People’s Economy Lab and Front and Centered are excited to announce the second cohort of New Economy Washington (NEW) Frontline Community Fellows. This year’s fellowship program is designed to support communities of color who are creating an economy rooted in democracy and collective self-determination, advancing sustainability, equity, and shared well-being.
Fellows will participate in a six-month peer learning and project development program rooted in New Economy Washington principles and strategies. The cohort will explore how to embody in their work the principles of equity, transformation, and regeneration toward a vision of a new economy in Washington State. Fellows will be awarded unrestricted grants of $10,000 at the beginning of the program and will have access to additional funding from the New Economy Washington Fund, a newly formed community-controlled fund of $100K that will be allocated through a participatory budgeting process.
Without further ado, allow us to present the 2022 Fellows:
Shamso Issak, Living Well Kent Collaborative
Shamso Issak is the executive director of Living Well Kent Collaborative. Living Well Kent is community-driven and focused on creating a healthier, equitable, and vibrant community. Shamso applies her diverse background skills to build collaborative, adaptive, innovative, and sustainable grassroots partnerships in low-income, immigrant, and refugee communities. Shamso achieved a master’s degree in organizational systems through Saybrook University’s Leadership Institute of Seattle (LIOS) program. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources at Evergreen State College in Tacoma, as well as a certificate of plant-based nutrition at Cornell University.
As a Frontline Community Fellow, Shamso aims to mobilize Black farmers to access free farmland in King County. She will use initial funding to support Black farmers to meet monthly and provide farming education for immigrant and refugee farmers.
Mario Sanchez, Food Oasis
Mario Sánchez (he/him) is an advocate, community member, and a youth farmworker committed to disrupting our current food chain. He is the co-founder of Food Oasis, a food hub located in South Seattle. He seeks to build a food economy for his community that places the resources and power in the hands of the folks who handle food, work the soil, and harvest the produce that comes from their toil. Mario earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, minor in diversity, and a certificate in business analytics and product management from the University of Washington, Seattle. As a youth farmworker from Sunnyside, WA, raised on his family’s ranch, his passion for food and self-sustainability runs deep in his roots and is an essential part of his identity.
Through Food Oasis, Mario seeks to create shared infrastructure for a BIPOC food economy in Washington. For example, Food Oasis connects BIPOC farmers in central and eastern Washington to BIPOC business owners in Seattle. They also offer technical assistance, like grant writing, and hands-on assistance when businesses outproduce their capacity. Right now, their biggest priority is to increase cold storage for the community so business owners can order and keep larger amounts of food fresh for longer, ultimately cutting down on costs.
Maria Guadalupe Ramirez, Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition
Maria Guadalupe Ramirez is the chair of the Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition. Maria, one of nine children, was born in Chicago to Mexican immigrants. She relocated to Seattle 40 years ago. Maria raised two sons in the Westwood neighborhood of Seattle. She came to the Coalition after a long career at King County Housing and Community Development. Maria studied anthropology and economics and is a lifelong learner.
With this fellowship, Maria and her team propose to address institutional racism in the affordable housing development industrial complex. They envision affordable rental housing managed by the community. Strong communities and affordable housing need to be developed simultaneously. Initial funding will support a partnership with neighboring community development associations to conduct root cause analysis and develop a strategy for funding “middle housing” preservation.
Stephanie Ung, Khmer Community of Seattle King County, in partnership with Dana Wu, The Apsara Palace
Stephanie Ung (any pronouns) is the proud daughter of a Filipina immigrant and Khmer refugee, both of whom inspire Stephanie’s activism, community involvement, and general ways of being. Throughout her young adulthood, Stephanie pursued higher education to explore human connections with one another and Mother Earth through her B.A. in environmental studies from the University of Washington and M.A.Ed in urban environmental education. Stephanie’s passion lies in broadening the scope of “environmentalism” to include healing across generations and nurturing spiritual connection with one another and the land. Stephanie is currently the Co-Executive Director of Khmer Community of Seattle King County (KCSKC).
Dana Wu / 吳 淑 如 is a proud Teochew and the queer eldest child of refugee parents displaced by what some choose to call the “Vietnam War.” Raised on the ancestral homelands of the Tongva and Gabrielino tribes, Dana relocated to the Salish Sea region in 2005 as a first-generation college graduate with degrees in biology and environmental studies. Dana has embodied their passion for marine conservation, service learning, community science, and environmental justice issues by working with the Student Conservation Association, Olympic National Park, Seattle Aquarium, City of Seattle’s Environmental Justice Committee, and Dynamic Waters LLC, among others. Dana served for two years as vice board chair of the Duwamish River Community Coalition and is now on staff, supporting the whole DRCC family and their collective mission.
Stephanie and Dana seek to address the gaps in food and nutritional security and literacy, as well as meaningful employment opportunities for young adults in the Khmer/Cambodian community. Their solution is a multi-stage approach, complimenting a partnership with Apsara Palace, a locally-owned Khmer restaurant located in White Center (unincorporated King County), to close the food waste loop using an on-site hot composting system. They intend to recycle resources through the community by teaching youth about local food systems and food justice issues, investing in the preservation of Khmer culinary arts, reducing plastic consumption, demonstrating adaptations of Khmer cultural practices to urban settings, employing Khmer young adults, and bridging the intergenerational gap in the Khmer community. They believe this will create a self-sustaining social enterprise that meaningfully engages youth and elders in culturally relevant and healing ways, while also creating solutions within their community to live in reciprocity with the land.