• UCLA Activist-in-Residence


The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy recognizes that the work of social change is demanding. It is our objective to help sustain the activists, artists, and public intellectuals involved in this work through the UCLA Activist-in-Residence Program. This program strengthens the infrastructure of social transformation by providing leaders/activists with the time and space to take a step back and reflect upon a complex challenge facing their communities, while also engaging with the UCLA community to develop and strengthen their capabilities and commitment towards social justice.


  • Provide activists, artists, and public intellectuals the opportunity to explore or study a complex issue and perhaps to imagine new approaches or scholarship that will improve the lives of people in their community.
  • Support the development of progressive thought leaders engaged at every level of government, in nonprofit organizations, and in groups that influence public policy and grassroots organizing.
  • Encourage mutual learning between activists, students, and scholars that create new models of public scholarship and engagement.


The 2022 residency takes place from January through May 2022. The selected activist will receive a part-time UCLA appointment, gross pay of $7,500, and may receive up to $2,500 in research support through expense reimbursement. In addition, the activist will have access to office space at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. This residency does not include benefits.

The residency is funded by the James Irvine Foundation, established to bring scholar-activists to the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy who will undertake social movement research and pedagogy directly concerned with equity at the urban scale. The residency should align with one or more of the Institute’s research themes: climate justice; housing justice; future of finance; policing, incarceration, abolition. This residency is required to have student engagement through workshops, class visits, and/or community meetings or field research. Institute staff will be available to assist.

The UCLA Activist-in-Residence Program is designed for individuals who are at least mid-career and who have demonstrated leadership in nonprofit and community-serving organizations.

Interested applicants must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Live and work in the Los Angeles region
  • Adhere to all UCLA COVID-19 guidelines, including vaccine mandate and mandatory mask usage
  • Be available part-time during the residency period (January – May 2022)
  • Currently work full-time or have recently held a leadership position at a community organization or government agency that works with underserved low-income, immigrant, and/or communities of color
  • Present a clearly articulated statement about what the applicant hopes to gain from the fellowship and what issues they plan to explore. Issues should align with one or more of the Institute’s research themes: climate justice; housing justice; future of finance; policing, incarceration, abolition. For example, how resources would be used for reflection and renewal, in addition to working on and addressing a complex challenge in their field
  • Be committed to working for social justice
  • Be committed to building a cross-disciplinary network of leaders and scholars
  • Be able to converse in English and/or provide a translator for all group meetings
  • Current university students and employees are not eligible to apply


Elizabeth Blaney

Community Organizer

Elizabeth Blaney, a former CPA turned community organizer and popular educator who has dedicated her life to building an organized base of community members fighting to change the political, social, and economic conditions that create oppression. In 1996, she co-founded Union de Vecinos, a grassroots community-based organization that formed the first tenant union in East Los Angeles and co-founded the citywide Los Angeles Tenants Union. Twenty-three years later, Blaney continues to work at Union de Vecinos, Eastside Local of the LA Tenants Union, organizing neighborhood committees and tenant associations to create community-based solutions to dismantle systemic conditions of exploitation and racism.

During her 2020 residency, Elizabeth Blaney studied the structure of the comunas in Venezuela and the conditions in which that model exists, to determine how it can strengthen the organizing in Los Angeles.

Leonardo Vilchis

Community Organizer

Leonardo Vilchis, with Pico-Aliso residents, co-founded Union de Vecinos to stop the demolition of the projects. They won a contract for the 250 organized families to stay in the development. In 2007, Leonardo with local residents began a democratization project in Maywood to increase civic engagement, resulting in a movement that changed city government, removed anti-immigrant checkpoints, and fired a corrupt city police department. His experience has helped put Union de Vecinos, Eastside Local of the LA Tenants Union in a leadership role against gentrification in Boyle Heights. Leonardo is also a co-founder of the Los Angeles Tenants Union.

During his residency in 2020, Leonardo Vilchis examined the connections between recent victories of the Los Angeles and California housing movement and the larger global movement, as well as researching the relationship between social housing and land reform and its impact in the community.

Jane Nguyen

Community Organizer

Jane Nguyen, a co-founder and core organizer of Ktown for All, has led outreach and policy advocacy since May 2018 when the organization was founded to counter-protest protesters of a proposed homeless shelter in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Nguyen is active with the Services Not Sweeps coalition as a founding member and serves on the board of Invisible People, a nonprofit that uplifts the experiences of unhoused people and produces news and educational materials that reaches millions of viewers worldwide.

As part of her residency in 2020, Jane Nguyen dedicated herself to the work of building a grassroots coalition throughout Los Angeles that provides direct aid to unhoused residents, fights for dignity, and housing for all.

Micah White

Activist Educator

Micah White, PhD is an author, public speaker and lifelong activist who co-created Occupy Wall Street, a global social movement that spread to 82 countries, while an editor of Adbusters magazine.

Micah’s first book, The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution, was published in 2016 by Knopf Canada. His essays and interviews on the future of protest have been appeared internationally in periodicals including The New York Times, The Guardian, Folha de São Paulo, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He has been a featured guest on major network television shows such as Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, the BBC’s Newsnight and The National, Canada’s flagship nightly current affairs broadcast.

Micah White is a sought after global speaker. He has delivered numerous lectures at prestigious universities—including Princeton, Swarthmore, Middlebury and the University of Chicago—along with cultural festivals and private events in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Indonesia and the United States. Widely recognized as a pioneer of social movement creation, Micah has also been profiled by NPR’s Morning Edition, The New Yorker and in recognition of his contributions, Esquire named him one of the most influential young thinkers alive today.

During his residency in 2019, Micah brought Activist Graduate School to the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy by co-teaching a graduate-level course with Ananya Roy on Housing Justice Activism and Protest: Past, Present, Future. The course features a dozen guest speakers from a range of activist approaches to address the housing crisis. This course was recorded and is paired with additional content.

Yusef Omowale


Yusef Omowale is director of the Southern California Library (SCL). SCL is a library and archive located in South Los Angeles that documents and makes accessible histories of struggles that challenge racism and other systems of oppression. Founded over 50 years ago, the Library holds extensive collections of histories of community resistance in Los Angeles and beyond.

Over the past 10 years, Yusef has participated within long-standing traditions of collective memory work to document the impacts of policing, incarceration, displacement, and poverty. This archival labor has included political education workshops, campaign support, and offering spaces of healing and material support to ease some of the day-to-day sufferings of late capitalism.

During his residency in 2019, Omowale and the SCL partnered with the Institute to develop and provide digital curatorial paid internships for UCLA graduate students and Omowale participated as an instructor in the Methodologies for Housing Justice Summer Institute, part of the Housing Justice in #UnequalCities Network, which is housed at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy and supported by the National Science Foundation. In the fall of 2019, Omowale collaborated with UCLA graduate students in the Histories and Theories of Planning course to produce public history essays in an effort to work towards an annotated outline of the history of urban planning in Los Angeles, especially of less visible and less known histories. The Southern California Library hopes to share these essays with high school teachers, community residents, and organizers.

Tanzila Ahmed


Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. She currently is a Campaign Strategist at the Asian American new media organizing group 18MillionRising.

Taz was honored in 2016 as White House Champion of Change for AAPI Art and Storytelling. She is cohost of The #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast that has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Wired, and Buzzfeed as well as live shows recorded at South by Southwest and the White House. An avid essayist, she had a monthly column called Radical Love and has written for Sepia Mutiny, Truthout, The Aerogram, The Nation, Left Turn Magazine, and more. She is published in the anthologies Modern Loss (2018), Six Words Fresh Off the Boat (2017), Good Girls Marry Doctors (2016), Love, Inshallah (2012) and poetry collection Coiled Serpent (2016). Her third poetry chapbook Emdash and Ellipses was published in early 2016.

Taz curates Desi music at Mishthi Music where she co-produced Voices of Our Vote: My #AAPIVote Album (2016) and Beats for Bangladesh (2013). Her artwork was featured in Sharia Revoiced (2015), in Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s “H-1B” (2015), and Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California (2015). She also makes disruptive art annually with #MuslimVDay Cards.

As a part of her residency in 2019, Taz incubated a digital audio storytelling project that would provide Asian American political education to new Asian American activists. Framed as an audio advice column delivered through podcast format, the monthly show will highlight various questions about the movement with some of the leading AAPI thinkers and doers of our generation. “The fellowship provided an opportunity to step into a space of reflection and thinking — an opportunity as a rapid response organizer I rarely get. I was able to have engaging conversations with both students and activists and I am looking forward to building out a narrative to share based on these conversations.” The podcast will be released in conjunction with 18MillionRising.

Manuel Criollo

Community Organizer

Manuel Criollo is an activist and community organizer with over 20 years of experience in Los Angeles County. He has been on the community frontlines building and leading the Bus Riders Union at the Labor/Community Strategy Center.

Over the past 10 years, Criollo has led campaigns to end punitive school discipline and criminalization policies and practices in Los Angeles public schools. Through member and leader education, Criollo has recruited hundreds of working class grassroots leaders. His organizing work has led to the 95% reduction of citations and tickets to students for minor offenses during the 2015–16 academic school year. Criollo stated, “I want to focus on consolidating, disseminating and expanding our understanding of the punishment, security and policing apparatuses in LA schools and school policing broadly.”

During his residency in 2018, Criollo researched and documented the formation of the Los Angeles School Police Department, creating a timeline of community struggles against school policing, and organizing an organizers exchange on UCLA’s campus.

Yvonne Yen Liu

Solidarity Economy Researcher

Yvonne Yen Liu is the co-founder and research director of the Solidarity Research Center, a worker self-directed nonprofit that advances solidarity economies. Over the last decade, she has authored participatory research projects on alternative economic practices in partnership with low-wage service workers, migrant farmworkers, incarcerated workers, and indigenous communities. Her research has led to the $15 minimum wage increase in Los Angeles, which is a $5.9 billion boost for over 720,000 low wage workers. Her work also contributed towards the decriminalization of street vending, a $504 million industry plied by 50,000 microbusinesses on the streets of Los Angeles.

She serves on the board of the United States Solidarity Economy Network and co-convened a cohort of Asian American community-based organizations who are building worker cooperatives to increase community wealth and to empower their members.

As part of her residency in 2018, Liu explored the history of solidarity economies in the Asian American immigrant and refugee experience, to find lessons from past economies, based on mutual aid and cooperation, to guide future community economic development and forge collective economic agency. “This fellowship provided me with the opportunity to deepen a participatory research project aimed at lifting up the history and contemporary practice of solidarity economies by Asian American grassroots communities.”

Funmilola Fagbamila


Funmilola Fagbamila is an activist and community organizer with more than eight years of experience in Los Angeles County. She has been an organizer with Black Lives Matter since its inception, centering its work on policing, mass incarceration, and the overall physical health and wellness in poor black and brown communities. As the Arts and Culture Director for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Fagbamila’s work sits at the intersection of blackness and freedom. While she was a graduate student in UCLA’s African American Studies Department, Fagbamila also worked with a number of campus and community groups, primarily organizing around student rights, promoting faculty and student solidarity, and hosting educational events on the increased privatization of public education in California.

Fagbamila explains that her “scholarship explores the complexity of black identity and ideological posturing in the context of Western world.” During her residency in 2017 she produced a curriculum and hosted campus workshops on the topics of inter-ideological communication and intracommunal difference. Fagbamila also completed her stage play, The Intersection, based on engagement across ideological communities.

Lisa Hasegawa

AAPI Advocate

Lisa Hasegawa served as the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Development (CAPACD) for the past 15 years and recently stepped down in December 2016. Prior to National CAPACD, she was the Community Liaison of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans Pacific Islanders at the end of the Clinton Administration. For her entire career, she has worked at the intersections of civil and human rights, housing, health and community organizing. Lisa is committed to leveraging her cross-disciplinary networks across the country for UCLA students, faculty, and larger community. Returning to the Asian American Studies Center (AASC) as Activist-in-Residence was a homecoming for her. While she was an undergraduate at UCLA, she started her career in community activism through an AASC internship at the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture.

“We are in a very challenging period for Asian Americans Pacific Islanders, undocumented immigrants, communities of color, low-income and queer communities,” said Hasegawa. “I look forward to facilitating lively dialogue and concerted action among networks of activists, advocates and practitioners, together with students and faculty.”

As part of her residency in 2017, Hasegawa documented achievements and challenges faced during the Obama Administration. She also engaged students, faculty and community activists in dialogue about how strategies have fallen short, and took stock of policies that can be strengthened, preserved or defended.