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New faces, new format at the IFF

By Blog, IFF Updates

New Faces, New Format at the Internet Freedom Festival

Pepe’s last day at the IFF was January’s last Friday. We are positive that he will go on to do amazing things using the knowledge and creativity the IFF community has shared with him throughout the years. We thank him for his many years of dedication and service to this community.

Year-round, the IFF Team will still be led by Sandy Ordonez, Trinh Nguyen, and Victoria Sanchis. As the universe closes doors, it opens new windows, and we want to present to you the new faces of the IFF, who will be making your experience at the IFF a fruitful one!

Facilitators and Community Leads

Sharmin Hossain is a Bangladeshi American queer Muslim activist, born and raised in New York City. Currently, Sharmin is the Political Director of Equality Labs, building the South Asian Power Building program, working to transform the United States through a caste abolitionist lens centered on Dalit and Muslim liberation strategy.

Born and raised in America’s largest enclave of Bangladeshis, she designs and leads trainings for leaders focused on conflict mediation, community organizing, advocacy skills, and leadership development. Sharmin is also a digital security trainer, supporting organizations to have healthy digital cultures while protecting their identities, network and movements.

Nasma Ahmed is a technologist based in the city we now know as Toronto. Nasma is currently the Director of the Digital Justice Lab, an initiative focused on building a more just and equitable digital future. She has experience working alongside the public service and the non-profit sector, focusing on technology capacity building.

In 2017 she was an Open Web Fellow with Mozilla and For Foundation, focusing on organizational digital security and digital literacy. She is passionate about community engagement, digital literacy and speculating the possibilities of the future. When she isn’t working you can catch her baking, watching the Golden Girls or finding a new book to read.

Community Empowerment Program

Quyen Ngo currently serves as the Community Empowerment Program Coordinator, working to support the 2020 cohort of community builders. She is an organizer, facilitator, and actor based in Los Angeles, CA.

She designs and facilitates participant-centered programs that promote experiential learning. Over the past 15 years, she has worked with groups around the world to build capacity, strategize, and improve communication. Her organizing work focuses on supporting civil society and human rights in Vietnam. Her acting work focuses on increasing nuance in a world deprived of it.

Community Coordinator

Kyla Massey will serve as the IFF’s Community Coordinator, supporting a variety of community related initiatives that are core to the Internet Freedom Festival including Villages, Expo Area, and Social Evenings.

Kyla has been creating and managing creative spaces and access points for the past 15 years, creating avenues of access for Queer Trans P.O.C. & Black communities from NYC in local digital activist communities to Oakland, CA as a part of team Media Justice. Her drive to serve people creatively has carried her into classrooms, clubs and organizations, locally, internationally and cross-culturally. She is a developer who believes in the power of play and the outcomes of driven curiosity who happened to most recently fall in love with code. Her mantra is simple. Passion is a verb, it’s something that moves and is inspired and if you listen to it, believe in and encourage it, it can show you the ways help you create the world you want and hopefully a world founded on the equality of code.

Wellness Team

The Wellness Team is made up of Cheryl Taruc and Karen Hixson. It is responsible for overseeing the IFF’s Code of Conduct, and the overall wellbeing of IFF participants. In addition, they will be on-call for folks that may need one-to-ones, or workshop leads that may be dealing with a difficult topic.

Cheryl Taruc is a Filipina social worker who works with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Before becoming a clinician and educator of clinical practice, Cheryl worked as an organizer and in independent feminist publishing. Since 2015, Cheryl has also been a member of Radfund, a giving circle of friends united by a love of dancing and commitment to liberation. Cheryl lives in Brooklyn with her family, and tries to travel as much as possible – especially to California and home to Chicago.

Karen Hixson is a mental health counselor, clinical supervisor, trainer, and facilitator in Portland, Oregon. All of her work integrates social justice and anti-oppression based perspectives while maintaining an awareness of her social location as a white, married, and cisgendered female with a working class background. As a clinical supervisor, she supports early career counselors working in community mental health and private practice.

Karen completed her PhD in Counseling at Oregon State University in 2016. Her dissertation is entitled “Understanding Power in the Therapeutic Relationship”. She is currently focused on organizing local mental health workers following the 2016 election with a group called Empathy Riot! Karen was also deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Leona Tyler Award from the Oregon Counseling Association, which recognizes counselors who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of counseling.

Accessibility Lead

Karen Reily is our Accessibility Lead. She will be helping the IFF understand how it can be more accessible. In addition, she will be assisting attendees with mobility, sensory, and communication issues. We hope her research starting at the IFF will help her launch a more thorough research into identifying the gaps in accessibility in the civic tech space.

Karen has worked in civic tech for over a decade. She did grant management on projects to provide censorship research, software development, and security training to civil society organizations and individual journalists. She worked in the German IT infrastructure industry for small to medium-sized hosting companies, overseeing the integration of security into DevOps. She is currently a management and outreach consultant for NGOs working on technology for journalists. She is a daily user of accessibility tools and an active member of communities for people with invisible disabilities.

New Format

This year we are also experimenting with a new format after feedback we received from community members. The first three days (Monday – Wednesday) will comprise of 1 hour sessions, similar to what we have done in the past. The last two days (Thursday – Friday), however, will be made up of various villages – dedicated space to a specific a topic or group or people. Each Village will be responsible for two days (or 16 hours) of programming, which will vary and include everything from presentations to social hours. If Villages go well this year, we plan to make them a staple and open them up to the community for proposal. The Villages for the 2020 IFF will be announced as we get closer to the festival.

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