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Welcome the 2024 CCL Advanced Organizing Seminar & Intensive Cohort!

February 21, 2024

Welcome the 2024 CCL Advanced Organizing Seminar & Intensive Cohort!

Since its launch in 2009, the Center for Community Leadership has been a consistent and adaptable space supporting the organizing ecosystem in NYC. CCL’s cohort-based programs are an invaluable space where organizers can come together to develop and deepen their analysis and organizing practices.

The CCL Advanced Organizing Seminar and Intensive is a 6-month program for experienced organizers. Featuring monthly sessions for Seminar participants along with personalized reflection and coaching sessions for those in the Intensive track, the program offers a key space for organizers to read, reflect, and explore ways to deepen their analysis and practice of community organizing.

This year’s Advanced cohort includes 11 organizers committed to building, sustaining, and leveraging community power while nourishing and honoring trust, joy, and collective learning and action. They are organizers guided by a deep belief in the power of organizing to change lives and conditions, including their own. They are folks supporting and supervising newer organizers in our Intro and Apprenticeship programs. They are CCL alumni along with folks joining CCL for the first time.

As they gathered in person for the first time this January, the conference room filled with laughter, music, careful listening, and heartfelt sharing. The mix of people who have known and worked with each other for years along with people meeting for the first time - facilitated with tremendous skill and intention by our instructor Susanna Blankley - created a ripe environment for peer learning and connection.

We're excited to see where they go over the next few months!

Meet our 2024 Advanced Organizing Cohort!

From Left to Right: Charlie Urban-Mead, Jorgy Flecha, Gabriel Flores, Jodie Leidecker, Bleys LaPierre, Douglas Farrand

Bleys LaPierre, Goddard Riverside Law Project
Charlie Urban-Mead, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)
Douglas Farrand, University of Orange / The HUUB, inc
Evy Viruet, Goddard Riverside Law Project
Gabriel Flores, Goddard Riverside Law Project
Jodie Leidecker, Cooper Square Committee
Jorgy Flecha, Housing Conservation Coordinators (HCC)
Juan Giraldo, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)
Khamarin Nhann, Mekong NYC
Shen’naque Butler, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association
Zaki Michael, The HUUB, inc

About Them

Charlie Urban-Mead (he/him)
Community Action for Safe Apartments

Charlie grew up in upstate New York and attended college in New Haven CT, where he worked for several years after graduation. In 2021, he became involved with a group of rookie tenant organizers and supported several tenant associations and the eventual launch of the Connecticut Tenants Union. Together, CTTU tenants have won repairs in long-neglected units and begun meeting with elected officials about improving towns' and cities' tenant protections. Last summer, he moved to Brooklyn and began working with tenants in the Southwest Bronx as an organizer at CASA. When he’s not organizing, he’s usually cooking or playing soccer in the park.

Evy Viruet (she/her)
Goddard Riverside Law Project

Evy’s story goes back to 2008 with the Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition. New York City had public schools closing around that time, and her son's middle school was one of those schools. She started organizing with parents and teachers in New York City to stop the school closures. The organizing tactics were successful and schools were able to stay open. Evy was hired in 2016 to organize small businesses in the Bronx, especially during the Kingsbridge Armory Development. She also did tenant organizing and a string of other organizing projects. In 2022, she transitioned to Goddard Riverside Law Project, also as a tenant organizer. Taking her organizing roots from the Bronx into Manhattan was a challenge for her personally. However, what she has learned throughout that transition is, it doesn't matter where you live, how much you pay, everyone is going through a housing crisis.

Jodie Leidecker (she/her)
Cooper Square Committee

Jodie was a tenant trying to mind her own business in NYC, but conditions were so poor in her building (ex. she almost drank a roach!) that she had to find someone to help her. She started attending FTC meetings, but had an attitude like “she’ll just get her apartment issues taken care of and get back to her life.” But FTC didn't take that approach, and she soon learned that housing is a deeply unjust system in NYC in particular, and that the roaches and mice in her building were actually symptoms of a weak and broken political system!  So she applied for a job as an organizer at Cooper Square Committee and started learning how to organize.

Gabriel Flores (he/him)
Goddard Riverside Law Project

Gabe is a tenant organizer with Goddard Riverside Law Project. He got interested in community organizing from his experience growing up on the Southside of Chicago when he saw his own community give back so much to him after his family lost everything in a house fire. He saw the resilience and support his community gave to him and from then on he wanted to work to ensure that communities like his can use their power they have when they act collectively. Recently, Gabe has gotten his MPA in public & nonprofit management & policy with a specialization in advocacy and community action at NYU Wagner school of public service.

Bleys LaPierre (he/him)
Goddard Riverside Law Project

Bleys was born and raised in New York City, and as a second generation immigrant he got involved in organizing because he believes there is important work to be done in making sure everyone has the opportunity to live in safe and affordable housing. 

Jorgy Flecha (he/him)
Housing Conservation Coordinators

Jorgy first started organizing in middle school with a local group named REBEL: Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies. A teen-led group to teach others about the lies and deception of big tobacco companies. Since then, he has been committed to making his community a better place. He has gone on to fight for same sex marriage in his home state New Jersey, which led him to traveling nationwide to red states fighting for lgbt non discrimination laws. Currently, you can find him advocating for tenants rights within the New York City Housing Movement. Aside from organizing Jorgy is a dog dad to his miniature poodle Cotto and when he’s not organizing you can find him enjoying the island sun in his motherland of Puerto Rico.

Zaki Michael (he/him)
The HUUB, inc

Zaki is eager and excited to be a part of the Seminar. He is currently working as the new community and program organizer at HUUB Inc in Orange, NJ. He is a proud Orange, NJ native graduating from both Orange Middle School and Orange High School, class of 2010. In 2015, he graduated from Bloomfield College with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Developmental Education. Since joining the HUUB, he has had the opportunity to help organize and facilitate a series of community voter registration tabling's within the city of Orange NJ. He is currently working to organize “Planning to Stay (P2S)”. This is a community-based working group that believes development is fundamental to the health and well-being of every city, and that it should improve the lot of the people and businesses already in a place, while also attracting new investment and resources. By mobilizing stakeholders in Orange, facilitating meetings, and organizing workshops around the future of the city, P2S aims to create a multi-scale, multi-system strategy that addresses economic stability, neighborhoods and the physical environment, education, food, community and social engagement, and healthcare.

Douglas Farrand (he/him)
University of Orange and The HUUB, inc

Douglas is a composer and musician who got pulled into organizing work by his love for the city of Orange and friends and family who have called this city home. He works with the University of Orange, a community organization and free people's urbanism school in Orange NJ, as a community organizer and co-director of the Music City program. From 2013-2019 he taught in and directed Sonic Explorations, a youth music education program in Orange’s east ward. He is also a founding member of LCollective, a Brooklyn-based experimental music collective with Teodora Stepancic, Assaf Gidron, and Jesse Greenberg, and have worked closely with percussionists Ryan Packard and Christian Smith, filmmaker Kelsey White, flutist and composer Margaux Simmons, poet & composer Porter James, bassist Jeff Weston, cellist and composer Gabriela Areal and others.

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