georgetown University Law School.

Tom Unterman

Founding Partner of Rustic Canyon Partners

Tom is the Founding Partner of Rustic Canyon Partners, one of Los Angeles’ leading venture capital firms. Before founding Rustic Canyon Partners, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Times Mirror Company. Prior to joining Times Mirror he was a partner of Morrison & Foerster and, earlier, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.   Tom also serves on the boards of The California Community Foundation, CalArts, Heal the Bay, MOCA (Life Trustee), and ProPublica. He is also a Trustee of the California State Teachers Retirement System.  Tom is also a board member of several Rustic Canyon portfolio companies, as well as Blackline Systems and Praedicat.  

Jesse Williams

A native of Chicago and graduate of Temple University, Jesse began his professional career teaching American, African and African-American History in low income Philadelphia public charter schools. From there Jesse moved to Brooklyn, New York and, after working in Manhattan law firms, began his professional acting career, performing off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre, under the direction of award-winning playwright Edward Albee in “The Sandbox.” Jesse can presently be seen as series regular, Dr. Jackson Avery in ABC's hit series “Grey’s Anatomy”. His feature credits include “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”, “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" and the Western “They Die By Dawn.”   He is a spokesperson for The California Endowment’s Sons and Brothers Campaign.   Jesse founded the production company, farWord Inc. with his wife Aryn DrakeLee-Williams out of a desire to examine and affect the relationship between historical/cultural comprehension and the ways in which media content influences our [collective and individual] health and behavior. Through the development of valuable curriculum, literary, film/TV and new media projects, farWord Inc. is dedicated to developing the honest and innovative presence necessary for cultural leadership, creative and psychological independence.   Under the farWord Inc. banner, Mr. Williams is an executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a transmedia art project designed to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. Question Bridge: Black Males was an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival New Frontiers and continues to be exhibited in museums nationwide. A special Father-Son themed experience was screened on Fathers’ Day at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. With the generous support of The California Endowment, a full service website (QuestionBridge.com) has just launched to stimulate and support exchanges around identity among a critical mass of American Black men, before opening to all demographics.​