Who We Are

Members

The Member of the Month initiative showcases the outstanding contributions of ACT's community leaders. ACT's members are as diverse as the African continent from which they come. They are at the heart of this organization. They are the reason why ACT fights everyday for language access, economic opportunity, and a fair chance for a better tomorrow.

Click here to check out the Member of the Month profiles!

Staff

Amaha Kassa is the founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together. Amaha has 25 years of professional experience as a labor and community organizer, nonprofit director, and social entrepreneur. For nine years, Amaha directed East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a workers’ rights nonprofit in Oakland, California, growing it from a startup to one of the leading organizations in its field. Prior to launching ACT, Amaha earned his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. He is an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Aisatou Diallo is the Legal Director at ACT’s NYC office. She was born and raised in the Bronx to two Guinean parents. Aisatou has several years experience working in the nonprofit sector representing people in detention facilities and people incarcerated with immigration detainers in immigration courts throughout New York and New Jersey. Prior to joining ACT, Aisatou opened a solo practice to help provide access to immigration information and legal assistance to the Fulani community in the Bronx area. Aisatou is fluent in Fulani. 

 

Akinde Agnes Kodjo-Sanogo is a Lead Community  Organizer with ACT in New York. Akinde brings to ACT extensive experience with New York's African and Carribean immigrant communities. For over a decade, she served as a Research Program Associate for ParentCorps, a Child Development Program at the New York University Child Study Center. She is a native of Cote d'ivoire,  she is very active in her community, with African Women's Development Organization, and with her religious community which is one of the largest African Mosques in New York City. Akinde holds a BS in Finance and Banking  from Touro College, and an  MBA/MPA from NorthCentral University, she is fluent in five languages, including English, French, and Madingo.

 

Aschalew Asabie is ACT's Community Organizer in the DMV Chapter. Originally from Ethiopia, Aschalew has a Bachelor's degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Bahir Dar Unversity. In Ethiopia, he worked as in Network Administration and IT support for Merkeb Union FU. Since joining ACT, Aschalew has led the Civic Engagement and Health Care outreach program, managing a team of outreach workers throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Aschalew speaks Amharic.

Assefash Makonnen is the Communications Manager at African Communities Together. Assefash was born in New York City to Ethiopian immigrant parents who sought asylum in the mid 70s and early 80s. Assefash has over 10 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, with experience in event planning, communications, and operations for a variety of organizations, including Just Food, Race Forward, and Transportation Alternatives. Outside of ACT, Assefash is a mental health advocate, organizing several events, focus groups, and panels for local Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in New York and Washington, D.C. in the last few years. Assefash received her Bachelor degree from Vassar College with a dual degree in Africana Studies and Urban Studies. 
 

Audu Kadiri is a Community Organizer with ACT in New York. Audu has over 15 years of experience working in community outreach, public health, and human rights. Audu previously worked as Head of Programs for the International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health in Abuja, Nigeria where he coordinated HIV prevention projects, documented human rights violations against gay men, and coordinated Nigeria’s first clinic serving this population. Audu sought asylum in the US in 2014, after Nigeria passed a bill criminalizing LGBT rights advocates. Since arriving in New York, Audu has continued his health advocacy work, volunteered for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs as a Yoruba interpreter and for the HIV/AIDS advocacy organization Housing Works, and organized with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project. Audu holds a BA in Banking and Finance and recently completed a diploma in International Humanitarian Assistance at Fordham University. He is fluent in Yoruba and Afemi.

Berole Bekele is a community organizer with ACT in DC. Berole has played a pivotal role in shaping ACT’s organizing work in Virginia. She has developed and trained community leaders, and built a strong tenant union at Southern Towers Apartments, where over 4000 majority African immigrants tenants faced evictions. Berole has also run ACT’s civic engagement program in Virginia through voter registration, census awareness and voter turnout campaigns moving thousands of African immigrants that have not been taking part in civic life. Berole has a master's degree in Marketing Management and a Law degree from St. Mary University in Ethiopia. She also has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Addis Ababa University. Her work experience in Ethiopia includes a Human Resource and Credit monitoring officer at a private bank for five years and she also has run a private tour company for two years before immigrating to the US in 2018. She speaks Amharic and some Oromigna.

 

Bert Bayou joined ACT as the Chapter Director for ACT’s DC office in January 2019. Originally from Ethiopia, Bert has lived in the US since 2001. Bert has a Master’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Addis Ababa University. In Ethiopia, Bert worked in humanitarian aid and development for the United Nations World Food Programme. After moving to the US, he became an organizer for Unite Here, a labor union serving the United States and Canada. In 2014, he was elected President of Unite Here Local 23, the Washington D.C. Chapter. In his time as a chapter president, the union has seen a dramatic increase in organized members and raised the wage standards for hospitality workers in the DC area. One of its greatest achievements was organizing close to 600 workers in the DC airports and leading a successful airport minimum wage campaign that raised wages for all DC airport workers over $4.00 an hour. Bert is fluent in Amharic.

Chiọma Azi is the National Legal Director for ACT where she oversees the legal departments in the New York and Washington D.C. offices, coordinates the organization's national litigation strategy, and assists with partnership development to enhance ACT's direct service, community coalition building, funding and advocacy goals.  With 12 years of experience as an immigration law practitioner and community advocate, Chiọma has served the African and Caribbean immigrant community in the Greater Philadelphia area in private practice, the non-profit sphere and as a consultant with local and state government. Chiọma earned her law degree from Duquesne University and is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She was born and raised in Philadelphia Pennsylvania to a Nigerian father and Ugandan mother. She speaks beginner's level Acoli Luo and is proficient in French. 

Christina Samuels is the Director of Impact and Capacity Building for ACT. She was born in Florida to Jamaican parents and grew up along the east coast. Before joining ACT, Christina worked in a range of for- and non-profit sectors and fields, most recently as director of South Bronx Rising Together, a cradle-to-career collective impact initiative working to improve outcomes for young people in the Bronx. Prior to that she was the Policy & Impact Manager at HERE to HERE, a NYC-based youth workforce non-profit, and the Education Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. She earned her Master of Arts in Anthropology & International Development from The George Washington University and a BA in Anthropology from The Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Dauda Sesay is the National Network Director for African Communities Together (ACT).  A former refugee from Sierra Leone, Dauda fled his homeland at the age of 16 due to a terrible war and resettled in the U.S. in 2009. He earned a degree in Applied Science in Process Technology and is currently going for his Bachelor Degree in Administrative Management with a concentration in International Business at the Louisiana State University-Shreveport. Dauda is presently the Vice-Chairman of the Refugee Congress Board of Directors. Prior to working for the ACT, Dauda worked as a Process Technician at Dow Chemical Company and volunteered with various local and national nonprofit organizations.

Dauda is a community advocate and founding member of the Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants (LORI,) assisting other refugees and immigrants with integration into the United States. He is also a member of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome International Relations Commission and Chairperson of the Commission Culture and Art Engagement. Recently Dauda was appointed as the United States Advisor at the UNHCR High-Level Officials Meeting on Global Impact on refugees. Dauda speaks Sierra Leone Krio and Temne.

Diana Konaté is Policy Director in ACT's D.C. office. She works to ensure that the interests of African immigrants are considered in federal immigration policy.  Prior to joining ACT, Diana worked in the House of Representatives as a legislative assistant and scheduler. While a congressional staffer, Diana also served as President of the Congressional African Staff Association (CASA), an organization with a mission of educating the Capitol Hill community on Africa policy issues. Diana was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. She moved to the U.S. at 8 years old and was raised in the Liberian community. Diana holds a J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Old Dominion University.

 

Hamza Al Hammadi  is ACT's Finance Director/CFO. He is an accounting professional with over 20 years of experience in managing day-to-day financial operations, reporting, and auditing. Born in Ethiopia, he worked in Yemen as the primary accountant for a major hospital, and served as an auditor for the country's largest telecom company. Hamza provides individual tax preparation for low-income individuals as a volunteer. He speaks Arabic, Oromo, and Amharic.

Hiwot Berihun is the Legal Director at ACT’s DC office. Raised in Northern Virginia, Hiwot attended University of Virginia where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economic and Anthropology. After working for Booz Allen Hamilton as an IT Project Manager for five years, she earned her Juris Doctor from Washburn University School of Law. Hiwot practiced immigration law serving individuals and businesses in private practice for several years before joining ACT. She is a member of the Maryland Bar Association and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She is admitted in Maryland. Hiwot is fluent in Amharic.

Isaaca Kaly is ACT's Executive Assistant. Prior to entering this role, Isaaca served as an outreach worker at African Communities Together for over two years. Isaaca has her BA in International Relations where she focused on global development and strategic planning. She is an advocate for Human Rights and has led several advocacy campaigns including human rights campaigns and fundraisers at Amnesty International. Prior to her role at ACT, Isaaca worked as a Development Associate at the Bill of Rights Institute.

 

Jainaba Camara Ceesay is a Paralegal in ACT’s New York office, where she coordinates immigration legal services for ACT members and clients. Jainaba was born and raised in The Gambia, where she worked for 13 years in office administration and finance. Before joining ACT, she served as an Administrative Officer at a Gambian nonprofit organization, National Farmers Platform. Jainaba earned her diploma in Business Studies and her Advanced Diploma in Banking and Finance. She speaks seven languages, including Mandingo, Wolof, Fulani, Mandinka, and Krio.

 

Mahamat Abbo is ACT’s Operations and Human Resources Manager. Mahamat is an International Nonprofit Operations and HR executive with years of experience managing finance, Human resources, administration, and logistics for humanitarian field operations programs in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and North America. Prior to joining ACT, Mahamat held various operations positions with Médecins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors without Borders in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and US. He also managed HR partnership with Amsterdam, Barcelona and Geneva operational centers advising on recruitment and placement of US field workers in many countries. Mahamat holds a Master's degree in Business Management, and a Master’s degree in International Cooperation and Humanitarians Aid. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Sustainable Development and diplomacy. Mahamat is fluent in 7 languages including French and Arabic. 
 

Maimouna Dieye is the Program Manager in ACT's New York office, where she leads ACT’s Community Interpreter program, supervises the development of our African language services worker cooperative, and manages ACT's advocacy to address occupational licensing issues faced by African hair braiders. Prior to joining ACT, Maimouna served as a College and Career Advisor at Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School. Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Maimouna has lived in New York since 2007. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College. Maimouna is fluent in Wolof and French.

Makeda Seare is ACT's Community Navigator in the Washington, D.C. Chapter. Before migrating to the US, Makeda worked as Social Communications and Public Relations Director for the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat. She was involved in the social service projects run by the organization that included food security, education, health and women empowerment throughout Ethiopia. She elevated the visibility of the organization throughout the country and internationally. She also worked as a radio journalist and correspondent for international media. Makeda got her Masters in Cultural Diplomacy from Sacred Heart Catholic University in Rome, Italy and studied Journalism and Communications in Ethiopia. Makeda Seare is fluent in Amharic and Tigriniya. 

Martha Lagace, PhD, is the Research Manager for ACT, where she is gathering and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data for writing reports about African immigrants in New York City, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. In addition, she coordinates ACT’s collaboration with Barnard College on the Forward Ever podcast created to highlight the unique experiences and perspectives of African immigrants in New York today. She earned her doctoral degree in anthropology from Boston University in 2018. Martha’s work with ACT is sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies’ Leading Edge Fellows program. She has conducted extensive research in East African communities, most recently studying the entrepreneurial, cultural, and social life of motorcycle taxidrivers in northern Uganda, a study she is revising for a book. An American who spent her formative years in Canada, Martha has lived and worked in New York City, Paris, and Prague, and since 2018 has taught writing, African studies, and cultural anthropology to college students. She has knowledge of French, Czech, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, and Acholi Luo.

Meron Hailu is the Paralegal/Legal Assistant in the D.C. office. She graduated from American University Washington College of Law in 2016 with an LL.M. in International Legal Studies. After graduating, Meron worked as a case manager for a boutique immigration law firm at Fairfax, VA and as research assistant for the NewMarket Lab at Washington, D.C. focusing on sustainable global economic development. Meron’s passion in the public service sector gave her an opportunity to work for Attorney General’s Office of Ethiopia as a public prosecutor before migrating to the U.S. to pursue her studies. At ACT, Meron provides critical immigration legal services by conducting phone screenings, legal research, and managing a heavy case load at ACT’s DC office. Most recently, she received a DOJ Accredited Representative recognition. Meron is fluent in both Amharic and Tigrina. 

 

Robert Agyemang is the New York Director for ACT. Robert previously served as Director of External Affairs for NYSAFAH working to advance pro-affordable housing policies and legislation at the city, state and federal level. Robert also served as Director of Communications for State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, where his work raised the Assemblymember’s public profile and helped her strengthen ties with constituents and key stakeholders across her Brooklyn district. He has also served as National Director of Governance for the Actors’ Equity Association and as Campaign Manager and strategist for several successful New York-based electoral campaigns. As Legislative Director for the CUNY University Student Senate (USS), Robert helped to restore the New York City Council Merit Scholarship, which awarded $11.1 million in scholarships to students entering CUNY. Robert is a co-founder of the Council of Young African Leaders, and received his Master of Arts in Political Science, Urban Policy and Public Administration in 2011 and his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and his Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies in 2008, all from Brooklyn College. Robert is a Ghanaian-American and a native of Brooklyn.

Salematou Kake is ACT's Associate Executive Director of Operations and Human Resources. She was born and raised in the Bronx to Guinean parents. She brings several years of experience in non-profit management and leadership within non-profit and corporate organizations. She is committed to working with institutions to advance a unique approach to confronting socio-economic barriers in communities of color. Her work also includes overseeing the programming of inadequate funding of Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurs, Immigrant rights, Environmental Racism, and Education. Before moving to the nonprofit arena, Salematou worked as an operations director and business consultant for small and medium-sized businesses. She earned her bachelor's in Comparative Politics and Economics from Kean University.

 

Sophie Kouyate is ACT's Community Navigator. Sophie was born in France to a father from Guinea and a mother from Guadeloupe, Sophie lived in Paris, France before moving to the United States. Sophie's background is in hospitality and customer service, having nearly 20 years experience working in front facing roles managing large teams and projects in industries ranging from restaurants to art gallery. She also has approximately 5 years experience as a tax preparer. Sophie joined ACT first as a member in 2015, where she was part of the Language Access Campaign. She also played an important role in helping to organize membership dues. Sophie graduated from the University of Evry in France with a degree in Marketing and Management. Sophie speaks French and Creole. 

 

Sosseh Prom is ACT's State Policy Manager in Washington, D.C. Previously a Family Law attorney representing low-income D.C. residents, Sosseh has dedicated her life to assisting vulnerable communities by providing them with the resources they need to thrive. Prior to joining ACT, Sosseh also served as Policy Counsel for a local non-profit, advocating for change to make D.C. courts and government agencies racially equitable and just. She is an active member of the D.C. Bar and holds a J.D. from the Catholic University, Columbus School of Law. Sosseh was born in D.C. and raised in The Gambia.

 

Tsehaitu Abye is ACT's Pennsylvania Director for African Communities Together (ACT). Originally from Philadelphia, Tsehaitu comes from an Ethiopian-American family who spent significant time on the east coast prior to relocating to Hawaii. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii, Tsehaitu returned to the east coast to earn her Master's in Business Administration from Lincoln University. From there, Tsehaitu’s focus narrowed in on business entrepreneurship, marketing, and community. She has over 13 years of organizing experience in labor, community, and political issues across the United States. A few of these issues include raising the minimum wage, voter access, reproductive rights, equity in education, hospitality work, agricultural practices, and creative expression. Her organizational skills positioned her as a national organizing trainer where she was able to impact thousands of volunteers and advocates alike. Tsehaitu is also a board member of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, an active artist in the Philadelphia arts community, and the proud owner of a Philadelphia-based business that serves the cannabis and hemp industries, called Black Dragon Breakfast Club

Board of Directors

Afua Atta-Mensah is ACT’s President. Afua is an organizer, strategist, and movement lawyer. She is currently Chief of Programs at Community Change, a national organization whose mission is to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change the policies and institutions that impact their lives. Previously, Afua served as the Executive Director of Community Voices Heard and Community Voices Heard Power and as the Director of Litigation and Policy for the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center. In 2008, Afua was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in support of her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys advocating on behalf of indigent women in Ghana. She also worked with area lawyers to develop proposed legislation for marital rape law and served as a visiting lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, where she taught a course on women's rights in the context of Ashanti-tribal law. In both Ghana, West Africa, and the United States, Afua has worked to improve the quality and quantity of fair and equitable housing, defend women's rights, galvanize support for programs benefiting low-income families, and fight to dismantle systemic racism. Afua holds a law degree from Fordham Univ. School of Law, and a BA in Sociology and African American History from Trinity College.  She and her husband Cephas are proud parents of two daughters and reside in the "village of Harlem". Afua is a Ghanaian-American and a native of The Bronx.

Dr. Sekou Siby is ACT's Treasurer. He is President & CEO of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United where he leads the national staff of ROC UNITED to support membership operations, training and education programs, community and public engagement, and policy advocacy and organizational development. Under his leadership, ROC United is building worker power and promoting policies that improve the lives of restaurant workers and their communities. Dr. Siby is native to the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and immigrated to New York City, where he survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He worked as a cab driver, a cook at the Windows on the World, and then co-founded ROC United, managing and organizing major campaigns and bringing hundreds of restaurant workers to victory against wage theft and wage inequality. Dr. Siby speaks four languages and has been the recipient of  the prestigious Heroes Award and National Leading from the Inside Out Yearlong Fellowship by the Robin Hood Foundation and Rockwood Leadership Institute in 2013 and 2018, respectively. He holds an MBA and DBA in Business Management from the University of Phoenix School of Business. Dr. Siby is also a 2007 graduate of CORO’s Immigrant Civic Leadership Program (ICLP) and a fellow of Corneil’s National Labor Leadership Initiative (NLLI).

Ilana Berger is a Board Member. Ilana is Interim Director of Hand in Hand: the Domestic Employers Network. Ilana brings to ACT over 20 years of experience in grassroots organizing and leading membership organizations in New York, San Francisco and Miami. For five years, Ilana directed the work of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), one of Brooklyn’s most effective community organizations. Ilana is the daughter of Jewish immigrants and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Ilana has also served on the Board of Directors of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and New York Jobs with Justice.

Juanita O. Lewis is ACT’s Secretary. Juanita O. Lewis joined the staff of Community Voices Heard in 2009 as the Yonkers Organizer and currently serves as Executive Director. She began her work as an organizer in 2004 with the Minnesota chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). In her role as Lead Westchester, she led the organization's county wide expansion which resulted in securing funding for the Westchester Housing Needs Assessment, lobbied for Ban the Box across the county. She was born and raised in the Sierra Leonean community in Saint Paul, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science, and with her Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership Degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

 

Naomi Abraham is a Board Member. She is a multimedia storytelling & strategic communications consultant to social change organizations. Naomi has more than 10 years of experience working in various roles including as a Director of Communications and a program officer managing a multimillion-dollar immigrant civic engagement fund. In 2010, she transitioned from working in philanthropy and non-profit programming to communications because of her ardent belief in the power of storytelling and messaging for social change. Since then Naomi has had the privilege of consulting with various human rights organizations around the world and working as a communications strategist with groups such as Policy Link, the UN Population Fund, and Video Volunteers. She has also worked as a freelance journalist publishing articles on human rights and social issues for which she was awarded a fellowship with the International Center for Journalists to report on human rights abuses in Uganda and Kenya. She holds graduate degrees in international relations and journalism, respectively, from City University of New York and Columbia University. Naomi is an Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrant.

Outreach Teams

We are fortunate enough to have a stellar team of outreach workers that have been on the streets every day, getting the word out about our various initiatives.

Our New York Outreach Team has represented ACT in a variety of programs, including as part of the Test and Trace program delivering COVID-19 testing and vaccine information and PPE to New Yorkers in all five boroughs and represented ACT in the fight for excluded workers, healthcare coverage for all, and more. Pictured here are Ramatoulaye Coulibaly, Nafanaba Sanogo, Youssouf Toure, Ousmane Fofana, Losseni Husseine Toure, Dalla Yara, Victor Ola Ore, and Mamadou Karamoko.