Staff

 


 

Stephanie Apollon – Research Associate

Stephanie Apollon is a Research Associate at AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the research team, Stephanie worked for the Save the Post Office Coalition within TOWS as the Save the USPS Campaigner. Prior to AFR, Stephanie worked on grant management for national programs that focused on youth with disabilities and young adults transitioning out of the prison system. Before moving to D.C., Stephanie worked on the Massachusetts ballot measure on transgender rights in public accommodations and was part of a unionization campaign where she translated for Haitian dining hall workers.

Candace Archer, Ph.D. – Consumer & Payday Campaigns Manager


Candace Archer is the Payday and Consumer Campaign Manager at AFR/AFREF, where she fights abusive payday lending and debt collection. Prior to joining the team, Candace was a policy analyst and Labor Relations Management Specialist at the American Federation of Government Employees where she served on federal committees to set wages, advocated for policies that protected federal workers and mobilized federal workers to fight for fair contracts. Before her work in organized labor, she held an Associate Professorship in the Department of Political Science at Bowling Green State University, conducting research and teaching on issues in political economy and has published widely on topics including financial crisis, and global credit market.

Rion Dennis – Advocacy & Legislative Director

Rion Dennis is the Advocacy and Legislative Director for AFR/AFREF and leads Capitol Hill outreach focusing on financial services legislation and regulation. During a 20 year career in advocacy for progressive causes, Rion has worked for numerous federal, state and local campaigns for economic justice. Rion directed lobbying efforts for the corporate accountability campaign with the Change to Win Labor Federation, led campaigns to reform voting rights, criminal justice and medicaid expansion as Regional Director for the NAACP, and coordinated federal, state and local campaigns for minimum wage increases and workers rights with ROC United. Additionally, Rion served as Executive Director of Progressive Maryland, the state’s largest progressive advocacy organization, where he directed numerous successful legislative and electoral campaigns which have enacted substantive reforms to protect workers, minorities, incarcerated peoples and marginalized communities.

Mandla Deskins Take On Wall Street Advocacy Manager

Mandla Deskins is the Advocacy Manager for Take on Wall Street at AFR/AFREF, where he manages and moves policy advocacy campaigns to advance our agenda in Congress. Prior to joining the team, Mandla held advocacy and organizing positions at national, state and local non-profit organizations, working with grasstops and grassroots leaders on education, criminal justice, and to advance various other civil rights issues. Mandla is also a proud father of three young scholars.

Darrell Diggins – Operations Manager

Darrell Diggins is the Operations Manager at AFR/AFREF. Darrell manages office operations, and provides grant and development assistance and HR support. Prior to joining the organization, Darrell was a conventions sales & catering manager for a major hotel franchise. Before that he worked as a personal chef, a baker, and managed operations for a community theater company, as well as an art & history museum. Darrell enjoys cooking, dining, tennis, theatre, reading and traveling to no end.

Lisa Donner Executive Director

Lisa Donner is the Executive Director of AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the organization, Lisa was the Executive Director of the Half in Ten Campaign, and the co-director of the Center for Working Families. In these positions she developed and promoted policies on fair taxes, work and family, anti-poverty measures, and green jobs. Lisa began her career in advocacy as a union and community organizer and campaign strategists at ACORN, and as the Director of the Financial Justice Center, where she fought against big banks and predatory lending. Lisa previously served as AFR/AFREF’s Deputy Director before becoming Executive Director.

Carter Dougherty – Communications Director

Carter Dougherty is the Communications Director at AFR/AFREF. Carter coordinates and executes strategic communications to advance the organization’s advocacy, along with the work of coalition partners around the country. Prior to joining the team, Carter was a journalist for 20 years for publications including Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He covered the inception of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 and its initial work before beginning to write more broadly about financial sector reform. Beyond the U.S. financial system, Carter also has extensive journalism experience covering economic issues in Europe and Africa. 

Emily Hirtle Policy Associate

Emily Hirtle joined AFR/AFREF as a Policy Associate. In her role, she assists the policy team, and provides general programmatic support. Emily graduated from Amherst College in May of 2020, where she double majored in Sociology and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies, with a certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice. She wrote an honors thesis on the history of the abortion right in the United States through a lens of intersectional economic and racial justice, and hopes to pursue law school to continue to do work for equitable reform.

Monica Kamen Development Manager

Monica Kamen is the Development Manager at AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the organization, she was a Co-Director of the DC Fair Budget Coalition where she worked with non-profits in the District of Columbia to advocate for budget and policy initiatives that address social, racial, and economic inequality. Before taking on that role, Monica served as the organization’s Advocacy Coordinator. Monica began her career as a community organizer for Jews United for Justice, where she was involved in a variety of local campaigns including raising the minimum wage and leading a campaign to win paid sick days for all workers in DC.

Renita Marcellin – Senior Banking Policy Analyst


Renita Marcellin is the Senior Banking Policy Analyst at AFR/AFREF, where she works to create a more equitable and inclusive banking system. Prior to joining AFR, Renita was a Senior Associate at JP Morgan Chase where she worked to strengthen the bank’s anti-money laundering controls and chaired her team’s Diversity and Inclusion committee to build awareness on the systemic racial inequities affecting the U.S. banking system. She has also worked with state and local advocates at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to help stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to this, Renita began her career on the trading desk of a boutique fixed income trading firm and was introduced to the legislative process through several internships on the Hill. In her spare time, Renita enjoys the company of her friends, traveling, afro-beats music, and is a budding sommelier. 

Alex Martin, Ph.D. Sr. Policy Analyst for Climate and Finance

Alex Martin is a Sr. Policy Analyst for Climate and Finance at AFR/AFREF. He manages the organization’s growing engagement and policy portfolio at the intersection of financial regulation, climate change mitigation, and climate-related systemic financial risk. Before joining the organization, Alex served as a legislative fellow on the climate team for Senator Schatz (D-HI) and as informal committee staff for the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, focusing on carbon storage tax incentives, climate-related systemic financial risk, economy-wide decarbonization, and environmental justice. Prior to that, Alex worked at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on projects related to clean energy, low-carbon vehicles, and deep decarbonization pathways. His research experience spans atmospheric chemistry, materials science, and optics.

Porter McConnell – Campaign Director, Take on Wall Street Campaign

Porter McConnell is the Take on Wall Street Campaign Director at AFR/AFREF. She previously ran the Financial Transparency Coalition, a global network of civil society, government representatives, and experts working to stop illicit financial flows out of developing countries. She has advocated on foreign aid policy and domestic resource mobilization issues at Oxfam America and the ONE Campaign. Prior to her international work, she was a legislative aide for a Massachusetts State Senator and a program analyst for a foundation making grants towards education and climate change. Before coming to Washington, Porter was based in Bogotá, Colombia, where she created a network of Latin American NGOs implementing social enterprise activities.

Andrew Park Senior Policy Analyst, Hedge Funds & Private Equity

Andrew Park is a Senior Policy Analyst at AFR/AFREF. He specializes in research and advocacy targeting private equity and hedge funds. Andrew has both extensive research experience and a background in financial reporting. Andrew previously worked as a financial journalist for seven years covering a range of issues including leveraged finance, securitized products industries, residential mortgage backed securities, corporate debt, private equity industry, and hedge funds. Prior to working as a journalist, Andrew began his career at a major investment management firm.

Zefanya Rampengan – Operations Associate 

Zefanya Rampengan is the Operations Associate at AFR/AFREF, where she provides support in areas of administration, accounting, and human resources, as well as providing executive support to the Executive Director and COO. Her previous work includes administrative assistance and an internship at AFR/AFREF as an Operations Intern. Zefanya studied Political Science at the University of Maryland.

Maria Robalino – Managing Director of Campaigns & Communications


Maria Robalino is the Managing Director of Campaigns and Communications at AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the team, Maria served as Federal Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice and organized campaigns, coalitions and initiatives at the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Democratic National Committee, CASA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  She is also the founder and President of Justice Strategies and an educator who has trained and mobilized thousands of organizers across the country. With over 15 years of organizing experience, Maria has developed curricula, created tools and organized on the issues of criminal justice, immigration, labor rights, and social, racial and economic justice. 

Gynnie Robnett – Chief Operating Officer

Gynnie Robnett is the Chief Operating Officer at AFR/AFREF. Gynnie previously served as the organization’s Payday Campaign Director, before expanding her role as the manager of administration and system organization. Prior to coming to AFR, Gynnie led the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), a network of organizations working to strengthen the nation’s system of regulatory protections and encourage sound enforcement. She has extensive issue campaign and coalition management experience and has worked with state and local groups across the country on environmental, consumer and financial reform issues. In addition to her advocacy work, Gynnie loves to be outdoors with her 2 kids.

Aliya Sabharwal COVID Oversight Campaign Project Manager

Aliya Sabharwal is a Campaign Manager looking at the response of the federal government and corporations to the coronavirus crisis at AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the organization,  Aliya was a Senior Organizer at United for Respect where she helped build the organization’s Wall Street Accountability Corporate Campaigns program, developed strategies to hold Wall Street companies accountable for mass layoffs in the retail sector, and crafted narrative change organizing strategies to build a more equitable economy alongside retail workers. Previously, she managed a state campaign to strengthen protections for nail salon workers at Adhikaar, a women-led worker center based in Queens, New York.   

Donaldson Smith – Accounting & Administrative Manager

Donaldson Smith is the Finance and Administration Manager at AFR/AFREF. In his current role, he oversees the organizational financial and administrative processes including budgeting, accounting and auditing. Prior to joining the organization, he was a Staff Accountant at The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the United Community Ministries, and served as an Accountant at Takoma Park Silver Spring CO-OP. With strong interests in public and non-profit financial management and operations, Donaldson has a knack for setting up and managing financial systems and processes.

Ericka Taylor Take On Wall Street Popular Education Manager

Ericka Taylor is the Popular Education Manager for Take on Wall Street at AFR/AFREF. Immediately prior, she served as a Co-Director of the DC Working Families Party. Ericka has spent the bulk of her career in organizing and advocacy, including positions with Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC (ONE DC), DC ACORN, and Tenants and Workers Support Committee. She has also worked as a program officer with the Public Welfare Foundation and trained youth organizers as the Southeast Regional Program Coordinator for YouthAction. Ericka has served on the boards of Western States Center, National Priorities Project, and La Clínica del Pueblo, and she currently sits on the board of Jews United for Justice. 

Ricardo Valadez Private Equity Campaign Director

Ricardo Valadez is the Private Equity Campaigns Director leading AFR/AFREF’s work to end private equity’s most abusive and harmful practices. Ricardo has over 20 years of organizing and program management experience at the intersection of economic and racial justice. He has worked as an organizer in Latino immigrant communities with SEIU locals in Seattle and Denver, and organized youth cohorts around educational justice and police accountability issues. Ricardo previously served as Program and Communications Director at the national office of Jobs with Justice, where he coordinated the network’s organizing and advocacy on healthcare, immigration, and labor law reform efforts. He also worked as the Economic Justice Program Director for the Leadership Center for Common Good (now the Center for Popular Democracy). Ricardo also worked with the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union on updating and expanding their racial justice programs.

Oscar Valdés Viera – Research Analyst

Oscar Valdés Viera is a Research Analyst at AFR/AFREF. He conducts research on a range of issues related to improving the fairness and resilience of the U.S. financial system and economy. Before joining the organization, Oscar interned at The Century Foundation, where he worked with the labor team on initiatives aimed at strengthening economic and job prospects for low- and middle-income people. He also worked as a Research Assistant at the Bard Prison Initiative, where he provided research support for incarcerated students completing a Bard College degree while serving their sentences.

Patrick Woodall – Research Director


Patrick Woodall is the Research Director at AFR/AFREF. Prior to joining the team, Patrick was the Research Director at the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch working on farm, food, water and energy issues. Patrick has decades of experience working as public policy analyst, researcher and advocate at the Consumer Federation of America, ACORN, Public Citizen, and Physicians for a National Health Program. He has policy and advocacy expertise on issues pertaining to economic and social justice, financial services, international trade, and antitrust. Patrick has written scores of reports across his career and co-authored a book on international trade.

Mariam Zahran – Research Associate 

Mariam Zahran is a Research Associate at AFR/AFREF. Prior to AFR she performed research with the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, examining the effects of the Great Recession on institutions of higher education. Before that she interned at Tsang & Associates, PLC, a boutique immigration law firm in California, where she drafted and submitted petitions for citizenship for multinational businesspersons and dependents. Mariam also worked as a Policy & Advocacy intern with progressive foreign-policy organization Win Without War in Washington, D.C., and supported the civil rights legal department at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.