Melanie Dominguez is the New York community organizer with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. For Melanie, the main motivation for fighting for justice has always been her community. She prioritizes
the need to uplift and amplify the voices of neighborhood residents who are directly impacted by the issues at hand. It is essential to her that her community members know the tremendous amount of power they hold.
Prior to joining Katal, Melanie worked as a fellow with 350 Action and 350.org, where she played a critical role in prioritizing communities of color, which are often left out of the climate movement. She did this by conducting an outreach series not only in Queens, where she lives, but in other communities of color in New York City and beyond. In 2019, she helped organize the 9/20 Climate Strike, when thousands of students joined together to demand climate justice and was one of the state’s most significant climate actions ever. Part of what made the strike exceptional was teaching high school students across New York how to organize.
Melanie’s previous leadership roles with extracurricular clubs at John Jay College of Criminal Justice shaped how she viewed education. This experienced showed her the importance of helping build consciousness and activating students on various issues so that they can hold oppressive institutions accountable.
Melanie is a proud New Yorker and a proud Ecuadorian. She truly values her time spent with family, friends and her two Shiba Inus. In her spare time you can catch her with any if not all of them.
Sumeet Sharma is the Senior Manager of Communications and Digital with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. Prior to joining Katal, he was the former chief of staff for the New York State Assembly Correction Committee Chair. He was also formerly the director of legislative affairs, as well as the director of communications for the member representing the 24th Assembly District in Queens, New York.
As part of his commitment to public service, Sumeet was recently selected to join the CUNY Institute of State and Local Governance as part of the inaugural class of the Kriegel Fellowship for Public Service Leaders, completing the program in December 2020.
In his time working in the state legislature, Sumeet has been instrumental in campaigns that resulted in the prohibition of discrimination in employment based on religious attire, the restoration of disability benefits for civilians involved in the World Trade Center cleanup, and the passage of legislation granting adult adoptees unrestricted access to original birth certificates. His work in the field of criminal justice has helped create laws providing for independent oversight of New York prisons and establishing the right for legislative staff to visit correctional facilities; the bill was drafted, passed, and signed after Sumeet was denied entry to a facility housing immigrant detainees.
A strident student of debate during his time at the University of Vermont and Bronx High School of Science, Sumeet now volunteers as a judge for the American Debate League in his free time and has served as an instructor for the Rikers Debate Project. He is also a fan of the New York Knicks, long road trips, and his home borough of Queens.
Alycia Gay is a community organizer with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. She came to Katal with eight years of experience with non-profit organizations in the Greater Springfield and Holyoke regions of Western Massachusetts, working with diverse hard-to-reach clients through case management, outreach, and programming.
Prior to joining Katal, Alycia worked as a youth worker and program coordinator at Roca Inc. in Springfield. There, she did outreach and facilitated financial literacy and cognitive behavioral therapy classes for the young men and young women’s programs. She was introduced to organizing in 2014 in Baltimore after Michael Brown’s murder by the police. Alycia is an advocate for social justice, racial equity, and connecting with the community.
Alycia holds a bachelor's degree in ethnic and gender studies and is studying in the master’s of social work program at Westfield State University. She spends her free time with her daughter and dog, and enjoys watching reruns of her favorite shows while eating ice cream sandwiches.
Yonah Zeitz is the policy coordinator with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. Katal works at the municipal and state level in Connecticut and New York to build leadership and organizing capacity to end mass incarceration and the drug war.
Through policy work, organizing, and coalition building, Yonah works to transform the criminal legal system and create community-led solutions that focus on resources and healing, not cages. His work combines policy strategy, digital organizing, community organizing, and communications to advance the organization’s goals. He has worked on campaigns to pass bail reform, parole reform, and address the COVID-19 crisis behind bars in Connecticut and New York.
Prior to joining Katal, Yonah worked as a project associate at The Bronx Freedom Fund, a nonprofit bail fund operating in the Bronx and Queens. He worked to post bail for hundreds of people unjustly incarcerated because of their race or ethnicity and poverty. Advocating for systemic change of the money bail system, he represented the Freedom Fund in numerous campaigns and coalitions, including the #CLOSErikers campaign, the #FREEnewyork campaign, the Queens for DA Accountability coalition, the National Bail Fund Network, and Court Watch NYC. Previous internship experiences at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the Maryland Office of the Public Defender shaped his understanding and awareness of our punitive and racist legal system.
Yonah is originally from Maryland and is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the state’s public honors college. He holds a bachelor of arts in political science and public policy, with minors in economics and democracy studies. Now based in Brooklyn, Yonah enjoys spending time in Prospect Park, skateboarding, playing soccer, and hanging out with his brothers.
A veteran community organizer, Lorenzo Jones is the cofounder and co–executive director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. Katal works at the municipal and state level in Connecticut and New York to build leadership and organizing capacity to end mass incarceration and the drug war.
Lorenzo brings more than 25 years of experience organizing communities to influence the political process and bring about systemic change. He has developed, coached, and mentored thousands of grassroots leaders for social justice. Lorenzo has worked as an organizer, trainer, and strategist with groups across the United States and globally. He has served as an adviser and consultant to organizers and campaigns for criminal justice and drug policy reform. His leadership strategy focuses on teaching everyday people that they can make the change they want to see, and helping organizers understand the political terrain around them.
Before launching Katal, Lorenzo served for 10 years as executive director of A Better Way Foundation (ABWF), a drug policy and criminal justice reform organization based in Hartford, Connecticut. Under Lorenzo’s leadership, ABWF passed numerous reform bills in the legislature, mobilized thousands of Connecticut residents, and set the statewide agenda for ending the drug war and mass incarceration.
A sought-after trainer, Lorenzo partnered with the Perrin Family Foundation in 2013 to develop and launch the Building Leadership and Organizing Capacity (BLOC) program to train young people and others as new organizers. Now Katal’s flagship training and leadership development program, BLOC continues to train organizers, including participants from local queer, Black, Latina, and youth communities.
Lorenzo began his organizing career in 1991 in Hartford with the Asylum Hill Organizing Project. In 1994 he joined United Connecticut Action for Neighborhoods under the mentorship of veteran organizers. He learned the science and art of community organizing by building campaigns led by residents fighting for police accountability and public safety, expanding alternatives to incarceration, and securing resources for community development.
From 1997 to 1999, Lorenzo trained community policing grantees on community organizing and self-advocacy through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2002 he started the BROTHERS group, bringing formerly incarcerated men who were living in shelters and assisted living into the political process in the Connecticut State Capitol for the first time. The next year, Lorenzo launched Create Change, a group of predominantly Black Connecticut adults and young people dedicated to ending the war on drugs and mass incarceration. From 2004 to 2008, Lorenzo wrote a weekly column about civic engagement and community power in Northend Agents, the state’s largest, oldest Black-owned newspaper.
From 2006 through 2015, Lorenzo served as an adviser to the Drug Policy Alliance, shaping the organization’s work with local community groups. He cofounded the National Network for Justice, the #CLOSErikers campaign, and has consulted and advised numerous foundations, organizations, and networks, including the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement, Open Society Foundations, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.
Lorenzo serves on the board of the Chicago-based Workers Center for Racial Justice, and on the advisory board of the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan University. He is a member of The Keepers, a group of entrepreneurs, organizers, researchers, artists and authors who found each other through The Nantucket Project and meet regularly to discuss making the world a better place. Lorenzo lives in Hartford with his wife, Kimberly. They have three children—Jordan, Lorenzo Jr., and Loren. Born and raised in Chicago, Lorenzo is an avid fan of the Bears, Bulls, Fire, Sky, Sox, and the Blackhawks.
Selected writing and video:
Lorenzo Jones: video on bail reform
- “George Floyd and Racism in America: The Time is Now”
- "Key to Communities of Color: What doors does that key open?"
- Connecticut Criminal Justice Reform Field Scan
- Reflections and Lessons from the First Two Phases of the #CLOSErikers Campaign: August 2015 – August 2017
gabriel sayegh is the cofounder and co–executive director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. Katal works at the municipal and state level in Connecticut and New York to build leadership and organizing capacity to end mass incarceration and the drug war.
A community organizer and strategist for more than 20 years, gabriel has contributed to a wide range of collaborative grassroots movement efforts as a trainer, facilitator, and partner. He has developed and led campaigns to roll back the Rockefeller drug laws, prevent overdose deaths, end racially biased marijuana arrests, close the Rikers Island jail complex, pass bail reform, and more.
Before launching Katal, gabriel served as managing director of policy & campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization dedicated to ending the war on drugs. His work experience includes stints as staff in the Washington State Senate, as a research assistant, as a waiter and line cook, and in construction. gabriel was fortunate to have mentors who steered him into community organizing for racial justice, queer rights, ending domestic violence, and establishing fair economies.
gabriel and his work have appeared in a wide range of broadcast, online, and print media, including The New York Times, NY1, NBC, Fox News, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, Newsweek, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, and the BBC. He served as an adviser on The House I Live In, a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary about the war on drugs. gabriel has been a guest speaker throughout the United States and Europe. In a 2014 TEDx talk, he described his own struggle with drug use and the connections among addiction, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and systemic racism.
gabriel serves as a trustee and executive committee member of the New York Foundation and sits on the board of the Chicago-based Worker’s Center for Racial Justice. Thanks to Pell Grants and the guidance of elders, he attended community college and later obtained a bachelor of arts degree from The Evergreen State College. He holds a master’s in public health from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. gabriel grew up in California’s Sacramento Valley and lives with his partner and child in Brooklyn, New York.
SELECT PUBLICATIONS BY GABRIEL SAYEGH
- Making Sense of the Fight over NYC Jails
- Making Sense of Bail Reform In NYS, Part 1 and Part 2
- Connecticut Criminal Justice Reform Field Scan
- “Making Drug Policy Reform Work for Meaningful Decarceration,” a chapter in the book Decarcerating America: From Mass Punishment to Public Health (edited by Ernest Drucker)
- Reflections and Lessons from the First Two Phases of the #CLOSErikers Campaign: August 2015 – August 2017
Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy (the subject of a New York Times editorial)
- Healthcare Not Handcuffs: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Law Reform
One Million Police Hours
Kenyatta M. Thompson is the lead community organizer with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. Her experiences growing up in Brooklyn exposed her to disparities in police surveillance, access to educational opportunities, and overall outcomes for people in her neighborhood. These inequities ultimately helped propel her to challenge the justice system.
Prior to joining Katal, Kenyatta worked as a workforce developer at Roca Inc. in Springfield, Massachusetts. In that role she facilitated workforce readiness groups with young people impacted by the justice system. In Springfield, she witnessed the same disparities she had seen in Brooklyn, a reality that shaped Kenyatta’s path toward justice. Previous internship experiences also pointed her in that direction. Before coming to Katal, she interned with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on prison suicide prevention strategies, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services on statewide suicide prevention policy, and with Massachusetts State Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) on criminal justice reform and constituent cases in his district.
Since joining the team in 2018, Kenyatta has worked with members on issues including mass incarceration, drug policy, and housing. As Katal’s first on-the-ground organizer in Connecticut, she has helped build the statewide membership base and supported the development of other organizers in the field through our BLOC Roundtable. She also played an instrumental role in the formation of the Connecticut Criminal Justice Reform Field Scan, a road map for organizers, policy makers, and activists. As lead organizer with Katal, Kenyatta is working extensively on the #LessIsMoreNY campaign and the #FreeThemNowCT campaign with our members and leaders.
A self-described East Coast nomad, Kenyatta holds a bachelor’s of science in psychology from Juniata College and a master’s of social work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Outside of work, Kenyatta enjoys reading, skateboarding in her neighborhood, and reruns of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.