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A Special Message from our Executive Director

Beloved Members of the CVH Community: After having the privilege of serving as the Executive Director of Community Voices Heard for more than five years, I have decided that it’s time for my next step. I am proud of all that we have accomplished during my tenure, and am delighted to highlight for you some of our achievements for the people of New York State. Over the last five years we have:

  • Doubled the organization’s budget. When I first came to CVH, our annual budget ranged from $1.7 to $2.1 million dollars. We are now a $3 million dollar operation, and the budget is ever-growing. We have crafted and executed an investment strategy for CVH’s revenue funds that produces more than a 30% return on investment in less than a year’s time.

  • Created and successfully launched Road to Justice NYC, the largest political program in the history of the organization. In the 2021 New York City primary elections, we endorsed a slate of 20 candidates--19 of whom are people of color, and 16 of whom are women. At the time of the polls’ closing, 70% of our candidates of choice were in the lead.

  • Created and launched the Follow Black Women Project, an innovative engagement initiative that centers the power, promise and experiences of Black women across New York State through programming, surveying, and collaborative exchange. Through the Project, CVH Power has hosted town hall events featuring mayoral, senatorial, and even presidential candidates which call the candidates to account with respect to policy issues impacting Black women in New York.

  • Catalyzed seminal campaign victories, such as the 2018 passage of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act in Ossining. At the time of the Act’s passage it was the largest expansion of rent-regulated housing in New York State in over 30 years.

  • Created the No HUD Cuts coalition in 2018--a coalition of over 100 community-based organizations, labor unions, faith institutions, civic organizations, settlement houses, and tenant leaders who successfully took concerted action to fight against Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Organized a meeting specifically for CVH leaders with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge within her first 100 days in office in 2021. CVH was the first community-based organization to garner such a meeting.

My tenure as Executive Director has also coincided with a number of significant personal events in my life. I became a mother to a second child in 2018; raising daughters during this time has added complexity and meaning to my work as a leader and community advocate who prioritizes the needs of Black and Brown women, and other working people of color. My daughters immediately became a part of the CVH community--attending meetings and accompanying me on canvassing shifts--well before they could walk. Indeed, for all of us, the last few years have been eventful, and tumultuous. From the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States through the devastation wreaked upon our communities by COVID-19, we have weathered unspeakable adversity. Still, we have accomplished meaningful policy objectives, with faith, grace, and tenacity. Faced with Herculean challenges, CVH has thrived, developing a clear strategic vision for further expansion and ever-greater achievements for poor people in this state, and becoming stronger and more sustainable than ever before. In 2016, I was one of only 3 Black women in New York State serving as the head of a non-service providing, power-building organization. I am also the first person of color to lead as CVH’s Executive Director. Although the number of Black, Latinx/a, and Indigenous women who are now leading grass-roots organizations is still too small, our numbers are growing. While I am deeply proud to have been the first Black woman to lead CVH, I am certainly thrilled that I will not be the last. It is with great pride and delight that I share that the CVH Boards have unanimously selected Juanita Lewis to step into the role of Executive Director for CVH. Her service to CVH and our members for the last 12 years is stellar and she is prepared to partner closely with our staff and Boards to continue, leading CVH into a new moment that builds on all we have already accomplished together. Juanita's official start date is September 1st. I am excited to watch Community Voices Heard continue to grow, thrive and fight unapologetically for low-income communities of color, and I look forward to cheering and supporting this outstanding organization as it brings more justice, more opportunity, and more community-based power to the people of New York. The next chapter of my career will only continue my dedication to building power for poor people and I will be honored to announce that new role in the coming weeks. Forward, Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq. Executive Director

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