MEET THE PANELISTS & MORE
Meet the panelists, speakers and moderators! These leaders are championing issues including housing justice, education, racial justice, environmental justice, and more. Community is centered in their work and their passion has driven notable change in policy and beyond.
LaCora Bradford Kesti
Director of Community Impact, The Women's Foundation
LaCora Bradford Kesti is a member of the Northside Minneapolis community, she has more than two decades of experience living, volunteering, and working in the Twin Cities Metro. Currently, LaCora is the Director of Community Impact for the Women’s Foundation. LaCora provides political and strategic thought-partnership and leads program implementation with a racial equity lens, infusing Black- and human-centered design models into the work. Previously, she worked for the African American Leadership Forum as the Program Director for Collective Impact, where she created a Black Centered Design process to maximize community-led innovation and impact. The process resulted in increased investment for Black-centered community projects, partnerships, the development of online resources, and an education forum. LaCora previously worked for the Corporation for National and Community Service as a Program Officer. She is a certified professional project manager from the University of St. Thomas, an alumna of the Roy Wilkins Community Fellowship at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and a member of the Tri-Alpha Honor Society at the College of St. Scholastica, where she received her degree. LaCora’s life’s work focuses on community vitality, community change, and finding and promoting holistic social justice solutions.
Artist & Activist
Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4
For nearly 20 years Commissioner Conley has worked tirelessly to change systems at the macro level, both at the state and county, in ways that are holistic, person-first and seamless. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from St. Catherine University and Master’s degree in Public Administration from Hamline University. Now, she proudly serves as the first African American elected to the Hennepin County Board. Her top priority is including the voices of our families and communities in every decision the County makes that impact our lives. Commissioner Conley continues to focus on housing as a fundamental human right, reducing race-based disparities in Hennepin County and reforming our juvenile justice system.
Campaign Manager, Keep St. Paul Home
Tram Hoang is a graduate of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she was a Charles R. Krusell Fellow in Community Development at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. She was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and her community development perspectives are heavily shaped by the gentrification and displacement she witnessed growing up in North Portland. She worked at the Welcome Home Coalition, a group of organizations who effectively advocated for housing policies such as Portland's construction excise tax, inclusionary housing at the Oregon legislature, and successfully led Portland's first-ever $258 million affordable housing bond. Throughout her time in the Twin Cities, she has worked with Hope Community, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, the Make Homes Happen coalition, the City of Minneapolis' Community Planning and Economic Development department on the Residential Real Estate Team, and The Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. She currently serves as the campaign manager for the Keep St. Paul Home campaign that is advancing rent stabilization via ballot initiative in St. Paul. She believes that equitable development and community benefit are made possible by strong community organizing and effective narrative framing.
Climate Storytelling Consultant
Jothsna Harris (she/her) has 7 years of experience building capacity for the climate justice movement, most recently as the Director of Special Projects and Partnerships at Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, designing, implementing award-winning climate change programs that are rooted in community, and center personal narrative and other values-based ways that resonate. Jothsna led the creative process for and co-edited the book, Eyewitness: Minnesota Voices on Climate Change; an anthology of community-sourced stories, poems, and art, and developed a campaign that utilized the book to build public will and share testimony with legislators to help move climate justice policy. Jothsna is an Independent consultant for climate storytelling and other climate-related projects. She currently serves on The Great Northern Board of Directors. In her spare time, Jothsna is a small-scale organic farmer and proud member of the Midwest Farmers of Color Collective.
Executive Director, Urban Homeworks
AsaleSol (she/they) joined the staff of Urban Homeworks in the summer of 2017 after working for the organization as a contracted grant writer. In the winter of 2018, AsaleSol began working as the Interim Marketing and Development Director before becoming permanent in that role. In October of 2020, AsaleSol was asked to step in as the Interim Executive Director. The board officially named AsaleSol the Executive Director in March of 2021. A lover of knowledge, AsaleSol is passionate about learning the nuances of the systems that oppress while working creatively to leverage collaboration and partnership to bring forth equity, autonomy, and justice. AsaleSol comes to housing justice with a background in education, youth development, school and curriculum design, and an upbringing in Black arts, literature, history, and activism. AsaleSol is deeply grateful for their life's journey thus far, recognizing that nothing worthwhile is accomplished alone.
Housing Organizer, Harrison Neighborhood Association
Qannani is also a Housing Organizer for the Harrison Neighborhood Association where she advocates for public policies that are rooted in community needs and center racial justice. She works with coalition partners, non-profit organizations, and government leadership on housing issues, with an emphasis on anti-displacement policies, tenants’ rights, and equitable transit development. She is an advocate for public housing, rent control policies, and increased investments to build community-owned eco-systems.
Chief Executive Officer, Social Impact Strategies Group
Ms. Y. Elaine Rasmussen is Founder/CEO of Social Impact Strategies Group (SISG) a Black/Native-led certified B-corp social enterprise. SISG provides consultation on operationalizing social impact and racial equity in the finance and philanthropy sector. Rasmussen’s clients include Allianz, Frontier Incubators, Beta.MN, Swift Family Foundation and Greater Twin Cities United Way. Rasmussen is also the founder of ConnectUP! Institute a social finance and enterprise development innovation center. The Institute offers education workshops for investors & underestimated entrepreneurs, and produces the annual ConnectUP! MN Summit which promotes and grows inclusive and equitable entrepreneur ecosystems that drive positive, sustainable impact grounded in economic justice. Rasmussen was named 2020 Finance and Commerce’s Top Women in Finance, AARP/Pollen’s 50 Over 50, and is currently a Boston Impact Initiative (BII) Fund-Building fellow. Rasmussen’s board service includes Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI) and serves on the investment committees of Nexus Community Partners and Swift Foundation. Her overarching goal? To move billions of investment dollars in Black/Brown and rural communities.
Co-Executive Director, Black Visions
Kandace Montgomery (she/they) is a Black and queer, organizer, facilitator, and strategist, working to expand our collective ability to build power that transforms systems and people. Currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she has spent the last decade developing programming, training, and strategies that center the lives of people of color at local, statewide, and national organizations. By centering and unapologetically prioritizing the lives and leadership of diverse Black communities, she aims to develop the solutions necessary for transformative change. Kandace's political home rest with Black Visions, as the Co- ExecutiveDirector, currently leading local strategies to engage young, Black, Queer and Trans people, and their families, to build cultural and political power capable of transformation and ending systemic violence. Kandace is a leader within the Movement of Black Lives ecosystem. In addition, she is a co-owner of the Purple Palace Project, an imaginative experiment in affordable, community centered housing that has successfully provided a home for over a dozen Queer and Trans people of color involved in social change while cultivating spaces of joy and fellowship. Kandace graduated Magna Cum Laude from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health. Kandace is also a gardener, proud cat-mom, food enthusiast, and Octavia E. Butler fangirl.
Alicia D. Smith
Executive Director, Corcoran Neighborhood Organization & At-Large Commissioner, MPRB
Alicia D. Smith currently serves the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization as its Executive Director and was just elected as an At-Large Commissioner for MPRB. Alicia is a woman with big dreams to help influence, lead, and build an amazing world where everyone can thrive. This is the lens from which she approaches her daily responsibilities of community leadership for CNO, which will also extend to her work as a MPRB Commissioner. She is the proud mother of two amazing young boys who she describes in part as intelligent, fun, imaginative, and kind-hearted.
Welcome To The Southside Summit! Watch a virtual interview with community leaders and Q & A Session.
6:00 - 7:30 PM
Elaine Rasmussen, Social Impact Strategies Group
AsaleSol Young, Urban Homeworks
Alicia D. Smith, Executive Director, Corcoran Neighborhood Organization & At-Large Commissioner, MPRB
An interview series with movements in the Twin Cities and panel discussion with community leaders
10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Jothsna Harris, Climate Storyteller
Kandace Montgomery, Black Visions Collective
Qannani Omar, Housing Organizer, Harrison Neighborhood Association
LaCora Bradford Kesti, The Women's Foundation
Tram Hoang, Keep St. Paul Home Campaign
Commissioner Angela Conley, Hennepin County