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 ACT’s founder and Executive Director. 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.

Adwoa Agyeman is ACT's Development Director. Her nearly 20 years of experience in global philanthropy has enabled Adwoa to build strong local and global partnerships that integrate business, philanthropy, and community development. Her experience as both a grant maker and grant seeker give her a holistic view of fundraising. As co-founder of EPIC-Africa—a pan-African, US-registered, Senegal-based philanthropic intermediary—Adwoa’s work strengthens the African philanthropic ecosystem by using data and technology to help African CSOs share knowledge, build capacity, and scale impact. Over the course of her career, Adwoa has managed a combined portfolio of 650+ international and domestic US grants totaling over $50 million, to scale and support efforts to advance human rights, gender equity, wellbeing, and economic inclusion. In addition, Adwoa has served as grants manager for TrustAfrica in Dakar; international grants administrator at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C.; and senior program associate at the Moriah Fund in Washington, D.C. Adwoa is a graduate of Smith College in the United States with a degree in Government and a minor in African studies. Her MBA from Bologna Business School in Italy is forthcoming.

 

Akinde 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.

 

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.

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. 

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 Abdulmageed 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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Board of Directors

Afua Atta-Mensah is ACT’s President. She is the Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, a statewide community organizing group focusing on housing and job creation for low-income communities. Afua received her Bachelors from Trinity College, where she was a Presidential Fellow, and her law degree from Fordham University School of Law, where she was a Stein Scholar. Prior to joining CVH, Afua was Director of Litigation at the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, a staff attorney in The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, the Policy Director at the Center for Working Families, and was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship that sponsored her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys-Accra, Ghana. Afua has also worked as an adviser to community based organizations throughout New York City and has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham Law. Afua is a Ghanaian-American and a native of The Bronx.

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 Lewis is is ACT’s Secretary. Juanita was born and raised in the Sierra Leonean community in Saint Paul, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in History and Political Science, and earned her M.A. in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 2004 Juanita began her work as a community organizer with the Minnesota chapter of ACORN. She has worked on numerous electoral campaigns at the city, state and federal level. Juanita worked as a field organizer, campaign manager and fundraiser. She currently serves as the Hudson Valley Organizing Director of Community Voices Heard.

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.

 

Join us to raise a powerful new African voice for progress!