Equality Connecticut is led by a dedicated group of volunteers from around the state. Our Advisory Board Members are community ambassadors and activists from different walks of life. Together, they set the strategic vision of the organization.
Kia is a Certified Employment Support Professional. She holds roles both as a Manager of Vocational Programming and as a Job Developer. Her work allows her to fulfill her purpose of connecting people with opportunities.
Kia serves as the President of the New London County Section of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune to work collectively for women’s rights and the rights of young people. Kia is a former Ambassador for the Eastern CT Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals and served the Chamber as a member of its Board of Trustees. In 2013, Kia received the Young Professionals Community Service Award. In 2015, she was honored with her peers as one of the region’s 40 Under Forty and in the following years, Kia was privileged to become one of the SECT Professional Women of the Year and 100 Women of Color (CT, MA, RI).
Kia is the President of OutCT, a 501c3 organization that works to build a community through educational and social programming that promotes acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ community. Kia is also the Co-Chair of the Southeastern CT Re-entry Council, serving individuals that are returning to the community after incarceration. She is also on the Diversity Board for the Norwich Bulletin and has been featured several times as a guest columnist.
Kia is also a classically trained soprano. She studied the business of music at the Historically Black College Winston Salem State University (UNC) located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kia studied both sacred and classical music and concentrated in jazz under the tutelage of D’Walla Simmons Burke, Richard Heard and Dr. David Legette. Among other memorable performances, Kia was the soprano in the opera Barefoot, narrated by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, and is currently the featured Soloist for RPM Voices of Rhode Island. Kia is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Norwich Arts Center, where she created Miss Lottie’s Café, a jazz-theater series named for art and community activist Lottie B Scott in historic Norwich, CT. She is also the Founder of Girls in Jazz. Kia serves on the Executive Committee for the Southeastern CT Cultural Coalition.
Kia’s dream is to connect people with passion and creativity to opportunities that develop exceptional business acumen, drive economic development, and strengthen the community as a whole.
Ryan is a trans and non-binary writer and DIY musician. They have been organizing local and regional musical events across CT since 2014. During the summer of 2020, they organized the Instagram live event CTStands Against Police Brutality, giving local Black artists a platform to discuss issues facing their community while raising money for Citywide Youth Coalition. They currently reside in Waterbury with their illustrious wife Ivette and an ever-growing collection of bad art and musical instruments.
Alberto is a Social Work Team Leader for Vot-ER’s Healthy Democracy Team. He is a doctoral candidate and instructor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. His primary areas of interest include criminal justice reform, LGBTQ+ rights movement, sex worker rights and health, HIV/STI prevention, and sex-positive social work theory, education, and practice. He has spent much of his professional career advocating for underrepresented and marginalized communities through direct action, community organizing, social justice education, and social service program implementation, enhancement, and evaluation. He is the former Co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLSEN Connecticut, a safe schools advocacy organization, where he led multiple programmatic, fundraising, and professional development initiatives. He currently serves as Founder/Chair of the Macro Social Workers Network of NASW/CT and Co-chair of the Latino/a Social Workers Network of NASW/CT.
Tony is the Director of Health Care Advocates International’s Youth and Family. He is also known as a compassionate and empowering Life Coach and a motivating and thought-provoking trainer. Since 2005 Tony has provided training to over 70,000 people around the country. Tony has dedicated himself to both promoting competent and respectful health care for the transgender community, by educating providers, and advocating on behalf of patients. Also, training educators on providing a safe and respectful space for transgender children in a school environment. He encompasses a unique ability to make light of a sometimes-challenging situation which puts his audience at ease to fully participate in his trainings and leaves his audience with a greater awareness of how to move forward in supporting their patients, staff, co-workers, students, and children.
Kim is the Executive Director of A Better Connecticut Institute (ABCI), a developing nonprofit think tank researching and reporting on the crises facing and policy needs for CT residents as a result of its racialized income and wealth inequality. Prior to joining ABCI, Kim Forte was a consultant, trainer, and strategist for LGBTQIA+ rights, inclusion, and equity. Kim began her career as a social justice attorney in NYC. After practicing for almost a decade, Kim created a first-of-its-kind, in-house diversity and inclusion unit focused on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGI/E) within a social justice organization. While serving as the supervising attorney for this unit, Kim worked to secure better policies, laws, and experiences for LGBTQIA+ individuals in NY that set national standards. She has trained thousands of legal and social justice practitioners to incorporate SOGI/E affirmation in their client services while working with organizations to improve their spaces for LGBTQIA+ employees. Having litigated discrimination cases, Kim has expertise in expectations under the law. She has been published in leadership journals and legal periodicals.
Colin is a writer and nonprofit executive with a diverse professional background that includes children’s book publishing and digital media. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Education in the City of Norwalk and Executive Director of the Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation. A former children’s book editor, Colin has written or co-authored seven children’s books of his own, and currently teaches in the undergraduate writing program at Fairfield University. He is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Triangle Community Center. Colin lives with his husband, Joe, and their dog, Bugsy, in Connecticut, where they enjoy musical theater, brunch, and fighting for the full equality of marginalized people everywhere.
Stefan is a queer organizer, baker, facilitator, and amateur Instagram meteorologist, and seltzer enthusiast living in Hartford. Stefan first got involved in organizing work as part of the undocumented youth organization CT Students for a Dream where they were inspired to come out and own their own queer identity after they saw brave undocumented young people share their status and fight for their rights. Stefan is excited to be involved in Equality Connecticut because they believe in the power of organizing and building power to win real change for the queer community. Many issues including immigration, housing, healthcare, education, and criminal justice deeply impact queer people yet queer issues are thought of as related to marriage equality and a few other buckets. Stefan hopes that Equality Connecticut can change that perception as well as bring an abolitionist, antiracist approach to advocacy efforts in the state. As someone newer to queer organizing and advocacy, Stefan also hopes to learn alongside those that have been engaged in the work for years as well as those newly joining the fight! Stefan is also interested in queer community building and how to create spaces together where we can experience joy together and build the future world that we want to see. Stefan is always excited to provide vegan baked goods for those gatherings!
Sarah is a campaign professional born and raised in New Haven. Sarah brings a decade of experience in community organizing, volunteer activism, and fundraising on behalf of such organizations as Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, New Haven Rising, CT Working Families Party, Democratic Socialists of America, the Immigrant Bail Fund, CT Equality, and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
Currently, Sarah proudly serves as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s Campaign Manager, after previously managing campaigning for progressive candidates in Connecticut including Chris Mattei and Jorge Cabrera. Her role allows her to align her background with deep policy knowledge and grassroots communications to elevate individual candidates, legislative platforms, and systemic social movements.
While her day-to-day work supporting DeLauro’s work on equal pay, pro-choice legislation, workers’ rights and organizing rights, consumer advocacy, early childhood development, clean energy, paid family leave, and more is attuned to Congressional bills that affect the country, Sarah remains firmly rooted in New Haven’s continued growth through responsible community development, good jobs, and affordable housing, and social, racial, and economic justice.
Locally, Sarah continues to serve as Commissioner on the Board of Zoning Appeals and as co-chair of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee.
A lifelong Waterbury resident, Bilal joined the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy team in 2020 as the manager of membership and culture. His primary responsibilities include building community and connections with members from across the state, creating opportunities for education and exploration, supporting the Council’s affinity spaces, and continuously working toward more equitable and inclusive practices across Connecticut’s philanthropic sector.
Prior to joining the Council, Bilal worked as a program officer at Connecticut Community Foundation where his major grantmaking portfolios included community organizing, eldercare, and youth development. He also assisted In the Foundation’s community leadership efforts including staffing the Pride Fund (grantmaking by and for the LGBTQ community), serving on both the Waterbury Bridge to Success community council and the equity think tank, and as a member of the Supporting Organizing Work CT (SOW CT) steering committee.
Bilal earned a master’s degree in English from Central Connecticut State University, primarily focusing on queer theory and political theory as well as LGBTQ literature. He serves as the vice president of the board of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, a director on the boards of the Leever Foundation, the New Haven Pride Center, the Waterbury Bridge to Success Community Partnership, and Equality CT, as well as a national PLACES fellow alum through the Funder’s Network.
In his spare time, Bilal continues to do community and political organizing in Waterbury, is an adjunct professor of English at the University of Connecticut’s Hartford campus, and occasionally practices real estate, particularly when he can support people of color and working-class people in finding affordable, appropriate, and dignified housing.
Mindy Wallen is a nonprofit professional who resides in New Haven, CT and works as the Manager of Operations for the Perrin Family Foundation. Mindy has worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade with experience in fundraising/development, program management, grant-writing, and philanthropy. Mindy is passionate about advocating for the development of principles and practices that allow nonprofit organizations to successfully focus on their mission and create positive equitable change in the communities they serve.
Mindy earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on Nonprofit Leadership and Management and also holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. She has also taught as an adjunct professor for both graduate and undergraduate courses in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management.
Both professionally and personally, Mindy strives to be an informed advocate and “co-conspirator” for social justice, particularly in the areas of mental health, racial justice and LGBTQ+IA issues.