» ABOUT
Board of Directors
Andrea Jenkins, Board Chair
Andrea Jenkins is an artist-activist and award-winning poet and writer. Andrea has been awarded fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Playwrights Center and has won writing and performance grants and scholarships from the Givens Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Loft, the Napa Valley Writers Conference, and Pillsbury House Theater. Andrea is the co-curator of Queer Voices at Intermedia Arts, the longest-running series of its kind in the nation and currently works collecting oral histories from hundreds of people in the Upper Midwest transgender community as an Oral Historian in the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.

Mark Waller, Vice Chair
Mark Waller is the Assistant Controller at the Greater Twin Cities United Way. He also serves as Treasurer for the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. He is constantly interested in meeting individuals in the great nonprofit sector in Minnesota and all over the country and is striving to build relationships that can help all of us achieve our missions.

Julia Nekessa Opoti, Board Secretary
Julia Nekessa Opoti is the producer and host of Reflections of New Minnesotans on AM950 where she interviews immigrants from all over the world who have made Minnesota their home, temporary or permanent. As a writer, Nekessa has reported extensively on Somali, Liberian and other immigrant issues in the Twin Cities for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. She served as editor of Mshale, an immigrant African newspaper. Nekessa is the co-founder and publisher of the Kenya Imagine, an opinion and analysis portal that is on hiatus.

Jeff Gatesmith, Treasurer
Jeff Gatesmith has over 30 years’ experience in Retail Operations, Human Resources and Organizational Development. He has consulted with a variety of start-up and turn-around businesses on matters of structure, finance and operations. Mr. Gatesmith holds a Bachelor of Science & Arts in Business Administration from the University of Arizona and has completed graduate coursework in management and finance at St. Thomas University.

Omar Akbar
Omar R. Akbar is a Vice President at Greene Holcomb & Fisher LLC. Prior to joining GHF, Omar was a corporate attorney at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, where he focused on M&A transactions for private equity clients, private fund formations and securities regulation. He has substantial experience in structuring, negotiating and advising clients on buy- and sell-side M&A transactions ranging in size from $5 million to $1 billion. Omar also served as a law clerk to a federal appellate court judge. Akbar received his BA, with honors, from Luther College, his JD with high distinction from the University of Iowa, and his LLM in International Economic Law from New York University.

Dan Cornejo
Dan Cornejio, Cornejo Consulting, Community Planning + Design, is an award-winning leader in city planning and contextual urban design. With over 35 years of experience throughout the U.S. and Canada, Dan brings a wealth of wisdom and expertise to comprehensive planning and design projects, especially in cities with historic districts and corridors with active waterfronts.  In 2004, Dan started his own firm, CORNEJO CONSULTING – Community Planning + Design, a Saint Paul-based firm that focuses on transit-oriented development planning and design, transportation-related infrastructure, and creek restoration.  He also specializes in innovative and inclusive public engagement in diverse cultural and community situations.  Dan has served as Director of Planning and Design for St. Paul, Development Director for Robbinsdale, Haymarket Warehouse District Manager in Lincoln, NE, Planning Director for Staten Island, New York, and Senior Planner in Vancouver, Canada.  Current and recent Twin Cities projects include I-35W-Lake Street Transit/Access Project and Hamline Bridge Replacement, both of which involve public artist involvement.  He has also led consultant teams that prepared the Fort Snelling LRT and Upper Post Master Plan, the Roseville Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and the University of Minnesota Neighborhood Impact Report to the Minnesota Legislature.  Dan holds an M.A. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia, Canada and a B.A. in Sociology from Jamestown College in North Dakota.

David Greenberg
David Greenberg is an experienced teacher, educational leader, and arts education advocate committed to quality learning opportunities for youth. Strong skills in finance, grant writing and management, curriculum design and implementation, teacher evaluation, strategic planning, arts integration, partnership development, charter school and non-profit management, governance, and cross-cultural communication.

Andy Hestness
Andy Hestness is a Community Development Specialist with the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) focusing on Land and Housing issues.  He grew up in South Minneapolis and earned a BA in Architecture from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.  Andy has an MA in Real Estate from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a concentration in Urban Planning. Andy previously worked at the Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation in Chicago as the Director of Construction Management where he oversaw the design, construction, and compliance of affordable and mixed-income housing developments. Prior to working in Chicago, Andy worked at Seward Redesign conducing research and outreach in the development of the Franklin Light Rail Transit Station Implementation Plan.

Brandy A. Hyatt
Brandy A. Hyatt has a long standing history with Intermedia Arts, from participating in youth programs to working as a teaching artist. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Institute for STEM Education at California State University, East Bay. She received her B.A. in Film Production from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN in 2011. Brandy is passionate about forming safe spaces for youth to learn as a way to create equity among all peoples.

Blake Iverson
Blake Iverson is a business, intellectual property and entertainment attorney. He helps businesses at every stage from incorporation to cashing out. He also teaches contracts and arts law and ethics and lectures on entertainment law.



Janis Lane-Ewart
Janis Lane-Ewart is the co-curator for the January 20, 2015 opening of the exhibition “Free At First - The Evolution of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.” “Free At First” is a reference to the sense of freedom the founders and early members approached musical compositions, organizational concepts and institution building - especially with the AACM School of Music. The scope of the exhibition is intended to provide the social framework, political climate, cultural milieu, philosophical underpinnings within which this musician’s collective has thrived and survived – the only musicians’ collective still standing!

Jeremy McClain
Senior Director - Reverse Flows and Supply Chain Inventory Management, Best Buy





Chaka MKali
Chaka Mkali, also known as I Self Devine is a musician, Mc, community organizer, racial justice trainer, graffiti artist, muralist, program coordinator and director of organizing and community building at Hope Community Center in Minneapolis. As an Mc, I Self is known as an integral part of the Atlanta and Twin Cities underground Hip Hop community as ½ of the duo Micranots, ½ of Semi Official, ¼ of the Dynospectrum, and as a soloist. Over the last decade I Self has released over 10 albums of political conscious socially aware music capable of moving the crowd as well as uplift the spirit and sustain the movement. As a graffiti artist and muralist, Chaka Mkali is recognized as one of the crucial figures in the revitalization of graffiti art in the Twin Cities using the skills developed in the streets, alleyways, walls, and store fronts of Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Atlanta. As The Director of Organizing and Community Building Chaka has developed impressive work with very diverse largely low income teens and young adults that is impacting individual lives and collectively helping to bring change to a challenged community.

Saymoukda Vongsay
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is an award-winning Lao American poet and playwright who lives for miscombinations. Her critically acclaimed play Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals was named Best Production of 2013 by L’Etoile Magazine. Her artmaking and community work has been possible due to funding from organizations such as the Jerome Foundation, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, MN State Arts Board, and the Joyce Foundation. Her plays have been presented by Mu Performing Arts, The Unit Collective, Minnesota Fringe Festival, and the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists. Her poetry can be found in magazines, literary journals, and the anthologies Hmong Women Write Now!, Poetry City USA Vol. 4, Lao American Speculative Anthology, and Lessons For Our Time. She Chairs the Twin Cities World Refugee Day festival planning committee, is a COMPAS and East Side Arts Council teaching artist, and serves on the board of directors for Intermedia Arts, Saint Paul Almanac, and Ananya Dance Theatre; and on the advisory board for Asian Economic Development Association's Little Mekong and the Saint Paul Foundation's Asian Pacific Endowment. Check her out on Minnesota Public Radio News' The Interpreters podcast and stalk her on www.saymoukdatherefugenius.com


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