Board Biographies

Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary, North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor
Harriet Applegate is the first woman to serve as executive secretary of the North Shore Federation of Labor, which represents the needs of workers in Northeast Ohio. Harriet brings to her job a passion for educating rank-and-file members on common sense economics and for involving working people in politics and policy. She is committed to advocating for fairer trade, a renewable jobs economy, and high standards for Ohio’s workers. She is working on strengthening the labor movement’s political infrastructure, involving union members in the policy process, and continuing to build a vibrant, diverse labor movement.

Harriet, a graduate of the University of Rochester, has a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. She lives in Cleveland Heights, has two grown sons, and is the proud grandmother of Ian Sequoia Thompson Applegate.

Stephen Crowley, Professor, Oberlin College (on leave)

Stephen Crowley is Professor of Politics at Oberlin College, where he also chairs the program in Peace and Conflict Studies. His research has focused on labor politics in post-communist Russia and Eastern Europe, examining the challenges unions in the region face from the institutional and ideological legacies of communism on the one hand, and from international institutions and global capitalism on the other. His teaching focuses on Russia and Eastern Europe, peace & conflict studies, revolutions, and globalization. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. In addition to books, his articles have appeared in World Politics, Politics & Society, Eastern European Politics and Societies, Post-Soviet Affairs, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, and Demokratizatsiya.


Susan Helper, Professor, Case Western Reserve University (currently on leave from board)
Susan Helper is the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Commerce, on leave from her position as AT&T Professor and chair of the Department of Economics at Case Western Reserve University. Prior to her appointment at Commerce, Susan spent a year as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisors, an agency within the U.S. president’s office. Susan’s research has focused on the impact of collaborative relationships between suppliers and customers and management and labor; she has studied how globalization of supply chains affects development and innovation in the US, Mexico, and India. Susan has published in journals such as American Economic Review, Sloan Management Review, and Journal of Economics and Management Strategy. She has a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a BA from Oberlin College. In 2005-06 she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Oxford.

Yvonne C. Freeman, Project Manager, Ohio Urban Resource Center, Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies.
Yvonne C. Freeman is former executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, an association of human service organizations dedicated to working collaboratively to improve the quality of human services by advocating for the needs of their clients and impacting public policy.

As the former Youth Development Policy Associate for Voices for Ohio ’s Children, Yvonne has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit administrative and direct services. Her work includes research, coalition building and testimony for legislation regarding juvenile justice and youth development focus areas.

Yvonne was instrumental in the research and analysis of key juvenile justice provisions featured in HB 235 in 2009 and later included in the passage of HB 86 in 2012. Yvonne remains committed to her work on youth development matters ranging from child welfare and youth aging out of the foster care system to eliminating the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system.

Yvonne serves on the Governor’s Council for Juvenile Justice. She is the former First Vice-President of the Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections. Her advocacy priorities have afforded her a significant role as trainer and policy facilitator for the MyCom youth development initiative of Cuyahoga County, the Ohio Afterschool Network of Central Ohio, the National Child Study, the Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance, Juvenile Justice Coalition and guest lecturer at Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University-Schubert Center for Child Studies.

Yvonne is a graduate of the Cleveland Leadership Center-Bridge Builders program; an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and a graduate of Wilberforce University. She lives in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and has one son, Chris, a student at Kentucky State University.

Bakari Kitwana, Author
Bakari Kitwana is co-founder of the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention and the author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (Basic Books, 2002). The former executive editor of The Source, Kitwana’s writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Savoy, The Nation, the Village Voice, Black Book and other publications. Bakaria also writes a column on hip-hop and youth culture called “Do the Knowledge” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and is a consultant on hip-hop for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The author of The Rap on Gangsta Rap (Third World Press, 1994), he’s been a visiting scholar in the political science department at Kent State University and has lectured on hip-hop at colleges and universities across the country for the last decade, including Harvard University, New York University, Columbia University and Stanford University. His new book Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop: Wankstas, Wiggers, Wannabes and the New Reality of Race in America (Basic Books, June 2005) is about race and hip-hop culture. Bakari holds Master’s degrees in English and Education from the University of Rochester.

Kamla Lewis, Director of Neighborhood Revitalization, Shaker Heights, Ohio
Kamla Lewis has worked for the city of Shaker Heights since 2001. She has also worked for the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, for the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, for a city and food bank in California, and for the United Nations, working in Jamaica where she grew up. Kamla serves as co-chair of the First Suburbs Consortium housing committee and as a member of the vacant and abandoned properties action committee. She has a BA from Princeton and a graduate diploma from Cambridge University in England.

Kirk Noden, Director, Ohio Organizing Collaborative
Kirk Noden is veteran community organizer who has successfully built community organizations in Chicago, Birmingham England, and Ohio.  Kirk currently directs the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a statewide alliance of 14 labor, community, and faith groups across the state. Kirk also founded the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, a broad based multi issue organization working on issues of racial and economic justice in Northeast Ohio since 2007.  Kirk serves as a Community Affiliate of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University.  In his fourteen years as an organizer, he’s led campaigns on a variety of issues such as living wage, vacant properties, education reform, immigrant rights, and health equity.  He’s the grandson of a New Castle steelworker and a Westinghouse factory union steward and was born and raised in Ohio and now lives in the city of Kent, Ohio with his wife Rosi and two boys Roberto and Emiliano.

Earl Pike, nonprofit consultant
Earl Pike has been a nonprofit leader for the last 25 years.  After serving 13 years as the CEO at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Ohio’s oldest HIV/AIDS service, prevention, and advocacy organization, he is now a nonprofit consultant.  He is currently conducting a national assessment project for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the sustainability of HIV/AIDS organizations in the United States.

Earl has served as adjunct faculty and guest lecturer at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, CWRU Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations, John Carroll University, Baldwin-Wallace College, and Cleveland State University.  Earl is co-author of the 2009 volume, Case Studies in Ethics and HIV Research, reviewed in the Journal of the American Medical Association as an essential contribution to the field.  He is also widely published in fiction and poetry,

Earl has received many awards for his social justice work and writing.  In social justice: the 2011 Eleanor Gerson Award for Social Justice Leadership, from Community Shares of Greater Cleveland; a 2009 Upstander Award from Facing History, Facing Ourselves, for a commitment to social equality and human rights; and the 2008 Homer Wadsworth Award from The Cleveland Foundation, given to a single northeast Ohio individual annually who embodies courage and conviction in innovative leadership; and in writing: the Washington Prize for Fiction; the Tamarack Award (Fiction); the Anna B. Janzen Poetry Award; the Giralt Short Fiction Award; and a Hackney Literary Award.

Jeff Rechenbach, Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus, Communications Workers of America
Jeff Rechenbach directed CWA’s political and legislative programs, and under his leadership, the union played leading policy roles in Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi. He works to advance the issues most important to working families – real health care reform, retirement security, jobs and fair trade and the Employee Free Choice Act.

As CWA secretary-treasurer, Jeff was responsible for managing the finances and physical facilities of CWA. He served on the union’s three-member executive committee and chaired the strategic planning and budget committee, which allocated CWA’s resources and set program goals.

Jeff has been a leader in the union since 1973, when he was elected president of the 2,000 member Local 4309 in Cleveland at age 19. He joined the CWA staff in 1981, and in 1994 became vice president of CWA for District 4 – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. As vice president, Jeff coordinated all bargaining within the district, which included contracts covering workers in telecommunications, manufacturing, higher education, health care, media and other sectors. He served as vice president for the Midwest district until his election as CWA executive vice president in 2005, one of the union’s three-member executive committee.

Jeff serves on Federal Communications Commission Consumer Advisory Council, and on the boards of the United Way of America, the Faith & Politics Institute and the International Labor Rights Fund, which works for humane workplaces around the world and to end child labor, forced labor and other abusive practices. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio.

Pari Sabety, State, Provincial and Local Government Strategy Consulting, Accenture
Pari Sabety began her work at Accenture in June 2013. Her prior work includes two years as vice chancellor and chief financial officer of Antioch University. Pari served as CFO and cabinet member under former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, managing Ohio’s budget of $56 billion through the worst recession in 50 years. A certified public accountant, Pari has more than 20 years of experience in the field of economic development. She helped establish Ohio Shared Services, winning the 2010 President’s Award for Innovation from the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers. She served as economic policy adviser to former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, director of the Technology Policy Group at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, and as a fellow at the Brookings Institution where she was the director of the think tank’s Urban Markets Initiative.

Baldemar Velásquez, Founder and President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), is a union of migrant farmworkers in the eastern United States founded by Baldemar Velásquez. Baldemar is a highly respected national and international leader, not only in the farm labor movement, but also in the Latino and immigrant rights movements.

Baldemar has seen how international structures and policies directly affect the lives of migrant workers not only in the U.S. but other regions of the world where the same crops are grown for the same corporations in a global economy. Thus, FLOC has initiated cooperative dialogues with labor unions in Mexico and other countries in response to multinational corporations moving some operations across borders. One such effort has led to the establishment a U.S.-Mexico Commission of labor groups to oversee joint organizing and negotiation efforts among farmworkers producing for the same corporations.

FLOC is continuing these efforts with agricultural workers in other regions. Baldemar’s vision and convictions continue to drive the efforts of FLOC in winning justice for migrant workers. He has become a recognized grass-roots leader and diplomat in the farm labor movement, immigrant rights movement, and social justice movements in the U.S. and around the world. His creativity and commitment to justice and human dignity have led to recognition by many labor, government, academic, and progressive organizations, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, a Development of People Award by the Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Catholic Conference, an Aguila Azteca Award by the Government of México, and an Honorary Doctor of Social Science by Bowling Green State University and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by University of Toledo.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 10.54.21 AMGraham Veysey, urban neighborhood developer known for creating the burgeoning Hingetown district on Cleveland’s West Side.

Graham is an entrepreneur who acquired and redeveloped the Ohio City Firehouse on West 29th Street. He and Marika Shioiri-Clark — his wife and business partner — also rehabbed the historic Striebinger Block building across the street, nurturing growth of the popular district off Detroit Avenue, between West 25th Street and the Gordon Square Arts District. An Emmy-Award winning video producer, Graham is the owner and creative director of North Water Partners, a video production company located in the firehouse.

He has a strong commitment to creating an equitable Ohio economy, developing urban communities and designing cities in a way that enhances the environment. He has been a champion of public transit, walkable neighborhoods and other progressive causes.

He  became involved in political causes as a student at Bates College in Maine, where he campaigned for a statewide ballot issue to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. He later volunteered for the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat Howard Dean, and served as a voter outreach coordinator for Barack Obama. Graham also consults for the Aspen Institute and serves on the boards of The Refugee Response and Cleveland Public Theatre.

Doug WangDoug Wang, Chairman of the board of the Saint Luke’s Foundation, which supports programs to improve health and well-being in Greater Cleveland. Doug is also a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health; a partner of Cleveland Social Venture Partners and a member of the Rainey Institute and Judson boards. He serves as a trustee of the Shaker Schools Foundation.

Doug’s professional background is in banking and finance. In addition to strong credentials in business and the non-profit sector, Doug is an advocate for working families, health care, public education and social services.

Doug retired in 2011 as a Senior Vice President of Northern Trust Bank. He was a founder of Lakepoint Investment Partners, where he served as a portfolio manager and partner for 12 years before the sale of the firm to Northern Trust in 2008. He also held top finance positions at Stein Roe & Farnham, American Asset Management and First Boston Corporation.

Updated July 2016