Board of Directors

President, Rev. Larry DowlingBoard 2013

is the pastor of St. Agatha Parish and St. Agatha Catholic Academy in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, having previously served at Chicago’s St. Denis Parish and St. James in Arlington Heights. He received his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in 1998 and is dean of Deanery III-D. He is a ’97-‘98 alumnus of Leadership Greater Chicago. He serves on the Board of Consultors to the Cardinal, the Anti-Racism Implementation Team for the Archdiocese, the Priests for Justice for Immigrants, Archdiocesan School Board and the Tolton Scholars Advisory Board. He currently serves on the Board for the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention (ICVP) and Sankofa Safe Child Initiative. He is actively involved in local community organizing efforts. He has served as Chair of the Association of Chicago Priests (ACP), currently serving as editor of UPTURN, a bi-monthly publication of the ACP. He is a published writer, avid reader, backpacker, hiker and bicyclist.

Vice President, Benetta Mansfield

practiced as a union-side labor lawyer for over 30 years, most recently as Chief of Staff for the Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, D.C., where she also served on several committees for the AFL-CIO. Mansfield was previously Chief of Staff of the National Mediation Board, and directed the election of International Officers in the court-supervised election for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Benetta relocated to Chicago two years ago and has been active in several Arise campaigns including the car wash campaign.  Benetta is also on the national board of AVODAH, the Jewish service corps.

Secretary, Monika Starczuk

is the former Program Manager for the “Uniting America” campaign at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).  She led Illinois’ largest integration project aiming at building bridges between native-born Illinoisans and immigrants through volunteerism and community service. Prior to ICIRR, Monika organized voter registration drives in Latino and Polish communities. In 2006, she became the citizenship organizer at the Albany Park Neighborhood Council and worked extensively with Latino, Asian and Muslim communities. In 2007 she co-founded Polish Initiative of Chicago, a grassroots community organization committed to empower Polish immigrants and Polish-Americans through education and leadership development. Monika emigrated from Poland in 2002 after receiving a degree in political science from Warsaw University.

Treasurer, Sarah Hainds

is a researcher at the Chicago Teachers Union, where much of her research focuses on the negative effects of the privatization of public education and the inequities in funding and support for neighborhood schools in low-income neighborhoods devastated by gentrification. Prior to the CTU, Sarah worked at Teamsters Local 743, where she was responsible for communications and office management. Sarah has a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy from UIC with a concentration in community development.

Rocio Caravantes

is a member of the Arise Chicago Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. She came to Arise because of violations of safety and discrimination at her workplace. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop, and leading a campaign to improve conditions at her workplace Rocio has become one of the Worker Center’s most involved leaders. She has spoken to the media about wage theft and the need to increase the state minimum wage with the Raise Illinois campaign. She is an OSHA trainer and has trained numerous workers on health and safety. Her daughter is also an Arise member, and they attend actions together.

Halil Demir

was born in South Eastern Turkey and was very active in social issues in his community as a student. He moved to Switzerland to obtain his degree in Sociology from the University of Basel. In 1997, he moved to America, and has earned a Masters Degree in History, as well as a Masters in Nonprofit Management. In 2001, Mr. Demir helped found the Zakat Foundation and serves as its Executive Director. Zakat Foundation is a U.S.-based Muslim relief organization that provides immediate relief during and after disasters; building and supporting schools, orphanages and health clinics; supporting community development programs and micro-credit; and providing Ramadan Iftars and food distribution. Zakat has been selected as a Top 5 Finalist in Disaster Relief and International Aid. Demir lives near Chicago with his wife and four daughters.

Maria Garcia

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop and working with an organizer, she successfully resolved two different wage theft campaigns at former workplaces. Since then, Maria has become one of the most active Worker Center members. She has participated in coalition actions including the Fight for $15, and including traveling to Springfield to advocate for an increase in the state minimum wage.  Maria is also an OSHA ergonomics and health & safety trainer. She has connected Arise to local community groups and her children’s elementary school, where she is a Local School Council member, to host workshops. Maria brings her children to Arise actions and events to develop them as the next generation of social change leaders.

Gerald Blake Hankerson

is the Outreach Coordinator at the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) where he administers internship, volunteer activist and youth programs, interfaith engagement, public awareness events, and community outreach. A native of the Oakland and Hyde Park neighborhoods, he is a graduating President’s Scholar of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Theater.  Gerald is a freelance copy editor, author, writer, actor, and debate coach. He is committed to bringing his experiences with mentoring youth, volunteerism, research and social critiques to bridging gaps between interfaith and diverse communities.

Dr. Larycia A. Hawkins

is Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Wheaton College and is the co-editor of Religion and American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Her active research agenda includes projects exploring how black theology frames black political rhetoric and is reflected in black political agendas like those of the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP and considerations of the political activism of black congregations outside the black church (i.e. black Catholic parishes, United Church of Christ). Prior to academia, Larycia worked in state government administering federal programs, including the Social Security Disability Programs and the Community Development Block Grant.

Ana Laura Lopez

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee. She first came to Arise with a group of workers from a secondhand store, looking to address health and safety violations, and disrespect from managers. After attending a Worker Rights Workshop, she organized her co-workers and they walked out demanding better working conditions. Since then, they have formed an independent workers’ association at their store, and made significant steps to improve overall conditions. Through AriseChicago, Ana Laura is an OSHA trained workplace ergonomics health and safety trainer and provides workshops to low-wage workers across Chicago. She involves her two sons in Arise work to learn their rights, how to defend them, and to develop their leadership skills.

Isabel Mendez

is a member of the Worker Center and sits on the Member Organizing Committee.  She first came to Arise after being fired as a domestic worker, and owed $10,000 in unpaid wages. In addition to leading her own wage theft campaign which included delegations and press conferences, she stayed involved in several other Arise and coalition campaigns. Isabel has traveled to Springfield multiple times to advocate for an increase in the state minimum wage with Raise Illinois, and for passage of an Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. She has also met with Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Nancy Pelosi to discuss the national Caring Across Generations campaign and federal legislation addressing caregivers and care recipients.

Rev. Liz Muñoz

is an Associate Priest at Saint James Cathedral in Chicago. She previously served as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Hollywood and Associate Rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood. She also collaborated with other priests and lay leaders working in Latino ministry  to form the Hispanic Leadership Institute in Los Angeles. Rev. Muñoz was ordained to the priesthood in 2005. She received her MDiv from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX after having left 18 years in the teaching profession. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Princeton University and later completed coursework for teaching credentials in Bilingual General and Special Education.  Rev. Muñoz was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the working class Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in East L.A.

Kahphira Palmer

Kahphira Palmer is a dance instructor and teacher. She came to Arise Chicago facing wage theft at two workplaces. With support from Arise, she developed a campaign strategy to recover her stolen wages from both the dance company and the restaurant. As a Worker Center Leader, Kahphira represents the organization in public, including talking about wage theft and how Arise responds to the press, including a feature on NBC’s Making a Difference show.

Robert G. Reiter, Jr.

was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor in 2010. He is a third-generation member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and previously served as an organizer, business representative and field attorney responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements for public-sector members in the Municipalities Department. Previously, Reiter worked for the Indiana Illinois Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, a labor-management cooperation committee. While at the IIIFFC, Reiter concentrated on issues such as prevailing wage, employee misclassification and responsible bidding at both the grassroots and legislative levels.

Martina Sánchez

was born in Mexico and moved to the Chicago over 15 years ago. She came to Arise Chicago facing extreme wage theft. She since joined as a Worker Center member, and in addition to her own Workplace Justice Campaign, is an organizational spokesperson. She has talked to the press and at public event several times to advocate for a Chicago Earned Sick Time ordinance. Martina is a graduate of the OSHA Train the Trainer program and an active member of Arise Chicago.

Manuela Sepulveda

is originally from Mexico.  Manuela came to Arise Chicago because of she was illegally fired. She took action, won a settlement, and inspired co-workers to take action to improve working conditions. As a Worker Center member, Manuela supports other members and participates in solidarity actions. She is an OSHA trainer and sits on the Worker Center Member Organizing Committee.

Rev. John Thomas

teaches and serves in various administrative capacities at Chicago Theological Seminary, a seminary related to the United Church of Christ in Hyde Park. From 1999 to 2009 he served as the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Prior to that, John was the denomination’s ecumenical officer for eight years and a pastor in local churches in Pennsylvania and Connecticut for 17 years. He is a graduate of Gettysburg College and Yale Divinity School. His primary involvements with issues of worker justice have been guiding UCC support for initiatives of the National Farm Worker Ministry.

Rev. Wendy A. Witt

is Associate Pastor for Social Justice at the First United Methodist Church of Chicago and Chicago Temple.  She received her Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Theological Seminary in Evanston in 1987. She has served city, suburban, small town, and rural congregations. She has also served as the United Methodist campus minister at Northern Illinois. A major portion of the focus of Rev. Witt’s work at the Temple is to engage the church in the public arena around issues of social justice and equity. She is married to Don Floyd, who is a community organizer.

Magdalena Zylinska

is a domestic worker from Poland. She first came to Arise for a green cleaning training held in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. After learning that domestic workers like herself were excluded form basic labor protections, she became a leader in the campaign for an Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. She has traveled to Springfield numerous times, and to Washington D.C. advocating for rights for domestic workers.


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