Who We Are
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!
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.
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.
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.
Assitan Makadji is ACT's Community Navigator. She was born and raised in Mali and came to the United States when she was 16 years old. Assitan has her associates degree in business administration and management and is pursuing her bachelor degree in business, with a minor in Human Resources. She has previously worked in the financial aid aid department of her college, where she helped students apply for loans and assistance. She began working with ACT in 2020 as a test and trace outreach worker, providing face masks and hand sanitizer. She speaks bambara, French and English .
Berole Bekele is ACT's Lead Organizer 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 is ACT's National Organizing Director. He 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.
Corine Dorcas Coulibaly is the Office Administrator for the New York Chapter, she was born and raised in Ivory Coast and has been living in the United States for eight years. Prior to joining African Communities Together, she worked in customer relations and support service for over five years. Driven by her passion for justice and equity, and also the strong desire to help others, Corine volunteered with an organization assisting people with immigration matters. Corine has a Master Degree in Law from the Catholic University of West Africa in Ivory Coast, a Paralegal Certificate from Pace University, NY, and a Diploma in Immigration Law from CUNY School of Professional Studies. Corine is fluent in French.
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 National 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.
Dina Jaffary is the Director of Workforce Programs at ACT. She brings 10+ years of multi-sectoral experience—nonprofit and international development—in program design and project management with a track record of successfully transitioning projects into streamlined programs. Dina previously served as a project management consultant for ACT's African Wage Gap project focusing on identifying and developing evidence-based strategic interventions to enhance equitable job access for African immigrant communities.
Dina formerly led the development and execution of economic mobility initiatives for women and girls in West Africa's Sahel region leveraging public-private sector partnerships. She also has several years of experience in cultivating partnerships to facilitate the economic integration of skilled immigrants in the U.S.
Dina holds a master's degree in International Service from American University in Washington D.C. Additionally, she earned a BS in Computing Information Systems from Greenwich University in the UK. As a first-generation immigrant from Syria, Dina approaches her work with empathy, ensuring that workforce programs prioritize equity and embrace diversity.
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.
Hellina Tadesse is the Development Director at African Communities Together (ACT). She has over 15 years of experience working in fundraising and partnerships, operations and administration, program development and clinical support. She has worked at local and international organizations in the education, community development and healthcare sectors. A few of these organizations include Extension Foundation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders USA, Seeds of Africa and The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Hellina founded Diaspora Crossings and launched a pilot program for New York City-based undergraduate students of African descent. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership from Fordham University in New York City. Hellina is an Ethiopian-American currently based in the Washington D.C. Area, and previously lived in New York City, Greater Philadelphia and other cities in the U.S., and Nairobi, Kenya.
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 Membership & Services Manager 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.
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.
Nafanaba Sanogo is a Community Organizer in the New York City chapter. Born and raised in the Ivory Coast, Nafanaba started at ACT as an intern while she was in high school, from October 2018, to January 2019. In 2020, Nafanaba came back to ACT as a captain for the Census outreach program and later, for the COVID-19 Test and Trace team. Nafanaba has an Associate Degree in Business Administration, and is currently working on her Bachelor's Degree in Accounting. Nafanaba is fluent in French & Mandigo.
Saba Fentaw is the Community Organizer at African Communities Together. She first joined ACT as an outreach worker for both ACT's healthcare and housing campaigns, as well as helping to distribute grocery cards for community members. Saba studied administrative and medical assistance in the U.S. and has a degree in plant science from Wollo University in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, Saba worked as a Sales Agent at Awash Insurance for 5 years, Promotion leader and Salesperson at Shimelis Fiseha Import and Export company for 2 years, and she also has run her own Clothing Store as a Manager before immigrating to the United States in 2018. She speaks Amharic fluently, and some Oromigna.
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 Membership & Services Manager. 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 National Housing Justice Director and responsible for developing and managing housing campaigns and advocacy efforts across ACT's chapters to ensure that members of the African immigrant community are safely housed and protected from displacement. 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.
Tosca joins ACT's team as the Immigrant Justice Corps fellow. Tosca is a French native and recent graduate of Cardozo School of Law. In law school, she was a member of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic. As a clinical student, she worked on a variety of removal cases and advocated for an end to ICE incarceration and e-carceration. Tosca is fluent in French.
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.