PRA Board of Directors:


Surina Khan (chair) is Vice President of Programs for the Women's Foundation of California, a statewide public foundation that is known for working across issues to bridge disparate social justice movements. Surina's programs support social justice organizations that are innovative, policy advocacy leaders, and building broad-based social justice movements. She previously worked as the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and, from 1995-2000, as a research analyst with Political Research Associates. Surina is also a journalist and a member of Public Eye magazine editorial board. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Funders Network for Population, Reproductive Health, and Rights; and the Astraea Foundation.


Janet Jakobsen is a feminist educator whose research interests include ethics, religion, gender, and sexuality in American public life; social movements and feminist alliance politics; and global issues of economics and violence. She is the author of several books, including Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics. She has also worked as an organizer and policy analyst on issues that include environmental policy, homelessness and U.S. foreign policy.

M. Elena Letona, Ph.D. has close to 25 years of experience working in and serving the non-profit sector a volunteer, organizer, administrator, manager, and director. Currently, she is an organizational development consultant, facilitator and trainer. For 10 years, she directed Centro Presente, a member-driven, state-wide organization dedicated to achieving the self-determination of the Central and Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts. Ms. Letona has received numerous awards including the 2005 Barr Fellowship and the 2006 “Drylongso Award” which recognizes “outstanding individuals for their work challenging structural racism and working to build a just society.”

Pardis Mahdavi, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of anthropology at Pomona College []. Her research interests include sexuality, human rights, transnational feminism, and public health in the context of changing global and political structures. She is currently an editor for Rahavard Quarterly, a journal devoted to contemporary social issues in Iran and amongst the Iranian diaspora. Her book, Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution was published in 2008 by Stanford University Press. Her current reseach on migrant labor, sex trafficking, and the state in Dubai is supported with a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Supriya Pillai (treasurer) is executive director of the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, a network of grantmakers and youth organizers dedicated to advancing social justice through youth development and organizing. She previously served as program officer for Asia at the International Women's Health Coalition, where she worked with local partners in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Turkey to offer funds and technical assistance to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. While working with the social marketing organization Population Services International (PSI) and in Cambodia, she led the introduction of several new products, including a female condom, emergency contraception, and a new male condom marketed to women in trusting relationships. She also worked on microfinance in Guinea.

Emelia Rallapalli (secretary) is vice president of brand strategy at Greenberg, Inc., a research and brand consultancy based in the San Francisco Bay area. She specializes in helping companies speak with hard-to-reach audiences through marketing and communications. She has served as coproducer and host of Essencia, a public radio program focused on women's issues. In addition to PRA's board, she currently serves on the board of directors for her family's charitable foundation.

Marcy Westerling is a nationally recognized leader in organizing Pacific Northwest rural communities to respond to violence, bigotry, and injustice. In 1992, she founded the Rural Organizing Project, which helps local grassroots groups overcome their isolation, pool resources, and acquire skills to achieve lasting social change. The ROP is noted for linking issues through transformational organizing and an appreciation for the long-term nature of justice work.  As a 2010 Open Society Fellow, Marcy is mapping progressive infrastructure in rural localities in four states as a means of identifying potential allies for social change organizing.  She credits PRA with developing an analysis of the Right that was formative to the ROP's approach to political education.  She lives in the woods outside of Scappoose, Oregon.

pRA Staff:

  Tarso Luís Ramos (executive director) assumed the role of executive director in June 2009 after serving as PRA's research director for three years. As research director, he focused on anti-immigrant groups and the rise of "colorblind" ideology. He also launched three new research projects on civil liberties, right-wing attacks on mainline churches, and Islamophobia and antisemitism on college campuses. Before joining PRA, he served as founding director of Western States Center's racial justice program, which resists racist public policy initiatives and supports the base-building work of progressive people of color-led organizations. As director of the Wise Use Public Exposure Project in the mid-'90s, he tracked the Right's anti-union and anti-environmental campaigns.

  Chip Berlet (senior analyst) is a veteran freelance writer and photographer who specializes in investigating right-wing social movements, apocalyptic scapegoating and conspiracism, and authoritarianism. A PRA staffer since 1982, he has written, edited and co-authored numerous articles on right-wing activity and government repression for publications as varied as the Boston Globe, the New York Times, The Progressive, The Nation, The Humanist, and the St. Louis Journalism Review. Berlet edited Eyes Right! Challenging the Right-Wing Backlash, co-published by PRA and South End Press (1995), a popular primer on the right. He is also co-author, with Matthew N. Lyons, of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort published by Guilford Press (2000). [Bio] [Articles]

  Pam Chamberlain (senior researcher) studies and writes about opposition to the reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights movements. She has worked with PRA since 1999 as an editor for the Activist Resource Kits, lead researcher on the Campus Activism Project, and regular contributor to Public Eye. She has been involved with feminist, peace, and human rights activism since her days as a high school teacher, and maintains a commitment to making research from various academic fields accessible to activists.

  Thomas Cincotta (project director) heads PRA's nationwide investigation of regional counterintelligence strategies. A criminal defense lawyer, he led the Denver chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) in support of peace groups and others during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and connected progressive lawyers with other community efforts around sentencing reform, immigrant rights, and police misconduct. He also represented migrant farm workers and served on the board of El Centro Humanitario, Denver's first day laborer center. He currently serves on the NLG's national board and international committee. Before becoming a lawyer, Cincotta worked as a labor representative for UNITE HERE Local 217 in Providence, Rhode Island.

  Amy Hoffman (Public Eye editor) also works works as editor-in-chief of Women's Review of Books, and is on the faculty at Pine Manor College. A political activist and writer, Hoffman has been an editor at Gay Community News, South End Press, and the Unitarian Universalist World magazine. She has taught writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts and Emerson College. She has served on the boards of Gay Community News, Sojourner, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders(GLAD), and the Boston Lesbian and Gay History Project. Hoffman has a B.A. in English from Brandeis University and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the author of two award-winning books, Hospital Time (Duke University Press, 1997) and An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News (University of Massachusetts, 2009). She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Kapya   Kapya John Kaoma is an ordained Anglican with a particular interest in human rights, ecological ethics and mission. A former dean of St. John’s Cathedral and lecturer at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe and academic dean of St. John’s Anglican Seminary in Kitwe, Zambia, Dr. Kaoma produced a report entitled “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia” that prompted invitations to testify before the United States Congress and the United Nations. He represented the Anglican Communion at the Edinburgh 2010 conference, presenting a paper on mission and ecology. He is currently the Rector of Christ Church, Hyde Park, MA and a Visiting Researcher at Boston University Center for Global Christianity and Mission. He received his doctorate in Ethics from Boston University.

  Charles Ocitti (finance director) brought a strong background in accounting and financial management services for nonprofit organizations when he joined PRA in June 2009. Before coming to PRA, he was a senior project manager and team leader at Boston Medical Center. He also spent two years as a consultant for Accounting Management Solutions, specializing in nonprofit organizations. He has worked for Jumpstart for Young Children and Year Up, Inc.

  Aramis Tirado (technical support engineer) is responsible for PRA's web design, development production and responsible for providing high-quality technical support for the staff and equipment. Aramis delivers effective technical customer support to our rapidly growing IT demands, delivering solutions to both technical and non-technical end users while also supporting a wide range of technologies.

    Cindy Savage-King (Operations Manager) is responsible for the day-to-day administrative functions that keep PRA running smoothly. A native of Raleigh, N.C., Ms. Savage-King is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. She has worked as an associate pastor, as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves, and as a police chaplain with the Raleigh Police Department. In the past, Cindy has been the president of Voices Rising, a Boston-based women's chorus, and chair of the Pride Interfaith Coalition of Boston. She is currently working on her Doctor of Ministry degree at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.

    Maria Planansky (communications and program associate) is a member of PRA's research team, working on a number of projects, including the organization's investigation into antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses. Before joining PRA as a staff member, she served as an editorial intern, assisting with Public Eye. In addition to her work with PRA, she covers the Boston music scene as a contributing writer at Foundwaves and helps out with the Family Folk Chorale and Independent Film Festival Boston.

    Jean R. Smith (development associate) coordinates PRA's development department. Before joining Political Research Associates this past summer, she spent nine years working with a variety of social justice non-profits, including many years assisting the staff at the Resist Foundation, working to protest the Iraq War with Boston Mobilization, in an editorial capacity at the now-defunct women's newspaper, Sojourner: The Women's Forum, and as a volunteer with gay rights and trans rights groups. She was a fish-monger for six years, and co-managed a grocery store in Jamaica Plain for two years. She holds a BA from Brandeis in Judaic Studies and an MA from Simmons College in Gender & Cultural Studies. She has long-admired the work of PRA and is excited to be a part of the organization.


PRA's Founder and President Emerita

Political Research Associates was founded by Jean V. Hardisty, a political scientist with a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and seven years' teaching experience. She founded PRA (formerly Midwest Research) in 1981 in Chicago. She has been an activist for social justice issues for over 25 years and is a well-known speaker and widely published author, especially on women's rights and civil rights. In 1999 her book, Mobilizing Resentment, Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, was published by Beacon Press. She has served on the boards of the Sister Fund, the Highlander Center, and the Women's Community Cancer Project, and is the education consultant to the Ms. Foundation Democracy Funding Circle. She remains involved in the work of PRA.

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