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Our Staff

Executive Administration

Melissa Jones

Executive Director

For the last six years, Melissa has led BARHII's transformation from a regional coalition of governmental public health departments to include broad based community partnerships. Together, the BARHII staff team, the public health departments and community partners have advanced groundbreaking legislation to improve community conditions for health--including serving as the public health voice for paid sick leave, COVID-19 eviction moratoriums, and now a Black housing campaign. Today, she is leading the launch of a National Racial Health Justice Center, committed to making COVID-19 the turning point that accelerates health equity and racial justice. Melissa brings over 20 years of experience in local government, community development, and youth services to her efforts at BARHII. Before joining BARHII, Melissa served as Senior Program Officer at Boston Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), where she launched and ran Boston LISC’s Resilient Communities Resilient Families (RCRF) Initiative and was awarded the LISC Presidents award in 2014 for her service. The initiative works to ensure that residents of Boston’s neighborhoods benefitted from the rising tide of transit and other public investments. During her tenure, RCRF engaged several thousand residents and non-profits in neighborhood planning. The program has invested millions of dollars to fund affordable housing, leadership development, Family Financial Opportunity Center programs, and a local entrepreneurship pipeline program to ensure residents’ financial lives are improving.
​Melissa's experience in local government and years of funding and implementing programs focused on community economic development, family financial stability, education, and civic empowerment greatly influence her systems change strategies. Specifically, she has served in youth empowerment organizations, as Program Specialist for the City of Alameda, and as Program Analyst for the City of Oakland’s Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. Early in her career, she served as Director of Professional Development for Partners in School Innovation where she trained staff to support school reform efforts in San Francisco Unified, San Jose Unified, and Oak Grove Unified school districts.
A life longer learner who finds inspiration across the Globe, Melissa is honored to have been selected to serve as an Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity, a Fulcrum Fellow with the Center for Community Investment, and a doctoral candidate with the United Nation's Executive Doctorate Program in Governance at the University of Masschirat in the Netherlands.

Porsha Cannonier

Administrator Manager & Development Specialist

Porsha serves as the Development Specialist and Administrative Manager for BARHII, responsible for managing grants and service contracts as well as administrative staff and operational needs for the team. She is a passionate changemaker and has the determination to get the job done and make a lasting impact. She brings over 10 years of experience in project management and strategic planning with a love for tackling complicated issues. She has experience working with small and large non-profit and for-profit companies and in a range of different industries. Her passion lies with building social services for families of color and youth. Porsha earned a degree from San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco.

Matt Vander Sluis

Director of Policy and Planning

Matt brings over 15 years of experience shaping inclusive public policies and plans at the local, regional, and state level. He is adept at policy analysis, advocacy strategy, network building, trainings and facilitation, public communications, and non-profit management, with a robust network of relationships with agency leaders, elected officials, NGOs, and community-based organizations across California.

Prior to joining BARHII, Matt held multiple roles at Greenbelt Alliance, where he led the organization’s efforts to promote equitable, sustainable development patterns across the Bay Area, ultimately serving as Deputy Director from 2017 to 2019. Matt also managed the global warming policy program for the Planning and Conservation League, a statewide nonprofit in Sacramento, where he helped craft new climate policies and developed a statewide training program to foster healthy, resilient cities for all.

His work has been covered by a variety of media outlets, including the Atlantic Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and KQED’s QUEST. In 2017, he was named one of the East Bay’s “40 under 40” by Diablo Magazine. Matt graduated from Stanford University in American Studies in 2003.

Anita Kumar, PhD

Director, Collaborative Health Equity Practice

Anita brings to BARHII over 15 years of work on health equity and a deep passion for how neighborhood conditions shape our health and well-being.

She joins BARHII from East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), an Oakland-based community development corporation, where she served as Director of Neighborhood Collaborations. In this role, she led the strategic vision and direction of the organization’s place-based collaborative work to advance its Healthy Neighborhoods approach. She also served as the backbone convener for the Healthy Havenscourt Collaborative, where she managed a multi-sectoral collaborative of 30+ partners to implement place-based strategies to support the health and well-being of East Oakland residents.

Prior to EBALDC, Anita worked as a researcher at Amnesty International USA, helping to launch the organization’s health and human rights campaign. She has 10+ years of research experience, advocating for the role lived experience plays in shaping safe, accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare for low-income communities of color. While healthcare access for under-resourced communities is a critical need, she found herself gravitating to research highlighting the increasing role of place and community development in driving community health. Anita holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Karleen Porcena

Managing Director, Social Enterprise and Innovation

Dedicated to creating an equitable community, Karleen Porcena is an authentic leader who is driven to inclusive economic improvement.

With over 15 years of comprehensive community development experience, Karleen aims to create innovative strategies and partnerships to move the dial on the racial wealth gap.

As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, Karleen uses her unique lived experience coupled with professional skills to create solutions to eliminate economic disparities. In her current role as Managing Director of Innovation and Social Enterprise, Karleen is charged with building out revenue-generating models that support racial health equity at BARHII (Bay Area Health Inequities Initiatives). This role will give her the opportunity to pitch large-scale innovative ideas with the goal of long-term durable funding for solutions that create health equity within our lifetime.

Prior to joining BARHII, she served as VP Relationship Manager at Berkshire Bank, responsible for cultivating new banking opportunities and engaging underbanked populations. Karleen used her passion and love for community development work to provide the highest customer experience to all clients despite income level. In this role, she created a community dialogue series bringing timely and informative information to communities typically ignored by the banking industry and administered PPP applications for over 40 businesses throughout Massachusetts.

Karleen served as Senior Program Officer for Economic Opportunity at the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), the nation’s largest community development organization, and oversaw all economic development strategies at LISC Boston. At LISC, Karleen took a special interest in entrepreneurship and developed ways to promote the talent and quality of entrepreneurs within Black and Brown communities as well as ways to create access to grants, loans, and contracts. She worked in both the local Boston as well as the national office which gave her the opportunity to work with over 35+ cities across the country as well as the Rural LISC communities.

Her career began with 10 years of direct services at the front lines of anti-poverty work at Action for Boston Community Development. This role has grounded Karleen in understanding program development and implementation, organizing with diverse populations as well administration of city and state contracts.

Karleen is passionate about building bridges between people, communities, and networks with intentions to have an equal playing field for all. She brings to her work a wide variety of relationships with community organizations, business, and resident leaders, elected officials, as well as faith-based institutions.

Karleen received her MBA at Babson College in Wellesley, MA and holds a double bachelor’s degree in Comparative Politics and Spanish from Clark University in Worcester, MA.

Darris Young

Impact Manager of African Americans and Pacific Islanders

Born in Oakland, Darris grew up between Berkeley and El Cerrito, California in the mid 60’s and early ’70s, where he witnessed first-hand the Berkeley riots of 1967 and 1971, members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense dressed in their signature black berets and black leather jackets, and police brutality against Black and white demonstrators alike. Those childhood scenes stuck in his mind and would eventually shape his life toward service and activism, first as a police officer and later as a counselor and advocate.

The year 1985 marked a pivotal turning point in Darris’ life. He was hired by the Richmond, California Police Department at age 23, and was voted as Vice President of his police academy class. Six weeks into field training he was unjustly terminated from the department. Shortly after his life morphed into drug addiction and incarceration. His drug addiction eventually led to a 20-year prison sentence in 1998.

Paroling from prison in 2012, Darris completed his Bachelor of Addiction Counseling through the Association Christian Alcohol and Drug Counselors Institute and received certifications in the domestic violence and youth violence prevention counseling. In 2014, he began his organizing and advocacy career with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights where he championed criminal justice reform. In 2018, he began working for the Urban Strategies Council leading their Boys & Men of Color policy table. Working to prevent youth of color from being caught up in the criminal justice system is his passion.

Kelsey Lyles

Director, Health Equity and Repair

Kelsey’s expertise in public policy, legislative advocacy, and integrating health and racial equity into systems change inspire her to promote innovative approaches to closing the racial health and wealth gaps for BIPOC families. At BARHII, Kelsey leads policy and advocacy efforts related to promoting prosperity for Black families through economic justice, structural change, and reparations.

Prior to BARHII, Kelsey led health and racial equity policy initiatives at the Greenlining Institute, the Public Health Institute, the California Strategic Growth Council, and the California Department of Public Health. She received her degree in Sociology and Community Development from Howard University.

Monet Boyd

Staff Planner

Monet supports the Black Housing Advisory Taskforce by securing funding and partnerships for the Regional Black Housing Program. She is the project manager for the Black Infant Health/Perinatal Equity Initiative, a collective of Bay Area Public Health Departments, working to reduce the impact of racism on Black birthing people. Monet also assists with the creation of the Vallejo Community Land Trust.

Monet has recently graduated from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona with a Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in African American Studies. She has worked for the San Francisco Foundation and interned for the City of El Cerrito, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, and the Indian Institute for Human Settlements.

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